After years of sniping at each other, the two largest online women's sites are joining forces to try to survive the harsh Net environment. On Feb. 5, beleaguered iVillage announced a complicated merger with rival Women.com Networks in a $36 million deal.
Hearst, which owns 46% of flagging, money-losing Women.com, will invest $40 million in the combined company. "This will be a WNBA kind of slam-dunk for advertisers," says iVillage CEO and President Douglas McCormick. Both Net companies suffer from a double whammy of pessimism about dot-coms and declining online ad sales. Women.com is treading water at 70 cents, while iVillage is trading at $2.375. Merging with a rival is a scrappy move by McCormick, who took over in August from controversial founder Candice Carpenter. An Old Media veteran, he is applying his past experience as head of Lifetime Television to instill the basics: cutting costs and narrowing losses. From hanging by its fingertips, iVillage has moved to having a foot on the ledge.