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Talking Reference Data with Andrew Delaney: Markit-Asset Control – New Dawn Fades

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The buzz around Markit’s alleged interest in Asset Control reached fever pitch a week or so ago when an anonymous caller to Reference Data Review suggested the deal was done and Asset Control’s senior management relieved of their duties. But just a few days after we went public with speculation of a transaction, the deal appeared to unravel, and in a shock development Asset Control CEO Phil Lynch has this week emerged as head of global account management at SunGard – Asset Management.

Spokespeople for both Markit and Asset Control have declined to comment on or indeed confirm the existence of any discussions about a transaction. But talk that Fidelity Ventures had finally found an acquirer for Asset Control has been on the enterprise data community’s lips for the past three weeks. Given Lynch’s departure, a statement on the matter might be a good course of action for the data management specialist to take. Just sayin’.

By way of reassurance, we don’t typically take anonymous calls too seriously, particularly in the midst of takeover discussions. I recall – in an earlier life – the arrival of a mysterious fax warning my staff at the time that I was about to fire the lot of them to make way for an acquirer’s own people. It had the (presumably) desired effect: my staff quickly formed a line outside my office to demand some answers. Who could blame them?

In this instance, though, market snippets on Markit’s interest were coming to us thick and fast. It truly appeared to be a done deal. Until, that is, a lone naysayer suggested the deal was no deal, and that Lynch was out. Come Sunday afternoon, he’d updated his LinkedIn profile. Seems our contrarian source had very good connections.

Notwithstanding the mechanics of the situation, it’s not clear why Markit walked away or where this leaves Asset Control. I’ve already hinted on my Twitter feed that Markit’s head may have been turned by more important matters. These may include the possibility of picking up some elements of Thomson Reuters, which some believe may have an appetite disposing of some non-core assets as part of its ongoing streamlining of operations, a process apparently already culpable for 3,000 layoffs this year.

With Lynch gone, it’s unclear who is running Asset Control. While keeping schtumm on the Markit gossip, the company issued a release this week, hailing its selection by Erste Bank as enterprise data platform. The release quoted Mark Johnson, Director of Sales EMEA, Asset Control. Conspicuous by their absence were Lynch, for obvious reasons, but also John Mitchell, vice president, global sales and marketing, whom our anonymous caller had assured us would remain as part of the team to be melded into Markit. Either of Lynch or Mitchell was featured in every Asset Control press release in 2012.

It’s unclear what the fallout will be from Lynch’s departure. Presumably, Fidelity Ventures will move swiftly to plug the gap at the top. Mitchell and Lynch were part of a management team that also included CFO Peter Bennfors, general counsel Claudia Giunta-Coello, human resources chief Arend Leutscher, VP for services Robert Revesz and VP of product management Tim Versteeg.

Almost three weeks after we first heard rumblings of a transaction, we hoped by now to write a definitive piece on what transpired. Instead, we have more questions than answers.

This one may have more to run.

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