With the most attractive of the three divisions sold, the company now faces the potentially more difficult prospect of selling the Consumer/Small Business and Game groups.
New York-based tech publisher Ziff Davis announced today that it has entered an agreement to sell its Enterprise Group to private-equity firm Insight Venture Partners. The deal is for $150 million in cash and could include another $10 million in cash depending on the group’s performance for the rest of the year.
"The Enterprise Group has a track record of vigorous expansion and innovation. The team is second to none in the industry in delivering smart, strategic customer results," said Robert Callahan, Ziff Davis Chairman and CEO in a statement.
Ziff has been under the gun to sell. It faces a near-term cash shortage and with a heavy debt load that has little prospects of more borrowing. Unloading the Enterprise Group certainly helps and the $150 million will go a long way toward the $400 million owner Willis Stein needs to make before it begins to recoup its investment. But the Enterprise Group was the easy sell. The next two divisions, the $62.3 million Consumer/Small Business Group and the $39.1 million Games Group, don’t generate as much revenue, which will make the $400 million target that much more difficult to reach. Additionally, Ziff’s sale anxiety may further complicate the next deals since the buyer or buyers will surely know Ziff’s position, which could create downward pressure on pricing.
The $79.6 million Enterprise Group properties include some of the company’s top performers: eWeek, CIO Insight and Baseline magazines and their Web sites; Webbuyersguide.com, Microsoft-watch.com, Channelinsider.com and Deviceforge.com; digital and face-to-face events; and a 3.5-million name customer database.
In a memo distributed internally to employees today, Callahan says that the Enterprise Group offices will be staying put and notes that the sale process could extend to the end of the year:
"Ziff Davis Enterprise Group will remain in their current locations in NY, SF and Boston—so while we’ll miss the Enterprise team, no doubt we’ll see each other often and stay in touch.
When I announced to all of you late last summer that we’d explore strategic options, I said the process may well extend through December 2007.
Our Enterprise Group was the first Ziff Davis Group to test the waters and the result is good for both sides. We’ll continue talks involving both our Consumer/Small Business and Game Groups. These discussions are both fluid & exciting. Stay tuned …"
Insight Venture Partners, with $3 billion in committed capital, is based in New York and specializes in software and Internet investments.