Term Sheet

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Exclusive: Kleiner Perkins finds new profits in an old dotcom

August 8, 2013: 11:48 AM ET

autotraderKleiner Perkins sells its 14 year-old stake in AutoTrader to Cox Enterprises.

FORTUNE -- It has been 14 years since Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers invested in AutoTrader.com, an Atlanta-based digital automotive marketplace that would later acquire such properties as Kelly Blue Book. It was a stereotypical dotcom investment, with KP holding onto its shares long after the bubble burst and yet another boom/bust cycle ran its course.

But Fortune has learned that KP recently sold all of its AutoTrader stock to Cox Enterprises, which now holds a 73% AutoTrader stake. More importantly, KP did so at a massive profit.

A source familiar with the situation says that the venture capital firm generated "close to $400 million" from its AutoTrader investment, including both the share sale and proceeds from a 2012 dividend.

Based on preliminary IPO documents filed by AutoTrader last year (the registration was later withdrawn), Kleiner Perkins' equity stake was just a hair below 5%. We don't know the specific dividend payout breakdown, but let's assume it was pro rata. In that case, KP would have received just under $20 million. That means that its share sale was valued in excess of $350 million, giving AutoTrader a valuation of approximately $7 billion.

A Cox spokesman confirmed the share purchase, but not any dollar amounts. He declined to comment on whether or not Cox had interest in purchasing a 25% stake currently held by private equity firm Providence Equity Partners (the remainder is held by AutoTrader employees). Kleiner Perkins declined to comment on the sale.

There is an understandable perception that the dotcom era's winners and losers have already been determined, and that all of their venture capital investors have since moved on. But, as AutoTrader shows, there are still some stories yet to be written.

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Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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