FTC Clears Google Purchase of DoubleClick

Google just passed the first but not last hurdle in its $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick, as the Federal Trade Commission this morning gave the go-ahead on a 4-1 vote. Now the ball’s in European regulators’ court, and that decision could stretch as far out as April 2.

Barring a surprise no-go from the European Commission, Google may finally get the entry into online display advertising that it has craved since announcing the DoubleClick deal last spring.

There wasn’t much commentary in early stories from the FTC, except that the full board said it was unlikely the deal would substantially lessen competition. But one commissioner, Pamela Jones Harbour, dissented “because I make alternate predictions about where this market is heading, and the transformative role the combined Google/DoubleClick will play.”

Perhaps it will, though the fact that Microsoft could muster $6 billion for a DoubleClick competitor, aQuantive, might have made Microsoft’s argument that there wouldn’t be enough competition less compelling. Meanwhile, Microsoft just stole a $500 million deal with Viacom from DoubleClick.

No doubt a combined Google/DoubleClick will be a fearsome force. But I also suspect both the delay and the usual challenges of mergers could mean GoogleClick will face some stiff headwinds for some time. (Not to mention the potential culture clash, as a commenter on Valleywag points out: “How is Google going to absorb all those non-Ivy league employees? None of them passed the purity test! What were their GPAs?”)

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