CNBC News Releases


Nielsen is getting serious about going private and will talk to potential buyers in January

Alex Sherman

  • Nielsen is expected to meet with private equity buyers in January, sources say.
  • The hiring of David Kenny has piqued the interest of Bain Capital.
  • Blackstone and H&F are expected to make a joint bid for Nielsen.

Nielsen Holdings plans to hold management presentations for interested private equity buyers in January after hiring a new CEO earlier this month, according to people familiar with the matter.

David Kenny took over as Nielsen's CEO on Dec. 3, replacing Mitch Barnes. Nielsen had been reluctant to engage in sale discussions before naming a new CEO, said the people, who asked not to be named because discussions are private. Blackstone, working in tandem with Hellman & Friedman, and Bain Capital are planning to meet with Kenny to discuss a potential deal in January, said the people. Other private equity firms will be invited as well, the people said.

Nielsen is a global information company most famous for its TV ratings, and also provides detailed data on retail and consumer behavior. It has a market capitalization of about $9.2 billion and an enterprise value of nearly $18 billion.

The company is in the midst of a rough patch thanks to regulatory changes around consumer data privacy and a struggling digital advertising market. Nielsen said in July it expected annual revenue to fall 1 percent, after forecasting growth of 3 percent, causing shares to fall 25 percent in one day. In August, hedge fund Elliott Management disclosed it had taken an 8.4 percent stake in the company.

High-dollar private equity deals, which dominated the mid-2000s, have largely disappeared since the financial crisis of 2008. A deal for Nielsen could be an indication that leveraged buyouts, which have gained consistent momentum in aggregate dollar value since 2009, could become another credible way for larger companies to exit the public market. Buyout deal volume this year is already at its highest level since 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Driven by Elliott

Elliott has pushed the company to find a buyer. Nielsen said in September that it was working with investment banks JPMorgan Chase and Guggenheim Securities, as well as law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, on an "expanded" review of strategic alternatives, including a sale of the company.

That prompted interest from a number of private equity firms, said the people, including a consortium led by private equity firms Blackstone and Hellman & Friedman, two of the people said. The Financial Times reportedthe two firms had joined together for a bid in October.

But Nielsen had pushed away from engaging with potential buyers until it hired a CEO, two of the people said.

Kenny is a tech industry veteran, and was most recently the head of IBM's artificial intelligence platform after joining the company through its acquisition of The Weather Company, where he was chairman and CEO. He previously co-founded and served as chairman and CEO of digital marketing agency Digitas, which sold to Publicis in 2006 for $1.3 billion. Prior to that, he was a partner at consulting firm Bain & Company.

Kenny's hiring has piqued the interest of Bain Capital, two of the people said. A deal with Blackstone and H&F would return Nielsen to two of its previous owners. Six private equity firms -- Blackstone, H&F, KKR & Co., Thomas H. Lee, Carlyle, and AlpInvest -- took Nielsen private for $10 billion in 2006. The firm returned to the public markets in 2011.

Spokespeople for Bain, Blackstone and H&F did not immediately return requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Nielsen declined to comment.

Elliott has had recent success pushing companies toward a sale, including Travelport and AthenaHealth.

If Nielsen does go private, it will be one of the largest leveraged buyouts in recent years and in the ballpark of some of the largest LBOs ever. Blackstone also closed a $17 billion deal for the majority of Thomson Reuters' Financial & Risk business earlier this year.

About CNBC:

With CNBC in the U.S., CNBC in Asia Pacific, CNBC in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and CNBC World, CNBC is the recognized world leader in business news and provides real-time financial market coverage and business information 410 million homes worldwide, including more than 90 million households in the United States and Canada. CNBC also provides daily business updates to 400 million households across China. The network's 15 live hours a day of business programming in North America (weekdays from 4:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. ET) is produced at CNBC's global headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and includes reports from CNBC News bureaus worldwide. CNBC at night features a mix of new reality programming, CNBC's highly successful series produced exclusively for CNBC and a number of distinctive in-house documentaries.

CNBC Digital delivers more than 52 million multi-platform unique visitors each month. provides real-time financial market news and information to CNBC's investor audience. CNBC Make It is a digital destination focused on making you smarter about how you earn, save and spend your money by zeroing in on careers, leadership, entrepreneurship and personal finance.

CNBC has a vast portfolio of digital products, offering CNBC content to a variety of platforms such as:; CNBC PRO, a premium service that provides in-depth access to Wall Street; a suite of CNBC mobile apps for iOS and Android devices; Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri voice interfaces; and streaming services including Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Samsung Smart TVs. To learn more, visit

Members of the media can receive more information about CNBC and its programming on the NBCUniversal Media Village Web site at For more information about NBCUniversal, please visit