M&A Recap: Zynga and Google Make Buys

Social gamer Zynga grabbed a lot of press lately.  First the company re-upped with Facebook.  Next it doubled down with Yahoo.   Now the company is expanding its development operations with the purchase of Austin based Challenge Games.  Challenge, which developed games like Warstorm and Ponzi was backed by Sequoia Capital and Globespan.

In other M&A news, Google has acquired Philadelphia based advertising shop Invite Media for an undisclosed sum thought to be in the range of $50 to $75m.  Click to Read More

Disney Adds Gaming Talent with Purchase of Wideload

disney wideload games buy

Mickey is looking for some new ideas and the talent to develop them.  He’s not scared to pay to get either.

Just about a week after shelling out $4b to buy Marvel Entertainment, Disney’s dug into its acquisition coffers again, this time to snag little known game developer Wideload Games.

In a press release, the companies announced the deal Tuesday morning. 

In contrast to the Marvel purchase, the Wideload buy seems almost singularly about the people.  Wideload won’t be bringing a cache of known brands or readily saleable products to the Disney family.  There won’t be any super heroes or arch villains to pepper story arcs or cross the media boundaries of Disney’s empire.   Since being founded in 2003, Wideload has developed only a handful of games. 

The real characters Wideload will bring to Disney are its staff, particularly, its founder, game industry veteran, Alex Seropian.

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38 Studios Swallows Up THQ’s Big Huge Games

38 studios bhgAs a pro baseball player, Curt Schilling made his mark as a starting pitcher.  Though there were a few transitional years early in his career spent as a reliever, over twenty years, the majority of time he entered a game, it was from the beginning.  Schilling started 436 out of 569 games. In his second career as a gaming entrepreneur, he doesn’t appear to have any qualms about coming in off the bench.

With financial troubles (see sidebar below) pushing THQ to cut more staff and studios, Schilling’s upstart game company 38 Studios was more than happy to acquire THQ’s online role playing studio, Big Huge Games.

Big Huge Games (BHG) was founded in 2000 by a veteran group of PC game developers.  The Maryland based studio’s early works were published by Microsoft Game Studios.

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Square Enix Bids to Snag Eidos

eidos sale watchOn a day when Midway Games failed to find a buyer or new capital, fellow publisher Eidos had better luck.  The beleaguered publisher, suffering its own financial woes, revealed new details on a buyout overture first announced in early January.  What was initially disclosed as an unnamed suitor turns out to be Japanese publisher Square Enix.  The company has made a formal bid of £84.3m in cash  (approximately $120 to $122m depending on exchange rates) to acquire the company.

The details to emerge thus far:
Eidos’ board has unanimously agreed to endorse the Square Enix offer.  At the offer price of 32 pence per share its represents a 91% premium over the company’s three month average closing price (for the period up to February 11th). The premium is also a 258 % improvement over Eidos’ closing price on January 14th, the last day of trading prior to the company’s announcement it had been approached with a takeover offer.

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Terms Announced: Live Nation and Ticketmaster Merger

merger signed by boardIt’s now official. I’s dotted and T’s crossed on the plan.  Live Nation and Ticketmaster have agreed to merge. The official press release (PDF) was issued this morning.  Substantiating the early reports , here are the facts from the press releases and conference call:

• The companies will combine in a tax free, all stock merger with a combined enterprise value estimated at $2.5b.

• Ticketmaster will receive 1.384 shares of Live Nation for each share of Ticketmaster they own.  Pro -Forma, Live Nation shareholders will hold 49.99% of the new company. Ticketmaster will hold 50.01%.

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Live Nation and Ticketmaster Merger Gets Board Approval

music-merger-rumor-metue-small.jpgFor a long time, Live Nation and Ticketmaster were joined at the hip.  The nation’s largest concert promoter and the nation’s largest ticket vendor formed an inseparable pair.  Then Live Nation, pursuing better margins and greater ambitions of vertical integration, decided to go it alone.  The tie was severed, with prejudice.  Live Nation began acquiring assets and partners to be more self reliant. It joined with CTS Eventim to begin selling tickets on its own. Ticketmaster spun off from its parent corporation, IAC, and tried to blaze its own path.

Now, not a month into Live Nation’s re- incarnation as both promoter and ticket vendor (ticket sales began in January), and it turns out the old pals are ready to not just rekindle their old relationship, but tie up entirely in a merger.

Last  week the Wall Street Journal discovered the two companies were in the late stage of discussions.  Widespread reports citing “sources familiar” and “inside sources” predicted a deal would hit the news wires by early Monday.    

The Monday news never came. The boards of both companies apparently met late Sunday but failed to hammer out all issues.  A second meeting on Monday afternoon is believed to have settled the remaining impasse.

At this point, there’s no official press release nor comment from the companies but reports are starting to circulate that both boards agreed unanimously.  (Details will be updated on Metue as they become available).

(UPDATE: As of Tuesday morning, the companies have now confirmed the merger and issued statements regarding the details. A full summary of the deal terms as currently announced is available here on Metue. Other details about the company can be found at the bottom of this article).

What is believed known now: Click to Read More

Billionaire Bailout: Inside the Times Co.’s New $250m Loan

times carlos slim loanThe Tribune Co. got into trouble, ultimately seeking protection through bankruptcy, because it wasn’t able to sell off assets fast enough, or at high enough prices, to service debt. The New York Times, though carrying a far more management debt load, wasn’t going to risk making similar mistakes.

The venerable media company, which has struggled along with its industry,  agreed this week to borrow $250m from Mexican telecom billionaire Carlos Slim Helú (bio).

Upwards of 90 percent of the Times Co.’s revenue comes from its news media businesses. The relative lack of diversification, and simultaneous dependence on advertising in the currently weak market, has squeezed operating profits heavily. Click to Read More

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