ITV To Get Rid Of Friends Reunited Website For £15m?

Beleaguered broadcasting company ITV is willing to take a staggering £160 million loss as it looks set to get rid of Friends Reunited, the social networking website that it purchased for £175 million four years ago.

The Guardian reports that Peter Dubens, through private equity firm Oakley Capital, will be offering £15 million, a jaw-dropping 91 percent discount on the initial price and significantly less than the estimated average of £30 million the site might command.

ITV confirmed that other parties have expressed their interest but none have came froward with a firm bid yet. Friends Reunited's downward spiral started when rival social networking websites such as Bebo and Facebook started flexing their muscles in the UK.

Peter Duben made his fortune by selling the consumer/broadband segment of Pipex to Tiscali back in 2007 for £210 million and is said to have links with Bebo's Michael Birch. Bebo was acquired in March 2008 by AOL for $850 million.

Friends Reunited accounted for half of ITV's £36 million revenue back in 2008 and had struck a number of deals with Trinity Mirror to become the publisher's exclusive dating partner.

The site is ranked in the top 200 in the UK which is roughly on par with the Financial Times news and well behind rival Match.com.

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ITV is also set to sell business directory Skoot and has already said that it will giving up plans to generate £150 million in online revenues over the next three years. According to Comscore, the number of unique users on Friends Reunited fell from 5 million one year after the site was purchased in 2007 to around 1.7 million in December 2008.

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