Can it be more than a decade since we’ve seen a Capital Region company register to sell stock to the public?
As best I can tell, that seems to be the case. The initial public offering in 2004 by AngioDynamics, a medical products maker headquartered in Latham, appears to have been the last.
Remember the go-go late-1990s, when local banks lined up to launch IPOs? Or the early-2000s, when tech companies did the same?
The dot-com boom and bust curtailed some of the IPO lust here and elsewhere, soon outdone by the Great Recession’s great economic uncertainty. The IPO pace nationwide finally picked back up in 2013 and 2014, according to industry watcher Renaissance Capital, but cooled a bit last year.
Here, though? Zip.
That soon will change — sort of.
CommerceHub of Albany, co-founded in 1997 by a couple of University at Albany master’s graduates, will be spun off mega-media parent Liberty Interactive into an independent public company.
The shift will take place sometime this year, although when is not yet set. A bare-bones prospectus on the plan was filed last week with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
According to the document, shareholders of certain stock in Liberty Interactive’s Liberty Venture Group — under which CommerceHub operated — will receive shares in the new company when it is spun off. The prospectus indicates that some 44 million shares of stock, created in three classes of securities, will go to the Liberty shareholders.
That’s different from the typical IPO, under which a company registers stock to sell to the public at large, raising capital for operations in the process.
Raising capital is CommerceHub’s goal, too, and Jane Q. Public could get her hands on shares in the future as they trade.
CommerceHub also expects the spinoff will “provide greater transparency for investors with respect to our business, resulting in more focus and attention by the investment community on our business and better highlighting our value,” the prospectus says.
For years, CommerceHub has been an invisible hand in the growing universe of e-commerce.
Way back in the pre-smartphone era, co-founders Frank Poore and Richard Jones created software that allowed retailers, suppliers and manufacturers to talk the same language, allowing them to bypass warehouses to get purchases more swiftly to consumers.
Nowadays, retailers tout their “omnichannel” chops — being able to serve buyers wherever they shop: store, Internet, mobile. Quick fulfillment is key.
CommerceHub caught Liberty Interactive’s eye early on. The giant — with the QVC and HSN home shopping networks among its holdings — acquired CommerceHub in 2006.
Poore and Jones left briefly but returned in 2011, assuming their former CommerceHub executive roles 18 months later.
Today, CommerceHub occupies the sixth-floor “penthouse” at the ZEN Building at the SUNY Poly campus on Fuller Road, complete with yoga and game rooms and artist-painted wall murals. Employment tops 300, with jobs still to fill.
Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected].