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Thomas Nelson Publishers is buying 60 percent of New Life Treatment Centers, the chain that runs Women of Faith conferences.

Women of Faith gatherings drew more than 450,000 people in 25 cities last year—a tenfold increase since they started in 1996. They also attract a key segment of Thomas Nelson's customers.

A number of speakers at the events, including humorist Barbara Johnson and singer Sheila Walsh, are published by the Nashville-based firm. The deal, worth about $13 million, also gives Thomas Nelson (which made $262 million in net revenues last year) a chance to expand into a new marketing area.

Women of Faith conferences, which celebrate God's grace and focus on the emotional and spiritual needs of women, "fit within the vision of the company," says Joe Powers, chief financial officer for Thomas Nelson.

Women at the conferences "are our primary customers," Powers says. "We want to create awareness of our authors and products."

Stephen Arterburn, founder and chairman of New Life, also supports the deal. Thomas Nelson's investment will help support the conferences, which cost roughly $30 million annually, and will help New Life pursue new projects.

The organization is developing a series of new events with Miss Pattycake, a children's ministry leader who is a "female version of Mr. Rogers" featured in the Women of Faith conferences AND videos. New Life is also creating line of books for girls 8-12 called "Young Women of Faith."

New Life also has created a traveling event for children called "The Land of Gnoo," which depicts everyday struggles using animal characters.

Thomas Nelson will not be directly involved in producing Women of Faith conferences. Arterburn and his team do "a great job," Powers says. "We were impressed ...

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February 7, 2000

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