Morningstar acquires footnoted!

February 9, 2010

For the past 6 1/2 years, we’ve written frequently about various mergers and acquisitions. Today, we have some M&A news of our own: Morningstar (MORN) has acquired footnoted.org. You can download the official press release here, but I wanted to personally share with you why I’m so excited about this deal and why I think Morningstar, which is already well known for its independent research, is the perfect partner to help me continue growing footnoted.

Whether you’re a longtime reader or a recent convert to footnoted, chances are that you appreciate the inherent value in having someone dig through SEC filings. After all, it takes a lot of effort to find some of the pearls we’ve uncovered over the years — things like Freddie Mac’s lush employment agreement with its new CFO or Chesapeake Energy’s $12.1 million map collection — because many companies work hard to bury this sort of stuff deep in their filings in the hopes that few (if any) people will ever find it.

Given my background as a business journalist, one of my primary goals for footnoted has always been that by exposing some of this, um, buried treasure, publicly traded companies might actually start to change their behavior. It’s one of the reasons we highlight “gold star” candidates on a regular basis. For example, we’ve recently seen a number of companies get rid of one of the grossest perks out there: the tax gross up. I’d like to think footnoted played at least a small part in this by highlighting so many examples.

From our very first conversation last spring, it was clear to me that the Morningstar folks not only shared this goal of greater transparency, but also practiced it in their own public filings. The investor Q&As in Morningstar’s monthly 8Ks — you can see the latest one here — are enough to make an SEC filings geek like me swoon.

But perhaps even more important is that Morningstar’s global reach and the resources that they’ve committed to growing footnoted will mean that more people will be exposed to footnoted’s unique content. Soon, I plan to hire additional staff, which will enable me to continue growing both the free and subscription-based businesses.

For readers already familiar with the site, few things will change. I’ll continue to run things from footnoted world headquarters in Peekskill, N.Y., as an employee of Morningstar, and there will be more of the same great content regular readers have come to expect. One small change will be that in the near future, footnoted.org will become footnoted.com, though both domain names will get you to the same place. In addition, some of footnoted’s content will appear on Morningstar.com, exposing their loyal audience of avid investors to the footnoted brand.

One final note about today’s news: While I negotiated mightily for the keys to the Gulfstream, the corporate apartment in Paris, the company yacht, the lifetime consulting contract and, of course, a tax gross up — all crazy perks we’ve written about in various M&A deals — I came up empty handed. That’s because Morningstar doesn’t believe in those sorts of things. Nor do I. Instead, my reward will come if I’m able to grow the footnoted business the way that I envision, which is exactly as it should be and just another reason why I’m so excited to be joining Morningstar.

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