ADP Buying Cobalt Group for $400 Million

Automatic Data Processing (Nasdaq: ADP) has agreed to acquire The Cobalt Group, a Seattle-based provider of digital marketing solutions auto manufacturers and auto dealers. The deal is valued at approximately $400 million in cash, and is expected to close within the next two weeks. Cobalt Group was taken private by Warburg Pincus in 2001, and since has raised around $85 million from Warburg, ABS Capital Partners and Oak Investment Partners.


The Dealer Services Group of Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADP) today announced that it has entered a definitive agreement to acquire The Cobalt Group. The transaction is subject to normal regulatory review and is expected to close in the 3rd quarter of Calendar Year 2010.

With this acquisition, ADP will be positioned to deliver an improved and enhanced model for automotive retailing based on a set of digital marketing solutions that will help transform how vehicles are marketed, sold and managed throughout the entire customer lifecycle. ADP’s Digital Marketing Group will expand its suite to include BZ Results, Cobalt and Dealix.

This combining of strengths will benefit three stakeholders in the industry: consumers, manufacturers and dealers.

More than 80% of automotive shoppers use the Internet in their buying process, yet many of them still find the experience confusing and inconsistent. Often, local and regional dealership marketing is not aligned with manufacturer-specific marketing.

By acquiring Cobalt, ADP will be able to help improve the consumer experience by bringing together the most innovative, scalable solutions in automotive digital marketing and help deliver a more seamless experience. Marketing messages and offers could be coordinated, so that whether consumers enter the market in response to a manufacturer’s or dealer’s marketing efforts, begin their purchase process online, or choose to visit their dealership onsite, it could lead to a more consistent and streamlined experience.

Manufacturers already benefiting from alignment of national, regional and dealer advertising through Cobalt will now have the opportunity to improve their marketing results with greater levels of brand consistency, visibility and measureable performance.

Now, with the expanded ADP Digital Marketing group, manufacturers can track the rest of the sales process – across all three tiers of advertising – to better understand return on marketing investment. Plus, in addition to pursuing closed-loop reporting, ADP and Cobalt can look to utilize ADP’s global footprint of over 90 countries to bring digital marketing to manufacturers and dealer networks all over the world.

Regardless of dealership size, franchise, or number of locations, dealers will have a comprehensive digital marketing solution. With the ability to better align efforts with their manufacturer to help increase marketing efficiency and effectiveness plus unify reporting, automobile dealers will be able to improve the sales process and help drive more profit to the bottom line.

“For over 15 years, Cobalt’s mission has been to enable OEMs and dealers to work together to use the Internet to influence prospects as they move from product awareness to purchase and provide more timely services to existing owners. By combining our offerings with ADP, we will be even better positioned to carry this mission forward,” states John Holt, Chairman and CEO of Cobalt.

“Cobalt and ADP Dealer Services share a client-centric approach, and Cobalt will only strengthen ADP Dealer Services’ global vision to bring our clients and their customers together for life, wherever they are, by delivering an exceptional client experience,” said Steve Anenen, President of ADP Dealer Services.

About Cobalt
Cobalt is North America’s leading provider of digital marketing solutions to the automotive industry. For more than fifteen years, Cobalt’s mission has been to help automobile dealers and manufacturers increase their retailing effectiveness and profitability through cutting-edge digital marketing platforms, solutions and advertising. Cobalt currently provides marketing services to nearly half of the automotive dealerships in the United States as well as automotive dealers in Canada and Mexico. Cobalt’s digital marketing services are endorsed by two-thirds of the world’s major automotive manufacturers.

About ADP:
Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (Nasdaq: ADP), with nearly $9 billion in revenues and about 570,000 clients, is one of the world’s largest providers of business outsourcing solutions. Leveraging 60 years of experience, ADP offers a wide range of HR, payroll, tax and benefits administration solutions from a single source. ADP’s easy-to-use, cost-effective solutions for employers provide superior value to companies of all types and sizes. ADP is also a leading provider of integrated computing solutions to auto, truck, motorcycle, marine, recreational, and heavy equipment vehicle dealers throughout the world. For more information about ADP, contact us at 800.225.5237 or visit the company’s website at