CBS Acquiring CNET For $1.8 Billion; 44.6 Percent Premium

imageCBS (NYSE: CBS) is acquiring CNET (NSDQ: CNET) for $1.8 billion in cash. The purchase price comes to $11.50 per share, representing a 44.6 percent premium over last night’s closing price of $7.95. This is that big acquisition we’ve been waiting for from Quincy Smith’s CBS Interactive, and from CNET’s perspective, this avoids the proxy drama with Jana — it appears that this represents a nice profit for them, but the firm, we’re told, has no comment tyet, and is looking into it. The deal was approved unanimously by the CNET board and is expected to close in Q3. Release. (Read our exclusive interview with CBS CEO Leslie Moonves.)

Said CBS CEO Les Moonves in the statement: “CBS stands for premium content and unparalleled reach, and CNET Networks will add a tremendous platform to extend our complementary entertainment, news, sports, music and information content to a whole new global audience. Together, CBS and CNET Networks will have significant additional exposure to the fastest- growing advertising sector and can accelerate our growth through a number of new content, promotion and advertising initiatives. We could not be more pleased with the prospect of adding CNET Networks and its tremendous team of people to the CBS family. I look forward to working with Quincy Smith, Neil Ashe and the considerable combined talent at both companies, as we build upon our success.”

Among the sites in the CNET family that will be part of CBS Interactive pending approval: CNET, ZDNet, GameSpot.com, TV.com, mp3.com, CNET news.com, UrbanBaby, CHOW, Search.com, BNET, MySimon and TechRepublic. The company has also been building out its China operations, with sites devoted to womens content and auto.

Rumors of a coming CNET acquisition have been bandied about for many years — it almost became a boring old joke, the equivalent of yelling Freebird at a rock concert. It’s not clear from the release what will happen to CNET’s management. A statement from Neil Ashe is vague on this: “CNET Networks operates some of the most important premium online brands, serving the most sought after online audiences. Today’s announcement brings together two organizations that complement each other and working with Leslie, Quincy and the talented people at CBS, we look forward to taking our business and our brands to the next level.” A conference call will be held at 8:30, so we’ll learn what we can then.

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