Looking for a car or a career change? Internet Brands can fill you in on all you need to know. The company owns and operates 100-plus websites that provide information on automobiles, careers, health, home-related activities, money and business, shopping, and travel and leisure. Sites feature news articles, reviews, forums, how-to's, directories, and coupons, and they generate the majority of Internet Brands' revenue through sales of online advertising. The company also licenses auto-related technology products via its Autodata Solutions subsidiary and develops community bulletin board software through vBulletin Solutions. Funds managed by Hellman & Friedman acquired Internet Brands for $640 million in 2010.
The private equity firm's bid of $13.35 a share -- about a 45% premium over its stock price -- was sweet enough to convince investors in Internet Brands to sell. As a result, Internet Brands became a private company and was delisted from the NASDAQ Global Select Market in December.
Internet Brands, founded in 1998 as CarsDirect.com, got its start at e-commerce incubator Idealab, which until the sale to the Hellman & Friedman funds owned 20% of the company and controlled the voting power. The company adopted the Internet Brands name in 2005, reflecting its shift from car sales to a more diversified set of operations. And it has since been growing its portfolio of websites. In mid-2011 the company acquired Weddingbee.com and JustMommies.com, two community sites geared to women. During 2010 the company completed about 20 website-related purchases, including coupon site Tjoos.com, health-oriented DentalFind.com, and home-focused Gardens.com and Craftster.org. In 2009 Internet Brands made about 20 website purchases for a total of $20 million. The additional sites helped to boost advertising sales that year, but the company was hurt by weak demand for its automotive e-commerce offerings, a result of tightened credit markets amid the economic downturn. Improved sales from Internet Brands' vBulletin business helped to offset some of the decline, however, and overall revenue fell by 4% to $99.8 million. To further boost the company's vBulletin software division and ensure its future growth, Internet Brands in early 2012 purchased mobile application developer Forum Runner, which allows forum users to interact with online communities from mobile devices.
Going forward, the company aims to increase its advertiser base by acquiring additional websites and expanding into new targeted content niches. Its current focus in on legal content. To that end, in 2010 it acquired ExpertHub, a network of websites that connects consumers with lawyers and other professionals. ExpertHub joined Internet Brands' Money and Business group of websites. Internet Brands followed up its ExpertHub acquisition in early 2011 with the purchase of Nolo, a provider of original legal content that targets small law firms looking to build their practice as well as consumers who need easily-digestible legal information. Giving Internet Brands a presence in Canada, the company in late 2010 purchased the websites AllLaw.com and AttorneyLocate.com from AllLaw.com, Inc. Connecting consumers with attorneys, the two websites serve people throughout Canada and the US. (AllLaw.com, Inc. and its remaining search engine optimization business underwent a corporate name change and became SonicsSEO.com, Inc.) Internet Brands also hopes to see greater revenues through continued licensing and marketing of its proprietary technologies. – less