Louisville’s Stored Value Solutions on the block for $600 million

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.36.18 PMThe Louisville firm Stored Value Solutions (SVS) may not keep a high profile in town, but my god, is it worth a fortune. At least according to reports that it’s being shopped to private equity firms for $600 million.

SVS, by the way, provides gift cards. It also manages gift card programs for retailers. Now do you see why it’s worth so much? The firm also has 130 Louisville employees.

This news comes to us via Reuters peHUB and is based on interviews with three separate sources.

SVS is technically being put up for auction by parent firm Comdata, says Reuters, with Barclays advising on the process. The auction is in its second round, with PE firms the likely candidates to snap up the card company.

SVS is being spun off by Comdata, because the latter firm was itself recently acquired. It was purchased last November by FleetCor Technologies for $3.45 billion.

Gift cards are an incredibly popular item. An SVS report from last December estimated 70 percent of last season’s holiday shoppers planned to purchase one.

SVS has annual sales in the $90 million range.

Activist investor billionaire Icahn fights for two Gannett board seats

Looks like Gannett Co. Inc., parent company of the Louisville Courier-Journal, has a Carl Icahn-sized thorn in its side.

Carl Icahn, in a cuddly moment.

Carl Icahn, in a cuddly moment.

Billionaire Icahn owns 6.6 percent of Gannett’s stock, valued at $444 million. And on Jan. 21 he declared he wants to appoint two members to Gannet’s nine-member board. The two members he wants on are Michael Dornemann, a management consultant, and Courtney Mather, a financier.

Icahn voiced these wishes via a letter filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He said he wished to nominate Dornemann and Mather to ensure large shareholders, meaning him, have direct representation on the board, in the name of “good corporate governance and accountability.”

Why do it? He seems most concerned about Gannet’s Aug. 5 announcement that it plans to split into two companies, one for publishing, and the other for broadcasting and digital. He says after Gannet completes the spin-off it’s possible either company will be acquired, and he wants shareholders—again meaning him—to have the right to decide whether to accept. “I steadfastly believe that shareholders, as owners of a business, deserve the right to decide if a bid for that business is adequate,” he wrote.

Gannet’s current board members responded soon after, and boy were they pissed. Marge Magner, Gannet’s non-executive chairman of the board put it this way, in the firm’s own letter to the SEC and shareholders:

“We are surprised by Mr. Icahn’s  aggressive actions, including his threat to run a proxy contest to force wholesale changes in Gannett’s corporate governance and dictate the corporate governance of a company whose governance profile has yet to be determined. His overreaching campaign to advance his own agenda will not deter the Board of Gannett from continuing to serve the interests of all of our shareholders.”

These sorts of fights seem to be how Icahn enjoys spending his golden years. The 78-year-old is worth $26 billion, making him the 16th richest dude in the U.S., according to Forbes. But he’s not playing much golf.

Most recently he threatened a proxy fight with Ebay—meaning getting shareholders on his side to affect a hostile takeover. The two sides compromised, and an independent director was appointed. He threatened another proxy fight with Hertz and got three directors on its board. He doesn’t always win. Forest Laboratories was able to deny him any seats on its board back in 2011. Making it a rare Icahn’t.

Of course to local readers Gannett might seem vulnerable, as its Courier-Journal has seen a noteworthy winnowing of its staff over the past year. But the company’s stock is actually, mostly, doing well. Over the past year it’s up 11.3 percent, beating general markets. And over five years it’s up 105.9 percent, where general markets rose 87.4 percent. Over 10 years it’s down 60.8 percent, though, versus the market’s positive 75.2 percent rise.

Icahn has a shorter window of time in his mind though–remember he is 78–complaining in his letter that the stock’s down 8 percent, since announcement of the proposed split.