Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) is spending $175 million to purchase minority stakes in Swiss online marketplaces for cars and homes. The New York-based private equity firm will purchase almost 50% of Scout24 Schweiz AG, which operates a network of online marketplaces for real estate and automotive sales, and Omnimedia AG, an online advertising firm that markets those websites.
“This is the future of private equity,” said Philipp Freise, who leads KKR’s European media industry team. “We have to become solutions providers and invest much more flexibly. In many cases, it doesn’t matter if we don’t use debt or have a majority stake. If you like a business, you have to partner and be creative in how you offer entrepreneurial capital.”
KKR’s previous digital investments include GoDaddy, Internet Brands and German music company BMG Rights Management. This present acquisition comes only a week after KKR sold its stake in Switzerland’s Wild Flavors GmbH to Archer Daniels Midland.
Mark Walder, Chief Executive of Ringier, a publisher of Swiss tabloid newspaper Blick, currently makes 30% of its revenues from its digital business, and with the new move by KKR, expects for that profit stream to increase. “We are doing this because of the expertise that we expect KKR to bring, ” Mr. Walder said in an interview. “It’s not only about the money. It’s about the smart money that they bring in. ”
Walder had previously met with KKR co-founder Henry R. Kravis back in November, in a meeting to discuss the possible acquisition of these Swiss online businesses. “Henry Kravis had a very good answer to all our fears,” Mr. Walder said. “We said it will be important to have control. We thought they might only invest if they had control. He explained his philosophy of investing which is that they try to go along even in a minority.”