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Vulcan, Liberty to beam up Priceline stox

Companies also receive options in Walker Digital as part of deal

John Malone’s Liberty Media Group and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Ventures have acquired $190 million in Priceline.com stock, the duo said Tuesday.

Dot-com enables Netizens to bid on airline tickets, hotels and home insurance.

Under terms of the contract, the companies are buying 8 million shares from founder Jay Walker. Priceline said much of the funding will be funneled into the company’s discount retail site WebHouse Club, an online discounted groceries and gasoline service also founded by Walker.

As part of their investment in Priceline, Liberty Media and Vulcan Ventures are also receiving options from Walker to acquire an equity interest in Walker Digital at exercise prices based on valuations of $1.5 billion-$1.8 billion.

Walker said he will use about $125 million of the after-tax proceeds of the investment to participate in WebHouse’s third round of financing.

WebHouse has already received funding from Liberty, Vulcan, Goldman Sachs, Wit Capital and Walker himself, among others.

The shares taken by Liberty and Vulcan represent a small percentage of Walker’s Priceline holdings; Walker said he remains “by far the largest shareholder” in the company.

Investment should help Priceline boost its offerings even as rivals are closing in.

Six major airlines, including American and United Airlines, are developing Hotwire, which plans to offer discounts on airline tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals online.

Shares of Priceline.com were up $1.31 to close at $24.94, a gain of 6%. Company hit its 52-week low in July.

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