Looksmart: Aussies done good

Australian Internet directory Looksmart (www.looksmart.com.au) has secured $95 million in private equity, bringing the San Francisco-based company's total capital raised to date to $125.9 million.

Macquarie Bank acted as a placement agent for the Australian-based investors for the transaction, which included Kerry Packer's Consolidated Press Holdings and Citicorp Equity Capital.

Locally, the company plans to use the capital to finance a "massive" brand marketing campaign, to build on advertising sales and form strategic partnerships. The company is also looking to establish a Sydney office, in addition to its Melbourne and San Francisco operations.

Founded in Melbourne by husband and wife team Evan Thornley and Tracey Ellery in 1995, Looksmart left Australia in 1997 in search of capital. Reader's Digest backed the venture as its majority investor.

In May last year the company refinanced with $8.3 million from Cox Interactive media and AMWIN Innovation Fund. Since then, says Thornley, CEO of the company: "We've recruited a full complement of experienced senior management, grown our team from 70 employees to more than 300, and increased traffic and revenue five-fold."

Content of the Looksmart directory is "editorially reviewed" by more than 150 editorial professionals, claims the company. Microsoft has signed a five-year contract for the use of Looksmart as its worldwide MSN search engine.

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