Meet Brian Sugar – Everyone Assumes AOL Or Yahoo Will Buy His Company Next

Brian Sugar

Now that the Huffington Post is off the market, there are only two major new media brands still independent.

They are Gawker Media and Sugar Inc.

Gawker owner Nick Denton is unlikely to sell.

That makes Sugar Inc, a network of blogs and ecommerce sites for women with about 20 million global uniques, the favourite to be acquired by AOL or Yahoo next.

The company started with two people in 2005: cofounders and spouses, Brian and Lisa Sugar.

They got the idea for Sugar Inc when, at an Oscars party, tech blog mogul Om Malik turned to Lisa and said something along the lines of, “F— tech. You two should build the next Conde.”

Lisa quit her job buying media for ad agency Goodby and serial entreprenuer Brian quit his gig too. With money from Sequioa and Moritz, they started up. Now there’s blog network, a fashion search engine, and a blog platform.

A source familiar with Yahoo’s M&A strategy tells us that Brian, the husband and CEO, is admired over at Big Purple’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, California and that a deal is entirely possible.

AOL is a less likely suitor at this point – only because it just spent $315 million of its $750 million cash reserves buying the Huffington Post. We think Sugar Inc might actually cost more than HuffPo because its almost the same size, its readers are more ad-friendly (ladies who buy stuff!), and because Sugar has some ecommerce revenues to go along with its brand advertising sales.

Yesterday, we got on IM with Brian Sugar, to discuss the AOL-HuffPo news, Sugar’s expansion to New York, Demand Media, Sugar’s version of Patch, and what the company will look like in 5 years.

Before we got fully into the interview, Brian warned us  “if one more person asks me about Aol…”

Read on to see if we tested this threat!

(Or, click here to skip to a tour of Sugar’s San Francisco and New York Offices >> )

Brian Sugar IMterview
Brian Sugar IMterview
Brian Sugar IMterview
Brian Sugar IMterview
Brian Sugar IMterview
Brian Sugar IMterview
Brian Sugar IMterview
Brian Sugar IMterview
Brian Sugar IMterview
Brian Sugar IMterview
Brian Sugar IMterview

Welcome to Sugar's neighbourhood in downtown San Francisco.

Sugar's building is on Sutter street

It doesn't look like your usual west coast startup office…

… but Brian's started three companies in the building.

Plus, he says there are ghosts on the building's 22nd floor.

Fortunately, Sugar is on the 15th.

Here's the view out Brian's office.

In 2008, Sugar said no to acquisition offers from Yahoo and NBC. It eventually outsourced ads to NBC and sold them some equity.

In late 2008, Sugar took more money from Sequoia, bought out NBC's stake, hired its own sales team. (We caught them in a meeting)

Since, revenues are up 82% and the company turned profitable in Q409. It expects to remain so through 2010.

CFO Shawn McNew joined Sugar from Symantec. He worked on a startup called Blue Light with Brian.

We caught video editor Victor working on a story about Heidi Montag's addiction to plastic surgery. He came to Sugar from Revision3.

Sugar recently hired David Grant, the TV exec behind Malcom In The Middle and Temptation Island

This developer is working on Sugar's effort to get into social games

Brian and Lisa have had two girls while starting Sugar…

…so they built the girls a nursery at the office.

Cute, right?

That's one of the daughters, Katie, on the left.

The Sugars reads lots of Condé titles like Vogue…

…and Glamour

Sugar employees 116 people.

Cofounders Brian and Lisa Sugar have a name for the average employee: Nancy.

She's 28 years old and she came to San Francisco from Northwestern.

A former Wall Street banker, Krista is Sugar's managing editor. She's got an editorial staff of 50.

Sugar is now comprised of a couple dozen blogs on topics ranging from celebrity gossip to home and garden.

Brian doesn't think we got a photo of him, but we so did. Busted!

BONUS: Here's a shot Brian sent us of Sugar's new New York office.

Here is another couple. 40 people work in these offices.

The view from t 532 Broadway

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