1. Archive

Glazers buy online magazines

The owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have discovered the Internet and decided it's ripe for profit-taking despite the less than lucrative experience of many other online entrepreneurs.

Zapata Corp., controlled by Malcolm Glazer and his family, bought two online magazines Monday and plans to buy more. The move takes the company a world away from its roots as a Texas oil drilling company co-founded in 1953 by George Bush, who later served as president.

On Monday, the company said it was even changing its name to Zap Corp. as it prepares to conquer the Web.

Under the Glazers, Zapata has ditched its oil holdings and branched into such areas as food products and fish protein.

"George Bush was on the cutting edge of the oil business," said Avram Glazer, Zapata's chief executive and Malcolm's son. "Now we intend to be on the cutting edge of the Internet. Our goal is to rapidly acquire and consolidate the Internet's leading content and electronic commerce Web sites, areas that we believe will be dominated by a handful of large companies."

As a first step, the Houston-based company has acquired Word and Charged online magazines from Icon CMT Corp. of Weehawken, N.J. Icon CMT had suspended publication of the two magazines in March, saying it was seeking a buyer because they didn't fit into the company's core business. A spokesman for Icon CMT refused to disclose how much money the company was losing on the magazines, which had been on the Web for nearly three years.

Glazer said the Webzines' staff of about 20 will be rehired and publication should restart within weeks.

Word was one of the Internet's first magazines, focusing on life, work and social issues. Charged was devoted to extreme sports like skateboarding and rock-climbing.

In addition to buying the Webzines for an undisclosed price, Zapata signed a four-year contract with Icon CMT to buy a minimum of $2-million in Web-related services from the company, which provides Internet access for businesses.

Last month Zapata spun off Omega Protein Corp., the largest U.S. producer of fish protein, in a public offering that raised close to $136-million. Zapata retained 64 percent ownership of Omega, whose products are used as animal feed for livestock and poultry.

Fueled with fish oil financing, Zapata is now turning its attention to the Internet, a notoriously tough place to make a profit. Microsoft's online magazine Slate, which recently began charging readers $19.95 a year to subscribe, last year had $1-million in revenues against costs of $5-million. Avie Glazer is unfazed by the challenge.

"Zapata has a war chest, in cash and equity ownership, valued at $425-million," said Glazer. "Ninety-eight percent of the people involved in the Internet are ill-funded and under-staffed. We bring the resources and we intend to be a major player."

Zapata's shares, which were trading at $4 a share a year ago, closed Monday at $11.37{, unchanged. Icon CMT's shares were up 12{ cents, closing at $19.62{.

The foray into the Internet is the latest detour for the Glazer family's businesses.

In 1995, Malcolm Glazer paid what was then a record price of $192-million for the Buccaneers, at the time the losingest team in football. Today, after the team posted its best season in two decades, the franchise is considered to be worth many times the purchase price.

Two years before branching into football, the Glazers had gained control of Zapata after a bitter fight with management. Glazer quickly sold the company his 40 percent interest in Envirodyne Industries Inc., a maker of food-processing equipment. He also tried to have the company buy his Houlihan's Restaurant Group at a substantial premium, dropping those plans after shareholders sued. In July, Zapata sold its last oil-related business, severing entirely its ties to the Bush era.

_ Information from Times files and Bloomberg News was used in this report.

Up next:Nation