Black Thursday For Nielsen As Blackstone Backs Out


How impactful can an article in the New York Post be?

Don’t ask those in the C-Suite of the nation’s dominant audience measurement and consumer research company.

Nielsen Holdings shares tanked on Thursday after the tabloid reported late Wednesday that private equity player Blackstone Group has opted out of making a final offer for the audience measurement company.

At the Closing Bell, a 11.1% decline was seen for Nielsen, with a drop of $2.97 a share to $23.66. Trading was exceptionally high, at 18.5 million shares. Average trading volume is 3.29 million shares.

Nielsen was down big out of the gate, with trading relatively steady across much of Thursday.

But, it is clear investors are deeply disappointed in the news delivered by the Post’s Josh Kosman, who has been privy to many a scoop in recent days.

According to unnamed sources who spoke with the Post, Blackstone is dropping out of the Nielsen Holdings sales process.

It’s worse: The entity that just took a majority stake in Cox Media Group‘s TV stations, Apollo Global Management, is also reportedly losing interest. That’s according to “a source close to the situation.”

Blackstone and Apollo were the two biggest entities said to be buying all or part of Nielsen, which on Sept. 12, 2018, confirmed that it had “expanded the scope” of a strategic review of its troubled Buy segment to include “a broad review of strategic alternatives” for the company and its businesses.

Trouble with the Buy segment and a strategic review of that Nielsen arm dates to July 2018, when it was also revealed that Nielsen CEO Mitch Barns would be exiting by the end of 2018.

By early FebruaryReuters had revealed that — based on its inside sources — Blackstone Groupthe private equity shop led by Stephen Schwarzman, was one step closer to snapping up Nielsen. This involved Blackstone entering the second round of bidding for Nielsen’s business.

Also reportedly in the bidding, according to Reuters, were a group that includes Advent International and Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s buyout arm and Bain Capital LP.

Bain Capital is widely known for its involvement in the privatization of iHeart predecessor Clear Channel Communications. Bain Capital, Thomas H. Lee Partners and 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.

The reported exit of Blackstone in the buyout negotiation means that it will not be regaining ownership of Nielsen. Blackstone and Hellman & Friedman in 2006 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 ultimate demise of R&R.