Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Churchill Capital Corp. III has agreed to acquire health-cost management services provider MultiPlan at an initial enterprise value of $11 billion, as such deals continue to proliferate as alternatives to IPOs.

Why it matters: This is the largest special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger, and it also includes the largest private investment in public equity (PIPE) associated with a SPAC. Existing MultiPlan owners like Hellman & Friedman and General Atlantic will roll over more than 75% of their collective stake and own over 60% of the public company.

  • A source tells Axios that negotiations began before the pandemic.

Context: A SPAC is a shell company that raises money from the public markets for the purpose of acquiring a private company.

This too: Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp., a SPAC backed by Apollo Global Management, agreed to buy electric car maker Fisker at a $2.9 billion enterprise value.

Oh, and this: Two more SPACs on Friday filed to go public.

Why now? SPACs have been around for years, but what we're seeing now seems largely driven by public equity froth.

  • Stock markets are salivating for almost any new issue, whether or not it includes an operating company. That's the perfect petri dish for SPACs, and they're raising billions.
  • IPOs are also going gangbusters but often take longer to complete with far more disclosure than do reverse mergers via SPAC. Plus there's rampant underpricing. So why not strike while the iron is hot and (relatively) easy?

Going public via SPAC does have some downsides. For example, you still need shareholder approval, could get hammered by redemptions, and need to give a large slice of economics to the SPAC sponsor.

The bottom line: SPACs, not direct listings, are the 2020 challenge to IPOs and IPO bankers.

Go deeper

Mergers and acquisitions make a comeback

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A slew of high-profile headlines led by Microsoft's expected acquisition of social media video app TikTok helped bring the Nasdaq to another record high on Monday.

Why it matters: The mergers-and-acquisitions market looks like it's bouncing back, joining the revived credit and equity markets as well as the market for new public companies through IPOs and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).

NOAA warns of potential for "extremely active" Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Isaias makes landfall in Garden City, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters warned Thursday of the potential for an "extremely active" hurricane season in the Atlantic.

The big picture: The agency expects 19 to 25 named storms — with three to six major hurricanes — during the six-month hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30. The average season produces only 12 named storms.

New York AG files lawsuit to dissolve NRA

Wayne LaPierre. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit Thursday to dissolve the National Rifle Association, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

Why it matters: The NRA is the most powerful gun lobby in the country and receives a huge amount in donations each year, but New York's investigation claims that CEO Wayne LePierre and other top leaders undermined the organization's mission for their own personal benefit.