Moneymen Snatch DoubleClick

26 April 2005

San Francisco private equity investment firm Hellman & Friedman is poised to add DoubleClick, the New York-headquartered internet ad agency, to its trophy room.

$1.1 billion (€841.75m; £57.44m) in cash is set to change hands as a result of the deal, reportedly struck last weekend. H&F has also enlisted venture capitalist JMI Equity in the acquisition, believing it will bring some software knowhow to the party.

DoubleClick, which has been struggling since the the dotcom bubble burst back in 2001, effectively hung a 'for sale' sign around its own neck six months ago. During the height of the dotcom frenzy, the agency's share price zoomed to an acme of $137. At the close of business last Friday, it languished at $8.57.

Many onlookers are surprised at the lackluster performance of DoubleClick stock, not least because the agency last year made net income of $37m on sales of $301m.

H&F is remembered on Madison Avenue for its acquisition of Young & Rubicam in 1996, later selling-on the former bluechip shop to WPP Group. It seems that the moneymen have affectionate memories of Y&R.

The home page of the H&F website prominently features a tribute from the agency's former chairman/ceo Peter Georgescu before Y&R was trussed and delivered into WPP's hands.

"Our friends at Hellman & Friedman have been outstanding partners. They're dependable, flexible and knowledgeable about our business. Working together, we made Y&R one of the most successful public companies in our industry," gushed Georgescu.

It is curious that the one and only testimonial on H&R's website to the joys of acquisition by that firm is now over four years out of date.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff