Bonderman Part Of £3.8m Funding Package For BlackStar

The Belfast-based internet video retailer, BlackStar, has secured a $6 million (£3.8 million sterling) investment from the US investment group Atlas Venture and a consortium of investors lead by Ryanair chairman, Mr David Bonderman.

BlackStar, which sells videos and digital video discs (DVDs) over the internet to customers in 95 countries, plans to use the funds to invest in further infrastructure and marketing initiatives.

The company is also considering going public over the next 12 to 18 months and may seek a listing on the London Stock Exchange or NASDAQ.

One of the three founders, Mr Daryl Collins, said the company is growing at a rapid rate and is well positioned to benefit from the huge growth in online video purchases. It currently employs 36 people in Belfast and expects to employ a further 75 within the next six months.

Atlas Venture and Mr Bonderman’s consortium have acquired about a third of BlackStar’s total shareholding through its investment. Atlas Venture is a technology and e-commerce venture capital firm which has invested in companies such as Confetti, Moreover and EGroups. Announcing the investment yesterday, Mr Vic Morris of Atlas Venture said BlackStar was one of the very few Internet start-ups in the US or Europe that is generating real income. ‘Its balance sheet looks more like that of a traditional retailer than an Internet startup.’

Mr Bonderman is joined by two of the founding partners of his investment vehicle Texas Pacific Group (TPG), Mr James Coulter and Mr William Price. TPG, which has substantial investments in Ryanair and the former GPA which now trades as Aerfi, also holds investments in Virgin Entertainment.

Mr Bonderman’s board room colleague at Ryanair, Mr James Osborne, is chairman of BlackStar. Following the investment Atlas has appointed Mr Morris to join its board as a non-executive director while TPG has appointed Mr Dipanjan Deb as its representative on the board also as a non-executive director. BlackStar was founded last year by Mr Collins and fellow directors, Mr Tony Bowden and Mr Jeremy Glover. The three directors own around 66 per cent of the company.

BlackStar offers more than 50,000 videos and DVDs at its online store selling to customers all over the world. The market in the UK is currently estimated to be worth around £1 billion sterling annually with growth in western Europe predicted to rise to more than £11 billion sterling by 2004. ‘BlackStar has captured a clear lead in the UK market in 18 months, selling videos and DVDs over the Internet. The new finance recognises the success of our business model, brings heavyweight investors to our board and positions us for aggressive growth,’ Mr Collins said.

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