Acxiom's Morgan to Retire After Buyout Plan Scuttled

by Lance Turner and Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Oct. 1, 2007 8:01 am  

Charles Morgan, Acxiom's company leader, seen here in this photo taken when the data services firm announced a $3 billion deal to be bought by ValueAct Capital Partners and Silver Lake Partners in May.

(More on this story here from Arkansas Business and KTHV. Includes THVideo.)

Charles Morgan, Acxiom's leader for 35 years, said Monday that he will retire and that the company has terminated a $3 billion deal to be bought out and go private.

Acxiom said it reached an agreement with prospective buyers Silver Lake and ValueAct Capital to terminate the deal, and that the private equity firms will pay Acxiom $65 million in cash to terminate the merger agreement.

Terms of the termination agreement are available in an 8-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission here. The agreement says ValueAct and Silver Lake will each pay half of the $65 million break-up fee, which had been negotiated down from a $110 million penalty included in the original terms of the deal.

In a separate announcement, Morgan said he will retire after the company finds a successor. It appears that Morgan will remain as board chairman.

"I had been considering stepping down as the leader of Acxiom and thought the completion of our going-private transaction would be the natural time to begin an orderly transition," Morgan said. "As Acxiom will now remain public it is the right time for a change. While I had been planning to retire from Acxiom, I have agreed to stay as Company Leader during this interim period."

Morgan's decision to retire contrasts with previous statement he made about remaining with the company once the buyout was complete. When Acxiom announced the sell-out plan in May, Morgan said it was his desire to remain CEO. Morgan said he believed Acxiom's prospective owners wanted him to stay.

The data services firm said its board of directors has created a search committee for a new leader. That committee is made up of Halsey Wise, Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty, Ann Die Hasselmo and Morgan. The search will include both internal and external candidates, the company said.

"We are working toward an ongoing role for Charles, recognizing that much of the success of the company is attributable to his leadership, technological vision and his direct relationship with many of the clients of the company," said William T. Dillard II, described as Acxiom's "lead director."

Dillard, CEO of Dillard's Inc. of Little Rock, led the Acxiom board committee that fashioned the sell-out plan.

Louis J. Andreozzi, who at one time was being groomed by ValueAct to take over Morgan's job, told on Monday that he was no longer seeking the position.

"I'm doing something else now, so unless someone else approaches me, it's not on my radar screen," said the former president and CEO of LexisNexis' North American legal market business



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