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ESPN-backed company buys Nashville ventures
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By Milt Capps

ESPN-backed Active Network Inc., has bought two Nashville ventures that provide state governments the technology and services they need to conduct hunting and fishing license-payment transactions.

San Diego-based Active Network announced yesterday it recent bought Davidson County-based Automated License Systems and Outdoor Central, the latter being a subsidiary of Central Trust Bank of Missouri's conservation-licensing divison, which was also bought by San Diego-based.

Active Network spokesperson Tina Wilmott told VNC yesterday that Outdoor Central's 52 employees will relocate from downtown Nashville to ALS offices on Lebanon Road, joining about 200 ALS employees at that location.

The 26 employees who work for the Central Trust licensing division will remain in their current offices in Jefferson City, Mo. ALS and Central Trust have been partners in implementing transaction services since 1995, according to the ALS website.

Wilmott said 10-year-old Active Network has raised more than $275 million through six rounds of venture capital since 1999, when the company was but a year old.  Wilmott said that since early 2007, Active has made 14 acquisitions.

ESPN, which is part of Disney Media Networks, invested $20 million in Active in 2006 and led an $80 million round that closed this past summer.

Nashville companies have been the targets of sports- and entertainment-minded buyers for quiet a while:  echo, the online fan community provider, was bought by IAC/Ticketmaster. And, local phenom Rivals.com was bought in 2007 by a fierce ESPN competitor, Yahoo!  In a similar manner, Link2Gov, specializing in tax payments, was bought by Metavante.

Other Active Network venture investors have included Canaan Partners, North Bridge Venture Partners and Performance Equity Partners.

Active Network, which is described in some reports as a holding company, posted revenue of $102 million in 2007.  Since early 2007, Active has bought campground reservations provider InfoSpherix; two event-management software companies, RegOnline and WingateWeb; plus, swimming, track-and-field, lacrosse and other niche tech-driven communities. Active Network's flagship is Active.com, which has a reported 17 million registered users.

Wilmott said the Nashville and Jefferson City acquisitions bring Active Network new customers in 24 states. The company says it is "the largest provider of hunting and fishing licensing technology in the nation. The company also sells technology, marketing and media services and online communities for diverse sports and activities. 

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Tags: Active Network, Active.com, Automated License Systems, Canaan Partners, Central Trust Bank of Missouri, Disney Media Networks, echo, ESPN, IAC, InfoSpherix, Link2Gov, M&A, mergers and acquisitions, Metavante, North Bridge Venture Partners, Outdoor Central, Performance Equity Partners, RegOnline, Rivals.com, Ticketmaster, Tina Wilmott, venture capital, WingateWeb, Yahoo!

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