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Freeinternet.com auction is 'unprecedented'
"Freeinternet.com's sale of assets Wednesday marks the first time a major dotcom in the Northwest has called in an auctioneer to liquidate.Everything in Freeinternet.com's large, glass building is going on the block - about 2,500 items including laptops and other computers, office furniture, exercise equipment and game room items such as pool tables, says Terry Moore, spokesman for Kenmore-based James G. Murphy Inc.The building opens at 8 a.m., with auctioning starting at 10 a.m. It's likely to be an all-day event, Moore said.The 2-year-old internet service provider filed for bankruptcy protection in early October, less than seven months after it proposed an initial public offering.Though the business owes about $30 million to its top 20 creditors, it's unlikely many will get paid. Today's auction proceeds will go to Cisco Systems Capital because it had a secured claim. Freeinternet.com owes Cisco about $5 million.No matter how much it raises, today's auction will mark the death rattle for Freeinternet.com, which ate its way through $89 million before going bust.Scott Brown, Federal Way Chamber of Commerce board president, expressed sorrow that Freeinternet.com didn't make it. The business drew positive publicity to Federal Way when it considered its IPO, and would have made a valuable addition to the city's developing downtown, he said.I thought they were going to be a great part of our community, and I wish they had succeeded, Brown said. But I know the dotcom business is very competitive right now.Today's auction could be the first of more dotcom selloffs to come, Moore said.Many of the dotcoms that previously shut their doors were smaller than Freeinternet.com, and they liquidated their own assets - often selling to similar businesses.However, that's getting harder to do because so many are failing, Moore said.At today's auction, there will be no minimum bids. The auctioneer will start at a value, then go up or down depending on bidding. Moore expects the draw for the auction to be primarily from the Puget Sound area based on the 100-some calls James G. Murphy Inc. has fielded, but said some out-of-staters will be attending.No matter the makeup of bidders, the auction is likely to be crowded, he said. Moore recommends arriving early to get a seat near the auctioneer - and to get a good parking spot. He predicted some people will have lots of walking to do to get from their cars to the auction.Part of the draw, he said, is that all items for sale are less than 2 years old.That's kind of rare for an auction, he said.Though there likely are bargains to be had, Moore recommends people do their research before they start bidding so they know an item's market value. He's seen people pay prices much higher than retail value at auctions.Don't bid blindly, he said, just thinking you're going to get a buy. "