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CREATIVE LOAFING NOT LOAFING INTO THE FUTURE

Talk about bucking a trend in the challenged newspaper business. Tampa alternative weekly publisher Creative Loafing last week gobbled up two heavyweights: the Chicago Reader in the Windy City and the Washington City Paper in the nation's other windy city. Price? Not disclosed, but it's been reported as an "eight-figure number" - which means Creative Loafing had some financial help in the name of private investment firm BIA Digital Partners of Chantilly, Va. BIA's investment fund that includes Creative Loafing has stakes in such traditional and digital businesses as Hoffman Media (food and craft magazines) in Birmingham, Ala., and EyeWonder Inc. (online video advertising services) in Atlanta. What does it all mean? Look for a lot more online products from Creative Loafing. "These guys 'get' the convergent platform opportunities," Creative Loafing chief Ben Eason says.

Early years key for luring investors

Since it began more than 20 years ago, the Florida Venture Forum has worked to match emerging growth companies with investors. But apparently, much like a parent raising a child, it's realizing that the early, formative years are crucial ones. So in late May 2008, the forum plans to hold its first venture capital conference focused on early stage companies. Targeted companies would include start-up life science and bio-based groups, plus emerging technologies in other industries. Jonathan Cole, a law partner and one of the co-chairs of the early stage conference, said early stage investments have struggled to gain "mindshare'' of institutional venture capitalists who zero in on more developed companies. Ignoring the infants now, however, could mean forfeiting big profits later.

South Korean titan likes Cryo-Cell

The South Korean founder and president of a San Francisco hotel management firm is bullish on Oldsmar's Cryo-Cell International Inc. Ki Yong Choi increased his stake in the stem-cell storage company to 1.6-million shares on July 18. The purchase took place two days after dissident shareholders tried to oust Cryo-Cell's board at the company's annual meeting; certified results of the vote are pending. Choi's purchases took place outside the public market, where far fewer shares of Cryo-Cell have been trading and in a downward direction. The stock, traded on the Over-The-Counter market, is down more than 36 percent since the annual meeting.

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