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Cars.com spinning off on its own

By Robert Channick Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO – Cars.com is spinning off on its own as a publicly traded company.

Tegna, the Virginia-based television station owner which acquired the car shopping website in 2014, announced the move Wednesday. Cars.com will remain headquartered in Chicago and will trade under the ticker symbol CARS.

The spinoff is expected to take place in the first half of 2017. Separating the digital company from its broadcast parent will position Cars.com for potential acquisitions in the auto trading sector, executives said during a conference call Wednesday.

“There’s been enormous opportunities that have presented themselves over the past several months,” said Alex Vetter, CEO and president of Cars.com. “Being a stand-alone company will allow us to look at those independently . and pursue those with even greater focus. It really positions us in a much better way.”

In August, Cars.com closed the acquisition of DealerRater, an automotive consumer review website. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Cars.com was launched in 1998 by Tribune Co. (now Tribune Media), Gannett and other newspaper groups as a digital alternative to newspaper classified ads. Gannett bought out its partners in October 2014, acquiring the remaining 73 percent interest in Cars.com for $1.8 billion.

Cars.com has 1,308 total employees, with 859 based at its Chicago headquarters. The company is planning to move to larger quarters in June 2017.

When Gannett split into separate broadcasting and publishing companies in June 2015, Cars.com stayed with the broadcast parent, renamed Tegna.

Gracia Martore, president and CEO of Tegna, announced Wednesday she will retire when the Cars.com split is completed. Dave Lougee, who oversees Tegna’s 46 TV stations, will succeed Martore.

Tegna also announced Wednesday it is exploring strategic alternatives, including a possible sale, for CareerBuilder, the Chicago-based online job site launched in 1995. Tegna owns 53 percent of CareerBuilder, with Tribune Media and McClatchy holding minority stakes.

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