PhillyDeals: Credit rating firm implements college savings plan for employees

Jeff Stibel, CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., says education should be a priority over retirement.
Jeff Stibel, CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., says education should be a priority over retirement.
Posted: December 05, 2012

At least one CEO says American companies ought to help workers save for college for their children before boosting their retirement plans.

Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. (DBCC), an aggressive California-based firm that does credit ratings on small businesses (they'll "monitor and control" your loan records, for monthly fees of $69 to $149), is one of the first firms to implement a new federally authorized, partly employer-funded college savings plan for its 600 workers - plus a few sweeteners.

Boss Jeff Stibel says he will:

Match employees' savings with employer contributions of up to $2,500 a year.

Compensate workers for taxes they may have to pay on the income they contribute.

Make a second matching payment, to the public schools in Bethlehem and in other cities where DBCC has operations.

DBCC employs 600 nationwide, including 150 at a three-month-old Bethlehem office, Stibel told me from his headquarters in Malibu, Calif. (He says Malibu is a good place to base a company, if you like to surf.)

Stibel was at Great Hill Partners, of Boston, a $100 million acquisition of the former Dun & Bradstreet Inc. unit two years ago. He said he picked Bethlehem for the new office because it's close to Philadelphia and New York, and it has a job-hungry, "culturally diverse" workforce. DBCC did not receive a state subsidy, Stibel added: "We didn't ask for one."

A former neuroscience grad student and ex-boss of Internet developer Web.com, Stibel says saving for kids' college tuition "should be more important than retirement." DBCC also owes extra to local schools: "These kids will be our employees in 20 years," Stibel added.

The plan is administered by Putnam Investments, a Boston mutual fund company and the only one of a dozen retirement investment firms DBCC contacted that was interested in creating the program.

Jersey deal

Candlebrook Properties L.L.C., of New York, has bought 884 apartments at Echelon Glen, in Voorhees, from longtime owner Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), for $83 million, according to people familiar with the deal. Candlebrook's financial partner is Angelo Gordon & Co., a former owner of The Inquirer.

Occupancy was above 90 percent, with rents starting around $900 to $1,000 a month, before his group begins "several million" worth of upgrades, Candlebrook boss Neil Rubler told me.

"We're not going to turn this into a super-luxury community. This is workforce housing for middle-income families . . . IT types, engineering types, pharma, health care, and commuters to Center City," said Devin Aronstam, Candlebrook's head of acquisitions.

Cliff diving

Small-company owners are feeling pressure to sell their firms before the expected increase in federal taxes on investment profits, says Raymond A. Miller, co-chair of Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton L.L.P.'s intellectual-property group.

He says the tax cliff was a factor in last month's agreement by NOX Technologies Inc., a cell-research company, to accept a $12.5 million offer from its longtime client Nu Skin Enterprises Inc., a $2 million-plus (in yearly-sales), publicly traded company based in Utah that makes anti-aging cream.

"Nu Skin was paying royalties, so they decided to buy it," Miller told me. The sale enriches NOX chief executive Thomas B. Shelton and the individual investors he recruited to back the company in the early 2000s.

The deal "reduced the uncertainty about taxes going up. That is driving a lot of deals," Miller added.


Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com, and @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.

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