National Lampoon Inc. (NLN), continuing its cultural mission to educate and entertain today's youth, is buying AllModelZone.com from Web design shop Alle Von Technologies LLC for an undisclosed sum. AllModelZone, which launched in 2002, is a social network for people in the modeling industry, letting aspiring and professional models, photographers, agency folks and miscellaneous hangers-on connect online. National Lampoon also says it will use its new acquisition to help cast an upcoming film, called "National Lampoon's Legend of Awesomest Maximus, starring Ben Kingsley, Helen Mirren and Dame Judi Dench as Maximus.
National Lampoon, the storied comedy shop that in the 1970s and 1980s produced a magazine, radio show and feature films including Animal House, has stagnated in recent years. Under James Jimirro, a former Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) exec who took control of the company in 1990, the company changed its name to J2 Communications Inc. and generated revenues, among other ways, by lending the National Lampoon name to such classics as Van Wilder. J2 was delisted from Nasdaq's small-cap market in 2002.
In 2003, a group of investors led by Indianapolis real estate mogul Daniel Laikin bought J2 for $5 million and changed its name to National Lampoon Inc. and began to produce original content (actor Tim Mathesen, who played Eric 'Otter' Stratton in Animal House, became a co-owner of National Lampoon Magazine in the late '80s and helped run the company for a time as a unit of J2). Laiken brought in people such as Doug Bennett, the former president of Macmillan USA and head of online publishing venture iuniverse.com to run the company and, especially, capitalize on the Internet boom. It hasn't worked.
Since then, National Lampoon has made a number of acquisitions, beginning with a 2003 deal to buy a bankrupt television network called Burly Bear Networks Inc. for $600,000. Its more recent purchases include a 2007 deal for Drunk University and, doubling down on the boozy frat set, CollegeHangover.com ("CollegeHangover has been a strong partner in our Drunk University Network....," Laikin said in statement in announcing the deal in January), along with February purchases of promotional company Comedy Express Inc. and sports site RivalFish.
Despite such efforts, National Lampoon's balance sheet is about as funny as Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Tai. In June it reported third-quarter earnings of $98,000 on revenues of $2.6 million, hardly the sort of numbers that signify success for a company whose films once shook the box office. Earlier this year the American Stock Exchange, where National Lampoon's shares trade, warned the media firm that its stock no longer meets listing requirements (the company is trying to regain compliance).
Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? You bet.