April 13, 2007 / 9:30 PM / in 11 years

Google to buy ad network DoubleClick for $3.1 bln

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Web advertising leader Google Inc. (GOOG.O) said on Friday it will acquire DoubleClick Inc., a leading online advertising network, for $3.1 billion, consolidating Google’s grip on the Internet ad market.

The deal represents the largest acquisition in Google’s history and comes just six months after Google paid $1.65 billion to acquire video-sharing site YouTube. Terms of the deal call for Google to pay cash to DoubleClick investors.

The DoubleClick acquisition promises to fortify Google, the juggernaut of search-based advertising on the Web, as it expands into print, radio, video, mobile and TV ad markets. The combination should also bolster the ad targeting and analysis capabilities that Google can offer advertising customers.

DoubleClick, a dot-com stock market star and leading independent player in the first generation of online advertising during the 1990s, has been majority-owned by San Francisco private equity firm Hellman & Friedman since 2005.

Hellman & Friedman paid $1.1 billion in stock and debt for its stake. JMI Management is a co-investor in the company.

The Wall Street Journal had reported last week that Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O), which was involved in bidding for DoubleClick, pulled back after the auction price rose above $2 billion. Yahoo Inc. YHOO.O and Time Warner Inc.’s (TWX.N) AOL online unit were also said to have eyed a DoubleClick bid.

    New York-based DoubleClick was the most successful Internet start-up to emerge out of so-called Silicon Alley, the downtown Manhattan corridor that gave birth to dozens of start-ups which sought to move Madison Avenue advertising online.

    DoubleClick, founded in 1996, offers a digital marketplace that connects advertising agencies, marketers and Web site publishers seeking to place online ads. It has more than 1,500 corporate clients.

    The company hired investment bank Morgan Stanley in March to help explore its options, including a possible stock market listing. Hellman & Friedman set a price tag of at least $2 billion for the advertising company, according to a Wall Street Journal report late last month.

    Shares of Google, which dipped $1.10 in regular session trading on Nasdaq ahead of the news, fell another $3.28 to $463.01 in after-hours trade following the announcement, a roughly 1 percent decline on the day.

    Additional reporting by Paul Thomasch, Michele Gershberg and Robert MacMillan in New York

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