Jinfo BlogHart to head up InfoGroup?

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By Tim Buckley Owen

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Clare Hart, former executive vice president for Dow Jones Enterprise Media, is reportedly poised to head up marketing information company InfoGroup once the sale to private equity firm CCMP Capital Advisors goes through. If she does, she will be joining the firm in the aftermath of a turbulent period in its history. Claiming an exclusive, the Omaha World-Herald reports that the decision by the locally-based InfoGroup to hire Hart came after the current chief executive Bill Fairfield reportedly said he would retire if the company were taken private (http://digbig.com/5bbkjt). However at the time of writing InfoGroup has declined to comment. Clare Hart left Dow Jones in January following a reorganisation which saw her group folded into the company’s consumer unit (see Nancy Davis Kho’s posting at http://www.vivavip.com/go/e27654 for the background). But shareholder objections to the proposed sale of InfoGroup could conceivably still stymie things. Reports that the company might be up for sale first emerged last autumn, and at the time there was informed speculation that Dun & Bradstreet might be the eventual buyer (http://www.vivavip.com/go/e26924). But in early March, the InfoGroup board approved the company’s sale to CCMP Capital Advisors, subject to the approval of the shareholders early in the summer (http://digbig.com/5bbkjw). But securing that approval may not be a foregone conclusion. Influential shareholders including Hotchkis & Wiley Capital Management and Stonerise Capital Partners are objecting to the sale price of $8 a share, saying that it is too low and that this is a poor time to sell the company anyway (widely reported – see http://digbig.com/5bbkjx or http://digbig.com/5bbkka or http://digbig.com/5bbkjy). InfoGroup has also fallen foul of the regulatory authorities in the past. Threatened with losing its NASDAQ listing after it failed to file financial documents in a timely manner, it fired its chief executive Vinod Gupta following a shareholder lawsuit alleging misspending of company funds (see Nancy Davis Kho’s report at http://www.vivavip.com/go/e15837). Investigated by the United States Securities & Exchange Commission since November 2007, the order last month concluding the investigation noted that ‘replacing officers and directors’ was among the remedial measures InfoGroup had taken (http://digbig.com/5bbkkb). But Stonerise, one of the investors objecting to the low share price, is reported to have said that the sale is being forced by Gupta, who still holds 36% of the stock, to help him pay the fines levied for his misuse of company money (see http://digbig.com/5bbkka above). Current CEO Fairfield welcomed the conclusion of the investigation, ‘so that all of our associates can continue to focus on the needs of our customers’. If she does end up replacing him, the immensely experienced Clare Hart should be just the person to do it.

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