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Dice emerges from bankruptcy debt-free and optimistic


Dice Inc., the once high-flying technology company that followed so many other dot-coms into bankruptcy protection, has emerged as a private company that’s much leaner but has most of its optimism intact.

The company, which handles technology-related job postings on the Internet, exited from bankruptcy protection June 30, a little more than five months after it voluntarily filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

The company had built up $70 million in debt by 2002. It had a plan for paying the money back, but the stock market’s collapse made repayment impossible. Interest payments on the debt were costing Dice $5 million annually.

Dice broke even last year on revenues of $33 million, which were down from about $56 million a year earlier, according to Scot Melland, who became the company’s chief executive two years ago.

Under Melland, a former McKinsey & Co. consultant with an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s of business administration from the Harvard Business School, Dice used the bankruptcy process to restructure its debt, converting former bondholders to shareholders.

“We’re very excited to be out of this,” Melland said. “We can use our cash and the resources we have to grow. Now the fun begins.”

At its peak when it opened a 90,000-square-foot building in Urbandale, Dice had roughly 160 employees in Atlanta, New York City and Urbandale, including about 120 in Greater Des Moines. Today, the company employs about 80 people in Greater Des Moines and fewer than 10 in New York. Another 20 work in Atlanta.

Under terms of the reorganization plan, former bondholders will own 95 percent of the new equity in the company, Melland said.

The biggest shareholders are now Elliott Associates LP and Elliott International LP, which together own about 46 percent of the company.

The remaining 5 percent of Dice’s stock will be divided among the company’s 130 largest pre-bankruptcy shareholders, he said. Taking the company private is expected to save Dice $1 million a year because it won’t have to pay for regulatory expenses and other costs associated with being a publicly traded company, Melland said.

In emerging from bankruptcy, Dice appears to be following another, little-noticed trend among small technology companies: survival.

Akamai Technologies Inc., whose technology speeds up the Internet, has seen its stock price rebound from below $1 to more than $4. The shares of Monster Worldwide Inc., one of Dice’s biggest competitors, have jumped upward this year. WebMD Corp.’s share price has more than doubled in the past 12 months. The three companies were profiled in a Wall Street Journal article on July 2.

The economy has stabilized and companies will soon begin to boost spending, particularly in recruitment, Melland said. Dice, whose job postings are viewed by 1 million people each month, is poised to begin hiring in Des Moines once more.

“We’ll be looking to grow in Des Moines,” he said.

Des Moines natives Lloyd Linn and Diane Rickert founded the company in 1995 in San Francisco. It was purchased by New York-base EarthWeb Inc. in 1999. Its biggest customers are Microsoft Corp., Adecco International and Manpower Inc.  

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