BRIGHT STATION ACQUIRES BOO’S TECH ASSETS, RIGHTS
Byline: James Fallon
LONDON — The dismantlement of Boo.com began Tuesday with the announcement that Bright Station plc, an Internet service provider, has acquired Boo’s technology assets and associated intellectual property rights from the receivers KPMG.
The purchase price was not disclosed but sources said it was less than $400,000.
The deal does not include the Boo.com brand, or Web address, at boo.com, which KPMG is selling separately. A KPMG spokesman in London said Tuesday that a deal for those assets could be concluded this week.
The sale of Boo’s Web site and associated intellectual property rights ends efforts by KPMG to find a purchaser of the dot-com in its entirety, and marks the biggest flameout yet by a fashion player in cyberspace — let alone a site that was only seven months old. Boo.com never revealed how much it spent on its back-office operations but estimates are it was up to $105 million.
The remainder of the $150 million to $195 million it reportedly raised went toward marketing and staff expenses. Investors in the ill-fated site included Bernard Arnault’s Europe@Web; 21 Invest, the arm of the Benetton family; Goldman Sachs; J.P. Morgan & Co., and Bain Capital.
A spokesman for Bright Station admitted there are few physical assets remaining at Boo.com because most of its computers and other hardware were leased.
The main assets being acquired are its e-commerce search engine and associated software, he said.
“Boo’s technology solution is the result of a massive investment program and is widely acknowledged as a state-of-the-art consumer e-commerce solution,” Andy Dancer, Bright Station’s chief technology officer, said in a statement. “We have been able to pick it up for a fraction of its development cost.”
With the acquisition of Boo’s technology assets, Bright Station is aiming to extend Sparza, its e-commerce technology unit, into the business-to-consumer sector. It will do so by licensing the search engine, once operated by Boo, to various e-tailers, which could then use it to help consumers locate goods at those Web sites.
Currently, Bright Station’s Sparza division enables e-commerce by offering business-to-business software systems.
“Bright Station’s view is that the technology is good, but Boo.com’s problem was it tried to do it all under one roof and, as a result, never realized the investment it put into it,” the spokesman said. “We see the potential to sell the [former Boo search] engine to hundreds of different retailers, which can then adapt it to their unique Web sites.”
KPMG laid off 220 of Boo.com’s employees last week, as noted, while retaining 25 technical staffers to maintain and demonstrate the site’s capabilities for potential purchasers.
The Bright Station spokesman said the company hopes to hire these people, although he could not say how many of them will take up the offer.
Boo.com’s founders Ernst Malmsten and Kajsa Leander are not expected to join Bright Station.
The deal is subject to court approval and a final contract, both of which are expected to be completed this week, the Bright Station spokesman said.