November 10, 1997 4:00 PM PST

Softbank revamps media holdings

Softbank is reorganizing its U.S. media holdings, putting two trade show units under subsidiary Ziff-Davis.

The move combines two Softbank-owned trade show companies, Comdex and Softbank Forums, into a single entity under former Comdex chief Jason Chudnofsky.

Ziff said it combined the operations to give computer companies a one-stop location to market by way of print publications, trade shows, Web sites, and television. The restructuring was first reported in September by CNET's NEWS.COM.

"We are all creating something bigger than the sum of its parts," Eric Hippeau, now chairman of Ziff-Davis, wrote in a memo yesterday to Ziff employees. "We are poised to pull away from the pack. Speed and cross-group collaboration have been ZD's 1997 internal theme."

Hippeau has been appointed to head the new combined organization. William Lohse, who formerly ran Softbank Forums, has resigned from the company effective December 31.

Inside the new Ziff, speculation has mounted in recent weeks that the restructuring is a prelude to an initial public offering in the United States. Company spokesman Greg Jarboe would not comment on the possibility of an IPO.

In recent weeks, Softbank's stock has been hit hard in Japan, where the company trades on that country's public exchange. Ziff's U.S. media operations are estimated to have annual revenues of at least $1.5 billion. Two of its competitors, CMP Media (CMPX) and CNET: The Computer Network (CNWK) (publisher of NEWS.COM), have gone public in the last 16 months.

In mid-1995, when Ziff-Davis was owned by Wall Street buyout firm Forstmann Little, Hippeau told Ziff employees that an IPO was likely in several years. Shortly thereafter, Softbank bought the Ziff publishing operations.

Last month, Softbank reorganized its operations in Japan, where it is the nation's largest computer software distributor. Reuters news service reported then that Softbank would absorb most operations from MAC, an asset management company owned by Masayoshi Son, the Japanese entrepreneur who bought Ziff and the two trade shows.

In recent years, Son has been on a buying spree in the United States. In addition to the properties now grouped under Ziff-Davis, he bought 80 percent of Kingston Technology for $1.5 billion in cash and stock in August 1996.

 

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