In a deal first reported by the Houston Press ["Where the Sidewalk Ends," by Tim Fleck, July 8], Microsoft has sold the city guide portion of its Sidewalk operation to Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch (TMCS) of Pasadena, California. The transaction ends Microsoft CEO Bill Gates's attempt to build a nationwide chain of on-line urban guides.
There's no word on whether Sidewalk employees will retain their jobs. Houston staff members had been advised to look for other employers, and Houston Sidewalk director Chris Hearne declined to detail his future plans.
Microsoft will receive up to 13 percent of TMCS stock and warrants with a combined worth nearly $400 million. Microsoft will provide its MSN local channels to deliver the TMCS guides in Sidewalk cities. Microsoft will continue to develop the customer services side of the Sidewalk operation, including Yellow Pages, buying guides and other shopping services.
TMCS CEO Charles Conn, who recently told the Press reports of negotiations with Microsoft were unfounded speculation, now boasts that it is "a terrific deal for both companies." We hope that the future TMCS Houston guide will be a bit more accurate than its CEO's media comments.