Who owns Arbitron anyway?


RBR-TVBR analysis
There’s no Arbitron family connected to the radio ratings company and the public stock has been quite widely held since its 2001 spin-off from Ceridian Corporation. So, who are the primary owners of Arbitron in 2011?

Founder Jim Seiler, who launched American Research Bureau (ARB) in 1949, has long been out of the picture. For that matter, Arbitron long ago got out of its original business, TV ratings, to focus on radio. (To compound that irony, TV ratings giant Nielsen began by measuring radio.)

According to the proxy for Arbitron’s May 24th annual shareholders meeting, the company’s directors and top managers as a group own barely over 4% of Arbitron’s stock. Sean Creamer, Executive Vice President, US Media Services, is the biggest holder in that group, with 202,084 shares including exercisable options for 139,355 of them. It’s hardly surprising that Creamer has more shares and options than his boss, CEO Bill Kerr, since Creamer has been at the company since 2005 and Kerr as a full-time employee only a little over a year. Kerr, formerly CEO of Meredith Corporation, had been a director of Arbitron since 2007. He checks in with 167,096 shares, including 77,826 options and 88,407 deferred stock units (DSUs) which vest shortly. In all, the directors and top managers hold just over 1.1 million shares, options and DSUs.

Arbitron’s stock ownership is so widely dispersed that only three investment fund companies have filed notice that they own 5% or more, which requires an SEC filing. Wellington Management Company of Boston is the biggest holder, with a little over 3.2 million shares, or 11.9% of Arbitron’s stock. The various Abrams Capital funds managed by David C. Abrams of Boston own just over three million shares, or 11.2%. The New York-based BlackRock funds own a little over two million shares, or 7.6%.

If you combine the totals of Arbitron’s directors, top managers and those three big holders you’ve accounted for less than 35% of the company’s stock. That leaves over 65% of Arbitron’s stock in the hands of a large and diverse group of institutional investors, mutual funds and individual investors, no doubt including some RBR-TVBR readers and Arbitron employees who aren’t in the top management ranks. You, dear reader, might own a few shares, indirectly, through a mutual fund and not even realize it.

So the answer to the question “Who owns Arbitron anyway?” may correctly be stated to be “nobody and everybody.”