Brightsolid plans fresh impetus for £25m Friends Reunited

Brightsold chief executive Chris van der Kuyl. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Brightsold chief executive Chris van der Kuyl. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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INTERNET pioneer Chris van der Kuyl, chief executive of Brightsolid, is to build closer links between the company’s range of family history websites and social network Friends Reunited, bought from broadcaster ITV for £25 million.

The company remained tight-lipped over the finer details, but a spokeswoman said she expected an announcement would be made during the second quarter.

Van der Kuyl also has his eye on the American market, having expanded the firm’s Find My Past brand into Australia, Ireland and New Zealand in the past year.

The deal to buy Friends Reunited was held up by a Competition Commission inquiry but finally went through in March, 2010. ITV had bought the site in 2005 from its founders, Steve and Julie Pankhurst, for £175m.

Figures released yesterday by Brightsolid, which is owned by Beano publisher DC Thomson, showed that taking over the site had helped to push the Dundee-based tech company into profit.

Turnover jumped to £28.4m in the year to 31 March from £16.2m following the first full-year contribution from Friends Reunited, with the firm swinging to a pre-tax profit of £672,000 compared with a loss of £322,000 in the previous year.

Staff numbers jumped to 136 from 61 after the acquisition. Van der Kuyl said: “It’s been a great year and we’ve invested time and effort integrating Friends Reunited into the business.”

Brightsolid’s digital publishing wing extended its partnership with the British Library last year by publishing online more than three millions pages from local newspapers, including the Edinburgh Evening News and the Falkirk Herald.

The firm is also growing the technology side of its business by opening a second data centre in Dundee, in partnership with US computing giant IBM.

Data centres store vast amounts of confidential information on behalf of customers and house the equipment that is used to run clients’ websites.

Brightsolid is adding a second site in the city after winning a slew of contracts, including providing e-mail services for St Andrews University and “cloud computing” for an unnamed FTSE 100 financial services firm.

With “cloud computing”, programs and data are stored remotely and then accessed via the internet, rather than being kept on individual terminals on clients’ desks.

Accounts posted last month showed parent group DC Thomson grew profits to £28.6m in the year to 31 March, from £27.4m in the previous 12 months.