Yesterday we broke the news that Corel — the company behind WordPerfect, Corel Draw, and a number of other apps, as well as the new owner of Parallels — had itself gotten acquired by KKR. Today, the news is confirmed and official: KKR today announced that it has closed the deal, purchasing Corel from private equity firm Vector Capital.
The terms of the acquisition are not being disclosed, but when the first rumors of a deal started to emerge a couple of months ago, the price being reported was over $1 billion.
Corel may not be the first name you think of in the world of apps and software today. Founded in the 1980s as one of the first big software companies to capitalize on the first wave of personal computer ownership, it tried to compete against Microsoft in those early days (unsuccessfully), and has seen a lot of ups and downs, including two retreats from the stock market, an insider trading scandal, and patent disputes (and even detentes) with its onetime rival.
But in more recent years it has, under the radar, built itself to be a solid and — in these days of startups that claim to intentionally operate at a loss for years in order to scale — profitable business with 90 million users. (Vector had said in the past that Corel had paid dividends of $300 million over the years it’s owned the company.)
Founded in the days when you went to electronics store and bought physical boxes of software with installation disks and hefty manuals, Corel has brought itself into the modern era, with acquisitions like Parallels — a virtualization giant that lets businesses run far-flung and very fragmented networks as if they weren’t — underscoring that strategy.
And that is where KKR appears to be putting its focus. In the memo that a source passed us yesterday, Corel’s CEO Patrick Nichols assured staff that there would be no layoffs and that this acquisition would mean a significant new infusion of capital both to expand its existing business as well as to make more acquisitions to grow. (As we pointed out yesterday, there are a lot of very promising software startups in the market today, and not all of them will scale on their own, so that could present interesting opportunities for companies like Corel.)
“Corel has differentiated itself by offering an impressive portfolio of essential tools and services for connected knowledge workers – across devices, operating systems, and a range of fast-growing industries. KKR looks forward to working together with management to drive continued growth across its existing platforms while leveraging the team’s extensive experience in M&A to deliver a new chapter of innovation and growth on a global scale,” said John Park, Member at KKR, in a statement.
That’s not to say that Corel does not have a specific strategy in mind. The company has apps and services today in three verticals serving consumers (mostly “prosumers”) and so-called knowledge workers: Creativity, Productivity, and Desktop-as-a-Service. That will likely be the trajectory that it will continue to pursue as it looks for more growth.
Although Vector is known as a tech investor, KKR is another step up in to the “bigger” leagues, and so it will be interesting see what Corel can do with the larger coffers, and the larger network of contacts, that KKR will bring to the table.
“KKR recognizes the value of our people and their impressive achievements, especially in terms of our commitment to customers, technology innovation, and our highly successful acquisition strategy. With KKR’s support and shared vision, our management team is excited by the opportunities ahead for our company, products, and users,” said Patrick Nichols, CEO of Corel, in a statement.
If reports of the acquisition price are accurate, that would represent a big premium to Vector: over the last 16 years the PE firm had acquired, taken public, and reacquired Corel, paying no more than $124 million for the company in those two acquisitions (the second time, it paid just $30 million).
“Corel has been an important part of the Vector Capital family for many years and we are pleased to have achieved a fantastic outcome for our investors with the sale to KKR,” said Alex Slusky, Vector Capital’s Founder and Chief Investment Officer, in a statement. “Under Vector’s ownership, Corel completed multiple transformative acquisitions, grew revenue and meaningfully improved profitability, highlighting Vector’s proven strategy of partnering with management teams to position companies for long-term success. We are confident the company has found a great partner with KKR and wish them continued success together.”
By Ingrid Lunden