IQ News: Softbank Ad Sales Unit Shopping For Investors

Softbank Interactive Marketing, one of the interactive industry’s leading ad sales rep firms, is out looking for cash at the request of majority investor Softbank Group.
“Softbank would like additional investors for SIM,” confirmed Caroline Vanderlip, chief executive of Softbank Interactive Marketing. The Los Angeles-based company has retained media investment specialists Veronis, Suhler & Associates to begin shopping the company to potential investors.
“Softbank decided for strategy reasons that SIM is not on the top of the priority chart for funds,” Vanderlip added.
Softbank is willing to accept a variety of offers including venture capital or private placement investment. It would also entertain a merger or acquisition offer by a third party interested in SIM, according to Tim O’Brien, chief financial officer at Softbank Group-owned Ziff-Davis, which manages the financial relationship between Softbank Group and its U.S. holdings.
“If the right offer came along, we might sell outright,” said O’Brien.
Veronis, Suhler executives did not return phone calls.
Though SIM is still not a money maker, according to O’Brien, Softbank’s decision to reduce its investment reflects the parent company’s recent decision to turn its focus to television. For example, the company is in the midst of launching ZDTV, a technology-focused cable channel.
O’Brien added that Softbank had no expectation that SIM would be profitable at this point in its growth.
The relationship between Softbank and SIM, formerly known as Interactive Marketing Inc., is a recent one. In June of last year, the Japanese conglomerate took a 60 percent stake in the rep firm and changed its name to reflect the new backer. The amount of the investment was not disclosed.
Softbank Group, based in Japan, also owns Ziff-Davis Publishing and Softbank Comdex, which runs the popular technology trade shows. The company reported net sales of $2 billion in the year ending in March.
Over the past year, SIM has opened offices in London and Sydney to service sites there. In addition to the new Softbank Network, which pools sites around topics such as sports, or arts and entertainment, SIM has always sold advertising for 10 individual sites at a time, positioning them to advertisers on a site-by-site basis.
The company’s site roster currently includes Hotmail, InfoBeat, Lycos, Netscape and Playboy. Regular advertisers include Toyota, Visa, Citibank and Disney.
The Softbank Network launched in September with 30 sites boasting 45 million impressions per month.
Vanderlip reported the network has grown to 45 sites and 98 million impressions per month. Some 25 new advertisers have since signed on to the Softbank Network.