Scripps Networks Finally Finds A Buyer For uSwitch: UK Group Forward; CEO Leaving

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After nearly six months of searching for a buyer for UK comparison shopping site uSwitch, Scripps Network Interactive is selling the company to the Forward Internet Group. Terms of the sale weren’t disclosed, but it was likely much smaller than the $366 million price that Scripps bought it for in 2006, possibly as less as around $50 million (it will come out in SEC filings from SNI soon). Forward has a number of shopping-related digital properties, including three other e-commerce tools: mobile shopping engine Omio, Invisible Hand (still in beta), and e-tailer aggregator Just Shops. Now that the handoff from Scripps Networks (NYSE: SNI) is complete, uSwitch CEO Alan Tattersall, who joined the company last year, is now stepping down to “pursue other opportunities,” the company said. In the meantime, Forward’s UK marketing agency TrafficBroker is rebranding as Forward, as the company looks to present a broader image. Forward says its 2009 revs will be about $90 million 2009 this acquisition would probably double it in 2010.

Allen & Co was the banker from Scripps side on the sale.

Scripps Networks acquired nine-year-old uSwitch.com in 2006 for $372 million. Rumors about a planned sale had been circulating since 2008. With uSwitch jettisoned, the company expects to concentrate on its other two U.S.-based shopping comparison sites BizRate and Shopzilla. Earlier this year, Scripps Networks took a $244 million writedown on Shopzilla. According to SEC filings, uSwitch had revenues of about $40 million in 2008, down from $43 million in 2006 when Scripps bought it. 2009 would likely be lower anyway.

Apart from working on the uSwich sale, Scripps Networks has otherwise been in global expansion mode. In the past two months, the company took a 69 percent stake Indian broadcaster NDTV; it struck a JV with London-based international broadcaster Chello Zone to bring the Food Network to Europe; and the Fine Living channel is being introduced to Europe, Middle East and Africa. Of course, the biggest news for Scripps Networks was its 65 percent stake in the Travel Channel, a deal valued at $975 million. The Travel Channel piece will serve as the platform for its continued expansion plans into next year. Release

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