Celebrity gossip website goes into liquidation

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The Independent Online

Peoplenews, the internet celebrity gossip column that aimed to become the indispensable guide to the global social scene, has made news of its own by going into liquidation.

The website, fronted by the former Tatler editor Jane Procter and supported by the likes of Andrew Neil, a former Sunday Times editor, and the internet entrepreneur Rob Hersov, must find a buyer or face closure. The site, launched last year with about £5m of funding, had been struggling to find extra investment amid the collapse in the value of online companies. Simon Walker, its chief executive, said its 15 staff were still updating the site, with the latest gossip on the Nicole Kidman/Tom Cruise divorce and the state of pop star George Harrison's health, while they tried to find a buyer.

"The horse is lying down and isn't moving," he said. "It's unclear whether it's dead but in a week we'll take the view whether it's worth flogging any more. It's frustrating for me and sad for the team in that we've done pretty much all that was asked of us. We would have broken even in the next couple of months. But the market is so risk-averse and horrible out there that we weren't really given a chance."

Jane Procter said she was proud of what they had achieved. "I still believe we created a great site," she said. But an insider privately conceded there was a question mark over whether investors could be found.

The website was the brainchild of Ms Proctor, a technophobe converted to the internet by her children after being sacked as editor of Tatler, and Mr Hersov, the founder of Sportal.com, a sports website. It attracted 300,000 users each month, but running costs outstripped income.

Last week, staff arrived at the offices in Marble Arch, central London, to discover the doors locked and the offices moved to the south London headquarters of Sportal.