You couldn’t accuse former Marsh & McLennan CEO Michael Cherkasky of wandering too far from his knowledge base. Though he may not have been able to shine at Marsh, he seems to have not only found kindred spirits in private equity firm Providence Equity Partners, but he may have gotten them a steal for his old firm, financial intelligence company Kroll.
Six years ago, Marsh bought Kroll for $1.9 billion. Today Altergrity, headed by Cherkasky and backed by Providence Equity Partners, said it would pay only $1.3 billion – cash, mind you – to take the investigative franchise private. Marsh wrote off more than $850 million in goodwill, so analysts note that the insurer could register a profit from the sale. It’s not as if Cherkasky had to come in with some sweep-them-off-their-feet offer. Marsh has had Kroll on the block for at least a month.
Over the years, Kroll has hired plenty of investigators, former police and intelligence officers, and has taken on its fair share of journalists as well. It operates in that colorful space between suits and sleuths. While not an unnatural business for an insurer to own, analysts seem happy with Marsh’s steps to streamline and strip away the non-core asset, so they say it’s a good deal for Marsh to get Kroll off its books. For Kroll, private equity leadership – particularly as familiar as it feels with Cherkasky at the helm – could be just the kind of management needed to build operations in the shadows.