Caught Up in the Limelight

When Akamai Technologies (Nasdaq: AKAM  ) competitor Limelight Networksreceived $130 million in private equity funding from Goldman Sachs and others in July, doubts emerged over whether Web content delivery pioneer Akamai, which has been one of the most successful picks in the Motley Fool Rule Breakers portfolio, was more vulnerable than many had once believed.

Expect more skepticism today, with Limelight announcing a new CEO and sales that tripled to $17 million in the third quarter. Jeffrey Lunsford, formerly of digital marketer WebSideStory (Nasdaq: WSSI  ) , will steer the ship as CEO from here on.

The timing could be telling. Now that founding CEO Bill Rinehart has been pushed to the more minor role of "co-founder," Limelight is free to file papers to go public. Why? Rinehart can't be an officer or a director of a public company till at least next summer, when a five-year ban imposed by the SEC expires. (Rinehart accepted the ban while settling fraud charges from his days as sales VP for Critical Path.)

But now that the ban is a non-issue, a prospectus could be mere months away. That probably won't bother Lunsford; he brought WebSideStory public in 2004 and cashed out more than $3 million worth of shares last year, according to SEC filings. It's a good bet that he's looking for a similar, or better, payday from Limelight.

But let's get to the question at hand: Is Limelight, or VitalStream (Nasdaq: VSTH  ) , or InterNAP (Nasdaq: INAP  ) , or anyone profiting at Akamai's expense? The numbers say no. And yet scaremongering blog posts like this persist.

I'll politely disagree with bears and instead point to this recent post on our discussion boards. (For those without a subscription, click here to get one!) I'll briefly summarize. Rivals many indeed be growing in numbers and strength. And it may very well make economic sense for Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) , and others to build out delivery infrastructures capable of packaging content and advertising on the cheap.

But digital media delivery as a market remains very much in its infancy. And for every Google, there's bound to be dozens who would prefer outsourcing. More than enough, I think, for Akamai to become the billion-dollar business that CEO Paul Sagan says he's aiming to build.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers owns shares of Akamai. Get the skinny on everything Tim is invested in by checking his Fool profile. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a rebel with a cause.


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