Echo Interactive: the peace is now signed
Wanadoo bought out to Christophe Dupont, one of the three founders of the start-up of Sophia, 33% of the capital they needed. This puts an end to the two years of judicial guerrilla war.
The peace has just been signed in the judicial guerrilla which had been led for two years for Echo, the first success story of Sophia. Christophe Dupont, who still held 33% of this start-up bought out in 1998 by France Telecom sold its shares on Monday February 5th to Wanadoo. The Internet subsidiary of France Telecom then becomes shareholder of Echo at 100%. In a press release, Christophe Dupont reminds the events which followed. Concerning Wanadoo, it is simply announced that the agreement found respects the interests of each party and that all procedures which were instituted on both sides are now cancelled.A turbulent separationThe thing is that for two years, the procedures have been numerous. Christophe Dupont, who had launched Echo in September 1996 in order to operate the French search engine, had been joined by Michel Bisac and Christophe Ruelle within the company in April 1997. One year later, an opposition concerning the strategy to follow made the associates who had succeeded so well to argue: do they have to sell to France Telecom which entered in Echo in 1997 with its fund of venture capital, Innovacom (it took 10%)? Christophe Dupont wished to push the company to be listed on the Nasdaq; Michel Bisac and Christophe Ruelle thought that a French search engine could only develop with the help of a big telecommunication group which would use it.The two other founders then accepted that France Telecom Multimedia took a participation of 24% (which made the share of the group to be of 34%). The divorce was also announced and the separation was turbulent. Christian Dupont left Echo in July 1998 to create Respublica.fr. However, the fight was brought to Court concerning the ownership of the search engine and the software (e-stat, measurer for the audience of websites and eXtense, indexing tool for pages of a website)which made the success of Echo.France Telecom claimed 150 million francsAbout thirty procedures in total were instituted, some of them were very heavy with searches sometimes, as the action brought by France Telecom which claimed 150 million francs to Respublica for the reason given by the group that the software of Respublica would have been developed at Echo's. These legal actions are now over with the total buy out of shares of the company (on the same period, Wanadoo had bought out the totality of the capital the two other founders had).How much were the 33% left negotiated? No figure was given on both sides but the analysts estimate that it reached a bit less than 30 million francs. It is true that nowadays, Echo Interactive, set up in Sophia with 80 people, is the key establishment of Wanadoo. The start-up that became bigger publishes some 18 million pages a day and not only ensures the technical platform of the portal Voilà but also the one of Wanadoo.fr. And it still has good possibilities to develop.