Adobe closing in on acquisition of software company Marketo for about $5 billion, sources say

Key Points
  • Adobe could announce a deal for software company Marketo as soon as Thursday, according to people familiar with the matter.
  • A transaction for Marketo will be in the range of $5 billion, one of the people said.
Adobe nearing $5 billion acquisition of Marketo
Adobe nearing $5 billion acquisition of Marketo

Adobe is nearing an acquisition of marketing software company Marketo for around $5 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. (Later on Thursday, the company officially announced the deal for $4.75 billion: Full story here.)

The companies are in the final stages of reaching a deal, said the people, who asked not to be named because the negotiations are private. An announcement could happen Thursday or Friday, the people said.

Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that specializes in software and technology, acquired Marketo for about $1.8 billion in 2016. Adobe and Microsoft were both considering buying Marketo in 2016, sources said, but ultimately Vista won it.

The transaction helps validate Vista's strategy of buying higher-growth software companies such as Marketo. Reuters first reported Adobe was in talks to buy Marketo earlier this month.

Adobe CEO on earnings, future of Adobe and the financial crisis
Adobe CEO on earnings, future of Adobe and the financial crisis

The acquisition will help Adobe better compete with Salesforce, which got into marketing automation — for managing outreach to potential and existing customers over multiple channels in order to drive sales — with its $2.5 billion acquisition of ExactTarget in 2013. A deal would be Adobe's largest acquisition ever, according to data compiled by CNBC.

An Adobe spokesman wouldn't comment. Marketo did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Vista spokesman declined to comment.

Marketo was started in 2006 by a group of co-founders, including Phil Fernandez, who was CEO through the company's IPO in 2013. He stayed at the helm even after Vista took the company private in May 2016. Fernandez stepped down later that year and was replaced by Steve Lucas, an industry veteran of over two decades. Lucas was previously president of SAP's platform and analytics group and before that was a senior vice president at Salesforce.

Eloqua, one of Marketo's top competitors, went public in August 2012 and was acquired by Oracle four months later for $871 million.

— CNBC's Jordan Novet and Ari Levy contributed to this report.