RECEIVERS SLASH STAFF 90%, LOOK FOR BOO.COM BUYER

Byline: James Fallon / With contributions from Valerie Seckler, New York

LONDON — The receivers of Boo.com have laid off 90 percent of the e-tailer’s U.K. workforce, but talks with potential buyers are continuing.
A spokesman for KPMG, Boo.com’s receivers, said Tuesday that 225 of the online retailer’s London workforce of 250 have been laid off. Boo.com is no longer taking orders, he said, although its site continues to download, and there is no notification posted on it that it has filed for receivership or is not accepting new business.
The remaining 25 London employees of Boo.com continue to work at the company’s Carnaby Street headquarters, primarily to demonstrate the site’s capabilities to prospective buyers.
In fact, according to a second spokesman for KPMG in London, there aren’t many tangible assets, besides the site itself, to be sold — either in a purchase of the company, or in a liquidation sale. “Basically, we’re trying to sell the brand and the Web site; much of the equipment appears to have been leased,” he said. “If we don’t succeed in selling these assets, the creditors won’t be paid; they’re [Boo.com] out of money.”
The spokesman added that “the company’s best asset, its employees, are gone.”
Contrary to reports, there is no definite deadline for KPMG to find a buyer.
The spokesmen said the receivers hope a buyer can be identified by Friday, but talks will continue as long as progress is being made.
“We have no deadline to sell,” said the first spokesman. “It is in our hands to decide when to go for a full liquidation. As long as negotiations are moving forward in a positive way, then a liquidation won’t take place.”
He declined to identify the companies involved, but said talks are being held with five or six interested parties.
Boo.com raised an estimated $135 million from such investors as Europ@web, the Internet investment arm of Bernard Arnault; 21 Invest, the investment company of the Benetton family; J.P. Morgan U.K.; and Goldman Sachs. A large part of that funding went toward marketing and developing Boo.com’s trouble-plagued site, which was ambitiously designed to deal in multiple languages and currencies.
Ironically, a number of the glitches had been ironed out over the last few months, with the site realizing net revenues in February of $657,000.