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Greenhaven Partners Purchases Kennedy OnRec Conference Business


The OnRec and Kennedy conferences, operated jointly as “The Recruiting Conference,” which just ended today in Chicago, have been acquired by an investment group led by two brothers who previously owned Kennedy Information.

Greenhaven Partners bought the annual conference and RecruitingTrends.com, the online successor to the venerable Kennedy Information print newsletter of the same name. The price was not disclosed.

The conference and the website were owned by Tarsus Group, a publicly held U.K.-based international business-to-business media and conference firm. Tarsus bought OnRec several years ago, just as it was beginning to hold its first North American conference. OnRec was founded in the United Kingdom, and has a strong presence there with its website, print magazine, and conferences. OnRec’s UK assets were not part of the sale.

If this was just another story of consolidation in the HR space, it could end here. But even in the sometimes strange world of M & A, it’s a curious kind of coming home tale.

It begins and ends with RD Whitney and brothers Marshall and Wayne Cooper.

Even before them, there was Jim Kennedy. He founded a publishing business focused on recruiting and staffing. It’s Red Book directory of recruiters and staffing firms became an industry staple. Over time, Kennedy added newsletters for the search industry and consultants and some smaller directories.

In 1996, he sold the business for $2 million to the Coopers. With Whitney managing part of the operation, the Coopers expanded its product line and broadened its reach to include online. By 2000, with Kennedy Information’s income at a reported $10 million, the brothers sold it to the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. The sales price was $47.7 million.

Whitney stayed on with Kennedy to run the operation for BNA.

By 2009, with a full blown recession underway, BNA sold the Kennedy conference business and its online recruiting new site, RecruitingTrends.com, to Tarsus. The selling price, according to one report, was $1. However, BNA retained other parts of the business, including its recruiter directories and career and consulting services.

Whitney, a BNA vice president and Kennedy general manager, went to work for Tarsus, running the Kennedy business.

Not long after the sale, BNA put the subsidiary that owned the rest of the Kennedy Information business into bankruptcy. That resulted in realigning the operation.

Still following this story? It’s not as complicated as it might seem. Consider that the one constant through the various changes of ownership is RD Whitney. At least until January of this year, when he left to go back to work for the Coopers as a partner at Greenhaven. That’s right, the Greenhaven that just bought back the Kennedy / OnRec conference and RecruitingTrends.com.

And now that The Recruiting Conference and Recruiting Trends are back with the Coopers, Whitney said he will again manage the operation. Anna Brekka, who was senior director and managing editor of RecruitingTrends when it was owned by BNA and then by Tarsus, is also continuing.

Whitney said the firm intends to maintain some of the international and global flavor of The Recruiting Conference, even as it reorients more toward North America. He says there will be pre- and post-conference workshops that will be international in nature, and that Greenhaven will explore synergies with some of its other publications and conferences, most likely its Chief Executive Group.

“We’ll still have a relationship with Tarsus,” he said, adding that he hopes to foster relationships as well with other recruiting conferences and publishers.

About the author: John Zappe was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. Never a recruiter, he instead built online employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. As VP of one large media operation, his employment revenue alone approached $2.5 million. Besides writing for ERE, John consults with digital content operations, focusing on the advertising side. And when he’s not doing either, he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility events.

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