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Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert's private equity firm acquiring Tampa's Triad Retail Media

Triad Retail Media, a fast-growing Tampa ad agency that develops online shopping campaigns for retail giants from eBay to Wal-Mart Stores, is being acquired by a private equity firm run by Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert.

Gilbert, best known as the founder of online mortgage giant Quicken Loans and majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team, is buying Triad through an investment vehicle called Rockbridge Growth Equity.

Under the deal, which is expected to be announced this morning, Triad will keep its headquarters in Tampa. Its leadership team of CEO Greg Murtagh and president Roger Berdusco will remain in place.

Financial terms were not disclosed. However, Rockbridge targets acquisitions in the $100 million to $200 million range, and Murtagh described the deal as being in "the sweet spot" of that range.

Founded in 2004 by Murtagh, a longtime advertising executive who worked for Procter & Gamble and Dial Corp., Triad made its mark creating targeted ad campaigns on retailer websites. A coup in landing Wal-Mart Stores as a client in 2005 was followed up with a global ad deal with eBay five years later.

Triad has swelled to 320 employees in six locations, include 190 working out of its Tampa headquarters, where Berdusco said workers are "bumping up against our space" even after doubling to 30,000 square feet a year and a half ago.

In 2012, Triad recorded $171 million in retail advertising and media sales, up 40 percent. Among the clients it brought into the fold over the past year were Home Depot, shopping.com and Dollar General.

"We've basically doubled the company in the past 36 months," Murtagh said. "With Rockbridge and Dan Gilbert, we plan to double the company again in the next three years."

Added Berdusco: "We're still early in this game, and there's still a lot of upside for us to grow."

The digital media niche that Triad focuses on is projected to top $1 billion within six months; Murtagh is shooting for a 30 percent to 50 percent market share of that niche.

Looking ahead, Triad sees possible acquisitions in social media, mobile and possibly content creation. Beyond tapping into Rockbridge for funding its growth, the agency also plans to leverage the expertise and advice of other companies in the equity firm's portfolio.

Rockbridge invests primarily in financial and business services, consumer-direct marketing, and sports, media and entertainment industries. It owns equity stakes in Account Now, Protect America, Northcentral University, and One on One Marketing.

Private equity firms are no strangers to seeking deals in the region, buying stakes in companies like Outback Steakhouse's parent before it went public.

Two years ago, the Carlyle Group bought Tampa-based Syniverse Technologies for $2.6 billion in cash in one of the biggest corporate buyouts in bay area history. Last year, a Los Angeles private equity investment firm bought the Tampa Tribune for $9.5 million.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8242.

An earlier version of this story online had not updated Rockbridge Growth Equity's current holdings.

Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert's private equity firm acquiring Tampa's Triad Retail Media 01/09/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 10, 2013 3:42pm]
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