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Dutch publisher buys Boca Raton firm

Seisint agreed to be bought for $775 million in cash by a Dutch publishing conglomerate which owns LexisNexis.

From Miami Herald Staff and Wire Reports
July 14, 2004

Reed Elsevier Group, the owner of the LexisNexis legal database business, has agreed to buy the Boca Raton-based Seisint for $775 million in cash.

Seisint provides online access and analysis of public records that can be used for recovering debt, detecting fraud, verifying identities and screening potential employees.

The company was the also creator of Matrix, an anti-crime database that culls information from a variety of sources including driver license records, fingerprints, divorce records and credit information.

In a news release, Reed Elsevier said Seisint will be integrated with LexisNexis risk-management operations, pending approval by Seisint and U.S. regulators.

Seisint, which is privately held, employs more than 300 people in the United States and Britain.

After the combination of the two firms, LexisNexis said combined revenue from Seisint and its risk-management division would be about $300 million.

Reed Elsevier is a Dutch publishing conglomerate, which publishes such trade magazines as Variety, and employs 35,000 workers worldwide. It's equally owned by Reed Elsevier PLC in England and Reed Elsevier NV in the Netherlands.

According to Bloomberg News, Seisint is Reed Elsevier's biggest acquisition since its $5.6 billion purchase of schoolbook publisher Harcourt General in 2001.

The company is seeking to bolster its LexisNexis division at a time businesses and governments are seeking more security in dealing with individuals and companies.

It is also investing more in LexisNexis's global electronic system this year.

''Although Reed has paid a price, which initially seems very high, it has acquired a top-quality business in a fast growing sector,'' Paul Richards, an analyst at Numis Securities, told Bloomberg News.

Seisint's Matrix database initially drew sharp criticism from civil liberties watchdogs because the company had used the database to create a list of potential terrorists shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The American Civil Liberties Union has complained that the Matrix database could be used by state and federal investigators to compile dossiers on people who have never been suspected of a crime.

Seisint officials have said safeguards are built into the system to prevent such abuses.

Seisint was founded by Hank Asher, a Boca Raton millionaire. Asher severed his ties with Seisint nearly a year ago after he admitted to state investigators that he had been active in drug smuggling in the early 1980s.

Asher was investigated because the company had been seeking a $1.6 million contract from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He was never charged.

Herald business writer Beatrice E. Garcia contributed to this report.