VC firm Balderton Capital will reap about $140 million - nine times what it invested in Bebo less than two years ago - by selling its 15.7 precent stake in the social net to AOL (NYSE: TWX). That's a huge return on the $15 million investment it only made in May 2006, when it was still operating as Benchmark's European outpost, and clearly one of the shrewdest European web investments of recent times.
Balderton partner Barry Maloney, who joined the Bebo board at the time: "We got involved in an exciting and competitive investment in Bebo because we believed in the social networking space and the fact that Bebo was positioned for exponential growth. Our expectations for Bebo have been exceeded in a relatively short period of time, and today's transaction with AOL has delivered an exceptional return on our original investment in 2006.
"We wish the company continued success under its new ownership, and would like to congratulate the founders Michael and Xochi Birch, Joanna Shields, president of Bebo, and her management team. We are pleased that Joanna will continue to run the business for AOL, one of the world's great media companies." Release.
It's Benchmark's funds that helped open Bebo's office in the first place. The site opened in July 2005 on a domain name British ex-pat and San Francisco-resident founder Michael Birch reportedly bought for just $8,000.
By Robert Andrews