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Global Sports Nets Fogdog For a Song

Wielding a consolidation pooper-scooper, Global Sports announced plans to acquire struggling sporting goods e-tailer Fogdog for roughly $40 million in cash and stock. Fogdog's stock price has gradually slipped beneath the waves at just under a buck, having long since fallen victim to its Scarlet Letter stigma as a plain vanilla business-to-consumer Internet play. That pessimistic trend shared by retail investors doesn't look to change anytime soon, and this deal was likely the best exit strategy in sight.

Executives at Fogdog, like most publicly-traded e-tailers, were holding out for a blockbuster holiday season and strong fourth quarter sales to put online retailing back in vogue with investors. The upstart is fairly cash-rich as far as most dot-com's go, with some $40 million remaining under its pillow. But, B2C Internet retailers have lately begun to show signs of permanent damage on Wall Street during this market correction; and even should Internet stocks enjoy a broad recovery, the retailing stocks aren't likely to follow suit.

Despite previously maintaining a brave face under wretched circumstances on the tech-heavy Nasdaq, Fogdog's CEO Tim Harrington acknowledged, "This has been a turbulent market environment for pure-play b-to-c business models." That's being awfully diplomatic considering Fogdog once boasted a 52-week high share price in the mid-20 dollar range. Prior to the acquisition announcement, the firm's stock sat patiently at $0.66. When stock market conditions became less than ideal, Fogdog saw its chairman, along with a director on its board, head for the hills, severing all ties with the company back in May.

Under the terms of the deal, Global Sports will swap nearly 5 million shares of common stock in exchange for all of Fogdog's outstanding shares. For investors not already hip to Global Sports' business model, that wouldn't come as much of a shocker to the firm's management. The company has largely avoided having to walk the proverbial plank alongside out-of-favor e-tailers, because it's more of a middleman than a salesman. Global Sports provides a one-stop shop for established brick-and-mortar brands to sell their respective wares online, with customers that include the likes of Sports Authority and The Athlete's Foot.

Global Sports designs and implements each client's Web site, while handling all of the sales, fulfillment, customer service and infrastructure. Essentially, the company's stable of 13 offline partners lend their established brands, while Global Sports does the rest, in exchange for an eye-popping 93% cut of revenues. That lucrative business model was enough to net the sporting goods player a staggering $150 million in funding from heavies Softbank Capital Partners and QVC.

A potential Achilles heel for Global Sports has always been the bevy of rivals competing for customer dollars in the sporting goods patch. Fogdog and MVP.com were once a pair of Web sites that posed the beefiest threat. One down, one to go. And word on the Street is MVP.com is on the auction block itself. The sports site backed by Michael Jordan, John Elway and Wayne Gretzky signed a deal with Sportsline.com to become the site's exclusive e-commerce provider earlier this year. The contract had MVP.com paying Sportsline $120 million over 10 years. Just last week, MVP.com missed a $5 million payment under that deal, which indicates the coffers have likely run dry. So don't be surprised if MVP.com is next on Global Sports' land-grab list.

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