Bebo Bounced Out of AOL

Bebo, the social-networking entity, has been spun off yet again. After AOL (NYSE: AOL  ) laid out $850 million to get Bebo, they've taken it in the shorts getting rid of it. A hedge fund firm, Criterion Capital Partners, picked it up for just under $10 million. 

The acquisition and financing was lead by Adam Levin, managing partner at CCP, in partnership with Paul Abramowitz and Web entrepreneur Richard Hecker. Apparently Criterion is hedging their bets and hoping they can build from Bebo's U.K. customer base and garner a bigger share of the U.S. and European market.

Their crystal ball may not be any better than that of then-AOL CEO Randy Falco, who called AOL's purchase of Bebo two years ago a game-changer that would turn AOL into a social-media powerhouse. So much for not noticing MySpace emerging from the wings. In 2006, Bebo received the Webby Award People's Vote for the best social-networking site on the Web. How quickly things change. In 2008, still looking good, Bebo had over 34 million registered users and 7 billion monthly page views when AOL picked it up. Most of them were in the U.K., Ireland, and New Zealand. Dan Frommer, a founding member of the Silicon Alley Insider editorial team, writing on¸ predicts that News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS  ) MySpace is going the way of Bebo -- in a downward spiral. Shortly after being promoted to co-president, Jason Hirschhorn is exiting MySpace as we write. 

MySpace exec positions are becoming a revolving door -- hardly a year had passed after his hiring when CEO Owen Van Natta was removed, making way for Hirschhorn. Van Natta gave employees a two-part retention bonus, the second payment due next month. It didn't seem to influence Hirschhorn. In a memo to the employees, he says that he is moving back to New York (Couldn't he work remotely? There's technology for that) and he added that his mom "is [upset] he is leaving L.A." For whatever that piece of information is worth.

So, with Bebo's direction uncertain, and MySpace going through constant changes, the question remains: Can anyone turn around the once hot, and now floundering, originators of social networks?

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