News Corp and Move, Inc. announced Tuesday (9/30) that News Corp, the massive media empire owned by Rupert Murdoch, has agreed to acquire leading online real estate business Move, Inc. for $950 million in an all-cash tender offer.
REA Group Limited (“REA”), which is 61.6 percent owned by News Corp and is the operator of the leading Australian residential property website, realestate.com.au, plans to hold a 20 percent stake in Move, with 80 percent held by News Corp.
Under the acquisition agreement, which has been unanimously approved by the board of directors of Move and News Corp and with the full support of the NAR, which has an exclusive, strategic relationship with Move, News Corp will acquire all the outstanding shares of Move for $21 per share, or approximately $950 million (net of Move’s existing cash balance), via an all-cash tender offer.
This represents a premium of 37 percent over Move’s closing stock price on September 29, 2014. REA’s share will be acquired for approximately US$200 million. News Corp intends to commence a tender offer for all of the shares of common stock of Move within 10 business days, followed by a merger to acquire any untendered shares.
“This acquisition will accelerate News Corp’s digital and global expansion and contribute to the transformation of our company, making online real estate a powerful pillar of our portfolio,” said Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp. “We intend to use our media platforms and compelling content to turbo-charge traffic growth and create the most successful real estate website in the U.S. We are building on our existing real estate expertise and expect to leverage the potential of Move and its valuable connections with REALTORS® and consumers around the country.”
“In addition to boosting Move’s subscription, advertising and software services, this acquisition will give News Corp a significant marketing platform for our media assets, which will benefit from the high-quality geographic data generated by real estate searches,” said Thomson. “We certainly expect this deal to amount to far more than the sum of the parts.”
In an investor/media conference call early Tuesday, Thomson also said, “On sales alone, [brokers and agents] are forecast to spend $14 billion on marketing in 2014, and Move, at the moment, captures only around 2 percent of that spending,” said Thomson. “We believe there is much room for that percentage to grow, because the market is in the midst of a secular shift in digital advertising as real estate agents seek to reach homebuyers where they are spending their time searching for homes. That is online.”
Move CEO: Acquisition Only Strengthens the Agent-Consumer Relationship
“News Corp’s acquisition of Move speaks powerfully to the quality and value of our content, audience and industry relationships,” said Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Move. “We provide people with the information, tools and professional expertise they need to make the best and most informed real estate decisions, and we work to uphold the indispensable role of the professional in the real estate experience. News Corp shares our vision, which is one of the many reasons this combination is such good news for our customers, consumers and the industry as a whole.”
In an interview with RISMedia Tuesday when asked how the acquisition will benefit Move, realtor.com® and ultimately Realtors® and consumers, Berkowitz added, “It helps Move and realtor.com® because it’s a combined focus on opportunity. If you take the assets that Move has, the content, audience size and relationships and combine that with News Corp’s audience with the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and MarketWatch—when you think about it, we have not only the best buy-and-sell audience, and then you take News Corp’s transaction-ready audience, there will be a significant increase in the benefits of bringing these audiences together to offer more excellent content together.
“In this case, one and one is five,” he continued.“ There’s a real brand battle out there, and we have a great message. Our marketing is doing very well and combining that with News Corp offers a massive marketing opportunity.”
Referencing the relationship between Move and NAR, Berkowitz added, “This was not a two-party negotiation. This was a three-party negotiation. There is a lot of alignment between each of our roles. The idea is that we are part of a media company, not a transaction company and we’re very focused on the idea of leveraging these relationships. There’s a real commitment between NAR, realtor.com® and News Corp to enhance our roles and create an amazing consumer experience.”
NAR SVP: How NAR Members Will Benefit
Bob Goldberg, President and CEO of Real Estate Information Network (RIN) and NAR’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Business Development & Strategic Investments, Professional Development and Conventions, told RISMedia that the benefits News Corp’s reach will bring to realtor.com® and NAR members are far-reaching.
“When you combine the assets and resources and capital that are coming into the equation through News Corp with the positive momentum realtor.com® and move have had over the last several months, and add to that the investment NAR has made in augmenting realtor.com®’s Accuracy Matters campaign with our own consumer awareness ads, you have a real powerhouse. Even before the acquisition, realtor.com® was getting positive results and seeing strong improvement. Now, with what News Corp brings to the table, there is huge opportunity for realtor.com and NAR members to benefit.
“The digital real estate space is very important to our industry and to organized real estate, but it is especially important for consumers,” he continued.” If you take the exposure that homebuyers and sellers will now get and add it to the accuracy of our data over every other source in this industry—due to how often we replenish and update our information—you’re creating multiple positive effects.”
News Corp and Move vs. Zillow and Trulia
While Move CEO Berkowitz says realtor.com® has always been a strong competitor in the space, it’s “game on now” with the power of the Murdoch empire behind it.
“Our focus has always been on building realtor.com, and we saw this as an opportunity for us. What this does—it’s just game on now,” said Berkowitz. “Our focus has always been on building realtor.com®, and we saw this as an opportunity for us. What this does—it’s just game on now,” said Berkowitz.
Addressing Zillow’s proposed acquisition of Trulia on the Tuesday investor call, News Corp CEO Thomson said, “We do think this development helps illustrate the size of opportunity in the U.S. given the current valuations of those two companies. We certainly expect competition,” said Thomson. “However, our strategy is quite different from that of Zillow and Trulia. We see a tangible and enduring value in the role of REALTORS, who are pivotal to navigating the sale and the acquisition of real estate.”
Berkowitz and Move Chairman Joe Hanauer wrote an Open Letter to the Real Estate Industry Tuesday further outlining the details of the acquisition and proposed benefits to industry professionals as well as consumers. You can read the letter here.
RISMedia editors Maria Patterson, Suzanne De Vita and Beth McGuire contributed to this report.