AOL has announced that it will acquire Bebo, the UK-based social media network, for £422 million in cash. Randy Falco, CEO of AOL, announced this in an email to all AOL employees on 13th March 2008.
This acquisition will enable AOL to secure a prominent place in the ever-expanding world of social media. Bebo is believed to have a membership of over 40 million users and about 100 employees. According to Falco, “Bebo is the perfect complement to AOL’s personal communications network and puts us in a leading position in social media.”
Last year Bebo was the 2nd most popular social network in the UK, behind MySpace. This year, though, it has been overtaken by Facebook, but continues to be favoured by teens and young adults.
Joanna Shields President of Bebo will continue to head the organization, and will report to Ron Grant, President and COO at AOL. Market analyst eMarketer estimates that $4.1 billion will be spent on social network advertising by 2011, compared to $480 million in 2006.
AOL is expected to further benefit from this latest move, as today brands like Apple and Nike are using Bebo as a platform to develop and maintain interaction with their target customers. AOL has plans to coordinate the services of their products AIM and ICQ with Bebo, thus allowing users to express themselves freely, while at the same time extending their existing relationships. AOL’s advertising service Platform A will also be very attractive to brands advertising through Bebo as it will allow them to keep track of the performance of their ads.
TechCrunch reports that AOL and Bebo had been negotiating this deal since September 2007, but the merger is yet to clear the U.S. and E.U. antitrust regulators before it can be finalized.