Bebo founder buys back social network for $1M

Michael Birch isn't sure if he can reinvent the site he launched eight years ago, but he plans to have fun trying.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
Screenshot/Jennifer Van Grove/CNET

Long forgotten 8-year-old social network Bebo, which AOL bought for $850 million in 2008, is escaping near death once again.

Original Bebo co-founder Michael Birch said in a tweet Monday that he has purchased the property from owner Criterion Capital Partners (CCP) for $1 million with plans to reinvent the site. AOL sold Bebo to CCP three years ago for reportedly less than $10 million.

The social property never got close to accumulating a billion-plus users like Facebook, but it still played a key part in the coming of age of social networks. In 2006, Bebo held the title of the sixth most popular site in the U.K., and, at the time, seemed like a cooler playground for kids than MySpace, which had already been sold to News Corp. By the time it sold to AOL, Bebo had amassed 40 million members and only trailed MySpace and Facebook in the U.S. in terms of users.

Since its heyday, Bebo has appeared to be on the brink of extinction at least twice. Just two years after its big buy, AOL was ready to shut the site down if it didn't find a buyer. Last year, under CCP's care, things looked pretty bleak when even Birch mistook extended downtime for a death pronouncement.

Now Birch is back to save the day. Perhaps he can ping Justin Timberlake for a little advice on how to bring sexy back to the forlorn property.

[via TechCrunch]