Classified Ventures Acquires Auction Universe

Chicago-based Classified Ventures, the Internet services business formed by eight large U.S. media companies, is moving into the e-commerce arena with the acquisition of Auction Universe.

Auction Universe, a Times Mirror company, currently provides online auction services through a network of more than 30 newspapers and other media properties. It will continue to expand its own network, while being offered as an optional e-commerce business line to Classified Ventures affiliates, whose media properties include more than 140 newspapers. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Online auctions are an attractive opportunity and natural extension of the traditional market-making role of our affiliates and their local media properties,” said David Israel, president and CEO of Classified Ventures. “Together with Auction Universe, we want to create an unmatched network of media participants to help shape this emerging industry.”

“Together, the media networks of Classified Ventures and Auction Universe reach more than 70 million people every day, with agreements in the pipeline to add more than 20 million additional readers and listeners,” said Larry Schwartz, president and CEO of Auction Universe. “This gives us a unique ability to build credibility and trust and drive business in the online auction market.”

Auction Universe newspaper affiliates devote a full page per week to promoting its auctions. This is complemented by the company’s own $10 million television and print ad campaign.

Schwartz said the economics of online auction services bring new types of goods and services and new customers to expand traditional newspaper classified offerings. The average item sold in online auctions is worth $45– too inexpensive to advertise in most classifieds. As a result, 40 percent of those who come to Auction Universe’s auctions through newspaper affiliate sites currently do not subscribe to the newspaper.

Classified Ventures is funded by Central Newspapers, Inc., Gannett Co. Inc., Knight Ridder, The McClatchy Co., The New York Times Co., Times Mirror Co., Tribune Co. and the Washington Post Co.

It currently operates a national apartments Web site, a national car site, and a national new construction site.

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