Mar 29, 2022 - Economy

Nielsen deal is back to buyout basics

A TV on a gold stand

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Media measurement firm Nielsen this morning accepted a $16 billion buyout bid from Elliott Management and Brookfield Asset Management, just one week after rejecting an offer that was around 10% lower.

Why it matters: In the midst of very turbulent capital markets, this story almost seems quaint.

  • Private equity firms offered to buy a well-known, listed company with a history of PE ownership. Their basic argument was that Nielsen was wilting in the public spotlight, and needed some privacy to effectuate its strategic transition.
  • The company and one of its top shareholders said the price was too low.
  • PE came back over the top, raising its bid to $28 per share in cash from $25.40 per share. And the giant financing package, said to be more than $10 billion, held together.
  • Nielsen's board voted unanimously in favor of the sweetened offer.

Such deals used to happen all the time, and this one would be unremarkable if it weren't March 2022. But we are where we are, with market corrections and inflation and yield curve weirdness and European war and banks unable to syndicate tens of billions of leveraged loans.

Caveats: OK, it's not a perfect narrative. Elliott is much more of an activist investor than a traditional buyout firm, and spent years trying to increase Nielsen's public equity value. Plus, that big dissenting shareholder — WindAcre, with a 9.6% stake — is notably missing from today's press release (i.e., it may hold out for more).

The bottom line: What's old is new again. At least for a day.

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