RETAILing
Firms target Alibaba in tax-loophole fight

Several of the largest U.S. retailers warned that Alibaba Group Holding may “decimate” local companies unless Congress closes tax loopholes for online retailers, singling out the Chinese company before it has even established a major U.S. consumer presence.

In TV and radio ads over the weekend, the Alliance for Main Street Fairness, which includes Best Buy, Target, J.C. Penney and other major chains, called on Congress to end special tax treatments for Alibaba and other online giants.

“Main Street will never look the same,” it said.

The ad marks one of the biggest public marketing campaigns against a Chinese company that handles more e-commerce than Amazon and eBay combined, even though Alibaba only surfaced in the American consciousness after it went public in the world’s largest IPO in September.

U.S. retailers and industry analysts expect Alibaba to soon launch a service targeted at American consumers, armed with its IPO war chest.

However, the company has said it remains primarily focused on the Chinese market, from which it gets most of its revenue.

Alibaba sells to U.S. consumers through its global retail service AliExpress. But its core Taobao service, often likened to eBay’s marketplace, is not yet available to U.S. customers in English.

— Reuters

MEDIA
D.C.’s Vox raises $46.5 million

Vox Media, a Washington media group that owns SB Nation, has received a $46.5 million infusion led by General Atlantic, an investment firm based in New York City and Greenwich, Conn.

The investment places Vox’s worth at nearly $380 million, a sign of increasing values among Web publishers such as San Francisco-based Reddit and PopSugar and New York-based BuzzFeed.

Vox is led by chief executive Jim Bankoff, a former AOL executive. Its media brands include the technology site the Verge, the news site Vox.com, the food blog Eater, the fashion and shopping brand Racked, the Curbed real estate site and the Polygon game site.

Vox.com’s editor in chief is former Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein, who oversaw the Wonkblog for the newspaper.

Bankoff compared Vox and its growing business to earlier forms of media, such as magazines and television.

“A couple of generations ago, magazines about news, sports and food took root. When I was a kid, cable networks about news and sports and food took root and grew to become valuable companies,” Bankoff said in an interview. “New forms of advertising were created around both of those industries. Now, there’s a new medium and new brands that take advantage of this medium and what audiences and advertisers are looking for. We believe there’s an opportunity to create a great company based on that.”

Vox, located near Dupont Circle, plans to use the money to expand its brands. Anton Levy, head of General Atlantic’s Internet and technology sector, said in a statement on the firm’s Web site that Bankoff “is not only one of the foremost minds in digital media, he is also a proven business builder.”

“An investment from General Atlantic, no matter what the dollar figure, is a crystal clear sign that Vox is hitting the ball hard,” said serial entrepreneur Mark Walsh, executive chairman of Homesnap, a real estate site. “I continue to be amazed at the dollar figures that are being spent on these non-public properties. The numbers are eye-popping.”

In some cases, investors are estimating the future worth of the companies to be higher than the values placed during the dot-com bubble in 1999-2001, when prices were also steep.

The difference, Walsh said, is “there are actually fewer companies getting these large investments” than there were in 2000.

— Thomas Heath

Also in Business

— From news services

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