Home Private Equity Private Equity Firm Takes Control of SMI

Private Equity Firm Takes Control of SMI


A private equity firm founded in 1980 has made a strategic investment in an advertising intelligence company whose data reflects the dollar trends seen across broadcast media in the U.S. and around the globe.

With a dollar infusion from Dreamscape Inc., a portfolio company of GTCR, Standard Media Group will begin a new chapter — one that sees a change in the role of Chief Executive Officer.

Dreamscape is a partnership with marketing technology executives Scott Knoll, David Hahn and Michael Iantosca.

With the transaction, for which financial details were not disclosed, SMI CEO James Fennessy will transition to a role on the Dreamscape Board of Directors. He will remain a consultant to SMI, with Knoll assuming the CEO post — effective today.

It’s a significant change in leadership for SMI, as Fennessy has largely been the face of the advertising data and insights firm of late.

SMI has offices in New York, London, Madrid, Sydney and Toronto. In their major markets, SMI captures spend and pricing data that represents more than 95% of all U.S. national brand expenditure.

Knoll commented, “With the proliferation of media channels and ad types, the insights that SMI can help provide are now an essential driver of media strategy. The company’s deep relationships with clients and agency partners are underpinned by its customer-centric approach and its commitment to innovation. The SMI team has built a truly unique offering and, together with our partners at GTCR, we believe there is an opportunity to further advance the platform and drive growth across the business.”

Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Dreamscape was founded in May 2020 as a partnership between Knoll, Hahn and Iantosca, and GTCR. The partnership’s focus is to acquire companies and assets as part of a strategy to build a leading marketing technology business. The investment in SMI is the second by Dreamscape — in May 2022 it announced an investment in advertising research, analytics, and media planning software company SQAD.

“We see tremendous upside potential in SMI and its advertising software solutions,” said Craig Bondy, Managing Director and Co-Head of TMT at GTCR. “The company is well-positioned in the marketing and advertising industry with deep relationships with its partners and customers which have served it well. We believe that our investment, alongside the Dreamscape team, will provide the resources to expand SMI’s current product portfolio to address new markets and create fully integrated solutions for its customers. We are excited to partner with the SMI team and advance its mission.”

Knoll, Hahn and Iantosca are 20+-year veterans of the technology, marketing and advertising industries. They worked together from 2011 to 2019, most recently as Chief Executive Officer, Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Revenue Officer, respectively, at marketing technology business Integral Ad Science.

SMI was co-founded by Sue Fennessy and Jane Schulze in 2009 in Australia and in 2011 moved its headquarters to New York. Sue Fennessy served as Chief Executive Officer until 2016. James Fennessy, who had been Chief Commercial Officer, then assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer after being lured into the business by his wife.

“Today is an important milestone for the entire SMI team, our partners and our clients, as we look toward our next stage of growth,” said Mr. Fennessy. “This investment is a culmination of Sue’s vision for SMI and a testament to the dedication and professionalism of the SMI team that has enabled us to transform how transparent ad cost and spend data is used by the industry. The goal of SMI has always been to form strategic relationships with the world’s leading data-driven companies by providing actionable advertising expenditure and pricing data to ultimately help improve decision making. It is through this core mission that we have grown to be a trusted global source of ad intelligence. This partnership with GTCR and Dreamscape is the next step in our journey and we are all very excited at the potential this new venture will deliver for our partners and customers.”

Kirkland & Ellis and Clayton Utz acted as legal advisors and LUMA Partners acted as financial advisor to GTCR and Dreamscape. DLA Piper acted as legal advisor and Stifel Nicolaus & Co. acted as financial advisor to SMI.

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