Cision, a Chicago-based public relations technology firm, is going public in a merger with a “blank check” acquisition firm that values the combined company at $2.4 billion.

The deal, announced Monday, will combine Cision with Capitol Acquisition Corp. III, a Washington, D.C., public investment vehicle set up specifically to merge with another business. Cision’s management team will continue to run the company, which will remain headquartered in Chicago.

Chicago-based private equity firm GTCR will retain majority ownership of the combined company, which will keep the Cision name. The transaction is expected to close in May.

Cision, a leading public relations company that uses sophisticated data platforms to pitch, develop and monitor media campaigns for its customers, has ramped up in recent years through acquisitions of PR Newswire, Gorkana and other former competitors. The company has 75,000 PR customers in 170 countries.

A blank check acquisition company is created specifically to pool funds in order to finance a merger or acquisition opportunity, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The merger will give Cision a capital infusion and a platform to trade publicly through Capitol Acquisition, which raised $325 million in an initial public offering in October 2015.

The combined company will trade under a new ticker symbol on the Nasdaq Stock Market when the deal closes, Cision CEO Kevin Akeroyd said.

Cision will use the proceeds from the merger to retire debt, invest “much more aggressively” in cloud-based technology and accelerate its acquisition strategy, Akeroyd said Monday in an interview.

“Just as (mergers and acquisitions have) been a core part of building Cision to date, there are still a lot of intelligent (mergers and acquisitions) that the company can do to go finish the job faster than it otherwise would,” he said.

Akeroyd joined Cision in August from Oracle, where he launched and headed up Oracle Marketing Cloud for three years. He said cloud technology, which has transformed human resources, sales and other areas of business, is a “massive business opportunity with billions of dollars at stake” for the public relations industry.

GTCR and current Cision management are retaining their equity stakes, with current Cision shareholders to hold about two-thirds of the combined company at closing, the company said.

Cision started as a Swedish press-clipping service in 1892 but also has deep roots in Chicago. Cision bought Bacon’s Information, a venerable Chicago-based media directory long known as the public relations industry bible, in 2001.

GTCR acquired Cision in 2014 for about $170 million and Maryland-based PR software firm Vocus for $446.5 million, combining them under the Cision banner in Chicago.

This is Capitol Acquisition’s third publicly traded investment vehicle. The first created real estate investment trust Two Harbors Investment Corp., and the second merged with Lindblad Expeditions, a global expedition travel company.

rchannick@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @RobertChannick

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