The titans of the private equity world must be reading the 393 Communications blog.
Just a week after lamenting the new owners of Martindale Hubbell, the directory has been sold on again.
In the latest chapter in the Martindale saga, Internet Brands — which owns Martindale and sister site Lawyers.Com – has been acquired by leveraged buyout behemoth KKR from its existing owners – another private equity company called Hellman & Friedman.
For those that haven’t followed the fast-moving corporate twists and turns, this latest deal comes very soon after Internet Brands struck a joint venture-type arrangement with LexisNexis (the parent of Martindale-Hubbell and Lawyers.Com) in which Internet Brands uses those platforms to provide packages of marketing services to lawyers.
Shortly after, Lexis/Martindale laid off more than 200 people and said that work previously handled by Martindale and Lawyers.Com would shift to the Internet Brands team based in El Segundo, near Los Angeles in California.
Although KKR, one of the stars of business classic “Barbarians At The Gate”, has said that it plans to expand Internet Brands’ services in the legal sector, I don’t hold out much hope for Martindale Hubbell now that private equity companies are scrapping over assets.
I’m being naïve here but I had thought some farsighted executive might have seen the potential to revive the historic Martindale legal directory brand – although this isn’t a fashionable view, given that most people put Martindale in the same bucket as the dodo.
For now, we’ll have to put up with this corporate PR speak (from a KKR executive quoted in the New York Times):
“Internet Brands is at an exciting inflection point of growth as the company transitions from a portfolio of web assets to a vertically integrated provider of media and client software solutions. Its growth has been driven by its powerful, proprietary operating platform and a management team with a focused vision.”
Internet Brands, which also runs sites like apartmentratings.com, carsdirect.com, and frugaltravelguy.com (I like the sound of this one), was founded in 1998 and bought for $640 million in 2010 by private equity firms Hellman & Friedman and JMI Equity.
American Lawyer has more details of the legal advisors that worked on the deal: Munger Tolles & Olson and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett for Internet Brands, and Latham & Watkins for KKR.
(Pictured: Henry Kravis, cofounder of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. From Wikipedia)