In the end neither Microsoft nor SAP (or IBM for that matter) came to the dance. Instead, the one remaining significant independent marketing cloud provider – Marketo – remains independent, albeit with new owners.

Vista Equity Partners bought the company today for $1.79 billion, less than Salesforce paid for Exact Target, but still one of the  biggest deals to date in the rapidly growing digital marketing sector.

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The move looks like a shrewd buy on the part of Vista. Marketo has a powerful niche and strong following among marketers, and as long as the execution of strategy is not derailed by the acquisition (always a risk with PE deals) they could well generate a strong return within a few year.

Marketo originally listed on the Nasdaq in 2013 just as the digital marketing run was building up a head of steam, as evidenced by the fact that the stock popped 50 per cent on its first day.

More recently its share price has been under pressure although it was helped when word leaked of a possible sale around the time of its user conference in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Under the terms of the all cash deal   Vista will acquire all outstanding shares of Marketo common stock for a total value of approximately $1.79 billion. Marketo shareholders will receive $35.25 in cash per share, representing a 64 premium to the unaffected closing price as of May 9, 2016.

“After careful consideration and deliberation, our Board of Directors unanimously concluded that the sale of Marketo to Vista Equity Partners was in the best interest of Marketo and its shareholders,” said Phil Fernandez, (pictured) chairman and CEO of Marketo.

Phil_Fernandez_Orion

“The acquisition will allow Marketo to continue to focus on customer success and to remain the independent category leader, continuing to set the agenda for product innovation and thought leadership for the entire digital marketing industry. It will also enable us to successfully deliver on the bold vision we recently set forth – to give tomorrow’s marketers and the C- suite an ultra-high- scale enterprise platform for customer engagement.”

According to Brian Sheth, co-founder and president of Vista, “Marketo is the clear leader in the marketing automation space and has consistently delivered innovative mission critical products to its more than 4,600 customers,” said . “Given our proven track record and focus on investing in high-growth SaaS platforms, we are thrilled to partner with Phil and the broader Marketo team to help the company accelerate innovation, growth, and excellence.”

Unlike rivals Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle, the company has been more of a builder than a buyer of technology, and has sold the virtues of tighter integration which flow from this approach. It will be interesting to see whether it maintains its (relatively) pure approach or whether Vista decides to pursue a more accumulative approach in Marketo’s suite development.

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