Going Public: It Pays to Be Flexible
During the past six years Richard Berger, CEO of Classics International Entertainment, a $4.3-million comic-book publisher based in Chicago, has learned that entrepreneurs must pursue every financing option -- often concurrently -- if they hope to raise the capital to survive and grow.
Flexibility is essential. Berger and a group of partners invested in the debt-laden Classics in 1989, and in early 1991 Berger took control of its board. The company was troubled by a seemingly intractable set of cash-flow problems. When a cash crunch left Classics scuffling to meet payroll a few years ago, Berger started to fantasize about going public.
But he and his associates decided that Classics ought to carry out a private placement before the initial public offering. The offering would do better once the company had paid its bills and strengthened its capital base. In early 1993 Berger gathered about 40 potential investors and raised $1.5 million. "We were able to assure our new investors that a quick exit was likely," he recalls.
Now Berger was free to consider how best to manage the IPO. First of all, "since we were small and struggling, I knew we'd have very little time to make an impression on an investment-banking firm." His solution: he assembled a working team of about a dozen people -- including industry sources and accountants -- who created a comprehensive business plan and an attention-grabbing video that focused on the company and its industry's growth potential.
The pitch was effective. Thanks to the private placement and the impressive investment-banking team Berger attracted, Classics raised $6.9 million in a 1993 IPO. The private investors were paid off with $1.6 million. Berger, who retains 13% of the company's stock, says, "Thanks to our having all the capital we need, our future now looks bright."