EXCLUSIVE: Details of National Research Group’s possible sale are emerging with a first round of bidding due last Thursday after the financial prospectus went out to potential buyers two weeks ago. At the moment, a Middle Eastern investment group is said to be the frontrunner, but others MarketCast, Screen Engine/ASI and PSB Research (which has the deep pockets of WPP behind them) are also expected to be in the mix. The financial prospectus doesn’t ask for a specific amount for NRG, rather it spells out what the assets are and basically states that any offer would be a multiple of EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization).
The Nielsen Co. hired banker Jordan Edmiston to explore a possible sale of its NRG, Inc. earlier this summer. That same bank handled the MarketCast sale last year when RLJ Equity Partners, in alliance with GE Asset Management, acquired MarketCast from Shamrock Capital Advisors.
The bids for NRG were due the same day that terminations were levied last Thursday to about a dozen L.A. staffers, mostly mid-level employees. One woman was let go over the phone while she was on vacation and just told not to come back to work.
If agreement is made to sell 100% company stock/assets in 2015, the word on the street is that NRG senior management would be in line to receive a bonus (some say as high as $50K), which a source said is seen as a way to pay them as an end-of-year bonus. That would be given to everyone in senior management above a certain pay grade, which is said to be senior VP’s and up.
Tina Wilson (Cheryl Idell’s No. 2) is being transferred elsewhere within Nielsen before any sale completes. The first round of bids will now be followed by management presentations, then a second round of bids and, of course, due diligence for any interested parties.
The project internally is said to be named ‘Red Bull.’
NRG, which has offices in Los Angeles and the UK, tests everything from promotional materials to movies in test screenings. This comes after the exit of two key executives: NRG’s president Derek McLay, who joined the company in 2009, and was the liaison between the company and all the major studios advising them on research and tracking for their films and NRG’s SVP Client Consulting John Restall left to join Sony. Restall oversaw design, analysis and management of ad testing, tracking, screenings, positioning studies, brand studies, exit polls, and focus groups.
Nielsen is only looking to sell the NRG film portion of its business, the assets of which are the tracking both here and abroad and the brand name itself — the company has been around for 37 years and is synonymous with movie tracking. VNU bought NRG in 1997 for $44M, then VNU acquired Nielsen Media Research and then in 2002 integrated NRG it into Nielsen.
This move to sell also comes after an internal restructuring and rebranding of service under Nielsen Content under Idell which combined TV and film into one company. Of course, they are vastly different businesses and that concept didn’t work.
Nielsen had no comment.