Last December Meetic, Europe’s biggest dating site with a market cap around $500 million, put itself on the block. Founder/CEO Marc Simoncini was just tired of dating and wanted to move on to other things. He’s since started a glasses startup, but stays at Meetic because the company could find no takers.
It’s a huge, cash-generating business in a growing market, so what happened?
We’d been wondering. We were chatting today with a well-connected investment banker we know and the subject came up.
Here’s what the banker thought happened, making clear they had no inside info.
The banker noted that much of the process was run through the press, with the sale offer being leaked early.
“Often when a company is being sold,” this person said, “bankers will leak the info at the end of an auction process, when there are two buyers. Speaking to a reporter who writes ‘company X is about to be acquired for 100’ will increase competition between two prospective buyers who had offers at 95 and 98, and get one of them to put up 101.”
“As I read the Meetic affair, there was only one buyer, and when that buyer at 95 saw ‘Meetic about to be sold for 100’, he just thought he was being outbid and simply gave up. If I’m right, the company or its bankers tripped up by pressuring their one buyer too much.”
Simoncini said publicly that they didn’t sell because they couldn’t find a buyer at their asking price, which was a not-outrageous 20% premium over the market price.
It’s an interesting story, whether or not it applies to Meetic, because it shows how a sale process can break down, the role of the press, and a bit of the inside of the complicated dance that companies go through when they’re trying to mate.