More On Google And Facebook's Alleged Collusion; Liftoff Snags $400M From Blackstone

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Jedi Mind Trick?

More details are coming out about Google and Facebook’s alleged sweetheart deal to rig Google’s ad auction. The tech giants agreed to “cooperate and assist one another” if they ever faced an investigation into their pact, according to an unredacted version of the Texas-led  antitrust lawsuit filed by 10 state AGs against Google last week. The public version of the suit is heavily redacted, but The Wall Street Journal got its hands on a draft copy that isn’t riddled with thick black lines. (Yay, journalism). Apparently the unexpurgated suit is a rip-roaring read (and probably more exciting than The Last Jedi). Google and Facebook are being accused of cutting a deal in 2018 by which Facebook agreed not to compete with Google’s online advertising tools in return for special treatment when it did use them. Google borrowed language from the Star Wars movie franchise as a code name for the deal: “Jedi Blue.” The code name was redacted in the public suit … but here’s a far juicer nugget from the draft version: Allegedly, Google and Facebook were well aware that their agreement could trigger antitrust investigations and discussed how to deal with them if they arose.

Lift Off For Liftoff

Private equity firm Blackstone has made a massive investment in mobile DSP Liftoff at a time of major uncertainty for the mobile advertising industry. (Ahem, Apple’s IDFA changes are around the corner.) Although Blackstone and Liftoff aren’t sharing the exact amount, sources peg the total at close to $400 million, VentureBeat reports. It’s a lot of cash for Liftoff, a company that’s only raised $12 million since it was founded in 2012. The move follows Blackstone’s eye-watering $750 million investment in video-focused mobile ad network Vungle in July 2019. So, why has Blackstone plunked down more than $1 billion in less than two years for majority stakes in two mobile-focused startups? These investments are strategic. Mobile gaming is a massive business, mobile usage is on the rise – and growth has been exponential during the pandemic. In other mobile-related funding news, Google is participating in funding rounds for two Indian startups: InMobi-owned TikTok clone Glance (which in turn owns TikTok clone Rposo), raised $145 million, and news portal DailyHunt secured a total of $100 million from an investor group with Google and Microsoft in the lead. More on that.

It’s A Deal

MDC Partners and digital marketing consultancy Stagwell Group struck a merger deal on Tuesday to create a global marketing services company. Read the release. Stagwell first proposed the merger back in June. Mark Penn, current CEO and chairman of MDC and managing partner of Stagwell, will continue on as chief exec and chairman of the combined company. Together, the companies will have around 8,600 employees across 23 countries and a media and data operation that manages $4.4 billion. They expect to grow to more than $3 billion in revenue by 2025. Not a bad outcome for MDC, which had fallen on some seriously hard times, including an accounting scandal involving its former CEO and a heavy debt load that the holdco was slow to pay off. Unencumbered by legacy structures or assets, the combined company will have the integrated, modern offerings marketers deserve,” Penn said.

But Wait, There’s More!

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