We’re told that the New York Times has hired a banker to sell About.com, the ungainly portal it bought in 2005. We don’t know who the banker is, we haven’t seen the book, and we can’t confirm that About’s going on the block. But we think Pinch Sulzberger and crew will be happy to get out of this deal with a modest profit.
UPDATE: The NYT, via its DealBook blog, says our source is wrong: “People close to the company — and we’re well placed — flatly denied the report.” We’ll update when we get more.
The NYT paid $410 million to take About off Primedia’s hands three years ago, and even then there were whispers that it overpaid. The site is basically an SEO-driven amalgamation of bloggers with minimal brand value. It’s on track to do about $100 million in revenue for 2007, and perhaps $30 million in operating profit, up from $44 million and $11.7 million in 2005 (those numbers include results from recent acquisitions like ConsumerSearch–$33 million purchase price–and UCompareHealthCare.com, $2.3 million). At a 15x Ebitda multiple, About could fetch $450 million. Bump that up to 20x, and it looks a little better: $600 million.
Then again, perhaps we’re not being generous enough. We hear Firebrand/Harbinger, the hedge fund guys trying to invade the NYT board, think that About is worth $700 million to $800 million. Maybe they know something we don’t.
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