July 10th, 2013

In Financial Distress, liveBooks Sold to WeddingWire

LiveBooks, the content management company that provides website management and other services to professional photographers and designers, has announced that it has been acquired by WeddingWire, Inc., an online marketplace for vendors in the wedding and events industry. Terms were not disclosed.

Andy Patrick, CEO of liveBooks, announced the ownership change to liveBooks customers earlier today, and assured them that the liveBooks service and brand name would continue.

“The liveBooks name, the ‘powered by liveBooks,’ that all stays the same,” Patrick told PDN in a telephone interview today. He added that the sale to WeddingWire, a privately held, seven-year-old company, “brings a lot of resources, a lot of stability, and the ability to grow in the way we wanted to.”  Patrick said liveBooks had hired an investment bank six months ago to sell the company. Patrick said of the sale, “I’m very excited about it, I’m very comfortable with it.

He said the infusion of resources will enable liveBooks to provide its customers with new products, but he didn’t provide any details. “And we will be sharing the details of these developments in the coming months,” he told customers when he announced the sale.

Patrick acknowledged that liveBooks has struggled financially in recent months. “We got to the point where we needed both financial support and people to continue to do what we’ve been doing.”

Patrick attributed the problems to increased competition–there are now 25 or 30 firms providing websites for photographers, he says. Some of them provide free web sites, he adds. “It drove the price[s] down.”

But Patrick says liveBooks had also struggled after the recent acquisition of two companies that provide e-commerce capability for print-on-demand photo products. Neither acquisition was a success, according to Patrick.

The first acquisition, completed last October, was for Pinhole Press and Pinhole Pro. Pinhole was a provider of print-on-demand marketing services and personalized photo gifts That acquisition “was not making sense,” Patrick said.

This past February, liveBooks bought San Francisco-based Fotomoto, an e-commerce application for the sale of images and print-on-demand products.

“Let’s just say it had a lot of issues,” Patrick told PDN.

“We tried some things, they didn’t work out, we had to make adjustments.”

Six months ago, liveBooks hired investment bank Janney Montgomery Scott to help it find a buyer. Two-and-a-half months ago, the liveBooks was forced to lay off 20 percent of its workforce, and customer service has suffered, Patrick says.

Customer service has been one of liveBooks’s strengths, Patrick says, “and it’s not been good over the last few months.

“We had to make cuts, and we couldn’t live up to our standards and the standard people expected.”

Patrick says he has no plans to leave liveBooks. “I have no end date.”

–David Walker

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