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Priceline founder cuts 100 staff at other venture

Not a good month for Jay Walker

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It's not a good month for Priceline.com founder Jay Walker. His development outfit Walker Digital has laid off 100 staff after failing to get its next round of funding.

Walker Digital is the company behind the technology used by the name-your-price Web site Priceline.com, also started by Walker. The cut-backs, made at its HQ in the week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday period (a notoriously slow time to find a job in the US), leave just 25 employees at the Connecticut office.

The outfit also plans to shut its three start-ups in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

Walker Digital optimistically put the redundancies down to "restructuring" in today's Wall Street Journal, but denied that the entire company plans is to shut up shop - as some ex-staff claim.

It says it will put all efforts into its invention laboratory and the licensing of its intellectual property portfolio. It has around 50 patents, with another 300 pending.

The move came after the company failed to grab its next round of funding - it had raised around $200 million from investors, including Venture Capital cash from General Atlantic Partners.

It will also keep 200 staff at its Retail DNA and Skill Games companies.

Meanwhile, Walker has other problems with Priceline - the dotcom announced it was losing CFO Heidi Miller and 16 per cent of staff when it released weak third quarter results earlier this month. The company's share price has been dropping, losing Priceline chum and royal Net stocks dabbler Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal $80 million so far this year. Alwaleed has since said he doesn't see any future investments in the Internet.

In September Priceline blamed its failings on hiked fuel charges and airlines' discounted fares. ®

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