When SafeCard Services Inc. was bought by CUC International in 1996, several displaced senior executives created a company called Reunion Group.
Now they may get yet another new home-Transmedia Network Inc., which said it plans to buy Reunion.
SafeCard co-founder and former chief executive Stephen J. Halmos heads Reunion, a Fort Lauderdale-based company that markets essentially the same credit card protection product that made SafeCard famous. The old SafeCard program, registering account numbers to make it easier to report lost or stolen cards, is offered by CUC's successor, Cendant Corp.
Miami-based Transmedia, which markets a restaurant discount card, has been struggling along with flat earnings growth. Its cardholders, who get discounts of up to 25% off a restaurant bill, are using the service less frequently. Transmedia's revenues for 1997 were $102 million, but the company does not expect to top that this year.
Stephen Lurch, executive vice president of Transmedia, said the company is trying to cope with new competition and the booming economy.
"When the economy is strong, we tend not to do well," he said.
About 1.3 million people can use their cards at about 7,000 restaurants in 16 major U.S. cities. The company also has licenses to operate Transmedia in Europe and the Asia Pacific region. But Transmedia has not been doing well in its most important market, New York City, which generates about 40% of Transmedia's revenues.
"If our general strategy is getting more customers, having a partner whose expertise is in direct marketing is critical," Mr. Lurch said, referring to Reunion. The partners may also "develop new products together," he said.
Besides bringing marketing talent and the opportunity to cross-sell to Reunion's 300,000 customers, Transmedia is not disclosing how the former SafeCard team will contribute to a larger corporate strategy.
Edward M. Tavlin, one of just a few Wall Street analysts who follow Transmedia, said he had not spoken to the company about the acquisition, nor was he sure of "how it fit into the big picture."
Mr. Lurch said Reunion executives, including former SafeCard president W.M. Stalcup, declined to be interviewed for this article.
"Our plans are still in formulation," Mr. Lurch said.
After the deal is closed Mr. Halmos, who founded SafeCard with his brother Peter, will own about 10% of Transmedia.
In November, Equity Group Investments Inc., a privately held investment company headed by the Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell, bought 2.5 million newly issued common shares of Transmedia, or 20% of the company. In that deal, Stephen Halmos became a significant co-investor, at 3.5%.
More recently Melvin Chasen, who founded the company, has been reducing his role. In February he announced that he would give up his post as chief executive in September, and in March he resigned his chairmanship, though at age 69 he remains active on the board. F. Philip Handy, managing director of Equity Group Investments, was named chairman.
Also in March, three other directors joined Transmedia's board.
Mr. Tavlin said that since the new management team was installed the company has been "keeping things closer to the vest."
Until it gets a new CEO, Mr. Lurch said, Transmedia will be cautious about what it says about its future.