Hoover's - A D&B Company - We Make It Easier
Browse Company Record


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    http://www.dnb.comHoover's coverage by Tracey Panek


    D&B originated as Lewis Tappan's Mercantile Agency, established in 1841 in New York City. One of the first commercial credit-reporting agencies, the Mercantile supplied wholesalers and importers with reports on their customers' credit histories. The company's credit reporters included four future US presidents (Lincoln, Grant, Cleveland, and McKinley). In the 1840s it opened offices in Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, and in 1857 it established operations in Montreal and London.

    In 1859 Robert Dun took over the agency and renamed it R.G. Dun & Co. The first edition of the Dun's Book (1859) contained information on 20,268 businesses; by 1886 that number had risen to over a million. During this time Dun's was competing fiercely with the John M. Bradstreet Company, founded in 1849 by its namesake in Cincinnati. The rivalry continued until the Depression, when Dun's CEO Arthur Whiteside negotiated a merger of the two firms in 1933; the new company adopted the Dun & Bradstreet name in 1939.

    In 1961 Dun & Bradstreet bought Reuben H. Donnelley Corp., a direct-mail advertiser and publisher of the Yellow Pages (first published 1886) and 10 trade magazines. In 1962 Moody's Investors Service (founded 1900) became part of Dun & Bradstreet. The company began computerizing its records in the 1960s and eventually developed the largest private business database in the world. Repackaging that information, the company began creating new products such as Dun's Financial Profiles, first published in 1979.

    Dun & Bradstreet continued buying information and publishing companies during the 1970s and 1980s, including Technical Publishing (trade and professional publications, 1978), National CSS (computer services, 1979), and McCormack & Dodge (software, 1983). Later came ACNielsen (1984) and IMS International (pharmaceutical sales data, 1988).

    Finding that not all information was equally profitable, Dun & Bradstreet sold its specialty industry and consumer database companies in the early 1990s. Still hoping to cash in on medical and technology information, the company formed D&B HealthCare Information and bought a majority interest in consulting firm Gartner Group. In 1993 the company consolidated its 27 worldwide data centers into four locations. The following year it settled a class-action suit involving overcharging customers for credit reports. After its second earnings decline in three years, management revamped the company in 1996, selling off ACNielsen and Cognizant (consisting of IMS Health and Nielsen Media Research). Volney Taylor was appointed chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet. In 1998 it spun off R. H. Donnelley (now Dex One).

    Under pressure from unhappy shareholders, Taylor resigned in late 1999. With director Clifford Alexander acting as interim CEO, Dun & Bradstreet announced plans to spin off its Moody's unit. After completing the spinoff the following year, Allan Loren took over as chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet. Loren retired from the company in mid-2005 and president Steven Alesio became chairman and CEO.

    In 2001 Dun & Bradstreet acquired Harris InfoSource, adding a database of US manufacturers to its coffers. The company made a major commitment to providing online data with its 2003 acquisition of Hoover's (the publisher of this profile). It then boosted its risk management and supply management businesses with the acquisitions of online credit management software provider LiveCapital and online risk management provider Open Ratings. The company also began making technology investments to expand its core business. In 2007 it acquired Purisma, a provider of data integration software. (D&B sold Purisma in 2012 for $2 million.)

    D&B strengthened its online presence again in 2007 with the purchases of business information provider Allbusiness.com and First Research, a Web-based provider of editorial-based industry reports aimed at sales people. It sold Allbusiness.com in 2012 for $400,000.

    In 2009 it acquired the UK and Irish operations of digital business provider Bisnode, certain assets of Quality Education Data, and a majority stake in Chinese marketing services firm RoadWay International.

    Also in 2009, D&B sold its domestic operations in Italy and entered a 10-year strategic alliance with the buyer, European credit information provider CRIF.

    In 2010 D&B and its Middle East/North Africa partner expanded into Turkey, an emerging market for investors. The company also acquired the formerly independent D&B Australia, a top credit-information provider in Australia and New Zealand, for some $205 million.

    Also that year D&B established a partnership with consumer credit and information provider TransUnion to provide improved risk data on small and micro businesses. D&B moved its risk management solutions product innovation to its application development center in Dublin, Ireland. The move was made in order to kickstart new product innovation in that segment.

    The company sold its North American Credit-on-Self unit, also known as Self Awareness Solutions, for approximately $100 million in 2010. The Self Awareness Solutions business contributed up to 5% of North American revenues and the company experienced a lag in sales in that segment following the sale.

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