Lastminute.com, the travel site that became one of the best-known names of the dotcom era, has been sold for a fraction of the price it fetched almost a decade ago.
Bravofly Rumbo, a European online travel agent, will pay £76m ($120m) to Sabre, the US owner of Travelocity, which paid £577m for Lastminute in 2005.
Brent Hoberman, who founded Lastminute “in a broom cupboard” at the back of an office in Portobello Road in London in 1998, banked about £26m from the sale, while co-founder Martha Lane Fox pocketed almost £14m.
Sabre indicated in August it wanted to sell the business to focus on its core technology operations, which handle more than a third of the world’s travel agency transactions.
Lastminute focuses on the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy and generates revenue of more than €260m (£206m) annually.
Fabio Cannavale, Bravofly’s chairman, said the business was a perfect fit. “We believe in the value and strength of Lastminute.com’s iconic brand, which is recognised by more than 90% of European consumers,” he said.
The site’s strong presence in the hotel and holiday markets would complement and expand Bravofly’s offerings in Europe, Cannavale added.
The deal is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2015.
Lastminute became a symbol of the dotcom boom and bust as its shares hit a high of 511p after floating at 380p in March 2000, only to slide as low as 80p a month later.
Lane Fox went on to found the Lucky Voice karaoke chain and was appointed as the government’s digital champion in 2009. She became a peer last year and is also a non-executive director of Marks & Spencer.
Hoberman stepped down as chief executive of Lastminute in April 2006 and went on to found mydeco.com the following year. It spawned Made.com, which connected consumers with the makers of furniture and accessories.
He is a non-executive director of the Guardian’s publisher, Guardian Media Group, and of TalkTalk, Shazam and easyCar.
Sabre, which was taken private in 2008 by the private equity groups TPG and Silver Lake, was relisted on Nasdaq in April to raise funds to cut its debt.
After pricing at $16, the shares were trading at $19.24 on Tuesday afternoon – up more than 16% and valuing the company at $5.1bn.
Bravofly Rumbo, set up in 2004, focuses on Italy, France and Spain but operates websites in 15 languages that are localised for more than 35 countries. It handles 4.5m passengers a year.
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