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ZDNet's Rosensweig promises ‘Global Empire’

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ZDNet Prez Dan Rosensweig promised "a real global empire" would be the result of his company's acquisition by CNET. He made his comments to ZDNet staff in San Francisco yesterday. CNET has agreed a takeover of ZDNet, creating an online tech behemoth which promises to rank in the top ten most popular sites in the US.

Rosenweig also let slip that their rivalry had "made each other better companies". But "the law of diminishing returns says that you should join forces".

But what diminishing returns? Both CNET CEO Shelby Bonnie and ZDNet's Dan Rosensweig claimed that their respective companies were profitable, Rosensweig with more justification that his new partner.

Despite being lubricated with free alcohol following the setpiece, staff left the Q&A less informed than when they began. At issue is that the two companies have been doggedly mirroring each other's moves for some years.

Both have download sites, both have reviews sections tied to shopping mechanisms, both have games channels, both have news channels, both have wireless content deals, both have made their fair share of club-footed acquisitions (when canny licensing would have been far smarter) and of course both have administrative and operational duplication. Given all this, few ZDNet insiders yesterday gave much credence to Rosensweig's official line that the overlap amounts to "25 per cent".

Bonnie and Rosensweig fielded a barrage of questions about who would face the chop with the increasingly implausible line that all areas were worthwhile. Gamecenter or GamesWorld? Both good. MySimon was great and Computer Shopper, well, that was great too. And so on.

And risking a hubristic meltdown completely, Bonnie said he thought that "there are no [other] brands you'd trust" in the sector. "There's nobody else you'd go to for an opinion about something, and that's a really unique factor."

It also emerged yesterday that the pair have been in close lunching contact for two years. Which is intriguing, as it raises the suspicion that the company coup which began in earnest around a year ago - to shed Ziff Davis' events business and print publications - was only ever designed to deliver ZDNet into the hands of its rivals on the other side of San Francisco's Financial District.

For example, a year ago ZDNet adopted Vignette's Storyserver content engine following the example CNET, and adopted near-identical page templates to its supposed rival. CNET postponed its investment in Europe, while ZDNet ramped up its own. Doubtless, all pure coincidence.

So trebles all round then, for senior management and long-serving staff who were given options at around $4, but Vimtos all round for investors who bought in at the height of the bubble, when ZDNet stock was trading in the $30s, have worthless stock.

"WHAT A BUNCH OF CROOKS!" ran one typical rant on a ZDZ investor bulletin boards yesterday. "THEY HAVE MISREPRESENTED THEMSELVES IN A CALLOUS AND NEGLIGENT MANNER!!! HOW DARE THEY!!!"

ZDNet stock edged up to $17 in after hours trading, its highest value since the tech crash in April. CNET dipped below $30. ®

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