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classmatesBefore Facebook emerged on the scene, there was

Founded 20 years ago by a former Boeing engineer, Classmates developed a massive directory of students and military personnel in one of the original social networks. In 2004 — the same year that Facebook was founded — Classmates sold to United Online for $100 million.

Now, Classmates — which until recently had maintained offices along Elliott Bay in Seattle — is being sold again.

This time, the purchase price is much lower: $30 million.

And the buyer is a familiar entity in the Seattle area: Bellevue-based Intelius.

Naveen Jain at the Intelius offices in Bellevue
Naveen Jain at the Intelius offices in Bellevue

“Both companies are about finding people,” explained Intelius founder Naveen Jain. He called the match-up synergistic, since it gives Intelius a “unique set of data about people, including their maiden name, school, picture” and more.

On its Web site, Classmates claims that it attracts 25 million visitors per month. United Online’s social media business, including the Classmates unit, posted revenue of $18.8 million in the second quarter, down from $21 million for the same period last year.

The acquisition also comes at a time of transition for Intelius, which as GeekWire first reported last month was acquired by private equity firm H.I.G in a deal that topped $100 million. Jain is leaving Intelius as part of that deal, but still remains a significant shareholder.

In a press release, United Online CEO Francis Lobo called the deal a “great outcome” that is “fully consistent with our strategy to focus on our growth areas of e-commerce and loyalty and value-based communications.”

“Importantly, this divestiture of a non-strategic asset will enable us to allocate additional capital to fuel growth in our existing businesses and in new products,” Lobo said. “Further, M&A remains an integral part of our strategy as we continue to evaluate complementary opportunities in our growth areas.”

United Online reset its revenue guidance for the year as a result of the pending Classmates sale, saying it now anticipates revenue of $149 million to $154 million for the year.

It is unclear what will happen to the employees at Classmates and the offices in Seattle. We have calls into United Online, and we will update this report as we learn more.

Shares of United Online fell just over one percent in trading today. The stock is down nearly 20 percent so far this year. The company is valued at $177 million, down from nearly $600 million when it first acquired Classmates in 1994.

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