In industries that rely on human capital, such as technology and media, companies compete for talent via M&A. The "acqui-hiring" trend is especially apparent at Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO), which has conducted more than a dozen transactions over the last year or so.
Tumblr Inc. ranks as Yahoo's fourth-biggest acquisition and the biggest deal the company has made under Marissa Mayer since she left Google to become CEO of Yahoo in July 2012. Yahoo closed the $1.1 billion purchase of the New York blogging service in June 2013, gained Tumblr founder David Karp (pictured), who, at 27 years old, is considered a rising star in in the tech world.
Another recent acqui-hire made by Yahoo was Rockmelt, a venture capital-backed startup that aimed to reinvent the Web browser. The purchase, reportedly for between $60 million and $70 million, secured Rockmelt developers Tim Howes, formerly of Netscape, and Eric Vishria, formerly of OpsWare.
"Tech companies need to hire people, but it's very hard to poach those people," says John Zieser, chief development officer of Meredith Corp. (NYSE: MDP), which publishes lifestyle magazines, including Better Homes and Gardens, and has done its own share of acqui-hiring. Non-compete clauses prevent people from working for a competitor if they leave.
"If you're Yahoo and Google, you have to buy the startups in order to get the people. That's how Meredith built its MXM business," he adds, citing how the New York-based marketing arm of Meredith essentially formed from the combination of seven acquisitions over the course of 2011, including a minority investment in Iris Worldwide. "Those deals were basically people acquisitions in order to go to market," Zieser says. "That's exactly what Yahoo is doing - they're really buying the people."