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Amazon to Buy Internet Auction Firm

April 13, 1999|From Reuters

SEATTLE — Inc. moved to bolster its new auction business Monday, announcing that it would buy, a 3-year-old company described as the sole provider of live-event auctions on the Internet.

Terms of the all-stock deal were not disclosed.

Seattle-based provides software and services that have enabled collectors around the world to bid in real time via the Internet for O.J. Simpson memorabilia, a 460-acre Victorian village and, most recently, the only known complete passenger ticket from the Titanic.

The acquisition of, expected to close in the current quarter, will add a new dimension to's auction service, which was launched March 30 in competition with EBay Inc., among others.

A spokesman for declined to say whether the company would continue operating as a separate site.

Matt Williams, the 26-year-old president and co-founder of, said the company was seeking venture capital financing when it was approached by Amazon and agreed to the merger.

Williams and his high-school friend Sky Kruse founded the company in June 1996 with money from family and friends. Further funding came from a group of prominent businesspeople including former McCaw Cellular executive Tom Alberg.

Auctions have taken the Internet by storm in recent months, led by EBay, with its 1.8 million items for sale and 2.1 million registered users. But while EBay and others have fostered a flea market atmosphere with most items sold by individuals and small businesses, has focused on partnerships with licensed regional and national auctioneers.

"We are the only ones out there that actually integrate with the traditional auction community," Williams said. "We're working with licensed auctioneers and authenticators, an upper-echelon group of sellers, as opposed to John Smith working out of his house."

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