Company that lured schools chief quietly builds publishing empire

5:16 p.m Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 Business
Ken Kahn founded LRP Publications in 1977. (Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post)

Robert Avossa is stepping down from a high-profile post atop one of the nation’s largest school districts to take a vice president’s job at a niche publisher that’s largely unknown outside specialty fields.

Even so, LRP Publications is ambitious in its own right. The company has more than 400 employees, $70 million in annual revenue and a large headquarters along Florida’s Turnpike in Palm Beach Gardens.

The privately held publisher has been expanding aggressively. In January, LRP said it bought Singapore-based HRM Asia, organizer of three human resources events and publisher of HRM Magazine. In a news release, LRP declined to say how much it paid, but the company said expanding to Asia fit its “global growth plan.”

Avossa, who is held in high enough regard to merit mention as a candidate for New York City schools superintendent, brings cachet to LRP’s education offerings. The company’s upcoming list of annual confabs includes the Campus Technology Conference in Philadelphia, the Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando and the Special Education School Attorneys Conference in Phoenix.

LRP was founded in 1977 by Ken Kahn. In a 2013 interview, Kahn said he launched his company by chance. He was working as an employment attorney in Philadelphia and grew frustrated that the only way to find decisions by the state labor relations board was to file a freedom-of-information request.

Kahn, 70, began publishing the decisions while still practicing law, and he soon decided to become an entrepreneur. The business grew, and Kahn moved himself and his business to Palm Beach County in the 1990s.

LRP still has an operation in Horsham, Pa., and it also runs an office in Tallahassee.

Kahn has been a prominent presence in Palm Beach County’s business community. He serves on the executive committees of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, the Economic Council of Palm Beach County and Kravis Center Corporate Partners. He and Avossa served together on the board of the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County.

“Robert has dedicated his entire career to ensuring that every child is given an opportunity to succeed, and his passion for education makes him an invaluable choice for this role,” Kahn said late Tuesday in an email. “Not only does he have the necessary skills but also a solid background to lead our diverse education products and oversee editorial and conference programs.”

In announcing his new job Monday, Avossa said he wanted a position that would allow him to spend more time with his family. While it’s unclear how those wishes will fit with an executive position in the private sector, LRP employees who review the company on Glassdoor.com give it high marks on that front. Even workers who trashed the company on other counts lauded LRP for a “low-stress” culture and an emphasis on work-life balance.

Kahn wasn’t available for an interview Tuesday, a spokeswoman said. In a 2013 interview, he said he sold some of LRP’s legal newsletters to narrow the company’s focus to a few topics where it can be a dominant player.

“I like to be No. 1 or No. 2 in the markets we serve,” Kahn said.

That includes education — and, more specifically, special education and education technology. Avossa said that in his new position he will help run LRP Publications’ education products, which include newsletters, magazines, conferences and online seminars. Avossa started his career as an exceptional education teacher, and he focused his college studies on special education.

“This opportunity will allow me to spend the last part of my career impacting education at the national level while affording me more time to commit to my family,” Avossa, 46, wrote in his resignation letter. He will start the job in June.

In recent years, LRP has diversified beyond publishing into hosting conferences, a strategy embraced by many publishers of specialized content.

The registration fees LRP collects for its conferences hint at why that approach makes sense. For instance, it’ll cost as much as $1,495 to attend this year’s conference of the National Institute on Legal Issues of Educating Individuals with Disabilities, taking place in Dallas. Fees for the national Ergonomics Conference & ErgoExpo reach as high as $1,450, according to the event’s website.

Other events are more modestly priced. Early-bird registration for the 2018 Campus Technology conference is just $95.

As an entrepreneur active in Palm Beach County’s business scene, Kahn has in the past hired promising executives. For instance, in 2012, LRP hired Ed Chase, then president of the Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce. Chase also was former executive director of the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation.

Chase left a position with a salary of $112,000, according to a chamber tax return. Avossa’s schools salary was set to rise to $334,750 after he received high marks on evaluations in January.