Investors Enjoy Huge Takeaway in HP Buy of 3PAR

News Analysis: CEO David Scott and venture capital firms Menlo Ventures, Worldview Technology Partners and Mayfield Fund will come away with many dollars when the deal is done.

In the aftermath of the out-of-control bidding war that recently concluded with Hewlett-Packard outspending Dell at $2.35 billion for storage maker 3PAR, the winners undoubtedly are enjoying one of the sweetest Labor Day weekends of their lives.

Those victors include CEO David Scott and venture capital firms Menlo Ventures, Worldview Technology Partners and Mayfield Fund.

Menlo owns 15 percent of 3PAR, Worldview 13.4 percent, and Mayfield 10 percent. At the $33 average stock price that HP ended up paying for the Fremont, Calif.-based utility storage company, the financial harvest from the acquisition would read like this: Menlo $309 million, Worldview $277 million, and Mayfield $205 million.

Had the three VCs decided to cash out before Aug. 13, when the stock price was under $10, they would have earned back about $231 million. By waiting a couple of weeks, their investment return ballooned to $791 million.

Scott also owns a hefty amount of stock, and it has been reported that he will be banking something in the neighborhood of $65 million when the deal is signed and delivered. Of course, the formality of stockholders approving the sale still must take place, but nobody's worried about anything bad happening on that front -- not with this much money changing hands.

If you bought 3PAR before Aug. 13, you paid less than $10 per share. It's now worth more than three times that amount, so the math looks awfully good for those lucky enough to have made that choice.

Because 3PAR is a mature storage company with good technology but that hadn't been setting the world on fire with its sales performances ($134 million in sales for 2009, according to IDC), investors might have easily decided to cut their losses and sell out much earlier.

In total, the three VC firms had poured about $183 million into 3PAR during a seven-year period. For much of that time, 3PAR's stock was in single digits; in fact, it was selling for under $10 ($9.65) on the last trading day before the first news of acquisition by Dell was announced, which caused HP to start the bidding war on Aug. 23.

You can buy 3PAR for about $33 today.

Fortunately, the three VCs elected to go for the long view and hold on to the investment. 3PAR then suddenly became a classic case of "right place at the right time" when HP and Dell both saw the light at the same moment and decided to have their showdown.

Why was HP so hot on 3PAR?

HP Executive Vice President for Storage Dave Donatelli, who joined HP in May 2009 following a long tenure at EMC, said about 3PAR that "we believe we have a good opportunity to grow revenue and grow at a very nice margin, which drives our business case. What I would add to it is that we have built up a great track record of doing transactions of this nature."

Donatelli pointed out that since its April 2010 acquisition of networker 3Com for $2.7 billion, HP already has more than 300 proof-of-concept networking projects under way.

"I think this is a great analogy for this transaction," Donatelli said. "What a lot of these smaller companies with good technologies have a problem with is that customers want to buy from fewer, larger companies that they trust, and that have global support for them.

"Looking at 3Com for a moment, very quickly after the acquisition, we were able to get them into huge accounts globally. That's by taking our scale and marrying that with their technology. From my perspective, a 3PAR transaction is very similar. This is a company that has good technology but does not have the ability to bring it to market."

HP can bring 3PAR's wares to market directly, through channel partners, or through the HP services group, Donatelli said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...