Verizon (VZ - Get Report) and Yahoo! (YHOO) . Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) and LinkedIn (LNKD) . Ziff Davis and (likely) Gawker. What can investors take away from this year's highest profile technology deals?
"Everyone wants sticky users to maintain valuations," said Greg Portell, partner at A.T. Kearney. "They also want to shift to a younger profile because the younger audience base has been elusive, especially for legacy media companies."
When it comes to Verizon's $4.8 billion purchase of Yahoo! last month, Portell said the deal is noteworthy because it signals the death of "legacy-digital royalty." The acquisition was the culmination of an auction process that began in February, after CEO Marissa Mayer failed to convince shareholders she could turn the company around. Yahoo! will join Verizon's AOL unit, another notable name from the original dot-com boom.
"Yahoo's situation highlights the difficulty for digital companies when held to traditional financial performance expectations," said Portell. "Verizon's interest reinforces the value of a billion-digital unique."
Portell maintained it was a smart move for Verizon because Yahoo!'s traffic is both sticky and heavily mobile. Verizon also knows how to transition digital properties, in his view, so the integration should go smoothly.
In the biggest acquisition in its history, Microsoft paid $26 billion for LinkedIn in June -- a price Portal called "crazy" for essentially a network. In his view, the deal and the price highlight the premium for "sticky" users.
As for Ziff Davis' potential purchase of Gawker Media out of bankruptcy, Portell said the likely deal has many of the typical storylines, most notably an old-line media company acquiring a younger profile. Gawker and owner Nick Denton filed for Chapter 11 in order to avoid paying tech investor Peter Thiel and pro wrestler Hulk Hogan the $140 million judgment they won in Hogan's privacy trial earlier this year.
"The reason this makes my list of top deals is because it highlights the fragile nature of start-up media. The only reason the deal takes place is the lawsuit-related bankruptcy," said Portell. "The fact an individual with deep pockets and a vendetta can push a company into bankruptcy and sale is noteworthy - and a little scary."