HealthCentral Buys

SAN FRANCISCO (03/17/2000) - HealthCentral announced Thursday that it would buy bricks-and-clicks retailer in a stock deal valued at $103.5 million. The acquisition is the latest move by Emeryville, Calif.-based HealthCentral to diversify. Begun as a consumer medical information site, HealthCentral launched in November 1998.

Initially, it was best known for featuring celebrity doctor Dean Edell, one of the company's founders. Since that time, HealthCentral has opened an online drugstore to fill prescriptions and sell over-the-counter medications and other products.

The company also builds and maintains Web sites for hospitals and other health care institutions. Falls Church, Va.-based Vitamins has about 200,000 online customers and operates 10 retail outlets. In addition, the company's mail-order catalog division serves about 175,000 customers.

Vitamins CEO Robert Haft is a retailing veteran; he founded Crown Books and served as chairman of drugstore chain Phar-Mor. "Combining our product portfolios will provide consumers with an enhanced and personalized shopping experience and adds an additional bricks-and-mortar legitimacy to our e-pharmacy business," HealthCentral CEO Albert Greene said in a statement.

Vitamins had net revenues of $30.5 million in 1999, according to the company.

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