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Lycos seeks investment partner, preferably non-smoker

Portal offers 20 per cent stake in return for cross-media promotional deal

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Internet portal Lycos has confirmed it is seeking a partner to bring more than a little development funding to the company. According to Eric Gerritsen, Lycos' VP for international business development, quoted in the Financial Times, the company is in "informal discussions" with a number of media and telecoms operations. On the table is at least 20 per cent of Lycos -- Gerritsen said the company as a whole was not up for sale. The investment could total $1 billion, he added. Still, Lycos' motives are apparently not financial. Gerritsen claimed the company doesn't need the money -- "but we could do with the global clout a large media or telecoms group would bring". Its pitch to possible buyers is presumably in the form of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get into the portal business easily. While Lycos was yesterday trumpeting market research data that put it a gnat's wing behind Yahoo! in terms of audience reach (see earlier story) -- almost certainly in a move to improve its negotiating position -- it neglected to mention that the same data still leaves it some way behind AOL. Lycos was one of the first Internet search engine services, and the first to go public, but has generally failed to achieve as high a market profile of Yahoo!, Infoseek and Excite. That's largely because its strategy has been more focused on building a range of branded Web sites, such as Tripod and HotBot (acquired through the company's purchase of Wired magazine's online resources), rather than on a single, readily identified brandname. A deal with the likes of Germany's Bertelsmann (which already owns a share of AOL UK, along with AOL itself), Microsoft, CBS or even online retailer Amazon.com, all of whom have been mooted as investors in or buyers of Lycos, would give it the cross-media promotion it needs to raise its profile to the level of the other leading portals. ®

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