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Times Mirror to Boost Its Legal Publishing Unit With Shepard’s

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Seeking to bolster its legal publishing business, Times Mirror Co. said Wednesday that it has agreed to acquire Shepard’s, a legal citation service, from McGraw-Hill Cos. in exchange for its higher-education publishing business and other consideration.

Though the value of the unusual deal was not disclosed, analysts say it’s worth between $450 million and $550 million.

Separately, Times Mirror, parent of the Los Angeles Times, and Reed Elsevier, owner of the Lexis-Nexis online information service, announced they will form a 50-50 joint venture to own and operate Shepard’s.

The two deals will position Times Mirror’s legal publishing subsidiary, Matthew Bender & Co., and Reed Elsevier as the major competitor to the newly approved merger of legal publishing companies Thomson Corp. and West Publishing Co., analysts said.

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“Matthew Bender already has the No. 1 position in analytical legal publishing,” said Mark H. Willes, Times Mirror’s chairman, president and chief executive. “The acquisition of Shepard’s and the alliance with Reed will allow us to provide a complete range of legal information to our customers in a very integrated way, [and] it will give us a much stronger position in the marketplace.”

The swap with McGraw-Hill is expected to be completed in the fall, pending federal regulatory approval.

The deal fulfills part of Los Angeles-based Times Mirror’s previously announced intentions to sell or swap its Times Mirror Higher Education Group and its scientific publishing unit, CRC Press. An announcement concerning CRC Press is expected in the next three weeks, Willes said.

Divestiture of the 2,000-employee college publishing unit is also in keeping with the company’s stated goal of getting out of businesses where it is not a clear industry leader. The Higher Education Group was the country’s fourth-largest college publisher.

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Analysts praised the swap with McGraw-Hill. “The deal makes a lot of sense for both companies,” said Steven N. Barlow, a media analyst with Smith Barney Inc. in New York. “They are both [divesting] under-performing assets from their portfolios and adding firepower to their core strengths.”

In Times Mirror’s case, the addition of Shepard’s strengthens Matthew Bender’s position as a leading legal publisher; in McGraw-Hill’s case, addition of the Times college publishing units strengthens its position as a leading educational publisher, Barlow said.

Word of the deal comes only weeks after the Justice Department and several states approved the $3.4-billion merger of Thomson and West, with the proviso that the two firms sell off several publishing assets.

Willes said Times Mirror might be interested in acquiring some of those as well, but added, “That process hasn’t started yet, so it’s something that we can’t comment about.”

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With $86 million in 1995 sales, the 550-employee Shepard’s, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., is the premier provider of citation information to lawyers.

“Shepardizing” is a standard practice by which lawyers check to make sure their legal citations are current and valid. The information is provided in print, on CD-ROM and online.

In trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, McGraw-Hill eased 25 cents to $45 and Times Mirror slipped 12.5 cents to $43.875.

Times Mirror Higher Education Group, with $227 million in 1995 revenue, includes Richard D. Irwin, Wm C. Brown, Brown & Benchmark, Irwin Professional Publishing and Mosby College.

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McGraw-Hill is a leading information service provider and major publisher of educational books.

Reed Elsevier is a worldwide publisher and information provider with principal operations in North America and Europe.

Times Mirror is a news and information company that also publishes Newsday, the Baltimore Sun and other newspapers.


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