IAC Said to Bid More Than $300 Million for Times’ About.com

Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp offered more than $300 million to buy how-to site About.com from New York Times Co., topping a bid from Answers Corp., two people with knowledge of the matter said.

IAC, which runs a similar website called Ask.com, outbid the earlier $270 million offer from Answers. Times Co. can’t consider any other offers until the end of an exclusive negotiating period with Answers, during which Answers’ bid can be adjusted, said one of the people, who both asked not to be identified because the offer hasn’t been announced publicly.

About.com, which relies on freelancers to produce stories and how-to videos on topics such as making a stir-fry or preventing a tattoo from stretching, has struggled to attract traffic and advertising dollars. By contrast, New York-based IAC saw revenue from Ask.com and its other search-related sites climb 46 percent to $348.8 million last quarter.

Times Co. has been unloading businesses and tightening focus on its media brand. It sold its stake in Fenway Sports Group, owner of the Boston Red Sox, for $93 million this year and completed the sale of its regional newspaper division for $143 million. The publisher still owns the Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette newspapers.

Times Co. purchased About.com for $410 million in 2005. Its revenue fell 8.7 percent to $25.4 million last quarter, and it posted an operating loss of $186.8 million as the publisher wrote down the value of the business unit to $172.5 million.

Dating Sites

IAC, founded by billionaire Diller, 70, runs dating sites Match.com and OKCupid and has a controlling stake in Newsweek/Daily Beast Co.

Stacy Simpson, a spokeswoman for IAC, declined to comment. Abbe Serphos, a spokeswoman for Times Co., said the company doesn’t comment on potential divestitures.

Times Co. said Aug. 8 it was in negotiations to sell About.com, without giving details. A person with knowledge of the deal said then the company was trying to sell the property to St. Louis-based Answers.

Answers, the closely held operator of instructional site Answers.com, didn’t respond to a request for comment. The IAC bid was previously reported by Reuters.

Times Co. fell less than a percent to $9.20 at the close in New York. The shares gained 19 percent this year. IAC slid less than a percent to $51.69.

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