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IBM sells Watson Health to investment firm Francisco Partners

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | January 21, 2022
Artificial Intelligence Business Affairs Health IT

When first formed in 2015, Watson Health was expected to dominate the market with its data-driven offerings. It acquired several health data companies as a result, starting with Phytel and Explorys. It spent $1 billion on Merge Healthcare in 2015 and bought Truven Health Analytics a year later for $2.6 billion.

The business, however, failed to achieve the results that IBM desired. In April 2019, the company stopped the development of its Watson AI drug discovery tools due to poor sales. It also shifted focus to clinical development due to growing skepticism around the use of machine learning in complex medical research.

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To prepare for a possible sale this year, the company brought in BofA Securities in late 2021 to search for potential bids.

Francisco Partners, meanwhile, has invested in more than 400 technology companies over the last two decades, including healthcare technology and investment companies like eSolutions, Capsule, GoodRx and Zocdoc, reported Modern Healthcare.

“We have followed IBM’s journey in healthcare data and analytics for a number of years and have a deep appreciation for its portfolio of innovative healthcare products. IBM built a market leading team and provides its customers with mission-critical products and outstanding service,” said Ezra Perlman, co-president at Francisco Partners, in a statement.

The deal is subject to customary regulatory approvals. It is expected to close in the second quarter of 2022.

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