WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – C.U. Times, Inc. has sold Credit UnionTimes to Wicks Business Information LLC (WBI). Terms of the dealwere not disclosed. Founded in 1990 by Mike Welch, Credit UnionTimes is the only independent publication serving the credit unionindustry. Published weekly, it has become the industry's primarysource for timely news, feature stories, statistics, trend analysisand other valuable editorial content. WBI is a business-to-businessinformation company based in Fairfield, Conn. It publishes a numberof trade publications, including Corporate Legal Times, InvestmentAdvisor, and Treasury & Risk Management. WBI also producesWeb-based products such as e-newsletters and other specializedinformation services. “I always knew that I would know when it wastime to sell Credit Union Times and move on to the next phase of mylife. That time is now. I'm just glad I am leaving it in such goodhands with Wicks who has the resources to take Credit Union Timesto the next level,” said Welch. When Welch started Credit UnionTimes, many thought he was taking a giant gamble with his career.“A lot of people thought I was crazy when I had the idea forstarting an independent publication because they thought there weretoo many publications out there already, but I saw a niche for aweekly, four-color tabloid that was independent. I knew if CreditUnion Times was done right, there'd be no need for credit unions toread all those other publications.” He noted that there are certainlimitations to trade association publications that Credit UnionTimes is not restricted by. He pointed to his weekly column as onegood example. “I have been able to express my opinion in a way thatothers can't because of either political or reprisal reasons. Afterwriting almost 800 straight columns, it will seem funny not to havea weekly deadline, but I don't think we'll miss a beat witheditor-in-chief Paul Gentile taking over starting next issue,” saidWelch. Welch has a journalism background, graduating from MarquetteUniversity with a journalism degree. He also has considerable PRand advertising experience. After college he worked in PR for alocal utility in Wisconsin and also for Johnson Controls. “A lot ofpeople didn't understand how I could run a publication. I had theschooling. I came from advertising and PR. I've written all mylife,” he said. His entry into the credit union industry came in1969 as CUNA's PR director. “Back then we were in Filene House inMadison. CUNA was very small and the CEO was called ManagingDirector,” said Welch, who saw the association through somedifficult times such as a heated labor dispute. “The strike was aneye-opening experience. I learned people really could get nastyover labor issues. The strike was in the dead of winter and Iremember people picketing by a barrel of fire nearby to keep warm.”Welch's next CU career step was CUES, where he really made hismark. Back then it was part of CUNA. Welch said before he agreed totake the job, he asked then CUNA Managing Director Herb Wegner toensure he wouldn't have two masters so to speak. Welch said at thattime the CUES president reported to the CUES board, but also a CUNAstaff person. “He agreed to make the board my boss. I think heregretted it down the line. But with the board in charge, westarted really listening to the members and doing what they wanted.If they wanted a program on directors, we did it. Something onoperations, we did it. Expand marketing services, we did it,” saidWelch. Eventually CUES moved out of the CUNA building and its tiesto CUNA were severed. One of Welch's main achievements with CUESwas increasing the number and size of its conferences. When hestarted, they had only one. He brought the number up to 11 and atone point CUES ran the largest conference in the industry in itsAnnual Convention and Exposition, which could get up to 3,000participants, and close to 200 exhibitors. “Back then conferenceswere a little longer, three or four days with a full spouseprogram, sit-down dinner, banquet with name entertainment. We did alot of original programming and audio visual things that are commontoday, but not when we did them.” CUES had just two part-timestaffers when Welch took over and grew to a staff of 24 when hedeparted. Under Welch, the association also started numerousspecialized publications to serve marketers, operationsprofessionals, volunteers, council officers, etc. Welch stressedthat he was careful to ensure CUES did not become tradeassociation-like. “Every so often people would want CUES to take aposition on a regulation or piece of legislation. Fortunately I wasable to convince the board every single time, we're not a tradeassociation and can't open Pandora's Box,” he said After seventeenand a half years, Welch decided to leave CUES, spurred in part bythe desire of the board to have him sign a longterm contract thatalso included a longterm non-compete clause. “CUES had become largeand very successful, but it still wasn't my organization. I didn'town it, I worked for it. I always wanted to do my own thing, havemy own company and knew the timing was right. If I had signed thecontract I never would have started my own company,” he said. Welchsaid from day one he wanted the editorial product to be second tonone. “The backbone is and will continue to be the editorialproduct. Every important thing happening with credit unions, we arethere.” The early days of Credit Union Times were dicey at times.“We did everything you weren't supposed to do. We borrowed moneyfrom family, we used my CUES pension money and took out a number ofpersonal loans. We took the risk, and fortunately the niche wasindeed there.” Welch said to get the publication humming, he knewhe needed to put money back into the product. “I never hesitated tospend money, whether it was the quality of paper, freelancephotography, correspondent articles, increase the number ofeditorial pages, improve the printing quality, and hire and takecare of the best people to do the job. You can't skimp and put outa publication like this every week at the level we do it.” He isvery proud of the publication's advertisers and subscribers forrecognizing the quality of the publication over the years. “I justwant them all to know their business was never taken for grantedand the best way I could show that was by making sure thepublication was second to none.” There were many suitors for CreditUnion Times, but Welch said Wicks made the most sense to himbecause they have tremendous publishing expertise and havecommitted to investing in the product. “I foresee Credit UnionTimes being a lot more in the future than just a publication,” hesaid. Having over 37 years in the industry, Welch said creditunions have grown much more complex over the years. “That's whythey need this new breed of CEO that we see emerging. Thecompetition is much greater and there is more emphasis ontechnology because members are more demanding. A lot of thingsdidn't exist back then, but are now crucial, like sophisticatedretail delivery systems.” Welch will continue with Credit UnionTimes as a consultant during a transition period. “My immediategoal is to be as helpful as I can to ensure a smooth changeover. Itshould be seamless, the staff is remaining in place and the focuson news and putting out a high-quality publication remains,” hesaid. Welch looks back on a life and career that have both hadtheir challenges, some harder than others. He said he's faced a lotof professional adversity, but after having his parents die at arelatively young age and being responsible for his sisters afterthat, those professional challenges didn't seem as daunting. “Fromputting myself through college by working three jobs, to battlingCUES and Credit Union Times naysayers, I've overcome obstacles mywhole life. Now I look forward to a whole new `career',” saidWelch. Credit unions may not have heard the last from Welchhowever. “I always thought I had a book in me, and still feel thatway, so who knows.” He believes credit unions will continue tothrive as long as the industry has good leadership. “Leadership onthe direction and strategy of the industry will be crucial.” Welchand his wife Judy have five children, though Welch credits his wifefor most of the heavy lifting with raising the children while hewas dealing with work-related challenges and a heavy travelschedule. They also have seven grandchildren, who are undoubtedlygoing to be seeing more of their grandparents. “We're going totravel around and spend a month with each of them at a time. I'mkidding of course,” he quipped. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Welchis a huge Packer fan. He is not happy with the Pack's 0-3 startthough he's heartened by last year's season where they also startedbad, 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 ofbuilding two organizations, CUES and Credit Union Times.”[email protected]

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