Adobe's $4.75 Billion Purchase of Marketo Will Boast Its Ability to Compete With Salesforce

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Adobe has ended over a week of speculation with the confirmation of a $4.75 billion purchase of California-based business-to-business software marketing specialist Marketo, a transaction that brings Adobe increasingly in competition with Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

At $4.75 billion, the purchase from Vista Equity Partners is the biggest in Adobe’s history and comes just months after its $1.7 billion purchase of ecommerce specialist Magento. Both additions will soon be integrated to the Adobe Experience Cloud.

Reports of negotiations between the two companies first emerged over a week ago, with the purchase now subject to regulatory approval. If successful, Marketo CEO Steve Lucas will join the Adobe board and lead the Marketo team as part of Adobe’s Digital Experience business and report directly to its executive vice president and general manager Brad Rencher.

On a conference call confirming details of the deal, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, said, “We believe the combination of Adobe Experience Cloud’s analytics, personalization and content solutions with Marketo’s lead management, account-based marketing and attribution technology will make us the leading platform for all marketers.”

In a statement announcing the deal, Rencher said, “The acquisition of Marketo widens Adobe’s lead in customer experience across b-to-c and b-to-b and puts Adobe Experience Cloud at the heart of all marketing.

“Adding Marketo’s engagement platform to Adobe Experience Cloud will enable Adobe to offer an unrivaled set of solutions for delivering transformative customer experiences across industries and companies of all sizes.”

Justin Gray, CEO of LeadMD, is a long-time partner of Marketo and offered his assessment of the pairing by claiming that Adobe’s stewardship could be a “shot in the arm” for Marketo as the b-to-b specialist had “fallen off from innovation pace” in recent years.

He said the pairing of Adobe’s creative tools suite along with the Marketo platform will let the b-to-b specialist extend its buyer engagement mission by better integrating into online buyer behavior via Adobe experience manager. “The true innovation potential, however, lies in the coupling of Marketo and Adobe’s AI product, Sensei, in order to make the powerful platform more accessible,” he added.

Adobe’s acquisition trail this year has brought it increasingly in competition with b-to-b marketing cloud incumbent Salesforce with the combined purchases–if cleared–bringing its spending in the space well in excess of $6 billion and also builds upon its 2016 purchase of video advertising specialist TubeMogul for $540 million.

Adobe reported revenues of $2.3 billion for the third quarter of 2018 last week when its Experience Cloud generated $614 million to the overall amount.

Marketo was purchased by Vista Equity Partners in 2016 for $1.8 billion in a deal indicative of the growing interest of private equity firms in the ad-tech and mar-tech sectors.

Speaking last week at the ATS conference, Jay MacDonald, managing partner and CEO of investment bank Digital Capital Advisors noted how private equity groups, such as Vector Capital and Vista Equity Partners, are taking an increased interest in the space expressed his view that similar such deals are in the offing.

In particular, he pointed to the $122 million purchase of Rocket Fuel, once valued at $2 billion, by Vector Capital-owned Sizmek as typical of the maneuverings of private equity. Such outfits will seek to “add on another couple of pieces,” which Sizmek did through several purchases to build a “full-stack” that it claims can rival Google in terms of utility.

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