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Dutch Internet company World Online has to cough up approximately €100 million in damages to its former shareholders, a judge in Amsterdam ruled Wednesday. Chairwoman Nina Brink, who despite the Dutch name is Canadian born, resigned a month after the flotation of the company in 2000, as she failed to disclose the selling of most of her stake in the company prior to the IPO. Shareholders saw their holdings plummet in value soon after the launch.

Brink launched World Online in 1997. To pay for expansion, she cajoled a $150 million investment out of the Swiss-based Sandoz Family Foundation. World Online wanted to cash in on the internet share boom at its float, which was 30 times oversubscribed. The Amsterdam court now believes that Brink misled investors by not telling the truth about her stake in the company. Since the World Online (WOL) IPO debacle, Brink is a private investor, who keeps out of the limelight as much as she can.

The big question now is: who is going to pay? World Online was bought by Italian ISP Tiscali back in 2000 for $ 5,1 billion. Given its financial health - the Italians acquired three European ISP's this year - €100 million may not be something to worry about, but the amount of the damages has to be established in a separate court case. WOL issued a press release yesterday, saying that it will appeal the court's ruling. ®

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