News Corporation, the media giant led by Rupert Murdoch, is exploring a sale of Unruly, the London-based video advertising platform it acquired for £115m just four years ago.
Sky News can exclusively reveal that News Corp has hired bankers to oversee an auction of Unruly following a number of unsolicited approaches about a potential takeover.
Media industry sources said on Friday that the New York-listed media group, which owns The Sun, The Times and the Wall Street Journal, had not yet made a definitive decision to proceed with a sale.
Needham, a US-based investment bank, is advising News Corp on the process, according to insiders.
Potential buyers are likely to include other players in the video advertising market, which is increasingly focused on innovation in programmatic techniques to allow advertisers to reach their target audiences more effectively.
The decision to explore a disposal comes amid a fast-changing landscape for video advertising globally, which is dominated by Facebook and Google, the internet search giant that is a subsidiary of Alphabet and which owns YouTube.
Unruly handles all of News Corp’s digital advertising inventory, and has sought to expand both geographically and in terms of its product offering since their 2015 deal.
Earlier this year, Unruly announced a global partnership with Formula1.com, the official online home of the world’s most popular motor racing series.
Under their deal, the tech company supplies video advertising to the F1 site, which boasts more than 500m unique viewers around the world.
Unruly’s products include ShareRank, a tool that predicts whether videos on social and digital media are likely to go viral.
Founded by Sarah Wood, Scott Button and Matt Cooke in 2006, Unruly quickly became a darling of London’s tech start-up scene.
The trio stepped back from day-to-day operational roles just over two years ago, with Ms Wood becoming the company’s chairman and her two co-founders assuming advisory roles.
At the time of the tech company’s sale, Robert Thomson, News Corp’s chief executive, described Unruly as “a feisty and creative company” that provided “contemporary insight into how people read, watch, buy and sell in the digital era”.
Executive responsibility for Unruly has been held by Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News UK, the division of News Corp which runs its British newspaper operations.
Its purchase of Unruly came just days after Ms Brooks returned to the business.
Last year, the adtech company launched the U7, a council comprising 10 of the world’s largest advertisers, including Diageo, GlaxoSmithKline, Mars and Unilever.
“We want to prove that adtech can live up to a higher standard of openness and honesty.
“For too long, clients have had to put up with solutions forced on them by adtech companies,” Norm Johnston, Ms Wood’s successor as chief executive of Unruly, said.
The video advertising company now has offices in Australia, India, Japan and the US, among other markets.
Its expansion since 2015 makes News Corp’s decision to countenance a sale mildly surprising, although one insider said the sector’s ongoing consolidation meant there was a realistic chance that Unruly would be “worth more to someone else”.
Industry sources were divided over the likely valuation of Unruly in any sale, although it would not be material in the context of News Corp’s $8.15bn (£6.7bn) market capitalisation.
In addition to its British newspaper assets, News Corp owns the financial media organisation Dow Jones, within which the WSJ sits, the book publisher HarperCollins and Move, the owner of property website Realtor.com.
Its assets in Australia include the merged Foxtel and Fox Sports Australia, and investments in AAP, the country’s largest newswire service, and the rugby league team the Brisbane Broncos.
A sale of Unruly, would be the latest – albeit modest in size – corporate transaction undertaken by Mr Murdoch’s constantly evolving media empire.
After the phone-hacking scandal forced the closure of the News of the World in 2011, News Corp pursued a demerger of its entertainment operations into a new company called 21st Century Fox in 2013.
The demerged business included a substantial shareholding in Sky News’ owner, BSkyB, which subsequently became Sky plc.
Last year, Mr Murdoch agreed to a sale of a large chunk of 21st Century Fox’s assets, including its film studio, to The Walt Disney Company.
21CF’s 39% Sky stake was sold separately to Comcast, the US media giant behind NBCUniversal, along with the publicly traded shares in the British entertainment, telecoms and broadband provider.
The renamed Fox Corporation, which is listed on Nasdaq, is chaired by the 88 year-old Mr Murdoch, and owns a spectrum of Fox-branded news and entertainment businesses.
Fox is run by Lachlan Murdoch, one of the elder Mr Murdoch’s sons, while Lachlan’s brother James – a former chairman and chief executive of Sky – continues to sit on News Corp’s board.
News Corp declined to comment, while Unruly did not respond to an enquiry from Sky News.
Credit: Source link