At a price typically reserved for semiconductor companies, telecoms, and pharmaceutical giants, IBM announced today it would pay a record $34 billion in cash and debt to acquire enterprise open source provider Red Hat. Eclipsing Microsoft’s $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, this is the biggest software acquisition in history. It’s not the biggest tech acquisition ever, though, as that title belongs to Dell’s $67 billion buyout of data storage business EMC.
So how does the IBM-Red Hat deal (if it closes), stack up against the other largest acquisitions of all time?
Top Tech Acquisitions
- $67 billion – Personal computer company Dell buys EMC data storage
- $37 billion – Semiconductor company Avago Technologies buys and renames as semiconductor giant Broadcom
- $34 billion (pending) – IBM computers buys open source software provider Red Hat
- $31.4 billion – Japanese conglomerate SoftBank buys semiconductor company ARM Holdings
- $26.2 billion – Software company Microsoft buys professional social network Linkedin in 2016
Top Software Acquisitions
- $34 billion (pending) – IBM computers buys open source software provider Red Hat in 2018
- $26.2 billion – Software company Microsoft buys professional social network LinkedIn in 2016
- $22 billion – Social network Facebook buys messaging app WhatsApp in 2014
- $13.5 billion – Security software maker Symantec buys storage management software maker Veritas in 2004 ($18 billion adjusted for inflation)
- $11 billion – Database company Oracle buys human resources software company PeopleSoft in 2004 ($14.7 billion adjusted for inflation)
Top Acquisitions Ever
- $202 billion – British telecom Vodafone buys German telecom Mannesmann in 2000 ($296 billion adjusted for inflation)
- $165 billion – ISP AOL buys media conglomerate Time Warner in 200 ($241 billion adjusted for inflation)
- $111.8 billion – Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer buys pharmaceutical company Warner Lambert in 1999 ($164 billion adjusted for inflation)
- $130 billion – Telecom Verizon Communications buys Vodafone and Bell Atlantic’s Verizon Wireless in 2013
- $130 billion – Dow Chemical buys chemical company DuPont in 2015
The Red Hat deal is proof that the scalability of software can massively concentrate wealth. Unlike industrial giants of old that split their fortunes with the physical resource providers that supplied and distributed their oil, chemical, or packaged good empires, software requires almost no material cost to create or distribute. The aggregation of value to software giants and their leaders offers both a great incentive to build a world-changing busines, but also a drastic shift of capital out of the hands of labor. While it’s fine to celebrate Red Hat’s accomplishment, society must inevitably grapple with the poverty and populism fueled by how software funnels money to the few.
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