An R.L. Polk spokesperson said that the company has never confirmed, nor issued a press release that it is for sale. However, the fact that it has engaged Evercore strongly suggests that a search for a buyer is in the works.
” R.L. Polk & Co. has engaged Evercore Partners, a New York investment banking firm, to explore strategic growth opportunities,” a company spokesperson told the AIM Group, by email. “There is no defined timeline for this process.
“Polk has been a family owned business for more than 140 years and our priority is on continuing this legacy of excellence, maintaining our strong commitment to our employees, customers and partners, and ensuring whatever path we take is in the best interest of our company and its long-term future.”While we’ve yet to hear back from the Polk folks, Reuters has reported the rumor that R.L.Polk and its CarFax might well be up for sale, and that Reynolds & Reynolds, Cars.com, AutoTrader.com and others have considered its purchase.
Reuters had a conversation with Polk executives who said that several financing options were under consideration, one of which was sale. According to Reuters, “Companies that may have an interest include private equity firms, Automatic Data Processing (ADP.O), Reynolds and Reynolds, Dealertrack Technologies (TRAK.O), KAR Auction Services (KAR.N), McGraw-Hill Cos Inc’s (MHP.N) J.D. Power and Associates, Cars.com and Cox Enterprises, which owns AutoTrader.com and Manheim.” It is valued at $1 billion.
Subsequently, The Wall Street Journal has reported a Polk company confirmation that it is indeed for sale. Its board met March 14, and employees were then notified.
This isn’t just about Carfax, of course. R.L. Polk offers research and hard-to-locate automotive statistics that make it attractive to sites beyond auto listing portals. And, while Carfax might well be a great addition to any auto listing portal’s repertoire it’s reputation has been somewhat sullied of late, possibly finding itself once again a defendant, this time in a class action lawsuit brought by dealers. Automotive News has also reported dealer consternation with Carfax exclusivity agreements with Cars.com, AutoTrader.com and other sites that make it impossible for used-car dealers to offer any other vehicle history report to their customers from their online advertisements. For more on the problems facing Carfax, see this DrivingSales blog post.
In the proposed class-action lawsuit documents by Bellavia, Blatt, Andron & Crossett, PC, attorneys at law:
“Dealers complain to us that CARFAX has a stranglehold over the automotive industry and engages in classic monopolistic type behavior such as charging exorbitant fees, exclusionary business conduct, disparaging dealers in its advertising, bundling or tying its services with Autotrader.com, Cars.com and most of the certified pre-owned programs of the OEMs. Most recently, it has engaged in the used vehicle valuation business. All of the above is in addition to the criticism that its vehicle history report data is unreliable, outdated, untimely and inaccurate.”
The firm has stated the Carfax overcharge for dealer services at 150 percent. Several hundred dealers are needed for the lawsuit to go forward. We have not heard how many dealers have committed to participate as yet. R.L. Polk has yet to respond to our inquires about the sale.