Aesop Interactive LLC Acquired by Anonymous Buyer

aesopEarlier this year, Nick Haskins, founder of Aesop Interactive LLC, announced he was selling the company. Haskins was initially going to list the company on Flippa but after receiving advice from Syed Balkhi, used FE International to facilitate the sale. FE International is composed of website brokers that do the heavy lifting to help businesses find buyers.

An anonymous company based on the US East Coast without ties to the WordPress community is the new owner of Aesop Interactive LLC. Although terms of the deal are not public, Haskins confirms that he received close to his asking price of $100K.

When Haskins put the company up for sale, he specified two conditions the new owner must follow.

  1. Aesop Story Engine MUST absolutely be maintained and kept free.
  2. Editus must continue forward with development, in some way shape or form.

It’s unclear what the new owner’s plans are for Aesop Story Engine, Editus, and Story.AM.

Advice for Selling Your Company

The WordPress ecosystem is filled with thousands of companies from individuals to 50+ person agencies. Haskins offers the following advice for those thinking about selling their business, “Make sure that the books are buttoned up tight, because every check, every payment, every expense will be scrutinized and will ultimately determine what the appraisal price will be. Run a lean ship as the less overhead you have, the better.”

During the appraisal process, Haskins had to account for and explain every check number written during the last few months. Although it was a lot of work on his end, he highly recommends using FE International as they manage the negotiating, contract writing, and appraisal processes.

What’s Next for Haskins?

Haskins isn’t giving up WordPress development as he continues to work with the software on a daily basis managing CGCookie. When I asked what’s next in his WordPress journey, he replied, “Overall, there will be another project. It’s just that this chapter of the story is finished. I want to eventually write and publish an eBook on my experiences of starting, running, and selling a business.”

Who do you think the buyer is and what do you think will happen to Aesop Story Engine, Editus, and Story.AM?

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19 Comments


  1. Congrats to Nick. But I’m curious if anyone who has legal experience and expertise can chime in here: is the new owner under any real legal obligation to abide by the 2 sale conditions? And what if they don’t? Is Nick really going to sue them? Can they be liable to someone else? For example, if I’m using Aesop and they decide to charge for it, can I sue them for breach of contract?

    While it is ‘nice’ to have those conditions, I really don’t see how they can be enforced realistically. What if the company who bought it undergoes financial strains? what if they decide to ‘pivot’? or to merge it with another product, etc. the possibilities and contingencies are as limitless as reality.

    But what do I know :/

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    1. Typically in deals like this, there’s a stipulation in the sale agreement with a timeline. E.g., “Must be kept free for XX amount of months, years, etc.”

      I had a similar situation years ago when a company I was running was sold. Part of the terms of the sale was that current staff was to remain for a period of 1 year, (unless they violated company policies). It was a way to ensure a smooth ownership transition and prevent the new owner from just arbitrarily “cleaning house” upon acquiring.

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      1. This is similar to how you place an easement on real-estate property which can do things like enforcing a right-of-way for a neighbour or allowing infrastructure for a utility like a water or sewer main to be built and maintained across that property. Here, such a requirement is usually written to survive the sale or transfer of the property.

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  2. Congrats to Nick!

    Great point raised by Robin – are those actual contractual obligations?

    I hope the transition is clearly communicated to customers…

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  3. There’s good advice in this article about selling a small business.

    Here’s something to add: if you’re hoping to sell your business, don’t play games with the books. If you were to hide some revenue or inflate some expenses in an attempt to save on taxes, for example, that would be a mistake.

    Why? Because your potential buyer will want to see your books and see that they match your tax returns. If they don’t match, your business will be valued at the LOWER number. In particular, buyers’ banks are extraordinarily hardnosed about this kind of discrepancy.

    Also: your buyer might not want to assume your tax liability.

    Finally, it’s not legal.

    I’ve seen some sales of decent businesses get derailed by this. So be careful.

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  4. Interested to see how this pans out. I’ve used Aesop before, and love the idea, and the front-end editing options with Editus were a natural progression.

    But Aesop could be funky, and support very limited (or, at least, slow to reply). I’m curious to see if this will be an area that improves with this sale.

    Also, I’m going to assume the shortcode implementation will remain the same? So, if a blog makes a lot of use of Aesop (or Editus), then that won’t suddenly disappear (or look wonky) because the new owners make it work differently?

    Any timelines on announcements of intent from the buyers?

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    1. I didn’t get the chance to talk to the buyer and had to get information about them from Nick. I doubt they’ll be able to stay anonymous for long if they remain in the WordPress community and continue to work on these products. I’m a fan of Editus and liked the direction Nick was taking it. I hope it continues on that same path as I think it could be THE frontend editor for WordPress.

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      1. Cheers, Jeff, and agree – it has so much potential. It’d be a shame to see it lose that – I guess time will tell. :)

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      2. For instance, the Revision interface in Editus is far superior to the one in WordPress. You can see the changes as you move the slider and you don’t need to know how to compare diffs like in the WordPress revisions interface.

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  5. Nothing is changing. Aesop and Editus aren’t going anywhere. Seeing as how those are the products that bring in revenue (ASE indirectly), it would be foolhardy to retire them. It’s very much business as usual, just under a different owner.

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  6. Can’t help but wondering whether this was an intended move – Nick was certainly to sell once there was an offer.

    In practice, I think this will be the demise of Aesop and the continuation of Story.am. Businesses in this space like Medium are certainly “hot” so I can see that being a driving force behind the purchase.

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  7. Hello all,
    I am the “Anonymous” buyer the article refers to. I had been legally bound to remain anonymous and silent while the deal was underway. There will a more formal announcement from me in coming days. But let me take this as my informal introduction.

    As Nick said, let me ensure everyone that Aesop and Editus are not going anywhere. I am not some big shady corporation intending to shut them down or merge with other products. I however hope to be a fresh set of eyes with new perspectives on how to make things better.

    Currently I and Nick are formally (and legally) under the “training period” where Nick helps me with transitioning the business. So things may look a little slow for now. But I have been studying what people have been saying on SNS, youtube, here and other venues. I do have ideas which I hope to reveal gradually.

    What I don’t have are intentions or practical resource to do anything crazy with Aesop and Editus or Story.AM. They will remain as they are for time being. But I do intend to make evolutionary, not revolutionary, improvements to all Nick gave to me. Hopefully a moral formal announcements will come soon. So rest assured and I would appreciate all feedback.

    Hyun

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    1. Hi Hyun,

      Thanks for jumping in, and looking forward to seeing what you do. As many Aesop users would say, the potential is awesome – hopefully it can finally be reached. :)

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      1. Thanks Danny, I would not have made the purchase myself if I didn’t see the potential. Again, for now I am still learning the ins and outs with Nick’s help. But hopefully with the new year coming around the corner, the better days are ahead! :)

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      2. Hi Hyun,

        One quick question – how about an option to buy either a single license (say, $47) or the ability to try free for 30 days?

        Not a lot of bloggers would have the need for three licenses off the bat, but may use on other projects once they see how well it works on their main site?

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    2. Congrats on the acquisition, Hyun! We’re excited for where you’ll take Aesop.

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    3. Congrats Hyun and Nick! Looking forward to the formal announcement and how you guys take up the company to something big and useful. Editus has a lot of potential.

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  8. I have a lot of respect for the team and their work, but Editus just wasn’t for me.

    I hired WPCurve to install it for me because it was so complex to setup for me, a non-technical person. They failed the first time and I had to get them to do it again. That’s a team of self-proclaimed WP developer rockstars failing to set up Editus, so there are obviously some serious usability issues there.

    Once it was finally working, I found that Editus had a number of limitations in what it could and couldn’t do. Also, it would add in coding that I didn’t want. Various “lasso” classes added to links and other stuff.

    Editus was an ambitious effort, and I agree that something like it is definitely needed, but in its current form, it’s not what I want. I have uninstalled both Editus and the various plugins it needed to run.

    Back to old-school blogging with two browsers… sigh…

    No disrespect meant. Just speaking my mind…

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    1. I hear you, Dylan. I was looking forward to Editus, but I’m not a coder (and I’d imagine many “normal bloggers” aren’t either). So needing to add code to make it work seemed to take away from the simplicity factor that Editus promises.

      As many have said, the potential is there. It just needs to be simpler and more user-friendly on the back end.

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