Zagat's, the publishing company whose ubiquitous maroon books rate everything from barbecue joints to posh golf courses, is for sale, the New York Times reports. The majority of the company is owned by founders Tim and Nina Zagat, with the remainder owned by a smattering of institutional investors and a few high net-worth individuals. As far as a valuation goes, the paper pegs the company's value at around $200 million.
The well-known company is, among other things, one of the pioneers of the concept of user-generated content. It is also one of the great examples of the virtues of a phenomenon that we at the magazine call "the revenue nobody wanted"--meaning, a business plan that others rejected, forcing the founders to start the company on their own, and bootstrap it to success.
"The Zagats, who met at Yale Law School, could not find a publisher for their annual Manhattan restaurant rankings guide in the early 1980s, so they began publishing it themselves and delivering copies to any bookstore that would stock them," the Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin writes, before adding that the company was founded in part to give the couple an excuse to write off their dinners out. (To read the article in full, click here.)
Sorkin speculates that potential interested buyers could include Barry Diller's IAC Corp., American Express, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., or some cell phone carriers who are interested in the burgeoing field of mobile marketing. The web-based reservations company, OpenTable.com, is another possibility, according to the Times.
As Nina Zagat told Inc. in an interview in 2000, Zagat's has struggled to figure out its web strategy, whether it should work with partners, and whether it should make its material available for free online. Currently, a paid subscription is requied to browse much of the company's content.
What do you think? Who would be the best acquirer for Zagat's? And in which new directions do you think the brand should be taken?