uBid: Going Once, Going Twice…

CMGI , a so-called “incubator” that was a high-flying Wall Street favorite before Internet reality set in, confirmed Friday that “a transaction is in the works” to sell its online auction site, uBid.com.

“The companies expect to announce one shortly,” CMGI spokesman John Stevens told internetnews.com.

Andover, Mass.-based CMGI said in its most recent quarterly report that uBid was being treated as a “discontinued operation” and the company “expects to announce its divestiture of uBid in the near future.” For the second fiscal quarter, CMGI posted net loss of $186.7 million or 47 cents per share.

The most obvious question, of course, is who might want the company. One follower of the online auction scene said uBid has had an identity problem almost from its inception.

“uBid could never figure out if it was an auction site or a retail site, and neither could consumers,” said David Steiner at AuctionBytes.comAuctionBytes.com.

“uBid never gained traction in the auction marketplace,” Steiner said. “It tried switching
gears in the second half of 2002. It did away with the consumer exchange and preferred partner exchange in November and introduced a fixed-price ‘superstore.’ But uBid just doesn’t have the name recognition or traffic of Amazon, eBay and Buy.com.”

uBid was founded in April 1997 as a division of Creative Computers, a U.S. catalog retailer, to help the company move its excess and refurbished computing inventory online. CMGI took it over in April of 2000.

Chicago-based uBid re-launched its site in June 2001, integrating its auction channels to enable three buying and selling solutions. In addition, the company opened a new 400,000 square foot warehouse.

A year ago it inked a deal with Hewlett Packard for the launch of a co-branded, fixed-price shopping site for members of affinity groups allied with HP. At that time, uBid claimed to have more than 3 million registered users. Consider that auction leader eBay has 55 million-plus registered users.

One could tell the game was afoot last July, however, when uBid moved to impose listing fees on its consumer auctions. And before the onset of winter, the C2C auctions were quietly phased out.

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