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Harry Potter publisher tops eToys bids

Children's book publisher and distributor Scholastic is the highest bidder for the inventory of the failed e-tailer with an offer of about $8 million.

    Children's book publisher and distributor Scholastic is the highest bidder for the inventory of failed Internet retailer eToys, placing an offer for about $8 million as part of the auction process in the toy site's bankruptcy proceedings.

    The bid of 30 cents on the dollar by the New York-based publishing company is contingent on an auction for all of eToys' assets taking place this week, according to a Scholastic spokesperson. Scholastic is one of the world's largest children's book publishers and is the U.S. publisher of the highly successful Harry Potter books.

    The company is evaluating the purchase of certain assets of eToys in the bankruptcy auction, particularly technology that would help with its own Web initiatives. It building a site that will allow parents to buy children's toys, including Scholastic's own merchandise.

    The auction is the latest step in eToys' bankruptcy process, which began earlier this month when the company, once an Internet high roller, filed for Chapter 11 status.

    eToys was one of the best-known e-commerce companies of the late 1990s, along with Amazon.com and eBay. With backing from venture capital firms Idealab, Highland Capital Partners and Sequoia Capital Partners, the toy-selling Web site in May 1999 raised $166 million in an initial public offering at a price of $20 a share. By October of that year, the stock had reached a high of $84.25.

    But by December 2000, the company was informing Wall Street that its revenues would fall short of expectations. At the time, it also began exploring the sale of its business and assets.

    Scholastic representatives would not comment on whether the company is going to buy the eToys name and business or rather limit its bid to selected assets.