Internet search provider Ask Jeeves said Thursday it signed an agreement to buy a family of Web sites that includes My Way, Excite and iWon. The Emeryville, Calif.-based company is purchasing privately held Interactive Search Holdings, an online search and media company.

The purchase is expected to double Ask Jeeves’ market share and strengthen its position in the rapidly growing search market. The move may open up additional Web advertising opportunities in housing-related Web searches for real estate companies. Google and Yahoo! have been the two major players dominating Internet search.

Under the terms of the agreement, Ask Jeeves will issue 9.3 million shares of common stock and options and pay $150 million in cash. This reflects a purchase price of $343 million based on Ask Jeeves’ closing price on Wednesday. Ask Jeeves may pay up to an additional $17.5 million in cash based on various factors including Interactive Search Holdings’ operating performance.

“This acquisition will double our market share, enhance our ability to compete in the fast-growing search market, and is expected to increase the financial returns to our shareholders,” Ask Jeeves CEO Steve Berkowitz said.

Additional Interactive Search Holdings’ Web properties and businesses include My Search, My Web Search and the MaxOnline advertising network.

Following completion of the acquisition, Interactive Search Holdings will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Ask Jeeves and its operations will remain in Irvington, N.Y.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of the second quarter.


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