Erika Engle

PacBasin’s Kurisu
takes over the Planet

PacificBasin Communications LLC is moving -- and not just shuffling offices at 1000 Bishop St., although that's part of it. The company and its parent have been occupied with two acquisitions and a corporate restructuring, leaving businessman Duane Kurisu at the top, but not burdened by day-to-day operations.

PacBasin is about to close on its purchase of the 25-year-old Downtown Planet, a free weekly newspaper, for an undisclosed price.

Separately, Kurisu is also acquiring B. Hayman Co. (Hawaii) Ltd., a distributor of turf maintenance equipment and golf carts founded in 1980. That price is undisclosed as well.

Kurisu and his executive committee have restructured the company's media, entertainment and "life" businesses under AIO Group LLC, a holding company.

Kurisu is the chairman and chief executive officer, Floyd Takeuchi, publisher of Pacific Magazine with oversight of Downtown Planet and PacificBasin's magazines, serves as president and chief operating officer. Randal Ikeda is chief financial officer and Gaylen Shintaku is the controller, who rounds out the AIO executive committee. Ikeda and Shintaku currently serve with PacificBasin.

Kurisu's other activities include real estate investment firm Kurisu & Fergus, his roles on corporate boards, other investment holdings such as his minority stake in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and his partnership in the San Francisco Giants baseball team.

He was not immediately available for comment.

The executive committee will focus on maintaining corporate culture and will establish and manage financial performance of the various companies, Takeuchi said. "We want to build a company where people can grow and still stay with us." Pay cuts imposed in December 2001 following PacBasin's September acquisition of Honolulu and Island Business magazines were restored by August 2002, for instance.

The media entities include the Downtown Planet, Watermark Publishing, PacificBasin Communications and its Honolulu, Hawaii Business, Hawaii Home + Remodeling, Pacific, and Ala Moana magazines as well as the Hawaii Buyers Guide, an industrial products directory.

The entertainment companies include the Hawaii Sports Network Foundation, KKEA-AM 1420 radio, Hawaii Winter Baseball and B. Hayman.

Punaluu Bakeshop in Naalehu on the Big Island is the only so-called "life" company, and "it's not about bread, or baking products," Takeuchi said. "It's about values and the pride of what you do." It is the main visitor attraction between South Point and Captain Cook. "The unit is doing very well," he said.

There will be more acquisitions, Takeuchi said.

Kurisu began his expanding enterprise with the purchase of Hawaii Business Publishing Co. in 1997 with three other local investors. Takeuchi joined the company later that year, after serving a stint with Bloomberg radio and television in Tokyo. Within a year and a half, the three other investors were "redeemed" or bought out, Takeuchi said. From 12 employees back then, the company now has 100, 50 of them at PacificBasin.

The vision was always to build a broad-based Hawaii company that "could realize significant synergies." The executive committee is determined "to be active in the Pacific region because we believe (Hawaii) has a role to play beyond the high-water mark on Waikiki Beach," Takeuchi said.

Under new management

The redesigned Downtown Planet will hit the streets on Friday, Jan. 9.

Leslie Light is moving over from Hawaii Business magazine, to serve as publisher; the editor will be Cathy Cruz, formerly senior editor of Hawaii Business; there will be a free-lance photographer; and Downtown Planet graphic designer Kelly Griffin is changing employers, but staying with the publication, with a distribution of 15,000 copies each week.

It's going to be a photo-intensive publication that focuses on politics, business and the geographic community bordered by Piikoi Street, Waiakamilo Road, the H-1 Freeway and the ocean, Takeuchi said.

"We hope to keep the (laundry and dry-cleaning) coupons," Takeuchi said, as well as other key elements most popular with readers.

Former publisher Susie Thieman laughed about the popular coupons. She once got a call complaining that the paper had the wrong coupon in it; that it was for dresses and not shirts. "'What am I supposed to do with my laundry,?' That was the CEO of a major corporation," she said.

Thieman decided to sell her 25-year-old baby earlier this year, after commuting back and forth from Maui for 14 years.

"That was great up until this last year when airline prices went sky-high," Thieman said.

"Duane (Kurisu) had expressed an interest a couple years ago and so I called him one day and said, 'Let's have lunch,' and the rest, as they say, is history," Thieman laughed.

Thieman and Diane Logsdon started the Downtown Planet in 1979 and by the early- to mid-1980s had four publications. They included the Hawaii Media Guide, for ad agencies and other companies that purchase advertising; a directory of organizations, now owned by public relations practitioner Eileen Mortenson; and Printout Magazine.

"It was the first computer magazine in Hawaii. That was back in the days of the big old computers, not today's desktops," Thieman said.

That was eventually folded into a newsletter put out by a military technology organization. Logsdon retired in 1989 and the media guide became outmoded by the Internet.

"All the people we've worked with have been super. In a couple months when I have a chance to settle down, I'll go (sigh) I miss it," Thieman said.

Thieman now considers herself a retired publisher, "But what's next? Hey, I didn't know anything about being in the newspaper business when I got into it."

Chuckling about the average length of her Downtown Planet columns, Thieman said, "I've got a couple of book ideas I want to work out and see if I can write something longer than 1,500 words."

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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