Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Zenger-Miller Acquired by Times Mirror

Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Zenger-Miller Acquired by Times Mirror

Article excerpt

Zenger-Miller Acquired by Times Mirror Zenger-Miller, the San Jose, California, supplier of management-development and training programs and services, was acquired early last month by The Times Mirror Company.

Officials of Zenger-Miller and Times Mirror declined to disclose terms of the sale.

With the buyout of Zenger-Miller, Times Mirror appears poised to become a "dominant player" in the training and development industry, according to John H. Zenger, the acquired company's founder and president. The operator of several newspapers including the Los Angeles Times plus broadcast television stations and cable systems, Times Mirror also owns sales-training giant Learning International, and Mirror Systems, a software- and videodisc-development company located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A statement announcing the deal said Times Mirror bought Zenger-Miller as part of a "long-term strategy to develop its position in the training industry." According to Zenger, Times Mirror views training as an industry "that shows great promise of growth in the future."

Zenger indicated that the Times Mirror buyout will enable the training company to meet "clients' needs in an increasingly cost-effective fashion" and expand its client base. Zenger-Miller already has more than 3,000 clients, including half of the Fortune 500.

It has been included twice on INC. magazine's list of America's fastest-growing private companies. In 1985, the International Customer Service Association chose Zenger-Miller as one of the two best customer-service companies in the United States.

Zenger said the acquisition agreement will have little effect on the company's current operations. "Zenger-Miller will continue to retain its own name. We do not anticipate any changes," he said.

"We will absolutely have a great degree of autonomy in deciding our product line and our product development and product direction."

In some cases, Zenger said, that will mean competing directly with Learning International, its Times Mirror sibling. Although Learning International, based in Connecticut, mainly produces sales-training programs, it also creates and sells supervisory-training packages, one of Zenger-Miller's specialties.

"There is some overlap," Zenger conceded. "In that area we will be head-to-head competitors." He noted that Times Mirror subsidiaries in other industries often share markets. "It's just like Buick and Oldsmobile and Pontiac and Chevrolet," he said.

"We intend to essentially compete as we have in the past. On the other hand, we will be cooperative competitors," Zenger said, emphasizing that Zenger-Miller will not develop sales-training programs. He said Zenger-Miller will seek Learning International's assistance in developing a larger presence outside North America.

Zenger also said his company plans to tap Mirror Systems' expertise in developing interactive-video and computer-aided instruction programs. "We think we can really benefit from their high technology and we fully intend to explore that," he said.

Zenger described the Times Mirror takeover as friendly. "In any marriage there have to be two willing parties," he said. "We've been thinking for the last two or three years about the right way to proceed in this industry and how to proceed strategically." In what he termed a "lengthy, soul-searching process," Zenger said the company considered going public, but instead opted to put itself on the market.

"After thinking about all the alternatives," Zenger said, "it seemed to us that if we could find the right partner--one that shared our values and understood the training industry--then that was the best avenue. Times Mirror fit that bill perfectly."

Noting that some of the nation's largest training organizations have already been bought out by large information- and financial-services companies, Zenger predicted that mergers and acquisitions will become an important force within the human resource development community. …

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