A bunch of notes to kick off your Tuesday:
• Public relations: Today's largest private equity deal is that Cision, a PR software company owned by GTCR, has agreed to acquire PR Newswire from UBM PLC for $841 million. This basically means that GTCR beat out Vista Equity Partners for a deal, and that doesn't happen too often.
I spent a bit of time on the phone this morning with GTCR vice president Stephen Master, who told me three things of interest:
(1) PR Newswire is basically the fourth leg of a 4-legged stool for Cision, and any future acquisitions will likely be small fold-ins focused more on geographic expansion than product expansion. (2) GTCR looked a lot at how corporations are using tools like Medium and LinkedIn to share B2B news, and agrees that most B2B news growth in past six or seven years has come from such platforms. But, that said, he believes in long-term viability of top wire platforms -- it costs around $1k to send out a PRNewswire release -- in terms of both reach and prestige (both internal and external). (3) Master acknowledged that this was "one of the most challenging [leveraged] financings for GTCR since the credit crisis," due to macro conditions.
• Debate prep: I spent some time yesterday reading through transcripts from the first four GOP presidential debates, in preparation for tonight's encounter in Las Vegas (fun facts: The word 'unemployment' has been uttered a total of four times by candidates, and only two candidates have used phrase 'income inequality'). The result was a post published earlier this morning, with five big questions that weren't asked in any of the first four debates. You can read it here.
• From the filings: Ronny Conway is raising his second early-stage investment fund, less than two years after closing his debut vehicle with around $51 million in capital commitments. That first vehicle was deisgned to help alleviate the "Series A crunch" for angel-backed companies. Per an SEC filing, the new fund target is a whopping $140 million.
• Mystery: We still don’t know who paid $140 million to buy The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada’s largest daily newspaper with a circulation in excess of 175,000. But one rumored purchaser tells Fortune — via a spokesman — that it wasn’t them: Charles and David Koch, co-founders of Koch Industries and major donors to conservative candidates.
The media and political worlds have been scratching their heads since Gatehouse Media sold the paper last week to a limited liability company called News + Media Capital Group. The organization seems to have been created for the singular purpose of buying the Review-Journal, and also to shield the new owner’s identities.
Given Nevada’s recent history as an important swing state in presidential races — Nevadans have picked the winning presidential candidate in 9 straight elections — there has been a lot of speculation that the secretive purchase was made for the purpose of swinging local political opinion. The Kochs were among the possible names bandied about, but a spokesman says it wasn’t them.
One other popular guess has been Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, but his representative has not yet returned a request for comment.
Most of the newspaper’s employees also remain in the dark, including those tasked with reporting on the change in ownership. An article published on Friday said that publisher Jason Taylor told workers only that “News + Media has multiple owner/investors, that some are from Las Vegas, and that in face-to-face meetings he has been assured that the group will not meddle in the newspaper’s editorial content.”
• Speaking of Las Vegas: I'll be in Sin City for a couple of days in early January to attend some events surrounding CES. I've got a bit of free time so, if you want to meet up, let me know and we'll see if our schedules match.
• Quiz time: Can you name the new healthcare VC group that is being launched by a pair of private equity pros (who are maintaining their day jobs)? Hint: The principals aren't based in Boston, New York or San Francisco.
• In memoriam: Robert Stewart, who served as VP of public affairs for the Private Equity Growth Capital Council between 2007 and 2011, passed away on Friday. While in that role Bob was always extremely professional and helpful to me, even when this space and the PEGCC's message were not anywhere close to in sync. It was sincerely appreciated.
He most recently had been leading communications for the Financial Accounting Foundation, and leaves behind his wife Debbie and their two sons, John and James. Rest in peace Bob.
THE BIG DEAL
• Hudson’s Bay Co. (TSX: HBC), the parent company of Saks Fifth Avenue, is in talks to acquire luxury goods e-commerce site Gilt Groupe for around $250 million, according to the WSJ.
Gilt has raised more than $280 million in funding from firms like General Atlantic, Goldman Sachs, NEA, Matrix Partners, DFJ, Pinnacle Ventures and SoftBank Capital. Read more.
VENTURE CAPITAL DEALS
• Vayyar Imaging, an Israel-based 3D-imaging sensor company, has raised $22 million in Series B funding. Walden Riverwood led the round, and was joined by return backers Battery Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Israel Cleantech Ventures and Amiti Ventures. www.vayyar.com
• AeroFarms, an Ithaca, N.Y.-based vertical farming company, has raised $20 million in new funding. Wheatsheaf Group led the round, and was joined by return backers GSR Ventures, MissionPoint Capital, and Middleland Capital. www.aerofarms.com
• Trulioo, a Vancouver-based provider of global identity verification for the online payments industry, has raised C$15 million in new VC funding. American Express Ventures led the round, and was joined by return backers BDC Capital, Blumberg Capital and Tenfore Holdings. www.trulioo.com
• Kahr Medical, an Israeli developer of bi-functional fusion proteins that was formed by Hadasit Bio Holding (TASE: HDST), has raised $12 million of a planned $15 million Series B round. Korea Investment Partners, Mirae Asset Venture Investment and DSC Investment were joined by return backer Flerie Invest AB. www.kahr-medical.com
• Pramata, a Brisbane, Calif.-based provider of customer relationship intelligence solutions, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. Volition Capital led the round, and was joined by return backers Argosy Capital and Peninsula Ventures. www.pramata.com
• PointGrab, an Israeli machine learning and computer vision startup, has raised $5 million in new VC funding from ABB Technology Ventures and Flex Lab IX. www.pointgrab.com
• ReliefBand Technologies, a Philadelphia-based maker of a wearable device for the drug-free treatment of nausea, has raised $5 million in VC funding led by PathoCapital. www.reliefband.com
• Azalead, a Paris-based provider of B2B account-based marketing software, has raised €4.5 million in new VC funding led by Idinvest Partners. www.azalead.com
• Edumedics, a Louisville, Ky.-based provider of healthcare management solutions for those with diabetes or other chronic conditions, has raised $4.2 million in Series A funding. Lunsford Capital led the round, and was joined by OCA Ventures and individual angels. www.edumedics.com
• iPrice, an e-commerce portal for Southeast Asia, has raised $1.2 million in VC funding. Asia Venture Group led the round, and was joined by 500 Startups, IMJ, Venturra, F2 Capital and Startstrike Ventures. Read more.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Arbor Investments has acquired a majority stake in DPI Specialty Foods Inc., an Ontario, Calif.-based specialty food distributor for annual revenue in excess of $1 billion. No financial terms were disclosed.The seller was Ireland-based based Ornua Co-Operative Ltd. www.arborpic.com
• Chequers Capital has agreed to acquire Spandex, a UK-based distributor of graphic media and equipment to the signage and visual communication industry, from Gilde Buy Out Partners. No financial terms were disclosed. www.spandex.com
• Cision, a PR software maker owned by GTCR, has agreed to acquire New York-based financial news service PR Newswire Association from UBM PLC (LSE: UBM) for $841 million. Vista Equity Partners reportedly had been the other final bidder. Read more.
• EQT Partners has agreed to acquire Piab Group Holding, a Swedish provider of vacuum ejector, suction cup and vacuum conveyor technology, from Altor. No financial terms were disclosed. www.eqt.se
• Pamlico Capital has sponsored a recapitalization of World 50 Inc., an Atlanta-based invite-only peer-to-peer network and knowledge exchange platform for senior corporate executives. No financial terms were disclosed. Exiting shareholders include Chicago Growth Partners. www.w50.com
• No IPO news this morning.
• Kahala Brands has purchased Pinkberry, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based frozen yogurt chain for more than 260 stores in 20 countries. No financial terms were disclosed. Sellers include Highland Consumer Partners, Sherpalo Ventures and Maveron. Read more.
• The Riverside Company has sold Eemax, an Oxford, Conn.-based maker of tankless water heaters, to Atlanta-based Rheem Manufacturing. No financial terms were disclosed. www.eemaxinc.com
• General Electric (NYSE: GE) has agreed to sell its Japanese leasing business to Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (Tokyo: 8316) for approximately $4.8 billion. Read more.
• Sanofi (Paris: SASY) and Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim are in exclusive asset swap talks, in which Saniofi would essentially trade its $12.6 billion animal health unit for Boehringer’s $7.4 billion consumer health business. Boehringer also would pay around $5.17 billion in cash to Sanofi. Read more.
• Schneider Electric (Paris: SU) said that it has ended talks to acquire a majority stake in British industrial software company Aveva Group PLC (LSE: AVV). The news sent Aveva shares down as much as 37%. Read more.
• Mahindra Group of India has acquired a control stake in Pininfarina, a listed Italian auto design company, for $28.1 million. Read more.
• Micron Technology (Nasdaq: MU) has agreed to acquire the 67% stake it doesn’t already own in Taiwanese chip-maker Inotera Memories (TSEC: 3474) for around $4.1 billion. Read more.
• Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) has decided against splitting up its business, following a strategic review. Read more.
• Yahoo Japan has offered to acquire Ikyu (Tokyo: 2450), a Japanese online travel and restaurant reservation platform, for around $830 million. The bid represents around a 42% premium to Ikyu’s most recent share price. Read more.
FIRMS & FUNDS
• Black Toro Capital, a Spain-based private equity firm, has secured $82 million of a $448 million-targeted second fund, according to a regulatory filing. www.blacktorocapital.com
• J.C. Flowers & Co. is raising its fourth private equity fund, according to a regulatory filing. MVision and Credit Suisse are listed as placement agents. www.jcflowers.com
• Lion Capital, a UK-based private equity firm focused on the consumer sector, is raising upwards of $2.25 billion for its next fund, according to a regulatory filing. www.lioncapital.com
• OrbiMed Advisors is raising upwards of $300 million for its second Israel-focused fund, according to a regulatory filing. www.orbimed.com
• Thompson Street Capital Partners, a St. Louis-based private equity firm focused on founder-led middle-market businesses, has closed its fourth fund with $640 million in capital commitments. www.tscp.com
• USVP has closed its eleventh early-stage venture capital fund with $300 million in capital commitments. www.usvp.com
• WuXi Healthcare Ventures has closed its second fund with $290 million in capital commitments. The Shanghai-based VC firm focuses on U.S.-based life sciences companies that it feels could benefit from building out in China. www.wuxiventures.com
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