CMGI ( CMGI, which gained fame for financing and then selling young Internet companies, said Monday that two of its progeny would join forces. Exchanging privately held stock, the Internet portal Alta Vista will acquire the financial Web site Raging Bull, the companies said. The deal follows a five-month alliance between the two companies. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. All three of the companies are based in Andover, Mass. CMGI owns 83% of Alta Vista. It has an approximately 20% interest in @Ventures III, a venture capital fund that has a majority interest in Raging Bull, according to CMGI investor relations. "This is going slightly against the tide in bringing two companies together," said Rod Schrock, president of Alta Vista. "You want one team developing and producing the entire site." The deal comes as CMGI prepares for an Alta Vista IPO. Shares of CMGI soared Monday, rising 14 5/8, or 10%, to 161 by midafternoon. (The stock closed up 8 15/16, or 6%, to 155 1/2.) The so-called incubator company was a subject of a glowing article in The New York Times on Sunday. The deal, while altering corporate structure, signifies no change in the material currently made available on Alta Vista's Web sites. Under the alliance, Raging Bull previously contributed all of the content available on its own site, www.ragingbull.com, to Alta Vista's community section. That material includes stock tickers and articles, but Raging Bull is best known for its message boards, where users post approximately 35,000 messages a day, according to the company. The posts typically promote or bash stocks. Though its foundation is in financial message boards, Raging Bull has been advising Alta Vista on building similar venues for chat about sports, health and travel. "We know how to bring together millions of people to talk," said Stephen Killeen, president of Raging Bull. Rich Peterson, an analyst for Volpe Brown Whelan who covers Internet marketing but does not currently rate CMGI's stock, said it would not be surprising to see the company roll together more of its successful progeny, perhaps preparing Alta Vista for "the ultimate spinoff." Peterson has done no underwriting for CMGI. The marriage is intended to create liquidity for Raging Bull through a planned Alta Vista public offering, said Cathy Taylor of the company's investor relations division, adding that "the key is not to lose that asset to foreign hands." CMGI's majority stake in Raging Bull already assured that that would not have happened involuntarily, she added. Because CMGI routinely finances young Internet companies that subsequently offer stock publicly, the company said that at one time it found itself in violation of federal securities laws that prevent operating companies from functioning as investment companies. Under the law, which the company does not currently violate, stock in other publicly traded companies can account for no more than 40% of an operating company's assets. "CMGI has two levels of complexity," Peterson said. "They have to dance around all these issues. There may be some financial engineering at work here." But Taylor said that was not an issue in the company's decision to acquire Raging Bull. The deal follows an industry consolidation trend linking Internet portal companies to companies that provide editorial content, as in the case of Excite@Home's ( ATHM recent acquisition of Blue Mountain. The trend, which concentrates editorial content in fewer places, appears to be in stark contrast to the diversification seen in the cable television industry, Peterson said. But "Alta Vista would like to be the equivalent of Time Warner ( TWX, not The Food Channel," he said.
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