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New Industry.net owners to return to information roots

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Less than six months after being bought out of bankruptcy by Perot Systems, Industry.net has been sold again.

The new owner is Information Handling Systems Group, Englewood, Colo., which plans to combine the site with its engineering databases. The price was not disclosed.

"Perot is keeping the electronic commerce software," which was the key to the asset's June acquisition, says Miles Baldwin, VP-corporate development, IHS Group.

The team that wrote the software will also stay with Dallas-based Perot, he says.

A reorientation

"We want to reorient the business to its original intent, as a business information resource," Mr. Baldwin says.

In a statement, IHS Group Chairman Michael J. Timbers said, "Industry.net will form the basis of a new IHS Group company that will provide free and pay-per-use access to information on industrial products and services and related technical data" over the Web.

Mr. Timbers says directory and sponsored information from more than 700 manufacturers and 1,500 distributors will be provided free to Industry.net's 450,000 registered members.

Access to other IHS databases will be available on a pay-per-use basis.

Mr. Baldwin says Industry.net will offer e-commerce capabilities through customized links to sites of manufacturers, distributors and other service providers. Users will also be able to take advantage of the advanced electronic database and catalog publishing bureau, formed as a result of IHS Group's recent acquisition of the data services business of Dataware Technologies, Cambridge, Mass.

Maintaining Perot link

Perot System's e-commerce group, called Timeq, will continue to host and develop the Industry.net Web site under a service contract with IHS Group, a $360 million information database publishing company.

Some $70 million of its revenue comes from an engineering database sold by subscription, Mr. Baldwin says.

Eileen Quirk, director of IHS Engineering's electronic component information databases, was named chief operating officer for Industry.net.

Vernon Keenan, a senior analyst at Zona Research, a Mountain View, Calif., market researcher, says the deal is a return to Industry.net's roots. "What's left has moved off the Internet-player board. It's gone into database marketing," he says.

Big splash, few results

Industry.net began life as a Pittsburgh-based computer bulletin board in the early 1990s. Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates was an early investor.

Later, it became the foundation of Nets Inc., a company put together by former Lotus Development Corp. Chairman Jim Manzi to build an online business-to-business marketplace.

After acquiring AT&T's Business Network, based on non-Web technology, in 1996, the company failed to gain a secure foothold in the market.

Nets Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy early in 1997.

"Nets Inc. created a marketplace for transactions and there were several reasons why that failed," Mr. Keenan says. "You only got halfway to a transaction and there was monumental mismanagement."

At the time Perot Systems acquired the company's assets in the bankruptcy process, Nets Inc.'s 58-person technical team had begun working on a b-to-b e-commerce transaction system. Through the Perot Systems transaction, that team was kept together.

Perot Systems is a computer systems integrator with 1996 revenue of $600 million and 5,400 employees.

Founder and former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot was named the company's interim chairman last month. The previous chairman, James Cannavino, left the company in August.

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