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Ragan president Dan Oswald is new president of M. Lee Smith, plans to buy the company.

Daniel M. Oswald's star has risen fast and high in the newsletter universe. Less than ten years ago, he was the marketing manager at Aspen Publishers Inc. in Maryland where he made a name for himself as an outspoken speaker at NEPA conferences. He joined Lawrence Ragan Communications Inc., Chicago, in the mid-nineties as vice president of marketing and in 1996 he became president. He is also in line to become president of NEPA next year (see Publisher Profile, page 4).

Oswald has now been named president and associate publisher of M. Lee Smith Publishers LLC of Nashville, effective November 3. He also has an option to buy the company, said M. Lee Smith, the company's founder and owner for the past 29 years.

"The plan is for Dan to join our company this fall, to become chief executive after a brief transition period, and then to purchase the company from me within another year or so," Smith said. "This will allow for the orderly transition of M. Lee Smith Publishers to new ownership under the talented leadership of Dan Oswald, an experienced, very capable, highly respected executive in the newsletter and corporate communications industry," Smith said.

M. Lee Smith Publishers

M. Lee Smith Publishers is the only company in America that produces a state-specific employment law newsletter for all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. The company is the nation's leading provider of state-specific employment law content for human resources professionals. The 51 newsletters are researched and written by attorneys in each of the states, under the umbrella of the National Employers Counsel Network. The company produces a total of 131 newsletters.

It also has its own printing division, which produces and mails its own and others' newsletters.

"A major benefit of this arrangement with Dan Oswald," Smith continued, "is that both the publishing and the production divisions of the company, and the company's 135 employees, will remain in place in Nashville, in the 42,000 square-foot building the company has occupied since 1996."

Lawrence Ragan Communications

Oswald said, "My dream has been to own and run my own newsletter publishing company." That option was really not available at Ragan, a family operation founded by the late Lawrence Ragan and currently headed by his son Mark Ragan. For his part, Ragan told NL/ NL, "There were many tears when I announced Dan's departure. In making the announcement, I told employees that I would never replace Dan because 'Dan Oswald cannot be replaced.' I will assume all of Dan's responsibilities, returning to the role I played in the early and mid-1990s."

Whither M. Lee Smith?

Lee Smith told NL/ NL that when he turned 60 in September 2002, "I took a look at the rest of my life, looking at what I might want to do for the rest of my life, and I began planning an exit strategy from publishing."

He said the transition to Oswald's purchase of the company will probably take from 15 months to two years. After that, he said, "I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I'm not the type to do nothing. I've always enjoyed waking up in the morning and coming to work, but when I turned 60 I began thinking about other possibilities."

Asked if that included something in the newsletter field, Smith said, "Not necessarily, except perhaps some modest consulting. I might be involved in some form or fashion with newsletters, but not as a publisher."

Smith also has been a stellar performer in the newsletter universe. He not only built up one of the most successful operations in the industry, he also has served many years on the NEPA board of directors and has perennially spoken at newsletter conferences--noted and appreciated for often providing a thoughtful and insightful vision of the future of the industry.

Our bet is that M. Lee Smith will be inducted into the NEPA Hall of Fame next June.

Smith, 5201 Virginia Way, P.O. Box 5094, Brentwood, TN 37024, 615-373-7517, fax 615-373-5183,

Ragan, 316 N. Michigan Ave., #300, Chicago, IL 60601, 312-960-4100, fax 312-960-4105,
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Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Oct 31, 2003
Previous Article:William A. Beltz, BNA publisher and chairman, dies at 74.
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