Trilegiant Picks Up AOL Marketing Where Cendant Left Off

AOL Time Warner’s America Online unit is expanding its discount club program, through a deal with Norwalk, Conn.-based Trilegiant Corp.

The deal extends a 1997 agreement with New York-based travel and hotel powerhouse Cendant, which in June outsourced its well-known membership business to Trilegiant.

Cendant essentially spun Trilegiant out earlier this year to house its membership services business, in a bid to erase a tarnished reputation by establishing a new corporate identity. That membership services unit group, of course, was at the heart of a 1998 controversy surrounding Cendant corporate accountings and earnings irregularities, which occurred just months after the merger of the company’s parents, membership services giant CUC International and time-share marketer HFS Inc.

Now, with a new name and with ex-Cendant employees at its head, the group is looking to make a comeback, starting with the AOL deal. Through a renewal of the original agreement, Dulles, Va.-based America Online’s users will be offered entrance into Trilegiant’s Shoppers Advantage, Travelers Advantage, AutoVantage, and PrivacyGuard membership services, which offer discounts and other incentives for a wide range of goods and services. As a result, America Online expects to benefit from increased sales volume.

“Working together, we can continue making Trilegiant Corporation’s best-in-class member services in travel, shopping, auto, and credit protection available to users of America Online’s brands,” said Trilegiant president and CEO Scott Bernstein.

In addition, AOL and Trilegiant announced a separate agreement, in which Trilegiant’s Marketing Services unit would promote the America Online service, through a number of unspecified distribution channels. In return, AOL will dole out per-user commissions, though the companies did not disclose specifics. (Through its continuing relationship with Trilegiant, Cendant will receive a cut from the Marketing Services group’ income from the deal.)

“We’ve had a successful relationship since we began working with Cendant in 1997, and we’re pleased to announce this new agreement with Trilegiant Corporation to enable the users of our brands to continue enjoying their popular membership services,” said America Online chairman and chief executive Barry Schuler. “We’re also happy to expand our relationship to include Trilegiant Marketing Services becoming one of the partners who will join us in marketing the AOL service to reach potential new members.”

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