WEDDINGCHANNEL TIES KNOT WITH DELLA

Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — WeddingChannel.com and Della.com have gotten hooked up.
Executives of the West Coast-based, wedding planning and gift registry Web sites jointly announced Thursday they have merged to form a new company, operating under the name WeddingChannel.com, which was found to have the higher profile brand.
The corporate marriage was consummated Monday in a stock swap between the privately held firms, resulting in a blended management team and equal representation for the two parties on the newly combined board of directors. Della employees will continue to work out of the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, while WeddingChannel will remain in its corporate offices in Los Angeles.
“To be a winner in the online wedding market, Web sites need excellent content, compelling partnerships with retailers and strong gift registries,” said Rebecca Patton, chief executive officer of the new entity, who held the same position at Della. “Both companies together have all of those elements, but neither one had them alone.
“By combining the resources of two leaders in the online wedding industry,” Patton added, “we are uniquely positioned to address the $45 billion wedding market.”
Patton, who joined Della as its ceo in January 1999, noted executives of the company had run into their counterparts at WeddingChannel at numerous industry events, since Della’s founding in May 1998. “What began as a series of informal interactions gradually got more formal over time,” she said of the deal’s genesis.
Also on the executive team of the combined entity are Adam Berger, former president of WeddingChannel.com, who retains that title, and Donald Drapkin, who had been ceo of WeddingChannel and now is executive chairman.
“The key asset Della brought to the deal was our gift registry, and our partnerships with retailers like Neiman Marcus, Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma and Tiffany,” Patton said.
“WeddingChannel’s key asset was its incredibly comprehensive content site, and it also has a deep partnership with Federated,” Patton continued. “Content is a particularly important part of planning a wedding because [Americans] spend an average of $20,000 on the event, and 300 hours preparing for the occasion.”
In addition, Patton pointed out that, post-merger, Federated Department Stores holds a 10 percent stake in WeddingChannel, while all of the company’s retail investors hold a combined 20 percent interest in the company. That group comprises Neiman Marcus, Tiffany & Co., Williams-Sonoma, and Crate & Barrel, in addition to Federated.
The assets of the newly merged WeddingChannel, the company said, include:
More than one million unique users and 20 million page views per month.
Access to more than 20 percent of the 2.4 million brides per year in the U.S.
An assortment of more than 15 million gifts, via links with more than 700,000 registries.
Strategic relationships with Amazon.com and Brides magazine.
Multinational reach through a partnership with U.K.-based Debenhams, providing links with more than 80 department stores in the U.K. and Republic of Ireland.
During the next few months, Patton said, WeddingChannel will focus on “aggressively integrating” the two sites, located at della.com and weddingchannel.com. On Thursday, an integrated home page was launched, which can be entered through either of those Web sites.
WeddingChannel.com generates revenue through commissions on sales transacted by shoppers at its sites, via links with various retailers’ online gift registries; sales of other bridal goods such as invitations and wedding accessories, and sponsorship fees from companies aiming to market to WeddingChannel’s customers.
The newly merged company’s roster of strategic retail partners also includes Dillard’s, REI, Gump’s and Restoration Hardware. Additional investors in the venture include Amazon.com, Goldman Sachs, MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Buyers, idealab, RRE Investors and MSD Capital.
“What’s interesting about our model,” Patton said, “are our deep partnerships with retailers, which enable us to bring together various aspects of traditional and online retail to create a new kind of wedding marketplace.”
As a result, she said, “We believe we will be able to make money.”