Google among suitors for DoubleClick


A bidding war has emerged for DoubleClick, the online advertising firm purchased for $1.1 billion two years ago and taken private, according to reports Monday.

The company, majority-owned by private-equity firm Hellman & Friedman, could fetch up to $2 billion, and interested potential buyers now include Google Inc., Yahoo! Inc. and Time Warner in addition to Microsoft Corp., which Wall Street observers last week saw as the front-runner, observers said.

The reported suitors declined comment Monday.

DoubleClick is a bubble-era company that nearly went broke in the aftermath of a correction of Internet-related stocks at the start of the new century. It is one of the largest brokers of online display advertising, grossing about $150 million in revenue last year, according to reports.

Google has a wide lead over its rivals in text-based search advertising, and observers often speculate that the company needs to do something dramatic if it is to gain a similar advantage over Microsoft, Yahoo! and others in display ads.

Hellman & Friedman, along with JMI Equity Fund, paid $8.50 per share for DoubleClick in April 2005, about a 20% premium from where shares traded a week earlier but well off the $200 per share DoubleClick once traded at.

In 2001, Internet advertising in the U.S. took a 12.3% plunge to $7.21 billion and the next year dropped an additional 16.6% to $6 billion, causing DoubleClick investors to bail out of the stock in droves. Internet advertising has since rebounded, to about $15.5 billion last year and an expected $18.5 billion this year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.