German media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG has agreed to sell its remaining shares in AOL Europe GmbH to the company's co-owner AOL Time Warner Inc. (AOLTW) for US$6.75 billion, a source close to AOL Europe said Monday.
AOLTW is expected to make the announcement of the cash deal shortly, though representatives of Bertelsmann and AOLTW could not immediately be reached for comment.
The possible sale of Bertelsmann's stake in AOL Europe is not unexpected. Last September, Bertelsmann Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Middelhoff said that his company wanted the sale of its AOL Europe shares to AOLTW wrapped up in the first half of the new calendar year. Bertelsmann indicated last year that it is shifting the focus of its Internet activities from access to content.
In March 2000, Bertelsmann and America Online Inc. (AOL) announced a four-year strategic alliance then valued at $250 million, and said that the companies had also put in place mechanisms for a possible future sale of Bertelsmann's stakes in AOL Europe GmbH and AOL Australia to AOL for between $6.75 billion to $8.25 billion.
The agreement came with the understanding that a deal to buy the remaining shares of AOL Europe would not be completed until after Jan. 1, 2002.