Business

KKR buying CarsDirect.com owner Internet Brands for $1.1 billion

BusinessTribune MediaKelley Blue Book LLCGo Daddy Group Inc.
CarsDirect parent Internet Brands operates websites in four broad areas: auto, health, legal and home
Internet Brands was founded as CarsDirect.com, but changed its name when it ventured into other businesses

Internet Brands Inc., the El Segundo owner of CarsDirect.com and other online businesses, is being acquired by private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in a deal worth $1.1 billion.

KKR is buying the company from two other private equity firms, Hellman & Friedman and JMI Equity, which paid $640 million for Internet Brands in 2010.

Bob Brisco, chief executive of Internet Brands, and members of its management team will hold a minority stake in the company. Brisco will continue to run the company.

"We're delighted to be partnering with KKR at this important juncture in our business when we have dramatically expanded our client solutions portfolio and our growth in key areas is accelerating," Brisco said.

A company official not authorized to speak publicly on the matter confirmed the purchase price.

Internet Brands operates websites in four broad areas: auto, health, legal and home/travel. Its websites include ApartmentRatings.com, wikitravel, frugaltravelguy, lawyer.com and racingjunk.com.

The company was founded as CarsDirect.com in 1998, but changed its name when it ventured into the other businesses.

Internet Brands went public in 2007 but was taken private in 2010. It has 1,600 employees.

CarsDirect is an online automotive research tool based in El Segundo. The service is designed to help auto buyers gather information about car prices, financing and insurance.

As with similar services such as Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, TrueCar and Cars.com, it also collects information about these prospective car buyers and provides leads to auto dealers. Cars.com is owned by Tribune Co., parent of the Los Angeles Times.

KKR has made recent investments in other technology companies, including Go Daddy, Mitchell, Visma, Fotolia and Ipreo.

"Internet Brands is at an exciting inflection point of growth as the company transitions from a portfolio of Web assets to a vertically integrated provider of media and client software solutions," said Herald Chen, co-head of KKR's technology investing team.

"Its growth has been driven by its propriety operating platform and a management team with a focused vision," he said.

walter.hamilton@latimes.com

Times staff writer Charles Fleming contributed to this report

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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