Vista Equity Partners buys marketing automation giant Marketo for $1.8B in cash

Marketo, the marketing software giant that went public in 2013, is being taken private again: PE firm Vista Equity Partners has acquired the company for $1.79 billion in an all-cash deal. The news ends weeks of speculation in which people guessed that Marketo would be snapped up potentially by strategics like Microsoft (who is a big partner of Marketo) or SAP.

In the end, it’s a PE firm, thereby meaning that neither of these two enterprise IT giants will be using an acquisition of the company to make a more definitive move into the marketing sphere to compete against Adobe, Oracle and others.

The announcement of the purchase notes that Marketo shareholders will receive $35.25 in cash per share, representing a 64% premium to the unaffected closing price as of May 9, 2016.

“After careful consideration and deliberation, our Board of Directors unanimously concluded that the sale of Marketo to Vista Equity Partners was in the best interest of Marketo and its shareholders,” said Phil Fernandez, chairman and CEO of Marketo, in a statement.

“The acquisition will allow Marketo to continue to focus on customer success and to remain the independent category leader, continuing to set the agenda for product innovation and thought leadership for the entire digital marketing industry. It will also enable us to successfully deliver on the bold vision we recently set forth – to give tomorrow’s marketers and the C-suite an ultra-high-scale enterprise platform for customer engagement.”

Marketo, founded by Fernandez and Jon Miller in 2006, offers a suite of cloud-based marketing services running the gamut from customer acquisition (lead management, email marketing) through to consumer, segmented, and mobile marketing. The company has a range of customers, from startups through to the likes of GE and Microsoft.

The company’s fortunes have grown in line with a bigger trend on the Internet towards more ad tech and corresponding “martech” (marketing tech) to squeeze more data out of the browsing public, and figure out how to target them better on a platform that is increasingly noisy challenged to grab users’ attention.

According to its last quarterly report it was seeing revenues continue to grow, but was also operating at a loss, and had forecast that to continue, which could have been especially challenging in a current public market climate which has been less rosy on tech stocks.

Vista has acquired dozens of companies, including those in the marketing space, such as event management company Cvent, which it acquired for $1.65 billion in April of this year.

“Marketo is the clear leader in the marketing automation space and has consistently delivered innovative mission critical products to its more than 4,600 customers,” said Brian Sheth, co-founder and president of Vista. “Given our proven track record and focus on investing in high-growth SaaS platforms, we are thrilled to partner with Phil and the broader Marketo team to help the company accelerate innovation, growth, and excellence.”

Marketo, based out of San Mateo, says the deal should close in Q3 2016.