's owners considering sale of Web site business, report says

NEW YORK  (Bloomberg) -- Classified Ventures LLC, the media company backed by five newspaper publishers including Gannett Co. and McClatchy Co., is working with Moelis & Co. to seek a sale of its Web site, a person with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg.

The sale of the auto-sales Web site is still at an early stage, the person said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. Moelis also advised Classified Ventures on its sale of, according to a March 3 statement., which was started in 1998, lets user check prices, compare models and read reviews of auto dealers. It is visited by more than 11 million car buyers a month, according to the Chicago-based venture’s Web site.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Classified Ventures may seek $3 billion. Andrea Hurst, a New York-based spokeswoman for Moelis, declined to comment on the sale of Shannon Swierczek, a spokeswoman for classified ventures, didn’t immediately reply to a voice mail left outside of normal business hours Sunday.

Classified Ventures sold for $585 million to CoStar Group Inc., it said last week. McClatchy, which owns almost 26 percent of Classified Ventures, separately said its proceeds from that sale will total $147 million before tax.

Tribune, which publishes the Chicago Tribune and also owns television stations, owns almost 28 percent of Classified Ventures, while Gannett also owns about 27 percent. The sale is positive for Tribune’s credit profile, Moody’s said last week.

Spokesmen for the three companies didn’t immediately reply to phone messages seeking comment on the sale. Classified Ventures is also owned by AH Belo Corp. and Graham Holdings Co.

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