Monster buys community site, Affinity Labs, for significant $61M

updated with input from Affinity

monster-affinity.jpgMonster, the giant job listing company, has acquired Silicon Valley’s Affinity Labs, a company that runs several online community sites — including for police officer, healthcare employees, teachers, government employees and technologists. The purchase price was about $61 million.

michel.jpgThis is an eyebrow raising price, because most of Affinity’s sites are just a few months old, and we’re told they have less than 500,000 visitors a month combined. In other words, the price translates into $122 a visitor, which is relatively high. [Update: Affinity tells it gets 800,000 visitors a month, which translates into a more reasonable $76 a visitor] It’s a big win for Affinity, which received a $6 million round of capital a year ago from Silicon Valley venture firms Mayfield and Trinity (yes, at the time, we cited a source that said $10 million, but the company took only $6 million).

On the other hand, Monster has a tight relationship with Affinity’s chief executive, Christopher Michel (pictured top), who served Monster well earlier: He co-founded Military.com, and sold it to Monster in 2004, and it has since become a leading portal for military personnel and their families. Monster bought that company for $40 million when the Internet market was still depressed after the bubble burst. But Military.com has since grown to more than 7 million uniques a month, and is probably worth on the order of $700 million or more for Monster right now.

And the visitors to Affinity’s sites have focused interests, making them attractive to advertisers. They’re easier to target. Because the sites are aligned according to industry vocation, it makes them especially attractive to a company like Monster, which specializes in job listings. Strategically, this acquisition makes a lot of sense, and the overall price, while high for Affinity’s current traffic, isn’t that much considering Monster’s size.

[Update: I just talked with Michel, and he confirms that he’s going to be working closely with Monster to help bring it more visibility in Silicon Valley, working with other companies with community-oriented sites to see if a relationship with Monster makes sense. Update II: He adds that a million members have registered at Affinity’s sites.]

Here’s part of the statement:

Monster has acquired Affinity Labs Inc., a development stage company that operates a portfolio of professional and vocational communities for people entering, advancing and networking in certain dedicated occupations. Affinity’s network of vertical community sites will provide Monster’s overall user and job seeker base relevant content and community features while enabling the Company to increase its online advertising services to a larger, targeted customer base.

Sal Iannuzzi, Monster’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said, “We believe Affinity’s model complements the core Monster business and significantly enhances our presence in key verticals within the online vocational and networking market. Our investment in Affinity provides Monster with an efficient vehicle for developing future revenue streams in vibrant career fields while permitting us to actively invest in product, technology and brand support in our core business. The addition of Affinity Labs to the Monster family will benefit both job seekers and customers in the vertical markets where Affinity operates.”

Affinity uses a technology platform that allows for rapid development cycles and scalability in servicing multiple high growth career fields. Currently, Affinity operates 7 professional and career oriented networks that include law enforcement, healthcare, education, government and technology. The combination of Monster and Affinity Labs will enhance Monster’s service offering to job seekers by providing highly relevant content through career guides, industry job searches, trade news and social networking. Employers will also benefit by having efficient access to a targeted pool of job candidates in desirable career fields. Monster and Affinity were parties to an agreement, signed early in 2007, that leveraged Monster’s advertising sales force and allowed job seekers access to Affinity’s portfolio of sites when registering for a MyMonster account.

Affinity Labs is led by Christopher Michel, the founder of Military.com, which was acquired by Monster in 2004 and has become the leading vertical portal for military personnel and their families. Mr. Michel will join the Monster executive team and report directly to Mr. Iannuzzi.

The purchase price for the transaction was approximately $61 million in cash. The Company does not anticipate the acquisition having a material impact on financial results in 2008. Monster was advised by Goldman, Sachs & Co. on the transaction