CBS is making a bigger push on the Internet. The broadcast company said Thursday it would acquire CNet for $11.50 a share, or $1.8 billion, in a deal that will make CBS one of the top 10 Internet companies in the United States. The deal offers CNet shareholders a 44% premium to Wednesday’s closing price and comes as CBS has been struggling to gain traction with investors.
“There are very few opportunities to acquire a profitable, growing, well-managed Internet company like CNet Networks,” said CEO Les Moonves. “CBS stands for premium content and unparalleled reach, and CNet Networks will add a tremendous platform to extend our complementary entertainment, news, sports, music and information content to a whole new global audience.”
Not everyone views CNet as a well-managed Internet company. Activist investors led by Jana Partners earlier this week won a court decision giving them the right to proceed with a proxy fight against CNet. Jana has accused CNet of strategic missteps and wants to tighten the company’s strategic focus and double down its efforts at making money. A report Jana issued last month says adopting the fund’s plans could make CNet worth $11 a share, up from the $7 or so the stock was fetching at the time. Going by that math, this deal should make even CNet’s dissidents happy.
Meanwhile, CBS is no stranger to the intrigue around high-profile Internet properties. Back when it was part of Viacom (VIA), CBS ran the CBS Marketwatch news site for several years before selling it in 2005 to Dow Jones. After Viacom and CBS split in 2006, Viacom’s chairman and prinicpal shareholder, Sumner Redstone, fired Moonves’ counterpart Tom Freston as CEO of Viacom, after Freston lost out on the bidding for social networking site MySpace.
CNet shares rose 34% in early action Thursday, while CBS investors – so far unimpressed by Moonves’ big deal – sent their shares down 3%. from cnn fortune