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Irish Company Studio Media Buys Palm Coast Data and Signals 10-Year Local Commitment

| April 26, 2019

Palm Coast Data is the second-largest private employer in Flagler-Palm Coast. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast Data is the second-largest private employer in Flagler-Palm Coast. (© FlaglerLive)

Last Updated: 5:42 p.m.

Studio Media Group, an Irish company, today acquired Palm Coast Data from Pennsylvania-based Amrep Corp., the third time in 17 years that one of Palm Coast’s largest private employers is changing hands. But the new company, based in Dublin and New York, is signaling that it intends to commit to investing in Palm Coast Data and to a 10-year lease of the company’s local facilities on Commerce Boulevard.

Palm Coast Data is essentially getting a new landlord for the third time in 17 years.

As the announcement was spreading through the company, Palm Coast Data CEO Rory Burke was speaking to employees in groups to settle jitters, explaining that the new company intends its Palm Coast operation to remain here and to grow. The deal drew applause, he said.

A news release explained the deal this way: Studio Membership Services, a subsidiary of Irish Studio, paid Amrep $1 million in cash on closing and entered into two long-term leases for the 204,000 square feet spread between two buildings. “The aggregate annual base rent for the ten year leases starts at $1.9 million in the first year, subject to a one-month waiver of base rent during the first year, and escalates to $2.5 million in the tenth year,” the release states. “Prior to the sale, Palm Coast Data distributed to the Company $3.1 million of cash during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019.

The deal is structured primarily around the rent payments: Studio Media provides $1 million in cash, but the 10-year lease with Amrep is such that even though the market rate on the property works out to about $1 million in rent, the payments are $1.9 million a year to start, rising to $2.5 million a year by 2029: that’s how Amrep, now exclusively a real estate company, is making its revenue. Amrep, in other words, found a certain tenant for the two buildings, for 10 years.

But Amrep isn’t done. The company is actually packaging its property–its two buildings–for a $23.75 million sale.

It secured a broker. It’s none other than Margaret Sheehan-Jones of Palm Coast’s Parkside Realty. She’s a broker associate with CCIM. (Jones’s name is familiar to anyone who’s followed the many county government real estate acquisitions of the last several years: she’s been the broker on each.)

For now, Palm Coast Data is making the lease payments to Amrep until Amrep sells the buildings, then Palm Coast Data will be making the payments to a different landlord: that new building owner will assume the lease. What that new owner gets is the guarantee of lease payments and tenancy for the next 10 years.

“We got rounds of applause when they heard the news. They’re happy,” Burke said after speaking with employees today. “It hasn’t always been wonderful with Amrep, there’s probably a reservoir of doubt about Amrep.” The reason was that Amrep was not a publisher, it wasn’t in the fulfillment business except through Palm Coast Data, so whenever Palm Coast Data approached a potential client, “it was always difficult for us to try to gain new business because they’d look at our owner and say, are they in it for the long haul or not.”

Palm Coast Data CEO Rory Burke. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast Data CEO Rory Burke. (© FlaglerLive)

Now, with Irish Studio media, a publishing company, clients know that it understands the business. “I believe our clients will have greater faith in our intentions going forward,” Burke said. “That’s a significant difference from our past ownership. That provides comfort to our employees, that there’s continuity.” He said the company could have been acquired by a financial concern interested only in dressing it up and reselling it, or by a competitor interested in downsizing. Instead, it got a company interested in growth through Palm Coast Data.

“This is the best outcome I could have hoped for,” Burke said.

Palm Coast Data counts 450 employees today, down from 900 some 10 years ago, but up about 30 in the past half year. The company and its parent struggled for several years after the Great Recession but Palm Coast Data had stabilized by 2017, again adding new titles to its subscription fulfillment stable, among other services, and was Amrep’s strongest-performing subsidiary. By 2018, the company was distributing bonuses to most employees. Amrep intends to focus on its real estate sector.

Unlike Amrep, however, Studio Media is privately held, which means the company’s quarterly and annual financial performance will no longer be public.

But Studio Media told Palm Coast Data officials that, in Burke’s words, they “absolutely have the intention to invest and grow Palm Coast Data.” As to fears that an Irish company would offshore a lot of the work from Palm Coast Data to operations elsewhere, “the response was that we are maintaining all operations on the Palm Coast campus, so I believe them. They were very sincere to me and to our clients.” Burke himself is to remain at the head of the Palm Coast operation as its CEO.

Palm Coast Data will also be led by Ciaran Casey, who will oversee the business, supported by Katie Molony, according to a company release. Both are Co-CEO’s of the Studio Media Group, which includes the Irish Studio Group.

The Irish company wasn’t unknown to Palm Coast Data: it was a client already. Now, with Irish Studio’s stable of magazines (the company is among Ireland’s largest publishers), Palm Coast Data is in line to inherit a large infusion of new business, suggesting growth.

“The genesis of this acquisition came from our own experience as a client of PCD, which assists our media brands in serving our customer community,” Lynch is quoted as saying in a company release. “As investors in technology and media, we believe strongly that in this current time, content publishers, membership organizations and associations want more than ever for their consumers to feel a sense of community and membership to their brands that reflect the consumers’ values.”

“I’m excited by the fact that they remain committed to staying in Palm Coast,” Mayor Milissa Holland said this afternoon. “We never like to hear stories where they’re shutting down with employees of several hundred locally.” The mayor added: “We look forward to sitting down with whoever has an interest in seeing how we can help in any way to make this successful for them as well.” Holland noted that her heritage is about 70 percent Irish (the remainder is Polish). She grew up around the Irish community in New York.

Irish Studio, founded by Liam Lynch, an Irish-American media investor, owns more than a dozen publications in Ireland, including Food and Wine Magazine, Irish Tatler, British Heritage and a genealogy magazine. The company is focusing on digital growth. When Lynch’s company acquired six magazines a year and a half ago, including Irish Tatler, he described it as “a major acquisition that realizes our strategy of rolling up established brands onto our digital platform,” as the Irish Times reported it. He described the magazines as “trusted brands that people love. We will continue to loyally service our treasured print readers while also bringing these titles online to engage and entertain new audiences.”

Amrep bought Palm Coast Data from New York-based Tinicum Inc. in 2007, for $92 million, five years after Tinicum had bought it from Dima Direct Marketing, which had been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In the nine months ending Jan. 31, Amrep had revenue of $30.7 million, most of it at Palm Coast Data, almost equal to the same period the previous year, and net profit of $84,000, compared to a loss of $1.12 million in the same period the previous year. The company’s stock had been sliding this year, falling from around $7.30 a share last August to $5.42 today, its lowest level since late 2016. That was before today’s announcement.

“We’ll still be here, we’ll still be more than ready to work with them,” Helga van Eckert, the county’s economic development director, said. Both the county’s and Palm Coast’s economic development divisions had worked with Palm Coast Data previously to provide economic incentives, but the bulk of those go back to 2008.

“There are some unknowns,” Burke said, “but I think everything I see here points to this being a very positive move for our company, and I’ve been talking to these gentlemen for the past couple of months, they’ll be here next week, they seem to be very honest and transparent people.”

24 Responses for “Irish Company Studio Media Buys Palm Coast Data and Signals 10-Year Local Commitment”

  1. Dianna says:

    Lousy working conditions and all they pay is minimum wage, even for crucial positions.

  2. Neneloco says:

    Maybe the employees compensation will be increased to a level where one can earn a wage that is competitive and mimics the economy. I don’t know how management can look at their top performers in the face knowing they are paying them crap and adding an array of responsibilities. Taking advantage of people because they would have to travel to other cities to earn 50% more is the reason they can’t attract good help and the employee turnover rate is synonymous of a company trying to save a buck while spending $50. Hopefully the Irish crunches the numbers and establish an employee morale with compensation that builds a solid organization enviable to others. It’s possible but someone has work to do and more importantly, they have to give a shit.

  3. gator bait says:

    agree with Neneloco!!!! I do hope that this Irish Studio’s looks into the wages of the employees. Numerous responsibilities, demands & hard work goes unnoticed, unless your a relative or good friend or you’re a past employee & get re-hired at the same hourly rate before you quit. Please, please look into the pay scale at PCD & make changes!! Many, many employees haven’t seen a wage increase in years. Some have to work 2 jobs to make ends meet. Everything keeps going up except PCD wages. Fingers crossed they make some much needed changes!

  4. Mary Fusco says:

    Worked there 12 years. Terrible how employees are treated,

  5. Ray says:

    “A very positive move for our company”, and what do the workers get? Nothing! Their treatment of staff is abysmal.

  6. Evan says:

    Place is a dump

  7. Percy's mother says:

    All you people/employees putting down Palm Coast Data for deplorable wages and bad treatment, get out into the world and get a taste of how employees of other companies are paid and treated.

    If you haven’t been happy at Palm Coast Data which is now the Irish Media, why haven’t you made changes in your employment status? Why not go to school and get trained to do something else? Why not go looking for a better job? If you do get out there and find another job, you’ll soon see that your employment experience is mostly the standard across the board in all industries . . . poor wages and bad treatment.

    Learn to suck it up or move on and stop complaining.

  8. Outside Looking Out says:

    Once again I will say, Flagler/Palm Coast is not a place to raise a family. THERE ARE NO JOBS.
    As for PCD, I’m sorry but companies do not buy out businesses to come in and give people more money. They buy them because of the cheap labor and the opportunity to make more money themselves. They come here for the same reason tax burdened people from the new england area come here, it’s cheaper! They don’t come to Florida to improve the community or individual’s lives.
    As for Flagler/Palm Coast it will continue to be an old folks county of retired arrogant (for the most part) people from the north who expect to be serviced and catered to. People who view folks down south as ignorant and should feel lucky to have a job of any type. It’s a corrupt county and city with corrupt leadership that cares not one bit about their constituents as long as they can get the money from up north. I got the hell out and I’m old. If you’re young with a family to take care of, you’d better do the same.

  9. Art Bowles says:

    Mary Fusco…. and you stayed 12 years????
    My only question is why? Or maybe it’s not as bad as the disgruntled few are claiming.

  10. Well... says:

    Why would they offshore? PCD is cheap labor. Don’t believe it? Ask anyone there…they are vastly underpaid for the work they do. Why do you think Kable chose FL over CO? The incentives from the city helped but the fact that people are paid under market value for their respective positions also was a driving factor. There is a convenience to working at PCD—home is usually only a few minutes away. Could I make more elsewhere? 100% yes. Do I want to abandon convenience? Not really. This is a good thing. It means the possibility of bringing in more work and more work might mean one day we will have raises again or matching 401k, but it will almost certainly mean job security for the 400 or so of us that weathered the storm and made it this far.

  11. Stretchem says:

    Palm Coast Data is a dinosaur selling services to other dinosaurs. Magazines. Are you kidding me? It’s days are numbered. It’ll continue to get bounced around from owner to owner until eventually there’s nothing but rusty pennies laying around.

    The millions in incentives given by the city years ago is nothing more than a distant memory of fat cat investors and owners gone by.

    90m in revenue and only 84k in profit. Understand what that means. It’s a dead stinking dog in this day and age of technology and social media.

    Watch what happens. PCD as you know it gets shipped to Europe or northern Africa or Central America within the coming years. It’s far less “damaging” for a foreign owned entity to close shop and move out of country.

  12. Ritchie says:

    Did someone say dinosaur?
    Not disagreeing but please explain in what ways.
    Aren’t new people running it after this many owner turnovers?
    How much technology change has there been over the year?.

  13. Pogo says:

    @Flagler Republicans

    It’s not too early for y’all to donate land for a resident rump residential library; a two seat privy, with 45 on the door, enclosed in a chain link cage would really put y’all on the map. Thimk (sic) big. And PCD could promote it.

  14. Steve B. says:

    @Percy’s Mom: so you support sweatshops? Good for you.
    Even fast food places have learned it is better to treat employees fairly- something PCD has yet to learn.

  15. Concerned Citizen says:

    Having had several friends work there including one on the executive level it’s not a nice place to work. However it is one of the larger employers in the area. And for those who have stayed maybe they value stability over short term profit. 12 years is a long time in this job market.

    @ Percy’s Mother

    I have noticed that you don’t like it much when others complain or voice an opinion. Especially when it differs from yours. This forum provides an outlet for that. It’s a great way to be heard and to guage how others feel.

    We are also exercising our First Amendment rights. While you have to right to order us to stop complaining we have the right to ignore you. Perhaps if we bother you so much complaining you could spend time elsewhere. :)

    And if you didn’t like that statement learn to suck it up…

  16. RPC says:

    The vitriol in our community is really quite shameful sometimes. The number of people who wish only for the demise of a company that employs 400 of our friends and neighbors is saddening.

    PCD has been and still is on a major upswing, due to an influx of new and returning clients, and now being owned by a publishing company, rather than a real estate holdings company, certainly lends more credence to PCD.

    The new parent company clearly intends to invest in PCD, rather than milk it for every last penny like AMREP did, without ever putting anything back into the company. PCD kept AMREP afloat while it was losing heaps of money year after year in new mexico.

    It is clear that AMREP’s control over PCD was very tight, and many of the problems of the past (layoffs, wage freezes), are directly attributable to AMREP’s refusal to put a penny more into PCD then necessary. Most departments are still on a shoestring budget with absolute minimal staffing. Here’s hoping the new parent can keep the momentum, and hopefully with the support of our community.

  17. Hmmm says:

    This is why…
    Some start working there and its not exactly what they hoped, but stick it out with hopes it’ll get better. Not like flagler county is booming with job opportunities. You have a family that depends on you and jumping jobs is a gamble in itself. Others have dedicated themselves and end up getting pooped on. Nobody wants to start over in their 50’s. Where would you go? So companies prey on the weaker minded young people, and the stability seeking older people.

  18. Karma says:

    Calm down all you naysayers! I’ve worked at PCD for over 8 years and have really enjoyed my job. Whoever said “Dinosaur” clearly has no clue what the internet department does at PCD. Digital technology is taking over the world and PCD’s corp tech is right there working along side some of the biggest publishers in the industry.

  19. Mikey Eyes says:

    I enjoyed staying in Palm Coast this winter for three months. I love Palm Coast it has many good things to offer! Golf, boating, fishing etc. All municipalities have issues. Be happy that a new company purchased Palm Coast Data. The naysayers should really be careful! The image they are portraying of Palm Coast is not good. We want to attract new companies right? We want to attract new residents that want to relocate right? So please be careful some of the comments are really ignorant! And effect the city of Palm Coast in a demeaning way.

  20. Tina says:

    I agree with Hmmmm… many people there are stuck, stuck stuck. for MIKEY EYES.. sure you love it here, your retired, you have no money worries. Palm Coast is intended for people just like you. You have the luxury of being a snowbird. Being born & raised in this state I don’t care whether you come here or not. Palm Coast Data was sold from AMREP to this Irish company, PCD IS STILL PCD… nothing will change

  21. Matt says:

    As for what Mikey Eyes stated,

    You were here for three months? Could it be that the above comments were honest, and not said by an “Ignorant ” person. Try living here all year, and not be a Snowbird like yourself. It just might open your eyes a bit, and not be blinded by the sun on the golf course.
    What I read was true statements by hard working people that have to work at PCD. The pay is substandard there, this is the sad truth. They do not give raises, and the bonus payout was a joke.
    Years ago we had a chance of getting a world known company here, but our illustrious “city” counsel turned them down, because we are a retirement community! What a Joke!!

  22. Alphonse Abonte says:

    This could have gone the other way, like that boat company that closed their doors and left a good number unemployed. Wait and see that this does happen again as this concept is being updated as we speak with machines and technology. This company that now is the biggest employer(337) will go to about 100 or less with the update. Piss and moan about working there, when there is no there, then what?

  23. Ritchie says:

    I believe “Karma” knows what he/she is saying and is using a term only an insider knows. corp tech:)

  24. Sunny Days says:

    This company is a constant joke in this town. Lived here 20 years. Spent 14 of those years as a subcontractor for them. They very much changed the way work was processed quite a few years back which resulted in being able to process LESS but still paid the same. The work got harder and constant changes and never one penny more. I would spend hours sending emails about errors that somehow got missed by the 10 ppl that were involved in putting work together. All falls to the subcontractor bc they don’t get paid to write emails. Of course we are human and errors happen but I would work 14 hours a day for months at a time and then spend 3 more hours writing emails. They send out work to subcontractors that isn’t even supposed to leave the building. I was told you could NOT work there and be subcontractor at same time. Not true. The actual employees take the work home but the contract is signed by someone else and that’s who is paid but it’s truly the actual employee doing it. They once had a manager that would close her door and sign in as her husband and she would work as a subcontractor while on the clock as manager. So your not rewarded by hard work. When it gets slow, their employees get the easy good paying work to make up for hours cut bc of slower season.

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