Why These 10 Companies Turned Down Billions of Dollars

Every now and then as an investor, you get an offer that’s hard to refuse.

A company you hold stock in becomes the subject of an acquisition offer, and suddenly you get the chance to book a big profit.

It happened to shareholders of jewelry company Zale Corp. recently, as rival Signet Jewelers made an acquisition offer of $21 a share, a 40% premium on the price at the time.

Accepting those juicy offers is not always the right long-term choice, but it can be tough to turn them down.

Now imagine that you’re the company owner, and you’re being offered not thousands, but millions or even billions of dollars.

Here are 10 companies that turned down billions of dollars in massive acquisition offers, and how it turned out for them.

1. Snapchat: $3 Billion Left on the Table

snapchat turned down billions

Imagine you’re a college student who develops a photo-messaging app with your friend, and a couple of years later Facebook offers to write you a $3 billion check to buy it.

Sounds like a dream come true, but it wasn’t enough for Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, who turned down all that cash last year in favor of keeping control of the app. Rumors circulated that Google later made a $4 billion offer which was also rejected.

It’s too soon to tell whether this bold move was foolish or prescient. Snapchat has continued to grow in popularity, but will it ever get a better offer?

2. WhatsApp: Rejects a $10 Billion Offer

whatsapp turned down billions

Another messaging app, another huge offer turned down. This time it was Google that made the first move, apparently offering $10 billion for WhatsApp last year (although one top Google executive has since disputed the truth of the story). But again, the company’s founders walked away from that huge payday in favor of keeping the app independent.

It turned out to be a smart move. Just six months later, Facebook came along with an eye-watering $19 billion offer, which really was too good to refuse.

3. Time Warner Cable: $61 Billion is a “Low-Ball Offer”

Time Warner Cable turned down billions

Even for a large company like Time Warner Cable, $61 billion is a pretty hefty chunk of change. But not for CEO Rob Marcus, who in January 2014 dismissed the offer from rival Charter Communications as a “low-ball offer” and a “bargain-basement price.” The company’s board backed him, calling the $61 billion “grossly inadequate.”

Just a few weeks later, Time Warner Cable announced it had accepted an acquisition offer from another rival, Comcast. The value of that offer? $45 billion. The new offer is actually worth more for Time Warner Cable stockholders, though, as the value of the Charter offer included a large portion of debt.

4. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh: Walked Away From Microsoft’s Millions

tony hsieh turned down billions

It’s easier to turn down money when you’ve already sold your first company for $265 million. But still, Tony Hsieh was turning down millions of dollars in pay and stock options when he decided to quit Microsoft in 1999 and go out on his own.

The decision paid off, as he became CEO of Zappos, which was sold to Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion, with Hsieh himself making at least $214 million from the deal.

5. Mining Firm Rio Tinto: $147 Billion? Forget About It

Rio Tinto turned down billions

Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto had already turned down a cool $110 billion from rival BHP Billiton, and in February 2008 it received an even bigger offer of $147 billion, which would have been one of the biggest acquisitions of all time. Rio Tinto, though, rejected it, insisting that it “significantly undervalued” the company.

Was it a smart move? Rio Tinto continues to prosper and make money, but its market capitalization is around $100 billion, suggesting that maybe it would have been a good idea to grab the cash in 2008.

6. Groupon: Rejected a $6 Billion Check From Google

groupon turned down billions

In the fall of 2010, daily-deals site Groupon turned down a large acquisition offer from Yahoo, then rejected a $3 billion offer from Google. Finally Google doubled its offer, to almost $6 billion. Groupon’s founders were tempted, but still said no.

It remans unclear whther they were right to hold firm . Groupon went public a year later, with the IPO valuing the company at $12 billion, double Google’s bid, although its stock price has tumbled since then.

7. Men’s Wearhouse: You Can’t Buy Us, We’re Buying You!

men's warehouse turned down billions

Things turned ugly in the world of menswear recently, as two rivals both attempted to buy each other out.

First Jos A. Bank Clothiers offered $2.3 billion for rival Men’s Wearhouse. Men’s Wearhouse responded not only by declining the offer, but also by launching its own $1.2 billion bid for Jos A. Bank, which was also rejected.

The bidding and counterbidding saga finally ended in March, with Men’s Wearhouse announcing it would acquire Jos A. Bank for $1.8 billion.

8. Titan Aerospace: Rejects $60 Million For Solar Drones

titan turned down billions

Solar-powered drones became a hot commodity recently, as two-year-old startup Titan Aerospace turned down a $60 million offer from Facebook, only to agree a deal with Google for an undisclosed amount a few weeks later.

Both companies see solar-powered drones as a way to bring internet connectivity to remote areas of the world. The $60 million offer could end up looking like a fortune or a bargain, depending on how the technology develops.

9. Yahoo: We’re Worth More Than $44 Billion

yahoo turned down billions

After dominating the internet in the 1990s, Yahoo had already lost ground to newer rivals like Google and Facebook by 2008. So a $44 billion offer from Microsoft seemed like a good deal.

Not to Yahoo’s board, which said that $44 billion “substantially undervalues” the company. Its market capitalization then slumped to about half of Microsoft’s offer, and even after its strong stock-price run-up in 2013, Yahoo is still only valued at $35 billion. That offer’s looking pretty generous now.

10. Facebook: We’re Worth (way) More Than $1 Billion

facebook turned down billions

When a 22-year-old Mark Zuckerberg turned down $1 billion of Yahoo’s cash in 2006, it seemed crazy. Facebook was a college networking site, just two years old and yet to make a profit.

But Zuckerberg, of course, was right to stick to his guns. Facebook’s 2012 IPO valued the company at around $100 billion.

Turning down billions is a tough thing to do. But clearly the management felt that these offers undervalued their companies. Learning to value a business is a crucial thing to understand, whether you’re just starting to invest, or evaluating an offer with 9 zeros in it.

Try out the Evaluating a Business course on Wall Street Survivor to learn more. 

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One response to “Why These 10 Companies Turned Down Billions of Dollars”

  1. […] Facebook shocked everyone in February 2014 when it paid an eye-watering $19 billion for messaging app WhatsApp. Meanwhile other smartphone apps like Snapchat have rejected billions of dollars in buyout offers. […]