Maurice Levy's Ycor claims to have 'outbid' Amazon for Sizmek

Waters muddied around Sizmek bid by Levy startup

A French tech startup owned by Publicis chairman Maurice Levy has confirmed to The Drum it is trying to counter Amazon’s reported $30m bid for Sizmek.

According to a press release issued this morning (7 June), Ycor, the tech group set up by Maurice Levy in 2018 with a reported pot of €30m, is looking to outbid Amazon through its Weborama unit. This division is run by Levy's son, Alain.

Amazon was reported to have secured the winning bid for the much-desired ad servers of the indy DSP on Friday (31 May), stating that it had “signed an agreement” to acquire Sizmek Ad Server and Sizmek Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO).

However, a statement from Ycor said it "has decided to top Amazon’s bid for Sizmek Ad Server and DCO, with the vision of building the independent alternative the advertising industry needs". Sizmek’s ad server is widely considered to be the only one on the market that has the potential to stack up to Google’s Marketing Platform.

It was put up for sale after Sizmek entered Chapter 11 29 March, owing tens of millions to creditors including Index Exchange, PubMatic, OpenX and AppNexus, for $8.9m, $7.3m, $5.9m and $5.3m, respectively.

However, Ycor said that as contracts haven’t been signed it can file a higher bid to reopen negotiations.

Amazon was yet to respond to The Drum’s request for comment, with a UK spokesperson directing questions to its Seattle headquarters.

Speaking to The Drum, Alain Levy said he was bound by confidentiality agreements and could not detail terms of the offer.

However, he went on to claim the court handling the sale has a “fiduciary duty" to secure the highest bid for creditors. He also confirmed that Ycor and Weborama were involved in the first bidding round.

“There was an initial bidding process and the conclusion of this bidding process was that Amazon had an asset purchase agreement that was signed on Monday last week, but that is not the end of the process,” Levy explained.

“Once the document is filed, two things happen: the judge works on the terms of the documents and establishes that everything was done according to the rules and then in the end validates the transaction. But until the date, it is not final, it is not fixed. They have to make sure that the creditors are getting the highest return.”

Levy admitted that Ycor’s pockets are not as deep as Amazon's, however he argued that if the e-commerce giant was to secure Sizmek there would be a "closing of the market" without an "independent alternative".

“Today, we make a financial commitment, taking into account what is at stake for the industry as a whole: prevent the advent of a duopoly. We do believe that no one should turn a blind eye on Sizmek Ad Server being possibly acquired by a global platform – be it Amazon or another. Choice must prevail.”

Update 15:29 GMT - Following publication Sizmek issued the following statement.

"We’ve signed an agreement for Amazon to acquire Sizmek’s ad server and DCO assets and are seeking expeditious Court approval for it.

"The transaction represents a great opportunity, and we are excited about what it means for our business, our employees, and our creditors. We are respectful of the Court-supervised sale process and will provide more information to stakeholders when appropriate.”

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