The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation

One Diamond Hill Road
Murray Hill, New Jersey 07974

Company Perspectives:

Our blueprint for success in the 21st century combines the strengths of three of the world's best-known business brands with a reputation for quality, customer service, and a wide range of indispensable business solutions. The result is a stronger, independent company projecting annual revenue of $2.1 billion and employing 16,000 people in 37 countries.

History of The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation

The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation is in the information business. Among its vast array of products are Yellow Pages advertising, the Moody's manuals for investors, and business to business credit information. Begun as a credit-reporting service a century and a half ago, Dun & Bradstreet is still a leader in that field. In addition, the company supplies information-dissemination technology, commercial credit reports, analytical risk-assessment services, and small-business pension plans.

Company Origins

Dun & Bradstreet traces its origin to Lewis Tappan, who in 1841 left Arthur Tappan & Company (a New York silk trading firm that he ran with his elder brother) to found a credit information bureau called the Mercantile Agency. Tappan had long been aware of the need for better credit reporting. As the borders of the United States expanded westward, traders were moving beyond the easy view of the East Coast merchants and bankers who kept them supplied and capitalized. Information on the creditworthiness of these far-flung businesses was collected by individual trading houses and banks in a scattershot fashion, and Tappan saw that centralizing the process of collecting information would result in greater efficiency. Accordingly, he took out an advertisement in the New York Commercial Advertiser on July 20, 1841, and opened shop 11 days later on the corner of Hanover and Exchange streets in Manhattan.

The Mercantile Agency operated by gathering information through a network of correspondents and selling it to subscribers. The agents were attorneys, cashiers of banks, merchants, and other competent persons--anyone who might have an impartial familiarity with local merchants through business or civic affairs. Over the years people as famous as U.S. presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, and William McKinley, as well as presidential candidate Wendell Willkie, would serve as agents for the company that Tappan founded.

The Mercantile Agency opened branch offices in Boston in 1843 and Philadelphia in 1845. In 1846 Benjamin Douglass, a young New York businessman with connections in the Southern cotton trade, joined the firm. When Lewis Tappan retired in 1849, Douglass and Tappan's brother, Arthur, ran it as partners until 1854, when the elder Tappan sold out to Douglass. Then, in 1859, Douglass sold out to Robert Graham Dun, who immediately changed the firm's name to R.G. Dun & Company. That year the company published its first reference book of credit information, the Dun Book.

As the nation grew and commerce boomed in the decades following the Civil War, Dun had to keep up with it by establishing new branch offices. The firm expanded into the South, west to California, and north into Canada. An office in San Francisco opened in 1869. In 1891 there were 126 Dun branch offices. Robert Dun Douglass, who was Benjamin Douglass's son and Robert Graham Dun's nephew, became general manager of the firm in 1896. After his uncle died in 1900, the company operated as a common-law trust with Douglass in charge as executive trustee. He retired as general manager in 1909 and was succeeded by Archibald Ferguson.

R.G. Dun also began to expand overseas at about this time. The firm opened its first office in London in 1857, and added five more foreign offices--in Glasgow, Paris, Melbourne, Mexico City, and Hamburg--by the turn of the century. From 1901 to 1928 R.G. Dun opened 41 overseas branches, scattered across Europe, South Africa, and Latin America.

Growth and Acquisitions: 1930s to 1980s

In 1931 R.G. Dun acquired National Credit Office (NCO), a credit-reporting service. The firm then reorganized into a holding company called R.G. Dun Corporation, which assumed control of the assets of both NCO and the original R.G. Dun & Company. NCO president and former owner Arthur Dare Whiteside became president of the new entity.

In 1933, at the nadir of the Great Depression, R.G. Dun merged with one of its main competitors, the Bradstreet Company. Since the two companies overlapped each other in many activities and resources, an amalgamation at that time made sense. Bradstreet was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1849 by John Bradstreet, a lawyer and merchant whose ancestors included Simon Bradstreet, a colonial governor of Massachusetts, and the prominent colonial American poet Ann Bradstreet. A large file of credit information had come into John Bradstreet's possession as he was overseeing the liquidation of an estate, and he decided to enter the same business in which Lewis Tappan had pioneered eight years earlier. In 1855 Bradstreet packed up and moved to New York, where he challenged the Mercantile Agency directly. Two years later the firm started publishing a semiannual reference book that offered more extensive coverage than the early Dun Book.

John Bradstreet died in 1863 and was succeeded by his son, Henry, who ran the firm until it incorporated in 1876 under the name the Bradstreet Company. A group headed by Charles F. Clark then ran the company until 1904, when Clark died and was succeeded by Henry Dunn. Dunn retired in 1927 and gave way to Clark's son, Charles M. Clark. The younger Clark was still chief executive when Bradstreet merged with Dun in 1933. The new company changed its name to R.G. Dun-Bradstreet Corporation and then to Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., in 1939.

Business remained slow for Dun & Bradstreet through the 1930s and during World War II and then picked up again after the war ended. In 1942 the company acquired Credit Clearing House, a credit-reporting agency that specialized in the clothing industry. In 1962 Arthur Dare Whiteside retired and was succeeded by J. Wilson Newman, who headed Dun & Bradstreet as president until 1960 and then as chairman and chief executive until 1968. Under Newman, Dun & Bradstreet embarked on a course of expansion and technological improvement. In 1958 the company began operating its own private wire network, which linked 79 of its major offices. This allowed credit information to be handled more expeditiously.

In 1961 Dun & Bradstreet acquired the Reuben H. Donnelley Corporation. Donnelley, best known for publishing the Yellow Pages telephone directories, was founded in Chicago in 1874 and also published trade magazines. The next year Dun & Bradstreet acquired Official Airline Guides and added it to the Donnelley division. The company also acquired Moody's Investors Service, which provided financial data for investors on publicly owned corporations through its series of Moody's manuals.

In 1966 Dun & Bradstreet acquired Fantus Company, which specialized in area development surveys. In 1968 it bought book publisher Thomas Y. Crowell. When Newman retired that year, he was succeeded by former University of Delaware president John Perkins, who served as chairman for one year.

In 1971 Dun & Bradstreet acquired Corinthian Broadcasting, which owned five CBS television affiliates and publisher Funk & Wagnalls. In 1973 the company changed its name to the Dun & Bradstreet Companies Inc. It had acquired some 40 businesses since J. Wilson Newman inaugurated this expansion in 1960 and had seen its annual sales rise from $81 million in 1960 to $450 million in 1973. In 1973 the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation was formed to become the parent company.

In 1978 Dun & Bradstreet acquired Technical Publishing, a trade and professional magazine publisher. The next year it acquired National CSS, an information-processing technology company. In 1983 it diversified into computer software when it acquired McCormack & Dodge, which published systems software for mainframe computers. The next year it cut back a bit on diversification when it spun off Funk & Wagnalls and sold most of its Corinthian Broadcasting television assets to A.H. Belo. The company, however, acquired Datastream, a British business information company, and the market research firm A.C. Nielsen. Nielsen, famous for its television rating service, was founded in Chicago in 1923 by Arthur C. Nielsen Sr. Harrington Drake, chief executive officer of Dun and Bradstreet, was a longtime friend of the Nielsen family, and the two companies had been discussing a merger on and off since 1969.

Divestiture and Acquisitions during the 1990s

Dun & Bradstreet continued restructuring itself--through divestiture and acquisitions--from the late 1980s and into the 1990s. It sold Official Airline Guides to Propwix, an affiliate of British Maxwell Communications, in 1988 and Zytron, Petroleum Information, and Neodata in 1990. Also in 1990 the company announced its intention to sell two divisions of Dun & Bradstreet Software: Datastream International, Ltd., and Information Associates, Inc. The company sold Donnelley Marketing, the IMS communications unit, and Carol Write Sales in 1991.

By 1993, however, Dun & Bradstreet began shifting gears and entering a phase of acquisitions. Through the various divisions of Dun & Bradstreet, the company focused on acquiring smaller, primarily information-based companies. For example, it acquired a majority interest in Gartner Group Inc., an international market research firm, on April 8, 1993. Dun & Bradstreet Information Services acquired Solidited, a Swedish company that provided commercial-credit information for Scandinavian businesses, on May 12, 1993. Also in 1993 the company formed HealthCare Information Inc. to conduct research in the health care industry, and on February 17, 1994, HealthCare Information acquired Lexecon Health Service Inc.

Acquisitions continued in 1994. A.C. Nielsen acquired two companies: IPSA S.A. (Argentina) and Survey Research Group, Hong Kong. IMS America acquired Emron Inc. and Amfac Chemdata (Australia), and Dun and Bradstreet Information Services purchased Orefro L'Informazione (Italy), S&W (France), and Novinform A.G. (Switzerland) and formed an alliance with Tokyo Shoko Research (Japan). The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation acquired Pilot software, an on-line software company. Also in 1994 Dun & Bradstreet announced that it would be getting out of the magazine-publishing business and in the process ceasing publication of D & B Reports.

On January 9, 1996, Dun & Bradstreet announced plans to divide itself into three new publicly traded corporations: Cognizant Corporation, which consisted of IMS International, the Gartner Group, Nielsen Media Research, Pilot Software, and Erisco; the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, made up of Dun & Bradstreet Information Services, Moody's Investors Service, and Reuben H. Donnelly; and A.C. Nielsen. The Cognizant Corporation was created to focus on such high-growth business segments as health care and media markets. The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation was to continue its historically successful financial information services. A.C. Nielsen was to focus on marketing research in the consumer packaged-goods industry, where it was already the global leader. As part of the reorganization, several Dun & Bradstreet divisions, including Dun & Bradstreet Software Services, Inc. and American Credit Indemnity, were scheduled to be sold.

In 1997 Dun & Bradstreet announced the release of two coding systems designed to simplify the process of making purchases on the internet. The first was the Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS), which employed nine-digit company identification tags. Until then the DUNS system had been used only internally by Dun & Bradstreet. The second release was an internet database of the Standard Products and Service Code (SPSC). This database provided 11-digit codes that identified product types. With the help of the codes, internet users could more easily find companies that provided particular products or services. Although the internet was a new medium for Dun & Bradstreet, its internet products were in line with its traditional mission of providing information and information services.

Principal Subsidiaries: Dun & Bradstreet, Inc.; Moody's Investors Service, Inc.; Reuben H. Donnelley Corporation.

Additional Details

Further Reference

Abrahams, Paul, "Dun & Bradstreet Opts for Divorce," The Financial Times, November 1, 1996, p. 26.Bowen, Ted Smalley, "Dun & Bradstreet Agrees to Acquire Pilot Software," PC Week, July 25, 1994, pp. 105-106.Byrne, John A., "Why D&B is Glued to the Ticker: Wall Street Greets a Breakup Plan with Deafening Silence," Business Week, February 19, 1996, pp. 58-59.Doescher, William F., "A Final Word," D & B Reports, March-April 1994, pp. 6-7.Dun & Bradstreet: A Chronology of Progress, New York: Dun and Bradstreet, Inc., 1974.Dun & Bradstreet: The Story of an Idea, New York: Dun and Bradstreet, Inc., 1966.King, Julia, "D&B Software Users Cheer Sell-Off Plan," Computerworld, January 15, 1996, p. 4.Moeller, Michael and Jim Kerstetter, "E-Commerce Grows Up with Aid of D&B, Actra," PC Week, March 10, 1997, pp. 1-2.Pine, Michael, "Dun's Do-Over: Two of Dun & Bradstreet's Three Parts Are Worth More Than the Whole," Financial World, July 8, 1996, pp. 44-45.

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