It’s been a good half-decade for Blue Coat Systems. The cybersecurity provider has been acquired three times since 2012, and with each sale, its value has roughly doubled—a success story driven in no small part by private equity’s increasing interest in the tech sector. Today marks the five-year anniversary of the first of those acquisitions, the initial step in its transformation from publicly traded startup to privately owned cash cow.
On February 15, 2012, Thoma Bravo completed its take-private buyout of Blue Coat for $25.81 per share in cash, or approximately $1.3 billion; with the deal, Blue Coat ceased trading under the BCSI symbol on the NASDAQ, the company’s home since going public in 1999. Before that, Blue Coat had received VC financing from a number of big names, including Benchmark and US Venture Partners.
Under Thoma Bravo ownership, Blue Coat began a program of add-ons. Between the last day of 2012 and the end of 2013, the company made four deals, most prominently the purchase of Solera Networks for $225 million. After some acquisitive growth, Thoma Bravo began to poke around for a sale, and by January 2014 reports surfaced that the firm was seeking a buyer, with Reuters initially indicating a purchase price exceeding $2 billion.
By May 2015, those reports proved to be an underestimation. When Thoma Bravo finally did find a buyer—Bain Capital—the price tag was approximately $2.4 billion, the result of an all-cash secondary buyout between two of the busiest PE players in the world of tech. With the Boston firm’s backing, Blue Coat continued its acquisition spree, striking new deals to buy Perspecsys and Elastica.
Yet the ownership carousel didn’t stop spinning for long. Within eight months, Bain Capital was reportedly eyeing an IPO for Blue Coat, with hopes of raising as much as $500 million. At the same time, though, the firm was seeking a new strategic acquirer. And in June 2016, one emerged: Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC), a major cybersecurity provider, which would thus, in a roundabout way, take Blue Coat back to the public markets.
The final purchase price was $4.65 billion, with Silver Lake investing another $500 million into Symantec as part of the overall transaction. Symantec stated plans to incorporate Blue Coat’s networks and cloud security tech into its own offerings upon completion of the sale, which occurred last August.
Is yet another Blue Coat deal around the corner? Likely not. By helping increase the company’s value more than threefold, it’s safe to say that private equity ownership has already done its job.