Deal under construction

Since Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch acquired Microsoft's Sidewalk last week, new details about the implications of the merger of the two leading city guide sites continue to surface. As the transition is negotiated over the next few months, the two sides will discuss everything from which employees will still have jobs to whether or not the kinda cool Sidewalk name will get paved over.

Sidewalk denizens may find themselves leaving the Microsoft fold, according to Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch chief financial officer Tom McInerney. "We have about 200 to 300 job openings," he said on the phone from company headquarters in Pasadena, California. "We're hoping many of those folks will stay with us."

A likely scenario in cities like Seattle, New York, and San Francisco, where both companies maintained staffed offices, is that there'll be some consolidation—in terms of both personnel and content. Because CitySearch gets Sidewalk's arts and entertainment content, that should be incorporated into any combined site soon after the deal is finalized this fall. In a major change for CitySearch, the company may maintain some of Sidewalk's unstaffed Web sites, creating calendar listings and compiling movie times from other locations, and thus moving the company closer in style to a leading competitor, America Online's Digital Cities.

Still uncertain is the fate of some 90 full-time Sidewalk employees and 150

temporary workers scattered around the country. Early reports make it seem that Microsoft is nudging staffers in CitySearch's direction, with the temps queuing up behind them. At Sidewalk's Houston office last month, prior to the deal's announcement, a general manager hinted to temps that they'd be best advised to look elsewhere.

CitySearch's McInerney says that anything's possible, however, and implies that the company may even look into borrowing Microsoft's tactic of employing temps in some positions.

 
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