The last time AOL was involved in a mega merger was January 2000, when AOL acquired Time Warner for $182 billion in what was the mega deal of the last tech bubble, creating a $350 billion behemoth… which nearly dragged down both companies a few years later.
Fast forward 15 years and here is AOL again in yet another period-defining if far, far smaller transaction, when moments ago Verizon announced that it would acquire AOL for $50/share, a deal value of $4 .4billion. And with that the golden age of digital (and in many cases robotic) content, has now been top-ticked.
Then again, the joke will be on us if Verizon backs out of the deal just before the end of the 30-day free M&A trial period.
From the press release:
Taking another significant step in building digital and video platforms to drive future growth, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ) today announced the signing of an agreement to purchase AOL Inc. (AOL) for $50 per share — an estimated total value of approximately $4.4 billion.
Verizon’s acquisition further drives its LTE wireless video and OTT (over-the-top video) strategy. The agreement will also support and connect to Verizon’s IoT (Internet of Things) platforms, creating a growth platform from wireless to IoT for consumers and businesses.
AOL is a leader in the digital content and advertising platforms space, and the combination of Verizon and AOL creates a scaled, mobile-first platform offering directly targeted at what eMarketer estimates is a nearly $600 billion global advertising industry. AOL’s key assets include its subscription business; its premium portfolio of global content brands, including The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget, MAKERS and AOL.com, as well as its millennial-focused OTT, Emmy-nominated original video content; and its programmatic advertising platforms.
Lowell McAdam, Verizon chairman and CEO, said: “Verizon’s vision is to provide customers with a premium digital experience based on a global multiscreen network platform. This acquisition supports our strategy to provide a cross-screen connection for consumers, creators and advertisers to deliver that premium customer experience.”
He added, “AOL has once again become a digital trailblazer, and we are excited at the prospect of charting a new course together in the digitally connected world. At Verizon, we’ve been strategically investing in emerging technology, including Verizon Digital Media Services and OTT, that taps into the market shift to digital content and advertising. AOL’s advertising model aligns with this approach, and the advertising platform provides a key tool for us to develop future revenue streams.”
Tim Armstrong, AOL chairman and CEO, will continue to lead AOL operations after closing.
Armstrong said, “Verizon is a leader in mobile and OTT connected platforms, and the combination of Verizon and AOL creates a unique and scaled mobile and OTT media platform for creators, consumers and advertisers. The visions of Verizon and AOL are shared; the companies have existing successful partnerships, and we are excited to work with the team at Verizon to create the next generation of media through mobile and video.”
The transaction will take the form of a tender offer followed by a merger, with AOL becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Verizon upon completion.
The transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals and closing conditions and is expected to close this summer.
Verizon expects to fund the transaction from cash on hand and commercial paper. The company also continues to expect to return to pre-Vodafone transaction credit ratings in the 2018-2019 timeframe.
Transaction advisers for Verizon were LionTree Advisors; Guggenheim Partners; and Weil, Gotshal & Manges. AOL advisers were Allen & Company LLC and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.
And now compare to the original January 10, 2000 AOL-Time Warner press release:
America Online, Inc. [NYSE:AOL] and Time Warner Inc. [NYSE:TWX] today announced a strategic merger of equals to create the world’s first fully integrated media and communications company for the Internet Century in an all-stock combination valued at $350 billion.
To be named AOL Time Warner Inc. with combined revenues of over $30 billion, this unique new enterprise will be the premier global company delivering branded information, entertainment and communications services across rapidly converging media platforms.
The merger will combine Time Warner’s vast array of world-class media, entertainment and news brands and its technologically advanced broadband delivery systems with America Online’s extensive Internet franchises, technology and infrastructure, including the world’s premier consumer online brands, the largest community in cyberspace, and unmatched e-commerce capabilities. AOL Time Warner’s unparalleled resources of creative and journalistic talent, technology assets and expertise, and management experience will enable the new company to dramatically enhance consumers’ access to the broadest selection of high-quality content and interactive services.
By merging the world’s leading Internet and media companies, AOL Time Warner will be uniquely positioned to speed the development of the interactive medium and the growth of all its businesses. The new company will provide an important new broadband distribution platform for America Online’s interactive services and drive subscriber growth through cross-marketing with Time Warner’s pre-eminent brands.
AOL Time Warner’s brands will include AOL, Time, CNN, CompuServe, Warner Bros., Netscape, Sports Illustrated, People, HBO, ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger, AOL MovieFone, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, Digital City, Warner Music Group, Spinner, Winamp, Fortune, AOL.COM, Entertainment Weekly, and Looney Tunes. In addition to fully integrating its brands into a digital environment and bringing them closer to consumers, AOL Time Warner will have a wealth of creative resources to develop products specifically suited to interactive media.
Under the terms of a definitive merger agreement approved by unanimous votes at meetings of each company’s board of directors, Time Warner and America Online stock will be converted to AOL Time Warner stock at fixed exchange ratios. The Time Warner shareholders will receive 1.5 shares of AOL Time Warner for each share of Time Warner stock they own. America Online shareholders will receive one share of AOL Time Warner stock for each share of America Online stock they own. The merger will be effected on a tax-free basis to shareholders. When complete, America Online’s shareholders will own approximately 55% and Time Warner’s shareholders will own approximately 45% of the new company. The stock will be traded under the symbol AOL on the New York Stock Exchange.
The merger will be accounted for as a purchase transaction and is expected to be accretive to America Online’s cash earnings per share before the amortization of goodwill. This transaction is subject to certain closing conditions, including regulatory approvals and the approval of America Online and Time Warner shareholders, and is expected to close by the end of the year. Mr. Ted Turner, Vice Chairman of Time Warner, has agreed to vote his Time Warner shares, representing approximately 9% of the company’s outstanding common stock, in favor of the merger.
Steve Case, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of America Online, will become Chairman of the Board of the new company. Gerald M. Levin, Time Warner’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, will become AOL Time Warner’s Chief Executive Officer. As Chairman, Mr. Case will play an active role in helping to build and lead AOL Time Warner, focusing particularly on the technological developments and policy initiatives driving the global expansion of the interactive medium. As Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Levin will set the company’s strategy, working closely with Mr. Case, and will oversee the management of the company. Mr. Levin will report to the board consisting of 16 members, with eight appointed by each of the current America Online and Time Warner boards.
Reprinted with permission from Zero Hedge.