The private-equity firm Blackstone is paying more than $2 billion to acquire a majority interest in Provo-based Vivint, the supplier of home automation, security and solar power equipment and services, the Utah company said Tuesday.
Blackstone, the New York firm led by Stephen A. Schwarzman, has signed a definitive agreement to buy out the interests of Goldman Sachs, Peterson Partners and Jupiter Partners, and perhaps other owners, Vivint CEO Todd Pedersen said.
The price tag, described by Pedersen as “north of $2 billion,” probably makes the deal the largest in Utah business history. The sale is expected to close before the end of the year.
“We think that’s good for Utah,” said Pedersen, who helped found the privately held company in 1998. “Headquarters are going to remain here. We’ve been growing a lot. We think this is going to supercharge the growth we have and for the future.”
Pedersen will remain as CEO and keep a large part of his stake in the company. Previously, Pedersen said he was the largest shareholder. Other shareholders will decide soon whether they want to sell all or parts of their stakes, he said.
Vivint, formerly named APX Alarm Security Solutions, has been rapidly expanding in the past few years after it introduced a home-automation service built around a high-tech panel it installs in customers’ homes. It also has expanded into solar power, installing panels on homes at no cost and then selling homeowners the power that is generated.
APX rebranded itself as Vivint last year and at the time said it had revenue of $20 million a month. Today the company has more than $30 million in recurring monthly revenue and is expecting that to climb to almost $35 million, Pedersen said.
Vivint employs about 2,800 people full time but adds another 3,000 or so to its sales force in the summer, mostly college students who go door-to-door in North American markets to sell its services. Vivint installs security and home-automation equipment at a minimal cost and then charges a monthly fees for monitoring and other services.
Pedersen said the company is constructing another office building to house an expected influx of new hires.
“Very realistically I think over next couple years in the local Utah market 1,000 plus jobs should be created just by Vivint,” he said.
The company will be expanding to provide home health technology equipment and monitoring services to businesses. Those will be based on a new control panel the company is expecting to announce soon, he said.
Blackstone, which did not make representatives available for comment, says it is “one of the largest independent managers of private capital in the world, with assets under management of $166.2 billion as of December 31, 2011,” according to its most recent annual report. Pedersen said he expected Blackstone to retain its interest in Vivint for five to 10 years and then look to sell its stake at a profit.
The rapid expansion and dependence on a summer sales force of college students who are paid commissions has caused some customer-service problems for Vivint.
The Better Business Bureau gives the company a B- grade after receiving 1,060 complaints in past three years. But Jane Driggs, CEO of the local BBB office, said that’s not many for a company with Vivint’s customer base.
“Actually they’ve been a very good company to work with,” she said.
In 2011, the Contra Costa, Calif., district attorney reached a settlement in which Vivint agreed to pay $42,500 related to its sales practices.
In 2010, the Oregon Department of Justice reached a settlement over false or misleading sales tactics in which the Utah company agreed to pay $60,000 and change its methods. Also that year, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office reached an agreement in which Vivint paid $125,000 to settle a lawsuit over alleged violations of state laws.
Other acquisition deals in Utah
Adobe Systems acquires Omniture, 2009, $1.8 billion
Novell acquires WordPerfect, 1994, $1.4 billion
Symantec acquires Altiris, 2007, $1 billion
Global Payments Inc. agrees to buy Accelerated Payment Technologies, 2012, $413 million
Cephalon acquires Anesta, 2000, $340 million
Watson Pharmaceuticals acquires Theratech, 1999, $300 million