LiveJournal Owner Sup Wants To Sell A Stake; Yahoo In The Frame?

Is Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) about to buy itself a slice of the fast-growing Russian online content, advertising and networking space?

Sup, which owns LiveJournal as well as a series of content sites and an ad sales house, is looking for an investor to buy a stake.

The business paper Kommersant, which is owned by Sup co-owner Alisher Usmanov himself, reports a source as saying Yahoo is interested – negotiations began this spring but have so far come to nought. Now talks are underway with “three major companies”.

Credit Suisse is handling the process. A venture fund director quoted by Kommersant estimates Sup’s total value at a round $100 million.

Sup is an interesting little company, started by the Afisha publisher’s co-founder Andrew Paulson with former Yeltsin adviser and Waterstone’s owner Alexander Mamut as an online media vehicle.

  • In content, it runs the sports news site, the travel guide and the car-buying tool. It has also operated Kommersant’s internet newspaper since 2008, when Kommersant merged it in to Sup in exchange for a 50 percent stake in Sup. CEO Annelies van den Belt recently told me she wants to double Sup’s three-strong roster of content sites.
  • In networking, Sup has been growing LiveJournal as a micropayment business since acquiring it from SixApart in 2007.
  • And in advertising, Sup runs +SOL, which sells ads for its own properties and for numerous western publishers in Russia, including Yahoo, MSN, the BBC, Forbes and ZenithOptimedia.

In that regard, Sup has a global/western outlook in the Russian space. And, in a market increasingly dominated by consolidation amongst big-hitters like, Sup seems to be an excellent way for the likes of Yahoo to buy in to Russia, where online advertising and the internet population are rocketing.

The noises through Kommersant suggest Usmanov is trying to flush out the highest price for a Sup stake.