#1. News Corp. Buys Dow Jones for $5 Billion
News CEO Rupert Murdoch bags his quarry, the Dow-owned Wall Street Journal. During the three-month drama some members of the Bancroft family, which controlled Dow Jones, made much fuss over the Rupe’s supposed lack of journalistic values. But nobody questioned his offer, a 67% premium over the pre-off stock price. Money talked.#2. Blackstone Buys Equity Office Properties Trust for $39 Billion
Equity Office Properties (EOP) Trust, the nation’s biggest owner of office buildings, sold to Blackstone Group for $39 billion, the largest leveraged buyout ever at the time. “Somebody made us an offer that was higher than our own internal assessment of the value, and under that set of circumstances, I had an absolute obligation to respond, which I did,” EOP boss Sam Zell told TIME after the deal. Translation: They offered me stupid money.
#3. Google Buys DoubleClick for $3.1 Billion
A huge price for a company worth just more than $1 billion a couple of years ago. But Google craved DoubleClick’s capabilities: The company’s specialty is placing advertisements on websites, known in the trade as “serving.” Buying DoubleClick also kept it out of the hands of Microsoft. The combo makes Google a more potent player in Web advertising against rivals Microsoft and Yahoo. The European Union isn’t happy, though, and is giving the deal extra scrutiny.
#4. RBS Consortium Wins Battle for ABN Amro
A nasty banking brawl, so very un-European, broke out between Barclays and a consortium led by Royal Bank of Scotland Group (including Banco Santander and Fortis). The prize: Holland’s ABN Amro, a vaunted name but nevertheless a mediocre performer, which was put in play by Barclays as European banks continue to consolidate. The winning bid: $101 billion. For that kind of coin, RBS gets more swagger in the U.S., Europe and Asia; the Brazilian and Italian units go to Spain’s Santander; and Fortis gets ABN Amro’s Dutch retail business and other leftovers.
#5. Rio Tinto Buys Alcan for $38.1 Billion
It’s a deal predicated on rising demand for aluminum, driven by China and India. This Anglo-Australian/Canadian combination — both the former British dominions are primary metals powers — becomes the world’s largest aluminum producer. Mining giant Rio Tinto swept aside a play by America’s Alcoa to recapture its former Canadian operations, which it was forced to divest decades ago. Ironically, the deal now leaves Alcoa in a weakened position. Look for another deal next year. In the meantime, iron ore–rich Rio has been targeted by mega-miner BHP Billiton.
#6. Tata Steel Buys Corus for $11.3 Billion
Although India’s tech prowess in the outsourced world grabs the headlines, there is no more powerful symbol of India Inc.’s rise than this one. Ah, the delicious irony, as the Tata family conglomerate, India’s steel giant, buys the Anglo-Dutch firm that includes the remnants of British Steel — at one time a symbol of Britain’s imperial might. Guess the dreadnought age is over; but not the steel age, at least not in the developing world.
#7. Nokia Buys Navteq for $8.1 Billion
Chicago-based navigation-software maker Navteq is a big player in digital mapping — if you have an in-car navigation system, you’re a likely user — and mapping is hot this year on the Web and in mobile phones. Nabbing Navteq was a pretty slick move because Nokia aced out other handset makers, and furthered its push into services, so as to be less reliant on hardware. (Motorola, take note.) It’s one of two big deals in navigation: Dutch company TomTom bought Navteq’s main rival, Belgium’s Tele Atlas, for $4.3 billion.
#8. Citadel Buys 18% of E*Trade for $2.5 Billion
Hedge-fund mad scientist Ken Griffin, founder of Citadel Investment Group, does some more bottom fishing, reeling in a chunk of E*Trade, but more importantly, hooking its $3 billion in CDO and second-lien securities for what’s hoped to be a rock-bottom 27 cents on the dollar. It’s getting to be a habit with Citadel, which has picked through the wreckage of exploding hedge funds to find the working parts and made them print money.
#9. Blackstone Buys Hilton Hotels for $26 Billion
Already heavily invested in hotels, private equity firm Blackstone Group adds a number of powerful brands (Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites) to its portfolio and the possibility of backroom synergy. The travel business is still strong, and Hilton is on a major global expansion run.
#10. KKR Wangles Biggest LBO Ever
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and partner Texas Pacific Group acquired TXU, a Dallas-based utility company, for $45 billion in the biggest leveraged buyout ever. Still too cheap, carped the critics. Yet there might be something here for everyone. Environmentalists got religion about the buyout when KKR announced it would nix eight of the 11 coal-fired power plants TXU planned to build. Shareholders got $69.50, a 15% premium, and consumers were promised a rate decrease. But after that, all bets are off.