Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sold... for $17.25

I've been with IKON Office Solutions for a little over 3 years now. Its been a mostly happy experience. When I first started with IKON, I sold copiers... and as the world's leading independent distribution channel for copiers, I could to go our customers with options including Canon and Ricoh machines. As a rookie rep I quickly realized two things: Canon is superior in quality, but Ricoh is good enough for about 85% of customers out there... and a lot less expensive. Ricoh also brought more training and resources to me as a rep... as well as created a really positive culture about the business. All I got from from Canon was the reputation of their quality past down to me by the IKON sales people who had been around for 10 or more years.

So I used to tell my wife, "If I had to leave IKON for another copier related company... it would probably be Ricoh." What I didn't totally anticipate was Ricoh coming to me.

Yesterday, Ricoh acquired IKON for $1.6 billion... or $17.25 a share. So, while IKON remains as a self managed company, Ricoh will buy all of the shares and take IKON off of the NYSE. Before working at IKON I spent some time in the Financial Industry at a company that specialized in M&A (Mergers and Acquisitions). I've seen some of the aspects of pressure that the "Street" can bring when your a public company that is not showing growth year over year. So I've been prowling the news wires looking for some indications of the background story to this sale.

Here is what I found:

IKON shares have been mostly held by institutional investors (not unusual), but one particular investor has owned a significant stake in NYSE:IKN for quite some time... a hedge fund named Steel Partners. They've always had a lot of influence on the company, (Read Here for more background) but it looks like they may have had the final say on this deal with Ricoh. They needed to make a reasonable profit on their investment in IKON and this was probably the best deal they were going to get anytime soon.

Hey... business is rarely "Nice"... and this is the case here. So even though we are going to hear a lot of discussion about this move being in the best interest of the customers and employees, we all know that the reality is that this move is in the best interest of the share holders. And that's ok, such is the life of a public company.

At least I was already emotionally prepared to work for Ricoh.

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