Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Disney “Transitioning” Ideal Bite, Its $20 Million “Green” Lifestyle Newsletter

heather_yogaIdeal Bite, the green-flavored lifestyle newsletter Disney bought in June 2008, faces an uncertain fate: Its parent company is shuttling the unit from one corporate silo to another and says it’s not sure what will become of it once that happens.

For the record: Disney (DIS) says it always intended to move the company, which offers “bite-sized ideas for green living” via email and a Web site, from its corporate strategy group to its interactive division, which will happen later this year. At that point, “it will still continue in some form,” says spokesman Michelle Bergman.

That doesn’t sound good. Disney says it plans to conduct a review of the unit, so it’s not ready to answer some basic questions about the email newsletter company. Like: Are co-founders Heather Stephenson (who lives and works in San Francisco) and Jennifer Boulden (who until this summer lived and worked in Bozeman, Mont.; she’s now in Los Angeles, I’m told) staying on? Will Disney have to take a write-down on the property? Will there be layoffs? “It’s too early to say. I can’t tell you,” Bergman says.

Okay. But If I had to bet, I’d say at least some of the dozen-plus employees will be hitting the job market.

Disney paid a reported $20 million for the property a year and a half ago, and the plan was to create a big green-centered business around it, but that hasn’t panned out, sources said. The company, founded in 2005, is one of the many lifestyle newsletter businesses backed by Bob Pittman’s Pilot Group.

Comcast (CMCSA) bought DailyCandy, the best known of Pittman’s stable, for $125 million a little more than a year ago. That was surely one of the last “pre-Lehman” Web 2.0 M&A deals, but grunts and murmurs out of Philadelphia and Pilot indicate the business has held up during the recession. And Thrillist, a “DailyCandy for dudes” effort that has yet to sell, seems to be booming.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik