Is A Blackstone-led Group Closer To A Nielsen Buy?


With its shares holding in the mid-$20-$30 range since mid-August 2018, some stability has been given to investors wondering what the future holds for Nielsen Holdings.

Mitch Barns is no longer CEO. A “strategic review” of its Buy and Watch businesses is underway.

Now, it appears a group of private investors led by Blackstone Group, the private equity shop led by Stephen Schwarzman, is one step closer to snapping up Nielsen.

That didn’t excite shareholders, as Nielsen ended Monday’s trading on a down note.

Much like its coverage of the Cox Media Group deal said to be in place for its TV stations, Reuters is getting the good scoops on media deals as of late.

According to “people familiar with the matter” who spoke with the news organization late Friday, Blackstone’s group — which is said to include Hellman & Friedman — are in the second round of bidding for Nielsen’s business.

Also reportedly in the bidding: a group that includes Advent International and Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s buyout arm, Reuters notes, and two names very familiar to broadcast media companies — Apollo Global Management LLC and Bain Capital LP.

Apollo is in the news for reportedly offering $3 billion for Cox’s 14 TV stations. Bain Capital is widely known for its involvement in the privatization of iHeart predecessor Clear Channel Communications. Bain Capital, Thomas H. Lee Partnersand smaller shareholder Highfields, together with Abrams Capital, held in excess of $1 billion of iHeartMedia’s senior debt.

The bids are the result of the prodding of Elliott Management Corp. head Paul Elliott Singer, who has urged Nielsen Holdings to shed all of Nielsen’s assets … and possibly bring in $10 billion by doing so. Elliott Management has an 8% equity interest in Nielsen and has wanted a sale of the “Buy” division since August 2018.

If Blackstone and Hellman & Friedman are familiar names, it is because they’ve already owned Nielsen. In 2006, they teamed up with Carlyle Group to make a $11 billion acquisition of what was then VNU a reality; the purchase came as VNU acquired Radio & Records and merged it with Billboard Radio Monitor, resulting in massive layoffs that led to the trade publication’s ultimate demise.

Bidding is said to conclude by March 1; Nielsen noted that it would provide updates in late February as to what its future holds.

Nielsen shares closed at $26.12, down 18 cents from Friday.