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AOL offloads Bebo - for 'exceptionally uninspiring number'?

Total value destruction

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Updated AOL is set to reap an "exceptionally uninspiring" sum for Bebo, the moribund social networking site for which it paid $850m just two years ago.

The Wall Street Journal says a sale could be announced today, with the likely buyer Criterion Capital Partners LLC of Studio City California. This is an interesting location - a suburb of LA nowhere near Silicon Valley.

The deal was confirmed this afternoon, though no details of the price were revealed.

The buyer apparently specialises in turning around companies with revenues of $3m to $30m, which doesn't say too much for the state of Bebo.

Still, it's AOL that is taking a bath on the deal. The journal, ahead of the official announcement, quoted one source familiar with the negotiations who said AOL's price was "an exceptionally uninspiring number" with almost total "value destruction".

Of course, if anyone knows about almost total value destruction it's AOL, the firm that effectively took over Time Warner at the height of the dot com craze. The combined firm then spent the best part of the next decade trying to shed the AOL business.

The Bebo deal is just the latest embarrassing offload for AOL. It had sealed a deal to sell its ICQ instant messaging service to a Russian tech firm, but it appears that the US authorities are looking into the deal, as they like using the service to keep tabs on cybercriminals. ®

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