Update: This article was based on some incorrect values, please see this update for new calculations.

Both Data Center Knowledge and Slashdot report that two data centers were an important part of the deal between the Lehman Brothers and Barclays. And this is apparently not the first time data centers are an important part of such a buyout:

The Lehman sale provides echoes of the March deal in which JPMorgan bought the assets of Bear Stearns, in which Bear’s two data centers and headquarters building accounted for much of the value of the $270 million sale price.

This is in sharp contrast with the actual financial reality; with the current economic slowdown stock of data centers is going down sharply. For example, Equinix stock is down nearly 40% from last year’s high of $116 to about $72 today. Rackspace is also down over 10% since their IPO last month.

Let’s do some math to find out what a typical data center is worth. According to Equinix’s own fact sheet, they should currently have about 6 million square feet of data center space:

Equinix IBX

Equinix IBX

Equinix has a total global footprint of more than 3.0 million square feet. By early 2008, Equinix will have more than doubled its total capacity via expansion or acquisition in 18 key markets.

Their market capitalization is currently about $2.7 billion, so that’s $452 per square foot of space. Now let’s go back to the Data Center Knowledge post:

The data centers and Lehman’s headquarters building accounted for $1.5 billion of the deal’s value
[…]
Lehman’s primary data center is located in 140,000 square feet of space in a 40-story tower in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson from Manhattan.
[…]
The transition left Lehman in need of a backup facility for disaster recovery purposes. In December, 2001 Lehman Brothers signed a 15-year lease with Level 3 for 50,000 square feet of space in one of its New York area data centers.

So they actually own 150.000 square feet of data center space, and have a lease on 50.000 more. Let’s keep this on the safe side and pretend that the actually own all 200.000 square feet of space. If we use the value we calculated for Equinix, that should be $90 million. In my world, that’s not a central item in a $1.75 billion deal…

If we run the same numbers for the Bear Stearns deal, they match up more closely. That deal included about 150.000 to 200.000 sqft of data center space, in a $270 million deal, and stock for data center operations was a bit higher at that time. So in that deal, the data centers might have been about a third to half of the total value of the deal.