AOL sells off Bebo at last

Criterion Capital Partners acquires and will run the teen-oriented social media network Bebo, which had been "a major distraction" for AOL.

AOL has finally unloaded Bebo.

The new owner, Criterion Capital Partners, announced Thursday that it has acquired the youth-centric social network from AOL and will take over Bebo's global operations immediately while retaining its headquarters in San Francisco.

A merchant banking and financial advisory firm, Criterion Capital Partners specializes in turning around companies and, according to AOL Chairman Tim Armstrong, "is well placed to drive Bebo's effort to strengthen its foothold within the highly competitive social networking arena."

The deal was pushed through by Adam Levn, a managing partner at Criterion Capital, working with business strategist Paul Abramowitz and Web entrepreneur Richard Hecker.

"The young, highly active user base, revenue history, presence in countries throughout the world, and solid technical infrastructure make it an attractive media platform both as a standalone entity and in the context of our broader investment objectives," Levin said in a statement.

The exact terms of the deal were not revealed by either party. An article in Thursday's Wall Street Journal said that Criterion Capital's acquisitions tend to be those with annual sales between $3 million and $30 million.

AOL picked up Bebo in early 2008 for $850 million when the social network was popular among teens in Europe. At the time, Bebo enjoyed more than 40 million members. But it soon started to fade into the background, hit by a shrinking market share and heavy competition from Facebook, forcing AOL to figure out a way to unload its once hot property.

In large part because of that hefty purchase price and the expectations that came with it, "Bebo was a major distraction for the company," AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said in May.

 

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