Bertelsmann makes digital push

Sets up fund to back new technologies, media services

Germany's Bertelsmann has set up a venture capital fund to invest in digital media companies with an eye to leveraging the group's vast media properties over all digital platforms.

The fund, called Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, will initially have €50 million ($62.5 million) to spend on backing new technologies and new-media service companies.

BDMI's current portfolio includes online audiobooks group, wireless push technology company Vocel and electronic publishing group ebrary.

Richard Sarnoff, president of the corporate development group at Bertelsmann subsidiary Random House and head of its venture capital arm Random House Ventures, will serve as president of BDMI. He will report directly to Bertelsmann chief financial officer Thomas Rabe.

Based in Germany and the U.S., BDMI said it will focus primarily on acquiring minority stakes in early-stage start-ups but also will consider taking majority control or tapping outside equity if desired.

"Technology continues to play an increasing role in all Bertelsmann divisions as digital media, the Web and mobile access continue to converge on a global scale," Sarnoff said in a statement. "This new fund will allow us to supplement the existing in-house knowledge base and support ongoing divisional technology initiatives through investments in pioneering companies."

Bertelsmann is one of the world's largest media companies. Its assets include leading European broadcaster RTL Group, publishing giant Random House and a 50% stake in music label Sony BMG.