Akers in pounds 24m Net deal

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The Independent Online
AN AIM-LISTED shell company run by the entrepreneur Chris Akers has bought Planetfootball, a sports website developer owned by Peter Wilkinson, in a shares and cash deal worth pounds 24m.

The deal will enable Mr Akers's Sports Internet Group to offer betting services via football club websites, furthering his aim of cross-pollinating two of the world's fastest growing markets - sports and the Internet.

Mr Wilkinson will become executive deputy chairman of Sports Internet, and will spearhead Planetfootball's growth. It already has 20 sports websites, including Aston Villa, Leeds United and Newcastle United, which together attract more than half a million visitors a month.

Mr Wilkinson's decision to take payment in shares is in stark contrast to the way he accepted pounds 75m in cash when he sold one of his previous creations, Planet Online, to Energis last August for pounds 75m.

Since then, the innovative and intensely private Yorkshireman has seen Energis's shares quadruple. This time Mr Wilkinson accepted 15 million new shares in Sports Internet. The shares fell 52.5p to 237.5p yesterday morning before they were suspended, pending the announcement of the deal. Mr Akers floated Sports Internet two months ago at 88.5p, when he raised pounds 1.95m. Yesterday Sports Internet also announced a pounds 4.7m rights issue, at 160p per share.

Not everyone was impressed by the deal yesterday. Nick Jones, an Internet analyst at Jupiter Communications, said: "That's a lot of money for a Web content site."