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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – C.U. Times, Inc. has sold Credit Union Times to Wicks Business Information LLC (WBI). Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Founded in 1990 by Mike Welch, Credit Union Times is the only independent publication serving the credit union industry. Published weekly, it has become the industry’s primary source for timely news, feature stories, statistics, trend analysis and other valuable editorial content. WBI is a business-to-business information company based in Fairfield, Conn. It publishes a number of trade publications, including Corporate Legal Times, Investment Advisor, and Treasury & Risk Management. WBI also produces Web-based products such as e-newsletters and other specialized information services. “I always knew that I would know when it was time to sell Credit Union Times and move on to the next phase of my life. That time is now. I’m just glad I am leaving it in such good hands with Wicks who has the resources to take Credit Union Times to the next level,” said Welch. When Welch started Credit Union Times, many thought he was taking a giant gamble with his career. “A lot of people thought I was crazy when I had the idea for starting an independent publication because they thought there were too many publications out there already, but I saw a niche for a weekly, four-color tabloid that was independent. I knew if Credit Union Times was done right, there’d be no need for credit unions to read all those other publications.” He noted that there are certain limitations to trade association publications that Credit Union Times is not restricted by. He pointed to his weekly column as one good example. “I have been able to express my opinion in a way that others can’t because of either political or reprisal reasons. After writing almost 800 straight columns, it will seem funny not to have a weekly deadline, but I don’t think we’ll miss a beat with editor-in-chief Paul Gentile taking over starting next issue,” said Welch. Welch has a journalism background, graduating from Marquette University with a journalism degree. He also has considerable PR and advertising experience. After college he worked in PR for a local utility in Wisconsin and also for Johnson Controls. “A lot of people didn’t understand how I could run a publication. I had the schooling. I came from advertising and PR. I’ve written all my life,” he said. His entry into the credit union industry came in 1969 as CUNA’s PR director. “Back then we were in Filene House in Madison. CUNA was very small and the CEO was called Managing Director,” said Welch, who saw the association through some difficult times such as a heated labor dispute. “The strike was an eye-opening experience. I learned people really could get nasty over labor issues. The strike was in the dead of winter and I remember people picketing by a barrel of fire nearby to keep warm.” Welch’s next CU career step was CUES, where he really made his mark. Back then it was part of CUNA. Welch said before he agreed to take the job, he asked then CUNA Managing Director Herb Wegner to ensure he wouldn’t have two masters so to speak. Welch said at that time the CUES president reported to the CUES board, but also a CUNA staff person. “He agreed to make the board my boss. I think he regretted it down the line. But with the board in charge, we started really listening to the members and doing what they wanted. If they wanted a program on directors, we did it. Something on operations, we did it. Expand marketing services, we did it,” said Welch. Eventually CUES moved out of the CUNA building and its ties to CUNA were severed. One of Welch’s main achievements with CUES was increasing the number and size of its conferences. When he started, they had only one. He brought the number up to 11 and at one point CUES ran the largest conference in the industry in its Annual Convention and Exposition, which could get up to 3,000 participants, and close to 200 exhibitors. “Back then conferences were a little longer, three or four days with a full spouse program, sit-down dinner, banquet with name entertainment. We did a lot of original programming and audio visual things that are common today, but not when we did them.” CUES had just two part-time staffers when Welch took over and grew to a staff of 24 when he departed. Under Welch, the association also started numerous specialized publications to serve marketers, operations professionals, volunteers, council officers, etc. Welch stressed that he was careful to ensure CUES did not become trade association-like. “Every so often people would want CUES to take a position on a regulation or piece of legislation. Fortunately I was able to convince the board every single time, we’re not a trade association and can’t open Pandora’s Box,” he said After seventeen and a half years, Welch decided to leave CUES, spurred in part by the desire of the board to have him sign a longterm contract that also included a longterm non-compete clause. “CUES had become large and very successful, but it still wasn’t my organization. I didn’t own it, I worked for it. I always wanted to do my own thing, have my own company and knew the timing was right. If I had signed the contract I never would have started my own company,” he said. Welch said from day one he wanted the editorial product to be second to none. “The backbone is and will continue to be the editorial product. Every important thing happening with credit unions, we are there.” The early days of Credit Union Times were dicey at times. “We did everything you weren’t supposed to do. We borrowed money from family, we used my CUES pension money and took out a number of personal loans. We took the risk, and fortunately the niche was indeed there.” Welch said to get the publication humming, he knew he needed to put money back into the product. “I never hesitated to spend money, whether it was the quality of paper, freelance photography, correspondent articles, increase the number of editorial pages, improve the printing quality, and hire and take care of the best people to do the job. You can’t skimp and put out a publication like this every week at the level we do it.” He is very proud of the publication’s advertisers and subscribers for recognizing the quality of the publication over the years. “I just want them all to know their business was never taken for granted and the best way I could show that was by making sure the publication was second to none.” There were many suitors for Credit Union Times, but Welch said Wicks made the most sense to him because they have tremendous publishing expertise and have committed to investing in the product. “I foresee Credit Union Times being a lot more in the future than just a publication,” he said. Having over 37 years in the industry, Welch said credit unions have grown much more complex over the years. “That’s why they need this new breed of CEO that we see emerging. The competition is much greater and there is more emphasis on technology because members are more demanding. A lot of things didn’t exist back then, but are now crucial, like sophisticated retail delivery systems.” Welch will continue with Credit Union Times as a consultant during a transition period. “My immediate goal is to be as helpful as I can to ensure a smooth changeover. It should be seamless, the staff is remaining in place and the focus on news and putting out a high-quality publication remains,” he said. Welch looks back on a life and career that have both had their challenges, some harder than others. He said he’s faced a lot of professional adversity, but after having his parents die at a relatively young age and being responsible for his sisters after that, those professional challenges didn’t seem as daunting. “From putting myself through college by working three jobs, to battling CUES and Credit Union Times naysayers, I’ve overcome obstacles my whole life. Now I look forward to a whole new `career’,” said Welch. Credit unions may not have heard the last from Welch however. “I always thought I had a book in me, and still feel that way, so who knows.” He believes credit unions will continue to thrive as long as the industry has good leadership. “Leadership on the direction and strategy of the industry will be crucial.” Welch and his wife Judy have five children, though Welch credits his wife for most of the heavy lifting with raising the children while he was dealing with work-related challenges and a heavy travel schedule. They also have seven grandchildren, who are undoubtedly going to be seeing more of their grandparents. “We’re going to travel around and spend a month with each of them at a time. I’m kidding of course,” he quipped. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Welch is a huge Packer fan. He is not happy with the Pack’s 0-3 start though he’s heartened by last year’s season where they also started bad, but were able to win the Central division. At his request, this story does not detail his many career awards and achievements. “I don’t want to rehash my resume’. I stand on the track record of building two organizations, CUES and Credit Union Times.” [email protected]

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