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Founder Michael Birch buys back Bebo: Can it make a comeback?

July 01, 2013|By Jessica Guynn
  • When Michael Birch, right, and his wife, Xochi, sold the social network Bebo to AOL for $850 million in 2008, their combined stake of 70% earned them a whopping $595 million.
When Michael Birch, right, and his wife, Xochi, sold the social network… (Rory Cellan )

SAN FRANCISCO -- Michael Birch has bought back Bebo, the also-ran social network that he founded in 2005, for $1 million.

Bebo was purchased by the Monkey Inferno, the San Francisco incubator run by Birch. He made the announcement on Twitter.

"Can we actually re-invent it? Who knows, but it will be fun trying," Birch wrote.

Bebo, once a popular social networking site especially in Europe, has had a tangled history. Birch sold the company to AOL for $850 million in 2008. The 70% combined stake that he and wife Xochi Birch held earned them a whopping $595 million.

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But, with Bebo overshadowed by the meteoric rise of Facebook, it was nearly impossible to turn the once-crowded online hangout into a moneymaker. So AOL unloaded the social network on Criterion Capital Partners, a private equity fund in Studio City, two years later.

In May, Bebo's future could not have appeared more grim. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as Criterion struggled with minority shareholders, including Birch. Smaller shareholders had requested a receiver be appointed to take control of the company. Bebo was under the receivership of the Burke Capital Corp., which was handling an auction of its assets.

Can Birch, a serial entrepreneur with a deft touch, breathe new life into Bebo in such a rapidly shifting marketplace?

It will be fun to watch him try.


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