Rarely does a company offload a $12.5 billion purchase for less than $3 billion and call the deal “a success,” but that’s exactly what Google’s head of mergers and acquisitions Don Harrison called the Motorola deal. In an interview with Forbes, Harrison did the math on the deal and said that in the end, Google came out on top. We explained as much in our recent coverage of the deal, but the basic idea is that the sale of Motorola’s home business, cash on hand, deferred tax assets and the $2.91 billion Google received from Lenovo mean that in the end, Google paid less than $3.5 billion for Motorola’s patent portfolio, which it retained after the sale.
From the Forbes interview:
I think the Motorola transaction has been a success for us. Financially, we bought the asset for $12.5 billion. It had $3 billion in cash; we were able to sell the Home division for $2.5 billion; we ended selling the handset division for $3 billion. There were some other tax assets as well. When you work through the math, you realize we spent between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion for the patent assets. At the time, the nearest comparable transaction was the Nortel patent auction where Microsoft and Apple teamed up to buy that asset for $4.5 billion. And there’s a good argument that the Motorola patent portfolio is a better portfolio.
As Larry noted, if you want to compete in the [handset] space you do need to be all in. We realized that Lenovo as a partner was all in, so that transaction made sense.
The value of the patents gained is debatable — some might argue that they haven’t really had any value for Google in court thus far — but Harrison is right that no matter how you slice it, Google paid less for Motorola’s IP portfolio than Apple and others paid for the Nortel patents.