BAUER’S MAGAZINE BATTLE PLAN
Yvonne Bauer’s reign at the former ACP has been marked by cost cutting, raising suspicions that her German media company is struggling to get full value from its acquisition
Alot of smart and ambitious women have worked in the magazines business through the decades and a lot of them have found a home at Australia’s No 1 publisher, ACP Magazines. Women such as
Ita Buttrose, who in 1972 launched Cleo for then
proprietor Kerry Packer and also edited flagship masthead The Australian Women’s Weekly; feisty Nene King, who in the 80s won the “magazine wars” and made Woman’s Day the nation’s top weekly; and Pat Ingram, who for almost 20 years from the 90s ruled its women’s publishing arm as
her personal fiefdom.
None, however, has made a greater mark at ACP in a shorter period of time than a young German woman named Yvonne Bauer. On October 1 last year the now 37-year-old, the head and majority owner of family-owned publishing giant Bauer Media Group, instantly became one of the most powerful women in the Australian media when she signed a deal to acquire ACP from Nine Entertainment Co for a reported $525 million.
In a rare interview four months later, which was conducted with The Australian through an intermediary via email, she explained her rationale for the deal in the simplest terms, saying: “We love the printed medium. Print is our core business: we make popular, emotional magazines that are read by millions of people every week. Well-made magazines will always
find their readers.”
Bauer has said nothing publicly since, and was not available to comment for this article. However, over the past 12 months she is said to have been “very involved” in the painstaking — and often painful — process of remaking the
Australian publishing institution to better fit the global business model of its new German parent.
So extensive has been that process it has led to conjecture that, once through the door, Bauer executives found they faced more of a challenge than they had expected to get the value they want out of the acquisition.
The sale price put the Australian company’s gross earnings at $65 million to $75 million, a fraction of the estimated $250 million it was turning over a decade ago. Informed observers
claim Bauer wants to get that figure up to about $100 million. That’s a hard ask in a sharply deteriorating market. Print magazine advertising slumped 20 per cent in the year to June and sales fell another 3 per cent in the past half year, with the digital products launched so far nowhere close to making up the shortfall.