Electronic Arts’ buyout of PopCap Games is a whopper by most standards. But just how big is it in relation to other M&A deals in the Seattle area? I wanted to put the acquisition — valued at $750 million in upfront payments and up to $1.3 billion over time —  in some deeper perspective. So I reached out to the National Venture Capital Association’s John Taylor to run some numbers on the biggest M&A deals in Washington state in the past decade.

The research turned up some interesting results, and confirmed that the PopCap deal is among the biggest of a venture-backed company. How big?

Just taking the $750 million payout — which excludes the potential earnouts — is more than double the next closest deal.

Interestingly, PopCap is the only game company to appear on the list, which is led by biotech/health and medical device companies (Half of the companies are in that field).

Now, the list isn’t perfect. And close readers of the chart above will notice an obvious omission.

Isilon Systems, which sold to EMC earlier this year for $2.25 billion, is not included. (Although Isilon was backed by venture capital firms such as Atlas Venture, Sequoia Capital and Madrona Venture Group, at the time of the sale it was a publicly-traded company so it didn’t qualify as as a venture-backed deal).

Other deals such as AT&T’s proposed $39 billion buyout of Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA aren’t listed either, since T-Mobile is not considered a venture-backed company.

Previous PopCap coverage on GeekWire:

Q&A: PopCap founder on the EA deal, and the future

Report: PopCap turned down $1B buyout offer from Zynga

PopCap to Fans: EA buyout is good

Meet the venture capitalist who just made a bundle on PopCap’s sale to EA

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  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.koester Eric Koester

    No matter how you slice it, this is a huge deal for the tech scene.  The reason these deals matter is that the founders, investors, employees can take home a sizable return and then reinvest in other companies — hopefully locally.  Kudos to these guys — and let’s hope they leverage this to help spur the next generation of companies, founders and ideas here in Seattle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511315254 Mike Slade

    You forgot Starwave, which of course Paul Allen funded and I ran.  

    Disney bought part of Starwave in 1997 at a valuation of around $250mm, bought most of the rest of it in 1998 at a valuation of around $350mm, and then “flipped” it into Infoseek stock at a valuation of about $1b when the deal closed.  

    • johnhcook

      Thanks for the comment Mike. As I noted, I had the NVCA just look at deals between 2001 and 2011, so that’s why Starwave didn’t appear on this list. 

      Just thinking of your colleague over at Second Avenue Partners, Nick Hanauer, another deal that didn’t appear on this list was aQuantive, which sold to Microsoft for $6 billion. (It didn’t appear since it was public at the time of the acquisition).

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511315254 Mike Slade

        Another ancient Seattle/Bellevue deal – Sierra OnLine selling out to CUC international for $15b in about 1996.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511315254 Mike Slade

          And the biggie … Immunex getting acquired by AmGen in 2001 for $16 billion (!)

          • johnhcook

            With a little crowdsourced help we could put together a good list of the top M&A deals (both public and private companies). Thought I did that back in my P-I days, but I couldn’t find the link.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vechey John Vechey

    Does PopCap _really_ count as a venture backed company John?

    • johnhcook

      I think it does. As I’ve noted in the past (and talk about on the upcoming GeekWire podcast this week) PopCap is a bit of an oddity in that the company didn’t take on venture capital until it was well established. But the fact that the company did take $22.5 million from Meritech, I think qualifies PopCap as a venture-backed company. But I could see how you’d maybe think about it otherwise, given that you bankrolled the company the old-fashioned way (through profits) for the first eight/nine years. Thanks for the comment.

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