Private investment firm Comvest Partners acquires the financially troubled e-retailer, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.
Eleven major retailers, including K-mart Corp., Target Corp., Safeway and drugstore giant CVS, plan a Web-based, business-to-business exchange expected to begin operating by midyear. The venture, to be called the WorldWide Retail Exchange, is designed to simplify trading between retailers and more than 100,000 suppliers, partners and distributors.
Other partners include Albertson's (U.S.), Auchan (France), Casino (France), Kingfisher (U.K)., Marks & Spencer (U.K.), Royal Ahold (the Netherlands) and Tesco (U.K.). Combined the partners operate more than 30,000 stores and had 1999 sales of more than $300 billion.
The partners described it as an open exchange providing "an information highway of publicly available item data together with private price and promotion information between multiple buyers and sellers."
The exchange's founders initially will hold a 5% stake in share capital. They plan to consider how to handle the remaining equity once it's clear how many retailers want to join. The announcement follows a similar exchange recently formed by Sears Roebuck & Co., French supermarket Carrefour Supermarche and Kroger.