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Nielsen agrees to $16 billion private equity takeover

The media measurement firm Nielsen Holdings, facing intense competition and criticism as it tries to make the transition to digital audience tracking from its longstanding TV business, said on Tuesday that it had agreed to be acquired by a private equity consortium for $16 billion, including debt.

The group, led by Evergreen Coast Capital — an affiliate of the activist firm Elliott Investment Management — and Brookfield Business Partners, offered $28 a share for Nielsen. The price was a 60 percent premium over Nielsen’s stock price on March 11, before rumors of a deal surfaced, and a 10.2 percent improvement on the consortium’s previous proposal, which Nielsen rejected this month.

Dave Gregory, a managing partner at Brookfield, said in a statement that Nielsen was “deeply embedded in the media ecosystem.”

“As a private company, Nielsen will be even better positioned to deliver the best measures of consumers’ rapidly changing behaviors across all channels and platforms,” he added.

Nielsen has been under pressure from media platforms and the advertising industry to accurately measure audiences not just on traditional television but also on streaming services and the internet. Powerful media executives have complained for years that Nielsen, which is nearly a century old, uses antiquated methods that struggle to measure viewers’ new habits.

The Media Rating Council stripped Nielsen of its accreditation for local and national television measurement last year. Last month, Discovery and Omnicom Media Group said that advertising clients including AT&T and State Farm would experiment with using video audience estimates from Comscore and VideoAmp, two other media measurement firms. Last week, NBCUniversal said it would offer advertisers guarantees using data from iSpot rather than relying solely on Nielsen.

Nielsen stock was up more than 20 percent on Tuesday. The company can entertain other bids during a 45-day go-shop period. Otherwise, the deal is expected to close in the second half of the year. The New York Times

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