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Buyout of AOL, Yahoo signals PE’s biggest bet on digital media

Apollo Global Management has for years wanted to become a major player in the media world. The firm finally got its wish Monday.

After days of speculation, Apollo has agreed to acquire a 90% stake in Verizon’s portfolio of digital news sites, including Yahoo and AOL, from Verizon for about $5 billion.

The deal marks private equity’s biggest bet yet on the embattled digital media industry, which has struggled to compete with Google and Facebook for a share of the digital advertising market. And it puts Apollo, an investor engulfed in controversy for the past year-plus over co-founder Leon Black’s connections to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, in control of a collection of news sites after spending years betting on legacy media.

“It’s a textbook Apollo deal, They’ve been interested in media space for a while, judging by their past bidding activity. Apollo probably likes the space since many other investors are avoiding it.”

Indeed, Apollo’s history with media companies dates back years. But that history hasn’t always been successful.


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Private equity brushes off past club deal woes with $34B Medline buyout

Private equity’s biggest guns are once again showing they can have record-setting buyout firepower when they work as a team.

After recently backing away from so-called club deals that bring together multiple firms, the industry now has its largest acquisition in years. The Carlyle Group and Hellman & Friedman have joined forces to acquire Medline in a deal reportedly worth around $34 billion, including debt.

The deal comes after US private equity firms amassed approximately $721 billion in dry powder as of June 30, 2020 following years of record fundraising outputs. And it may signal that club deals involving multiple buyout shops have returned after they fell out of favor following a series of high-profile flops.

The Medline deal also marks the largest private equity buyout by value in at least a decade, according to PitchBook data. So far in 2021, private equity firms have struck 13 deals in the US worth $5 billion or more, surpassing last year’s total of 11.


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Permira-backed TeamViewer defies European IPO drought

PE-backed software company TeamViewer has announced plans to go public on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange by the end of the year. The offering could be one of Germany’s largest listings since 2017, with the expected valuation said to be between €4 billion and €5 billion (between around $4.4 billion and $5.5 billion).

Based in the city of Göppingen, TeamViewer develops a platform for online meetings and remote desktop access that has been installed on over 2 billion devices. Last year, the company reportedly generated sales of €230 million and EBITDA of €121 million.

Permira bought the business in 2014 for a reported €870 million from GFI Software. The PE firm is anticipated to sell between 30% and 40% of its shares, according to the Financial Times, but is said to be retaining its position as a majority stakeholder. Permira was reportedly approached by Hellman & Friedman and Vista Equity Partners in 2017, with each firm offering separate bids of some $2 billion to acquire TeamViewer.

If successful, the listing bucks a trend that has seen a significant drop in European IPOs. According to data from PitchBook, public offerings on the continent are at their lowest levels in nearly a decade. So far this year, 106 European companies have gone public compared with 311 last year. What’s more, very few of the companies that debuted on the markets this year raised large amounts of cash.

Only three businesses from the continent have broken the €1 billion mark in eight months. The largest IPO came courtesy of Italian lender Nexi, which priced its shares at €9 apiece to raise more than €2 billion in April. Europe’s second-biggest listing of the year saw Volkswagen’s truck and bus unit Traton make its stock market debut at €27 per share which brought in €1.55 billion. The final company that raised at least €1 billion is Trainline, the developer of a platform offering train and bus tickets. The KKR-backed business secured £951 million (around $1.2 billion at the time) by floating in London.

Some European businesses have avoided the markets altogether or backed out of scheduled IPOs. In July, Swiss Re pulled plans to list its UK life insurance arm ReAssure, which could have given the business a market cap of up to £3.3 billion. The group cited weak demand and heightened caution as its reasons, suggesting that certain political events may play a role in IPO suspension.

Of course, Brexit gets some of the blame, especially in the UK, but political uncertainty may not be the only reason for the lackluster demand for IPOs. Considering share price performance, European businesses haven’t been the best performers when going public. Traton’s stock has pretty much been on a downward spiral since the company’s June IPO—closing Wednesday at just over €22 per share—while Nexi’s stock fell a reported 6.2% on its first day. And we all know the debacles that were the Aston Martin and Funding Circle listings.

Still, there is hope that if it is executed, TeamViewer’s public debut will fare better than some of its peers, with its profitability and the attractiveness of the software market.


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The Pac-12 wants a $500M investment from private equity

Private equity has long made its living turning around distressed companies.

Could the industry revive a struggling college sports league?

The Pac-12 Conference is seeking a $500 million investment from a private equity partner for a 10% stake in the league’s TV network and other commercial assets, according to The Oregonian. A possible deal could reportedly value the new business at between $5 billion and $8.5 billion, per the conference’s plans. It would also include broadcast and sponsorship rights, merchandising, and distribution agreements.

It’s unclear if any formal discussions between the Pac-12 and potential investors have begun.

Embattled Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott presented the plan to Pac-12 leadership last November, per the report, and if a deal is struck, it could provide the conference’s 12 schools with nearly $42 million apiece. The money is much-needed. The Pac-12 Network has struggled to generate revenue comparable to other Power Five conferences such as the SEC and the Big Ten, the latter of which is set to distribute $15 million-plus more annually to its schools than the Pac-12 currently does to its member institutions.

Why would a PE firm be interested in such a deal?

In 2011, the Pac-12 signed a 12-year television contract with ESPN and Fox worth some $3 billion. The deal expires in 2024 and the upcoming contract could provide a nice cash infusion within a typical five-to-seven-year investment timeline. And an investor wouldn’t have to do much in the meantime other than front the money, since a proposed deal from the Pac-12 would see the conference retain operational control.

But any firm would be attaching itself to a league that’s been criticized for spending too much on its conference headquarters in downtown San Francisco, overseen a raft of high-profile officiating errors in football, and failed to produce a team that reached the College Football Playoff in three of the past four years, plus other controversies. The Pac-12 has responded by hiring FleishmanHillard, a PR agency that specializes in crisis management, again per The Oregonian.

When the conference created its own network following the deal with ESPN and Fox, it touted that the Pac-12 Network was independently owned and thus would get 100% of the proceeds. But that arrangement so far hasn’t been very lucrative. The conference has failed to strike a deal with DirecTV because of a disagreement over media rights, costing the Pac-12 millions and hurting its national exposure. Meanwhile, Scott himself has drawn criticism for his $4.8 million salary, per a USA Today report, which was more than double his Big Ten and SEC peers in 2016.