Zap.com rises from a watery grave
December 24, 1998
by Jim Evans
(IDG) -- So there will be a Zap.com after all.
At least that's what Zapata said Wednesday when it announced plans to resume its Internet initiative, after what it called a "previously disclosed strategic review process."
The latest news comes at the end of a baffling year in which Zapata first attempted to buy Excite and WhoWhere. After both companies laughingly dismissed the purchase offers, Zapata pursued more marginal Web companies, through investment or acquisition, at a breakneck pace in an effort to build a portal called Zap.com.
But two months ago, the company unceremoniously pulled the plug on its Web efforts and notified 31 companies with which it had signed letters of intent that the investment and acquisition deals were off.
Now, after review, the portal idea is back on. While Zapata CEO Avram Glazer isn't talking to the press, a source familiar with Zapata's plans says that Zap.com will relaunch sometime in the next two or three weeks.
What that site will look like is unclear, but in the last few days Zapata has contacted some of the original 31 companies it had signed deals with. Debra Shatford, CEO of Focus Presence, a dropped company that publishes Com-Find, says that Zapata called her Tuesday to set up a conference call between her and Glazer. She says it's unthinkable that Zapata would pull out again.
"I imagine that they have to go through with something," Shatford says. "They can't afford to back out again. Of course, we don't know the scope of what they want to do yet."
Shatford says she's reserving judgement on Glazer and Zapata's trustworthiness until she talks with him on Thursday.
Analysts say that Zapata's sudden fascination with the Internet at the beginning of the year was influenced by the valuations of Web portals like Yahoo and Excite and that Zapata lost its taste for the market when the stocks dipped in the summer.
Even though it canceled its Web efforts in October, Zapata continues to operate its recently purchased Web zines, Word and Charged. Zapata, of course, also has a 40 percent stake in food-services operation Viskase Companies and a 60 percent stake in fish-oil processor Omega Protein.
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