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eBay to buy GSI Commerce for $2.4 billion

The price tag for the e-commerce services company is more than eBay paid for PayPal and almost as much as it paid for Skype.

eBay announced today it will acquire GSI Commerce, an e-commerce marketing services company, for $29.25 a share--which will likely come out to around $2.4 billion.

To put things into perspective, that's more than it paid for PayPal and only slightly less than it paid for Skype (which is has now sold off). The acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter.

"We intend to lead the next generation of commerce innovation. The acquisition of GSI, which offers the most comprehensive integrated suite of online commerce and interactive marketing services available, will significantly strengthen our ability to connect buyers and sellers worldwide," eBay CEO John Donahoe said in a release. "Combined with eBay Marketplaces and PayPal, we believe GSI will enhance our position as the leading strategic global commerce partner of choice for retailers and brands of all sizes."

So what exactly does GSI do? Primarily, it partners with physical brands--among its 180 clients are Ralph Lauren, American Eagle, Hewlett-Packard, and iRobot--to "provide e-commerce technology, fulfillment, customer care and marketing services." eBay's reason for buying it is undoubtedly part of its plan to become more of a big-brand e-commerce player like rather than a hub for independently run auctions and the garage-sale vibe that made it famous.

GSI originally launched in 1995 as Global Sports Inc., an online sporting goods retailer, but it may be best known to consumers because its CEO, Michael Rubin, appeared on the CBS reality show "Undercover Boss" last year.

GSI also owns a fashion flash-sale retailer, Rue La La, and an Amazon Prime-like service, ShopRunner, of which eBay will be divesting 70 percent of ownership. It also plans to divest 100 percent of GSI's licensed sports merchandise business, because the new parent company believes they are "not core to its long-term growth strategy." The divested assets will become part of a new holdings company run by Rubin.

Disclosure: CBS, which broadcasts "Undercover Boss," is the parent company of CNET.