Frank to flavor net’s Cybermeals service

New chair, CEO takes majority stake in food site

Former Walt Disney TV chief Rich Frank has joined Internet startup Cybermeals, a fledgling food delivery service, as chairman and CEO.

Frank has invested an undisclosed sum, said to be in the low-seven-figure range, for a majority stake in the S.F.-based company. Cybermeals was founded in 1996 by entrepreneurs Tim Glass, Bryan Cupps, Ford Smith and Jim Brimhall, with backing from the venture capital firm Accel Partners.

At present, the Cybermeals Web site offers regionalized listings of restaurants with takeout delivery services that can be ordered online through the site. Restaurants pay for the listing and give Cybermeals a cut of each takeout order that comes through the site. About 10,000 restaurants have signed on with the service since its inception.

A respected industry vet, Frank said he sees the present site as a building block for a much broader array of services and food-oriented info. The investment in Cybermeals is Frank’s first major public move since he dissolved his C3 production venture with cable giant Comcast earlier this year.

Frank’s investment in Cybermeals was viewed by some industry observers as the first brick in the foundation of a Frank-led venture focused on Internet and new media properties. Frank had attempted to cobble together disparate TV production and distribution properties under the C3 banner, but those efforts clashed with Comcast’s traditionally conservative investment strategy.

For now, Frank said he’s focused on building Cybermeals into a brand name in the world of online eats.

“Cybermeals is a nice (electronic) commerce business, but the idea behind it is immense,” said Frank. “It’s is the only national aggregator of restaurants rights now. Once you start putting editorial content and programming on the site — reviews, recipes, cooking demos using streaming video — then you’re able to get into a whole new level of things.”

Frank pointed to the success of online bookseller as a model for how Cybermeals might serve as a clearinghouse for info on restaurants and food — offering everything from online reservations to instant calorie and nutritional info on menu items. Online sales of exotic foods and other recipe-related items is another growth opportunity, Frank said.

Cybermeals has long-term deals to be the exclusive online food delivery site featured on Internet portals America Online, Yahoo and Excite. Frank will be looking to build the company’s national profile through cross-promotions and alliances with big-time eateries and such.

Outside of the Cybermeals venture, Frank continues to shepherd a number of programming projects developed under the C3 banner.

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