Catalyst Outdoor, which was started in 2009 by Crystal Crawford, Patrick Wolfington, and Thaddeus Bartkowski built the largest outdoor digital signage network in the Philadelphia DMA. Focusing on the desireable suburb demographic Catalyst’s portfolio of digital assets was not only the largest but also covered the entire market.
Lamar Outdoor (LAMR) and Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO), the two largest outdoor advertising companies in the country, have recently acquired control of the majority of the assets owned by Catalyst Outdoor Advertising. The terms of the transactions were not disclosed by either the buyers’ or sellers’ citing confidentiality provisions, but an industry appraiser, Paul Wright from Sign Value, Inc. based in Phoenix, AZ, who has familiarity with the Catalyst assets that were divested estimated the transaction values combined to be between $85 and $95 million dollars. Catalyst did confirm that all consideration was paid in cash and that the vast majority of assets were digital structures.
From L to R, Catalyst Founding Partners, Thaddeus Bartkowski, Crystal Crawford, Patrick Wolfington in front of the Concord Twp. Monument sign that was divested to Lamar Advertising Company
Even more compelling than the scale is that along the way Catalyst created a new class of outdoor advertising assets. While the subject of billboards is not without polarizing views Catalyst ended up creating what they call Monument Displays and Occupied Structures; one-off outdoor advertising assets that have a greater aesthetic value then a billboard to address community concerns. These one-off assets in many instances include redeveloping small underutilized parcels that given their size and configuration constraints were left undeveloped and neglected; transforming them into something more meaningful. According to Thaddeus Bartkowski, founding partner at Catalyst, “In our opinion the future of outdoor looks nothing like a rectangle on a pole. Catalyst built the first Monument about five years ago and it was tremendously well received.”
It is with this focus on developing non-traditional assets that the company divested a large portion of its Philadelphia assets so that it could focus on development in other top cities across the US. They will continue to develop what it considers world-class Monument and Occupied Structures here in Philadelphia that it can use as a reference point with other cities across the country. Thaddeus said, “The focus on the next chapter is national expansion; but we will continue to own and build world-class assets here in Philadelphia. After all Philadelphia is home.”