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Jennifer Robison
 

Web Deal: Vegas.com to Take over Operation of LasVegas.com

13 June 2005

Stephens Media Intellectual Property, a subsidiary of Review-Journal publisher Stephens Media Group, Friday announced it will license its LasVegas.com domain name to Vegas.com, a travel Web site owned by the Greenspun Corp.

Under the agreement, Vegas.com will operate and manage the LasVegas.com site from its Henderson office.

Sherman R. Frederick, chief executive officer of Stephens Media Group, said he agreed to the license deal because LasVegas.com doesn't fit the company's existing roster of businesses.

"We see ourselves as a newspaper company," Frederick said. "The concept of a travel portal, although interesting, is not our core business, so we felt it just wasn't something we wanted to do or were particularly adept at. We were always looking for someone who wanted to do it. Our function as a media company in Las Vegas can be broad and wide, but we didn't want to be in the business of being a middleman for hotel rooms."

Frederick declined to disclose the terms and value of the agreement, though he said it was a "multiyear" contract "that I believe will set a record in dollars spent for the control or purchase of any (Web address)."

The highest publicly recorded purchase price for a domain name is $7.5 million for Business.com, which California-based eCompanies bought in 2000 to operate as a business-to-business site.

Frederick said the agreement came from "many years" of talks with Vegas.com representatives.

The licensing deal follows almost a year of wrangling over the right to operate LasVegas.com, which launched in 1998 as a community Web site that linked to stories from the Review-Journal.

In February 2002, Stephens Media licensed the domain name to a joint venture of Caesars Entertainment and Mandalay Resort Group. Through the site, the two companies published comparative hotel rates and allowed consumers to book rooms, air travel, show tickets and golf reservations. When the hotel companies relaunched it, LasVegas.com included more than 130 local hotels, all major airlines, more than 100 shows, 300 restaurants and 30 spas, among other attractions.

Last July, Caesars and Mandalay tried to shift management of the site to Vegas.com, but Stephens Media exercised its right to match Vegas.com's $12 million offer for control of the address.

The resort operators sued in Clark County District Court, looking for clarification on which company could acquire rights to manage the site, which would have remained under Stephens Media ownership. In February, District Judge David Wall ruled in Stephens Media's favor.

Previous Review-Journal reports have said Vegas.com claims 850,000 visitors a month, while LasVegas.com attracts 1 million visitors a month.

Howard Lefkowitz, president of Vegas.com, said the agreement will allow for better marketing.

"The reality is we're now in a position to market both brands on a global basis," Lefkowitz said. "It's good for the tourism community here -- the hotels, the shows, restaurants, tour companies."

He estimated that more than 60 percent of all Las Vegas visitors look at one or both of the Web sites.

The Greenspun Corp. also owns the Las Vegas Sun daily newspaper, which has a joint operating agreement with the Review-Journal.

Review-Journal writer Hubble Smith contributed to this report.