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 Post subject: Kalmbach Mags, Trains.com Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2024 8:53 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 11601
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
Significant, as the publisher was for decades the biggest and most well known instigator of railfandom, which segues into rail preservation as well. They have also been the publisher of Classic Trains and the Tourist Train Guidebook (successor to the Steam Passenger Service Directory).

https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews ... own-media/

Quote:
WAUKESHA, Wis. — Trains Magazine, the company’s other rail magazines, and Trains.com are among assets that have been sold by Kalmbach Media to Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Firecrown Media, the two companies have announced today (May 1).

Other Kalmbach titles involved in the transaction are Classic Trains, Model Railroader, Classic Toy Trains, FineScale Modeler, and Astronomy, as well as Kalmbach’s online stores.

The publications involved will continue to be based in Wisconsin.

Firecrown Media owns a wide range of transportation brands including Flying, Plane & Pilot, Boating, Yachting, and the supply chain site FreightWaves.

Kalmbach employees were informed of the sale this morning and told that most employees working on the brands will be offered positions with Firecrown after screening. Kalmbach CEO Dan Hickey called it “a difficult day in our storied history” in an email announcing the sale.

Firecrown CEO Craig Fuller said in a press release that “The rail titles fit perfectly into the Firecrown portfolio and the breadth of experience of our staff … Kalmbach has deep ties in the railroad community, having published magazines and books about railroads and model trains for over 90 years. There isn’t a deeper connection in the rail enthusiast community than the one that Kalmbach built. The Firecrown staff will work diligently to continue and build on that connection moving forward.

“Additionally, the rail and aviation communities have a great deal in common. Besides the obvious — both being transportation modes and having similarities in business models — the enthusiast audience is vast in both categories. We believe that ‘railfans’ and ‘avgeeks’ are kindred spirits.

“With the acquisition, Firecrown plans to invest significantly in Trains’ business editorial coverage, increasing the cadence and depth of coverage of the rail industry. FreightWaves, one of Firecrown’s brands, provides a playbook to help achieve this.”

Fuller and other members of the Firecrown staff met with staff members who will be making the transition to the new ownership this afternoon. A 60-day transition period is planned for the magazines and other properties. More information on Firecrown’s plans and what they mean for employees and readers will be forthcoming.


Last edited by Alexander D. Mitchell IV on Thu May 02, 2024 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Media Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2024 10:52 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:47 pm
Posts: 1431
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Here's a sort of autobiography of Firecrown:

https://firecrown.com/about/

BTW I subscribe to Flying.

Phil Mulligan


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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Media Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2024 11:08 pm 

Joined: Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:45 pm
Posts: 305
I do a few things with FreightWaves. Their Chattanooga office is easy to find downtown as the windows are full of model trucks of hundreds of different companies.

Bart


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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Media Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2024 11:37 pm 

Joined: Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:26 pm
Posts: 243
Freightways.com does cover the railroad business. Here is Mr. Fuller's editorial on the Trains acquisition.

https://www.freightwaves.com/news/firec ... -astronomy


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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Media Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2024 8:20 am 

Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2022 10:06 am
Posts: 88
Location: North Carolina
Wonder if they will continue to run photo charters under the new ownership.


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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Media Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2024 8:21 am 

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2022 8:56 am
Posts: 74
I interviewed for a job at Kalmbach when they were still in downtown Milwaukee but already planning for a move to Waukesha. It was an interesting place, though in general it was not what I had expected.

The interview itself went very well, but I made the mistake of gently correcting someone important who was giving me a poorly-disguised pop quiz but got his question wrong. That took the room from ambient temperature to freezing pretty darned quickly. After that, I went through the few remaining procedures perfunctorily and expected to get a nice rejection letter that I could frame and put on the wall someday.

30+ years later, I still haven't heard back from them. Now with Kalmbach selling to Firecrown, I can stop looking in the mailbox.

Closure is a wonderful thing.


Last edited by Gham55* on Thu May 02, 2024 12:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Media Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2024 8:56 am 

Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2010 10:08 pm
Posts: 399
Location: Amherst, OH
Mark Hedges wrote:
Wonder if they will continue to run photo charters under the new ownership.


Probably depends on if the charters make money for the company or not.


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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Media Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2024 9:43 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 11601
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
Emmo213 wrote:
Mark Hedges wrote:
Wonder if they will continue to run photo charters under the new ownership.


Probably depends on if the charters make money for the company or not.


Companies sometimes engage in activities that don't "make money" for them for reasons of benevolence, altruism, or publicity. It can range from a store letting someone put up a poster for their upcoming fundraising event to being a paid or in-kind sponsor of the event, from donating product or services to the charity auction to restoring the world's largest steam locomotive and doing occasional outings with it.

Trains' photo charters were to some extent a "pet project" of the late Jim Wrinn, who chose the outings in part to support the railroads/museums in question. Photo charters can sometimes be seen, as Carl Franz routinely joked, as a "racket just to get a bunch of people to give me money so I can come out and have a good time!" But they are also publicity opportunities for the lines in question, and they help justify keeping around those otherwise useless freight cars in period paint.


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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Media Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2024 10:09 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 26, 2022 11:23 am
Posts: 61
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
Trains' photo charters were to some extent a "pet project" of the late Jim Wrinn, who chose the outings in part to support the railroads/museums in question. Photo charters can sometimes be seen, as Carl Franz routinely joked, as a "racket just to get a bunch of people to give me money so I can come out and have a good time!" But they are also publicity opportunities for the lines in question, and they help justify keeping around those otherwise useless freight cars in period paint.


Wrinn always seemed a "fish out of water"; alone against the tide of Kalmbach's unofficial-official goal of moving Trains in the direction of becoming another trade magazine like Railway Age. I would expect to see more of the same.


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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Media Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2024 10:19 am 

Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2010 10:08 pm
Posts: 399
Location: Amherst, OH
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
Companies sometimes engage in activities that don't "make money" for them for reasons of benevolence, altruism, or publicity. It can range from a store letting someone put up a poster for their upcoming fundraising event to being a paid or in-kind sponsor of the event, from donating product or services to the charity auction to restoring the world's largest steam locomotive and doing occasional outings with it.


And then Kalmbach was sold. I'm sure the new company paid millions of dollars with the goal in mind of engaging in "activities that don't "make money"".


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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Media Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2024 1:36 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 1594
Emmo213 wrote:
Mark Hedges wrote:
Wonder if they will continue to run photo charters under the new ownership.


Probably depends on if the charters make money for the company or not.


If charters that quickly sold out were being operated at a loss that is a VERY strange business practice.

Emmo213 wrote:
. I'm sure the new company paid millions of dollars with the goal in mind of engaging in "activities that don't "make money"".


Is there any indication that the company was sold for 7 figures? I didn't see a price and that seems high but I really don't know what something like that is worth.


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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Media Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2024 2:48 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 11601
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
Crescent-Zephyr wrote:
If charters that quickly sold out were being operated at a loss that is a VERY strange business practice.


Again, you are looking strictly from a perspective of "everything has to make money."
I have seen brewers that will snidely say to a charity request, "I don't brew beer to give it away." Then I see the other brewery that donates two kegs that aren't necessarily selling anyway, deducts the donation from taxable accounting, and says later, "Do you know how much goodwill that garners us with the neighborhood/animal shelter supporters/etc.? I can't buy an ad that good!"
Both brewers had a valid point. Which view works better? You decide. (Or, eventually, the marketplace will.)

The last charter I was personally involved with, our club ran about a $250 loss. But we had a good time, and the club's treasurer said, "We write bigger checks to worthy railfan causes every year. That $250 won't cover painting one side of one of the boxcars on the train. I'd do it again!"

CrescentZephyr wrote:
Is there any indication that the company was sold for 7 figures? I didn't see a price and that seems high but I really don't know what something like that is worth.


My understanding was that they owned the buildings (office and small warehouse) in the Crossroads Industrial Park in Waukesha. I could be wrong. So even just real estate is a consideration, sadly.

So these popped up as I was checking into that question:

https://founders3.com/property/6903/

https://www.loopnet.com/Listing/21027-C ... /27811566/

Now, before we rush to conclusions on this, business real estate can be complicated. I know of a very successful brewpub that has operated for thirty years in the lower floors of a downtown brownstone "mansion" building owned by investors, where the investors want to cash out and have the building up for sale, the brewpub's long-term lease is a condition of sale, they haven't found a buyer in three years, they're pressuring the brewpub owners to buy it, but THOSE numbers just don't work and the brewpub is looking for another great home just in case but can't find a nice attractive building like they have and moving would ruin the atmosphere completely, and besides the brewpub founders are at retirement age by now, SOOOOOO.........

............. and then there's another one across town where the building was sold a few years ago but not a single customer of the brewery noticed..............

.............. so the fact that there's a real estate listing for the building (which certainly didn't happen overnight) could be utterly meaningless to the business in the grand scheme of things.

On the other hand, in 2024 the major competition to Trains Magazine nationwide is effectively running without any "home office" editorially.........


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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Media Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2024 5:09 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:47 pm
Posts: 1431
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Here's a link to the Milwaukee Journal article.

https://www.jsonline.com/story/money/bu ... 530068007/

I didn't encounter a firewall, but it took some bobbing and weaving to get through.

Phil Mulligan


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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Media Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2024 5:16 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2015 5:55 pm
Posts: 2363
It probably won't become (the now-defunct takeover target) Pacific Rail News, but it could become (also now-defunct) Rail Classics while it still existed, i.e. lots of pretty photos but no editorial content at all.


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 Post subject: Re: Kalmbach Assets Sold to Firecrown Media
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2024 5:58 pm 

Joined: Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:58 pm
Posts: 1349
Location: Chicago USA
The thread title seems misleading. FM has purchsed KM's assets, right, not the company?

If that is correct my first question is, is there anything left of Kalmbach? Some publishing assets they are not selling? Or is this all of it?

And if that is correct as well then why did they not just buy Kalmbach?

Is it basically that they want the publishing assets but not the people?

Does Kalmbach own their HQ building? I bet if it's sold the new owner will go with 21000 not 21027, an homage to their old location at 1027 N Seventh St. in Milwaukee.

Any idea of the ownership of Kalmbach, like is it mostly family? Names that come to mind are Kalmbach, Morgan, Westcott, perhaps Ingles and Wrinn although I have no idea if any had or still had ownership slices.


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