Europe Online logs off

Europe Online, the bankrupt pan-European online information service, has logged off the Internet after the failure of last-ditch talks with Deutsche Telekom about a possible bail-out.

Europe Online, the bankrupt pan-European online information service, has logged off the Internet after the failure of last-ditch talks with Deutsche Telekom about a possible bail-out.

As of Tuesday night, the online service could no longer be accessed at its Internet address (http://www.europeonline.com). Europe Online sought court protection from creditors on July 10, two days after its main shareholder, German publisher Burda Holding GmbH, decided to withhold further financing of the company.

On August 2 the Luxembourg-based company was declared bankrupt, but continued discussions with new potential investors, including CompuServe and Deutsche Telekom, in an attempt to reorganise its shareholder structure. Those talks reportedly failed last week.

Europe Online, a multilingual online service, has been going through continuous shareholder restructuring since the company was founded in 1994. Last year UK publisher Pearson reduced its stake from 13% to 7% while France's Matra Hachette SA pulled out all together. Germany's Axel Springer Verlag announced its intention to buy a 10% stake last year, but decided not to at the last minute.

As a result the company's strategy shifted several times. Europe Online was originally planned to be a proprietary online service based on AT&T's Interchange software. But after several delays, Europe Online was launched last December in Germany, the UK, Luxembourg and France as an Internet-based service using technology from Netscape.

Dissatisfied with shifting strategies and ownership structure, Burda, a large German publishing house, decided to withhold further financing of Europe Online and develop its own Internet services in Germany. Europe Online's owners include Burda; AT&T Interchange; Dr. Schwarz-Schilling GmbH; Meigher Communications LP of the US; Pearson; Luxembourg-based banks State Investment Bank and State and Savings Bank; and investment companies Stratinvest, Luxempart and Virtual Tectonics. Burda had a 26% stake, while the other investors each hold between 7% and 13%.

Serving about 25,000 subscribers altogether, Europe Online operated national services in Germany, Luxembourg and the UK, offering its subscribers news, weather, travel, sports and entertainment.

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