Quick read. Mike Danson is the maddening Brit who, in 2007, sold Datamonitor to Informa for £502m, only to buy it back eight years later for just £25m.
Now, he’s busy building another billion dollar research and data business, GlobaData Plc. But, meanwhile, he has just splashed $31.5m on a 12,000 sq ft, six-storey home in Manhattan’s Upper Eastside, which was formerly owned by Michael Jackson. Nobody announced the purchase but, then, even Danson’s quoted company has been known to forget to tell investors about the odd £20m acquisition (Infinata in 2017).
Lots of things are unusual about Danson’s 68%-owned, quoted company including the succession of acquisitions and disposals (at least six during the past two years) passing between his private and public companies. The largest ‘related party’ deal was this year’s acquisition of Research Views for £100m – priced at almost 45 x EBITDA and 4 x revenue. If you thought the Informa deals were doozies, Mike Danson negotiates even better with himself. Then, there’s the fact that GlobalData Plc pays Danson’s own company for its offices as well as for accounting, HR, IT, and facilities management.
Apart from the odd loan between the private and public companies, all these “corporate services” are a £3m annual bill for GlobalData whose minority investors might just worry about a certain lack of independence. But this is the messy backstage of a company that is growing impressively. In 2017, revenue from its services across the retail, ICT and healthcare markets increased by 22% to £121.7m. Organic growth accounted for more than half of the increase. In the first six months of 2018, the company did even better, increasing EBITDA by 31% to £14.6m on revenues that were up 32%. Subscriptions have been growing fast and the company is targeting 25% profit margins.
The leading GlobalData brands include: Canadean, Kable, Verdict, Current Analysis, PharmSource, and MarketLine. The group claims to offer 4,000 corporate customers “a single user-friendly interface, an end-to-end view of your entire industry value chain: from suppliers, manufacturers, channels to end-users (being consumers, patients, customers), all in one place and easily shared with colleagues.”
Nobody knows better than Danson how to build “premium data and analytics” and, perhaps, nobody is better at charging “real” subscription prices. Even insiders who are quick to identify his workaday absence of “emotional empathy” admire his analytical skills and deal-making. He doesn’t give interviews and doesn’t much care what people say. But behind the harsh epithets is the man who quietly built Datamonitor in his north-west London apartment and financed it from thousands of pounds run up on multiple credit cards. Danson personally made almost £200m from the sale of Datamonitor, right at the top of the market.
In the intervening years, he has donated some £10m to bursaries for under-privileged students in his old college at Oxford University and other educational causes in Africa, Asia and the UK. He has been a benevolent supporter too of needy UK magazines like Press Gazette and the politically-left New Statesman. And he likes his Premier League football (Manchester United and Chelsea). That’s the softer side of the man whose latest company is worth £650m but frustrates and excites investors in equal measure.
GlobalData’s annual report discloses that revenues are nicely spread with 40% from each of the US and Europe, and the rest from the AsiaPacific. But it is difficult to find the usual investor information on the web site, and who can tell which of the multiple companies operating from his London headquarters belong to the public group and which to the private one?
Our guess is that the indulgent confusion will continue for some time yet, and that more deals are in the pipeline. But any indications of new corporate transparency – and some media interviews – may become the signs that Mike Danson is ready to sell again. Let’s wait for 2019.