Swingers’ site invites members to take part in IPO

LAPTOPFriendFinder Networks, whose websites include and realtime homemade porn site,  has decided to let its members in on its planned $220 million IPO.

That raises the prospect of swingers and others who take part in the Lifestyle sitting side by side with institutional investors on its current roadshow.  FriendFinder, which also licenses Penthouse’s brand to some few consumer products, is set to price its IPO the week of Jan. 25.

FriendFinder operates a few tame websites too, such as and, but according to its prospectus, its revenue overwhelmingly comes from adult-oriented products and services.  It is inviting its members, including the 868,571 people who use its adult sites, to put some skin in the game, so to speak.

Click here to read the letter sent this week to its members. (It also invited employees to take part in the IPO.)

The major investment banks have sat this one out, presumably because of the offering’s spicy nature.  The deal is being managed by RenCap and Ledgemont Capital Markets.  However, the NYSE has no such misgivings and will list it under the ticker “FFN”.

from Shop Talk:

Check Out Line: eBay-Craigslist’s nasty scrap

Check out how testy the battle between eBay and Craigslist is getting.

The online auctioneer and the online classified ads service are locked in an acrimonious courtroom battle in Delaware this week that would put the nastiest celebrity divorce cases to shame. The court has heard several days worth of  accusations of betrayal and examples of cultures clashing.

Here are the basics: eBay took a 28.4 percent share in Craigslist earlier this decade to get a foothold in online ads, but Craigslist sought to dilute eBay's share to below 25 percent, thus costing it a board seat, after it learned eBay was launching its own service.

EBay is suing Craigslist in Delaware to have its original stake reinstated, while Craigslist has sued eBay in San Francisco, accusing it of not being forthright in its intentions to its betrothed.

Live blog from the auction for the NHL’s Coyotes


Reuters will be providing live updates on Thursday at noon ET from bankruptcy court in Phoenix for the auction of the National Hockey League’s Coyotes. Canadian billionaire James Balsillie and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman are expected to take the stand.

Live: GM bankruptcy court hearing

GM cleared several of the hurdles on its way out of bankruptcy Thursday at a court hearing in Manhattan. The federal bankruptcy judge gave GM the final ok to tap the rest of its $33.3 billion bankruptcy financing and a lawyer for asbestos claimants withdrew a request for official committee status. Other obstacles including the status of non-union retirees rights to healthcare benefit– are on the agenda for the afternoon. We’ll be filing updates from the hearing in the live headline box below and on our Twitter feed.

BlackBerry maker’s CEO sends letters of reference to sway NHL

balsillieJim Balsillie, the co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion desperately wants a National Hockey League franchise and relocate it to his native Southern Ontario.

Balsillie has tried twice in recent years to buy a hockey team, only to be blocked by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who this week assured people there was nothing personal between him and Balsillie. Balsillie is currently locked in a court battle with the NHL in his efforts to move the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton.

On Monday, Balsillie sent in his application to the NHL explaining why the Phoenix Coyotes should move to Hamilton, Ontario and why he’d make a good owner. Late Tuesday, he supplemented that with 22 letters of recommendation from a variety of mostly Canadian VIPs.

Can this hybrid jump-start the IPO market?

nyse1One of the biggest criticisms made of the IPO process is that investment banks turn around and flip hot new stocks for a big, quick profit, crowding out institutional investors with a longer attention span, and showing with no regard for a company’s long term prospects.

But Menlo, California-based InsideVenture, which is backed by major venture capital firms such as Venrock and Frazier Ventures, major institutional investors such as T Rowe Price, and even the New York Stock Exchange, thinks its new Hybrid Private-Public Offering (HPPOs) method of launching IPOs, introduced this week, is a way around that problem and a way to spur a recovery in the IPO market.

Here’s how an HPPO would work: small and mid-cap companies would still have to file standard IPO registrations with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. But the company would then work with InsideVenture to allocate about half the shares to its existing shareholders and any of the 225 long-term fundamental investors that are InsideVenture members. Once it had lined up a roster made up of enough long term investors, the company would launch its IPO.

SPACs poised for comeback via hockey? Not quite

floridapanthers1A blank check company is set acquire the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers for $240 million, a source has told Reuters, potentially making Sports Properties Acquisition Corp one of the rare companies in the past year to get investor buy-in for a proposed acquisition.

Blank check companies, or special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) as they are more formally known, raise money in an IPO and then buy a company, making it a public entity. Investors are essentially betting on the talents of a management team without knowing in which company they are ultimately invest.

In Sports Properties’ case, the management team includes former home run champion Hank Aaron and ex-New York Governor Mario Cuomo. Apparently Sports Properties’ A-list management team has convinced investors that a Sunbelt hockey team ranked 24th most valuable among the NHL’s 30 teams by Forbes is the kind of safe bet they have have been clamoring for.

U.S. no has-been for IPOs

According to the Russell Global Index, the United States’ market share for IPOs is plummeting. In a news release today Russell said that the U.S.’s share of IPOs in its index had declined to 13.7 percent for the past nine months, from 39.9 percent in 1998.

But don’t write off the U.S. IPO market yet. The Russell figures look at number of deals, not the dollar volume for the offerings.

So far in 2009, the U.S. is showing its old form again: according to Thomson Reuters data, U.S. IPOs account for 30.6 percent of overall global IPO dollar volume so far in 2009, with $1.6 billion, led by deals, large- by pediatrics nutrition maker Mead Johnson ($828 million) and small OpenTable ($60 million.) But measured in terms of deals, the US’s 7 deals make up only 6.8 percent of the 102 deals worldwide this year so far.

May ‘ 09 biggest month ever for equity capital in US


Banks fell over one another in May trying to raise money to obey Uncle Sam’s capital requirements and plug holes in their finances, leading to the largest month for share issuance ever in the United States, according to Thomson Reuters.

Fueled by enormous shares offerings such as Wells Fargo‘s $8.6 billion follow-on the day after the government released its stressed tests, total equity capital issuance in the United States came to $48.8 billion in May. Year to date, the volume of secondary share issues is 40 percent ahead of where it was at this time last year.

For all the talk of a renascent IPO market , May’s three deals (DigitalGlobe, SolarWinds and OpenTable) only totaled a modest combined $490 million, leaving IPO volume in dollar terms down 94 percent from last year.

OpenTable ups the ante, at some risk

OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation system operator, upped the estimated price range of its initial public offering by 30 percent Tuesday, a daring move considering that the company relies on the ailing restaurant industry for its growth, and last year had a net loss of $1 million despite fast growing sales.

The San Francisco-based company, whose clients include famed restaurants such as New York’s Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern, and has backers such as Tom Layton ( a co-founder of CitySearch), said in its filing it is used by about 10,000 restaurants in the U.S. but sees a total market of 30,000 eateries.

Backed by venture capital firms including Benchmark Capital Partners and Impact Venture Partners, OpenTable might be betting that its small float – it is selling 3 million shares, half of which are held by existing shareholders– will create strong demand and lead to a first day jump of 40 percent, à la Rosetta Stone last month, and not want to leave too much money on the table, given this rare exit opportunity for VCs.