Disney catches Starwave

Lifts stake to 100% in $300 mil deal

NEW YORK — Walt Disney Co. lifted its stake in its online partner Starwave Corp. to 100% Thursday in a deal believed to value the Internet company at more than $300 million.

The Mouse House, which already had 30% and voting control of Starwave as part of a deal done a year ago, acquired the bulk of the remaining 70% from software billionaire Paul Allen, sources said.

Allen’s stake

Terms of the deal, including Allen’s precise stake, were not disclosed but he is believed to have held about 56% until Thursday’s deal. At the $300 million valuation, Allen likely walked away from the deal with more than $150 million.

Starwave was Disney’s partner in the creation of the ABCNews.com and ESPN SportsZone online services.

“Initially, the plan was to see how important Starwave could be to the rest of our operation and we found out pretty quickly, working with the people up there, how substantial the combination could be,” Jake Winebaum, chairman of Buena Vista Internet Group, said in a statement.

Starwave and its 300 employees will become part of the Buena Vista Internet Group and Starwave’s Seattle office will serve as “the core technology developer” for the Internet Group, the statement said.

Starwave and its 300 employees are considered technological leaders on the Net.

Disney currently operates Disney.com and a subscription-based service, Disney’s Daily Blast, along with the ABC, ESPN and other related film and TV sites.

The deal gives Disney the ability to group its sites together and offer advertising space in packages across the range of sites. It also allows all its sites to use common, underlying technology, he said.

Executives said no layoffs are planned as part of the acquisition.

“I’d anticipate we would be expanding,” said Mike Slade, the Starwave chairman who will now become president of Buena Vista Internet Group.