MotherNature.com To Fold

Online health products store MotherNature.com (Nasdaq: MTHR) announced Tuesday that its board of directors has approved a plan to liquidate and dissolve the company, making it the third major e-tailer to shut down within two days.

The announcement by the Concord, Massachusetts-based company did not specify when the company will stop taking orders and begin laying off employees, but said that the board’s vote was unanimous and that it is in the process of winding down operations.

The company said it made a “significant effort” to find an acceptable buyer or strategic alliance partner, but now will attempt to sell off its assets, including intellectual property.

MotherNature.com’s decision followed a Monday announcement by privately held Furniture.com that it was shutting its virtual doors, as well as an announcement Tuesday that publicly held Pets.com was closing.

Both MotherNature.com and Furniture.com were backed by Internet investment firm CMGI.

Passing on Other Options

Internet holding company Sitestar offered to buy the company for $11.36 million (US$), or 75 cents per share in late August. After increasing the offer to $17.4 million, or $1.15 per share, in September, Sitestar canceled the deal in October because of MotherNature.com’s “refusal to enter into any discussion.”

Another suitor, Vitacost.com, said that it was “shocked and disappointed” by the “decision by MotherNature.com’s Board of Directors to liquidate the company before formally reviewing and considering Vitacost.com’s merger offer.”

Ultimately, MotherNature.com said that after considering alternatives, as well as the market values of comparable companies, the board decided that it “would not be advisable to continue to operate the company as an independent enterprise indefinitely if the potential for growth and availability of financing were so limited.”

MotherNature.com’s Troubles

The decision to liquidate ends a tumultuous ride for MotherNature.com. The company went public in December and saw its stock price go as high as $14.56. However, like many publicly held dot-coms, MotherNature.com’s stock price soon plunged to 37 cents.

In June, Goldman Sachs analyst Anthony Noto said that MotherNature.com would have to conserve cash and possibly raise capital if it was going to stay in business. In September, MotherNature.com tried to save money by cutting 25 jobs, 20 percent of its workforce.

Yet some signs that MotherNature.com might be on the road to profitability did appear. Recently reported third quarter losses were $6.7 million, or 44 cents per share, down from losses of $18.8 million, or $1.93 per share, a year earlier.

With shares closing Tuesday at 62 cents, MotherNature.com’s market capitalization rested at $9.5 million.

Asset Distribution

The company said it expected that approximately $15.8 million, or $1 per share, would be available for distribution to shareholders, who will get their chance to approve the liquidation plan at a November 30th meeting.

Shareholders will receive approximately $13.4 million, or 85 cents per share, before the end of the year. The remaining assets of $2.4 million will be held in contingency reserve and distributed to stockholders over the next three years.

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