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Centaur’s Sherren gets back into the saddle

I’m glad to see my old boss, Graham Sherren – formerly chairman and chief executive of Centaur Media – has had no truck with retirement. Within a few week of stepping down as a Centaur non-exec, he has got straight back into the saddle – as a major investor in a digital media start-up.

Sherren has teamed up with Mike Bokaie, founder and former head of Caspian Publishing – which like Centaur is a B2B specialist although on a much smaller scale. Caspian publishes, among other things, the horizontally positioned Real Business and Real Deals, a vertically targeted private equity publication. Bokaie quit Caspian, in what seem to have been tearful circumstances, at the beginning of 2009.

There is a distant business connection between Sherren and Bokaie: both worked at Morgan Grampian, the trade publications group where Sherren was chief executive before he set up Centaur.

Given the pedigree, it’s no surprise to find where the new publishing and events company, called Casis, is focusing: business; although with an exclusively online platform.

Dan Matthews, editorial director of the new venture and himself an ex-Caspianite, is quoted in NMA as saying:

“We’ve uncovered a niche in the market. It’s not a vertical title, it’s a horizontal title for a demographic of people, rather than a profession. It’s a business title that covers all sectors.” We know, because he tells us, that it will be launched next June and the project is named ‘Love’.

What can we infer from this? Well, it sounds remarkably like a reprise of Real Business – aimed at eager entrepreneurs and SMEs, but with a digital spin. Both major participants certainly have form in this area. Bokaie’s I’ve already mentioned: he set up Real Business, a controlled circulation monthly magazine, 14 years ago. Sherren’s dates from his launch of Your Business, later the Money Spinners, at Centaur in the Eighties.

I’m told that “Love” is actually a contraction of “Love London Business”, which if correct sounds like sensibly restricted targeting (Matthews, whom I talked to, denied this is the title, but was elusive about the London Business bit). My source reckons the publishing concept owes more than a passing salute to Crain’s ChicagoBusiness. Last year Crain – which also publishes AdAge – closed down a satellite publication, Crain’s Manchester Business. But that was print-based and Crain, so far as I know, has never had a go at London. Print-based horizontal business magazines have traditionally been squeezed in the jaws of high production costs and display advertiser indifference in the face of heavy competition. Keeping it digital may sharpen the offer and control costs. Matthews also suggests the proposition will be much more editorially led.

Sherren is thought to have put several hundred thousand pounds in a £1m-plus investment pot. Also involved is veteran investor Edgar Cullman, of Culbro, who was a long-term private equity holder of Centaur stock. Bokaie claims to be the biggest individual shareholder.

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