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Zendesk terminates $4.1B SurveyMonkey acquisition after its own investors reject deal

Zendesk announced today that it was walking away from the proposed $4.1 billion deal to buy Momentive, the owners of SurveyMonkey, after stockholders rejected the deal. The announcement comes just two weeks after the company spurned a $17 billion takeover offer by private equity firms.

Officially the company announced it this way: “Zendesk, Inc. (NYSE: ZEN) today announced that it has terminated the Agreement and Plan of Merger by and among Zendesk, Milky Way Acquisition Corp., and Momentive Global Inc. (NASDAQ: MNTV), after it did not receive the approval of its stockholders to adopt the proposal to issue shares of Zendesk common stock in connection with the proposed transaction at the Stockholder Meeting held on February 25, 2022.”

It had to be a tough blow to CEO and founder Mikkel Svane, who saw SurveyMonkey and the broader Momentive business as a way to push the company’s core customer service focus into a wider customer experience market. Nonetheless, he put as positive a spin as he could in a blog post announcing the result of the shareholder vote.

“We planned to acquire Momentive as a way to accelerate our ability to deliver the future of customer intelligence. While we will not be moving forward with that acquisition, we remain as committed as ever to helping our customers get more value out of their data,” he wrote in the blog post.

He went on to say that the company would continue to try and develop products that expand the platform in ways that make sense for the company’s core customers. That could mean building instead of buying, an approach that would perhaps be more palatable to stock holders, who didn’t like the hefty price tag or the shift in strategy to customer experience.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that investors, especially Jana Partners, which owns 3% of the company’s stock, along with the Janus Henderson mutual fund, which owns 5%, were unhappy with the deal and the direction it pushed the company. Ultimately the activist investors seemed to have won the day.

As for Momentive, CEO Zander Laurie put on a brave face, saying in a statement that, “While we are disappointed that Zendesk stockholders did not vote to approve the transaction, we are confident in our go-forward strategy.” Perhaps it will seek a new buyer or find a way to go it alone with its current portfolio of products.

Regardless, the deal is off and both companies have to decide how to proceed from here.

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