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Unilever, iVillage Form Net Firm

International consumer company Unilever and online women's network iVillage Inc. Tuesday plunked down $200 million in cash to start a company for women.

The new business will consist of customized online services, beauty and personal care products, as well as personalized product recommendations. It will function as a separate, independently-managed venture from Unilever (UL) and iVillage (IVIL), and will provide the arena for women to go to one unbiased site for beauty needs.

Unilever will provide capital as well as sponsorship and promotional initiatives while iVillage will offer its beauty channel, technology and promotional consideration. The company will generate revenues through advertising, sponsorships and commerce sales of beauty and personal care products. It will be headquartered in New York.

David L. Stern, formerly vice president of Unilever's Interactive Brand Center (IBC), has been named chief executive officer for the new company. Additional talent will be actively recruited over the coming months to further staff this venture.

"Unilever touches nearly every household in America. With its extensive reach, superior marketing capabilities and solid understanding of the Internet, Unilever is a natural partner for us. We share a commitment to offering our consumers the richest experience through practical solutions and access to leading experts in the beauty and personal care industry," said Candice Carpenter, chief executive officer of iVillage.

Famous for its variety of soaps, Unilever is one of the world's largest consumer products companies with sales close to $50 billion. It produces and markets a wide range of foods, home and personal care products. Unilever operates in 88 countries around the globe and employs 267,000 people.

Since going public last year, iVillage has become the leading women's online community by providing practical solutions and everyday support for women between the ages of 25 and 54. Last month, the company began offering free home health management tools to its clients via its site, allhealth.com.