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The Blucora team ringing the opening bell on Nasdaq in 2012
The Blucora team ringing the opening bell on Nasdaq in 2012

There’s a lot of uncertainty swirling around Blucora — once a Seattle area dot-com superstar known as InfoSpace — as the company announced a major strategy shift on Wednesday.

Bill Ruckelshaus
Bill Ruckelshaus

Blucora plans to buy Texas-based HD Vest for $580 million as part of a broader move to dive deeper into financial services.

As part of the move, Blucora plans to leave its legacy Internet search businesses and divest both InfoSpace and its e-commerce business Monoprice. CEO Bill Ruckelshaus is expected to leave the company.

Shares of Blucora fell nearly 15 percent in trading this morning. The company is now valued at $588 million.

The legacy Internet search businesses are historically why the Bellevue-based company is based in the Seattle area, and Blucora’s Ruckelshaus told GeekWire that will be “subject to evaluation.”

He stressed that the headquarters absolutely could stay here as the company enters its next chapter, but that will be part of “follow-up discussions.”

Blucora plans to cut operating expenses by 30 percent by 2017, but it’s not revealing a lot of details on that quite yet. Cutting employees will be part of those cost savings, but Ruckelshaus said it will also be able to trim on non-personnel related expenses.

Blucora employs 500 worldwide, and about 50 in the Seattle area.

The acquisition of HD Vest is the latest episode in a long tale of survival, as the company founded by Internet entrepreneur Naveen Jain in 1996 has pivoted time and time again.

10471230_748083935285536_6222706456879902868_nInfoSpace operates the Dogpile.com metasearch engine, which gets paid to aggregate results from search giants like Google and Yahoo.

Ruckelshaus said that business made a smart move to partner with Google instead of going head-to-head, a big reason why it’s still around today.

But that business flatlined and Ruckelshaus was appointed CEO in 2010 to turn InfoSpace into a holding company for other products. The company changed its name to Blucora in 2012 and built up a war chest over as it bought and sold several businesses. Now, it’s using that cash to buy the products it hopes will carry the company into its next phase.

Blucora acquired tax preparation software maker TaxACT for $288 million in 2012, and now with HD Vest it will be able to offer wealth management tools for tax professionals.

Those tax-related businesses will now be the core of Blucora’s offerings.

InfoSpace, the business that started it all, and Monoprice, another business it acquired along the way, are officially up for sale.

Ruckelshaus, whose expertise is in acquisitions, will resign as CEO once Blucora can find a permanent successor.

“As we embark on this exciting transformation, it is critically important that we identify a leader with expertise in the financial services and technology industry to guide the company through its next phase of growth and development,” Ruckelshaus said in a press release. “With significant opportunities ahead, we will appoint a new leader with expertise that matches our future profile. I am proud of what the team has accomplished and look forward to continuing to work with the Board and management team in this exciting next chapter.”

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