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Online News Agency LocalBusiness.com Shuts Down

Fort Lauderdale-based online business news company LocalBusiness.com has ceased operations and sent about 75 employees packing.

The company, formerly d-business, operated nearly 25 Web sites that covered local business news in Atlanta, Denver, New York, and Seattle.

Officials could not be reached for comment.

On Saturday, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that an estimated "60 to 75 employees nationwide were affected by the decision, with most based at the main office in Fort Lauderdale."

The news organization said it learned of the company's closure from employees who told the paper they "cleaned out their desks and left the office on Friday."

"LocalBusiness.com ... told employees Friday that its principal activity, a Web site called LocalBusiness.com will be shut down," the Sun-Sentinel reported. Employees told the paper the company was unable to find a buyer.

LocalBusiness.com, which competed with Advance Publications and Crain Communications, among others for business readers, updated its sites with breaking news and features focusing on start-ups and emerging companies.

The company also offered a community feel with message boards and other investor tools.

But, as with many media companies, the offline flight of advertisers hurt the ad-supported company that was founded by chairman Edwin Warfield in 1997.

In February, the company tried to right itself when it appointed Jane Seagrave as CEO. Seagrave was tagged for her experience as president of Legal Communications, Ltd., a Philadelphia-based publishing company, that was acquired by American Lawyer Media in 1998. She was also brought in to fill a recently vacated position.

The company said the former CEO, Thomas Maffettone, resigned to pursue other opportunities.

Prior to the change in CEOs, the company laid off about one-quarter of its 125 employees nationwide and shuttered several offices in December. To stay buoyant, it also announced its intension to sell its TrueAdvantage B2B division, which offered online services to small companies.

The fate of another property, a business magazine called digitalsouth, remains unclear.

LocalBusiness.com's institutional investors include U.S. Equity Partners, L.P., Rustic Canyon Ventures and Tribune Ventures, the strategic investment unit of Tribune Company.