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Classified Ventures Acquires Apartments Plus

Chicago-based newspaper consortium Classified Ventures has acquired Visual Properties, which through its Apartments Plus service is a provider of interactive online apartment listings and relocation information.

Classified Ventures said it will build upon the success of Apartments Plus to create apartments.com, an Internet resource for apartment renters and property managers. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Apartments Plus service, since launching in Chicago in January 1997, has rapidly expanded its reach, currently providing information about more than 600,000 apartments in over 34 states.

Classified Ventures, a partnership of The Times Mirror Co., Tribune Co. and The Washington Post Co., said it is dedicated "to expanding newspapers' position as the nation's leading suppliers of classified advertising and related information via Internet technologies."

"This acquisition positions Classified Ventures as the premier source for the apartment rental market," said Jack Fuller, president of Tribune Publishing Co. and a Classified Ventures board member. "Since Apartments Plus has proven technology and a successful existing business, it accelerates our ability to help publishers immediately take their apartment classified franchise online to realize their unique competitive advantages in the $15 billion classified market, locally and nationally."

In March 1998, Apartments Plus will change its name to apartments.com. The existing Apartments Plus Internet site will be redesigned and its location on the Internet will become apartments.com.

apartments.com will build on the existing distribution of Apartments Plus, which already holds rights to key online positions including exclusive partnerships with AOL and AT&T WorldNet and keyword ownership like "apartment" and "rent" on search engines like AltaVista and AOL NetFind.

As with Classified Ventures' first industry initiative, cars.com, other newspaper publishers will be invited to participate in apartments.com. Classified Ventures said it will help each newspaper build upon its existing content in the apartment rental category.

"Our vision is to become the category leader for online apartment and relocation information--serving renters, property managers and those with services to offer the rental market," said Bruce Mitchell, president and general manager of apartments.com. "This strategic partnership provides the additional content, distribution and marketing resources to hasten our growth and achieve our goals."

Apartments Plus' proprietary technology called OASIS (Online Apartment Search and Information System) allows apartment hunters to customize an online search and take a virtual tour through the most visual listings online. Each listing has full-color photos of the exterior, common areas, and each room of every model plus floor plans.