- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2007

When Miguel Penella was offered a stake in a small startup called Acorn Media Group, he never imagined that he would run it one day.

Four years ago, the Spaniard from Valencia was content to be vice president for customer marketing at Time Life Inc.

Mr. Penella was living quietly with his wife and three sons in Arlington when he met Peter Edwards, a man who turned his life upside down.

Mr. Edwards had built an international DVD marketing firm from a small documentary operation he started in the basement of his Silver Spring home. He was looking for someone to manage his DVD company, Acorn Media Group, and Mr. Edwards tapped Mr. Penella in 2004.

“I was very happy at Time Life, so my first reaction was to stay where I was,” Mr. Penella said. “But Peter offered me the opportunity to have a personal stake in the company.”

Mr. Penella quit his steady job at Time Life and started anew at the fledgling DVD company. Three years later, Mr. Penella is the new chief executive officer of Acorn Media Group, whose 65 employees distributed 17 million digital video disc catalogs last year, an increase of 80 percent since 2004.

“I’ve really enjoyed my three years at Acorn,” Mr. Penella said. “And this represents a great level of trust from Peter to allow me to take the reins of a company that he founded.”

Acorn sells DVDs that focus on British drama and mystery programming such as “Midsomer Murders,” “Slings and Arrows,” “Poirot,” “Foyle’s War” and “Robin of Sherwood.”

The company also produces yoga and fitness programming under its own label, Acacia DVD. Acorn offers its DVD products though catalogs and Web sites such as www.acornonline.com and www.acaciacatalog.com.

Under Mr. Penella’s watch, the company grew rapidly into a successful boutique DVD marketing company with distribution offices in the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

“Miguel is quick and embraces change,” Mr. Edwards said. “And in the media business, we have to embrace the possibility of change because what works today may very well not work tomorrow.”

Mr. Penella received an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Valencia in 1992 and a master’s degree in business administration from Adelphi University in New York in 1993.

“Miguel defiantly has that European view of business management,” Mr. Edwards said. “Business executives in Europe handle their businesses from a sophisticated and deliberate perspective, and so does he.”

Mr. Penella hopes to use his bold but calculated management style to preserve the entrepreneurial spirit of the company.

“As the new chief executive officer, I hope to gain the trust of everyone who works at Acorn,” Mr. Penella said. “And I hope to continue the tremendous growth which the company has achieved.”

The company reported $80 million in revenue last year, and it expects that number to rise.

“It’s going to be a healthy industry for years to come,” Mr. Edwards said. “And Miguel is going to do a better job at being CEO than I ever could have done.”

— Bryce Baschuk

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