By Sean Fenlon on February 2, 2010
Back in 2002, Josh Gray invested everything he had to buy Webclients.net, a lead generation firm that had grown to ~$10MM in revenue but was losing money.
As the new CEO Josh, focused like a laser on increasing yield (particular on non-monetized inventory) and grew the sales and profits of the business by orders of magnitude.
In June of 2005, Webclients was acquired by ValueClick (NSDQ: VLCK) for $141 Million. The Webclients business remained in Harrisburg, PA and became the lead generation platform for all ValueClick lead generation activities. Josh Gray continued to run the business until stepping down a couple of years ago.
This was right around the time that ValueClick was getting into hot water with federal regulators with respect to incentive-ized offers to consumers. All of these matters have been since settled with regulators, but it all apparently left a bad taste in the mouth of ValueClick.
In a press release issued yesterday, it was announced that ValueClick divested Webclients:
The transaction price of $45 Million (and seller-financed by ValueClick) shows a substantial haircut to the price paid back in 2005.
The big question in my mind is who is the buyer? The announcement only names the buyer as anonymous. Could it be Josh Gray again? Could he be going for round-two in buying a struggling Webclients and turn it around for another mega-sale? If so, why be anonymous? Why would any buyer of Webclients be anonymous for that matter? Enquiring minds and all that.
According to the analysts, the Webclients business did not appear to be struggling.
ValueClick CEO Tom Vadnais does not offer much clarity in his explanation:
“Given the growth and synergy opportunities in our core businesses and the acquisition opportunities in the market, the time is right to divest Web Clients”
I suppose all will be explained in time, but I’d love to see other speculations as to who the buyer was and why.