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It’s official — AOL (NYSE: TWX) now owns Bebo, closing the $850 million acquisition roughly two months after making it public. The social media network will not stand on its own; instead, AOL is combining Bebo, AIM, ICQ and its other community platforms into a new business unit known as the People Networks with some 80 million unduplicated users. Joanna Shields, who led the sale as president of Bebo, joins AOL as president of the new unit and corporate EVP. Shields (via video chat) and Grant spoke at our EconSM conference late last month but couldn’t discuss detailed plans. They went deeper in a joint interview on the eve of the People Networks’ announcement.
AOL’s Platform-A will handle the new unit’s advertising with the exception of an existing deal between Bebo and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) for the UK, Ireland and Australia. As for international strategy, Shields told paidContent, “We’re going to match AOL’s international strategy throughout the rest of this year.” On the ad side, “we’ll be definitely leveraging assets of Platform-A for the expansion of Bebo.” And what about branding? Could ICQ be rebranded? AOL president and COO Ron Grant said carefully: “We are committed to looking at what’s the right brand for the right audience. We have unified the back end (of AIM and ICQ) to make sure the technology platform is unified and open.” Bebo