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Infratil founder backs teen site

By David Cohen

Friday 25th August 2000

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In one of the year's more unusual investment decisions, Lloyd Morrison, executive chairman of Wellington merchant bank HRL Morrison & Co, has bought a 20% share in the operation of an Auckland-based website aimed at teenyboppers.

Mr Morrison, founder of the Infratil group of companies, now becomes a behind-the-scenes player in the fortunes of <>, created a year ago by Jenene Crossan-Nicholls (22), who came up with the concept of editing an online girl's magazine last August after watching a television item on a similar venture in Australia.

A month later, she registered her start-up company, e-innovatus, and the site went live on December 11, a couple of months after Ms Crossan-Nicholls tossed in her day job as an account director at a small Auckland agency.

An autobiographical note written by her and posted among nzgirl's contents, which usually run to about 35 new articles each week, sets the general tone for the publication she subsequently created.

"Outside the very long working days," she wrote, "I like to chill out with a bit of lounge music, mother my pussy cats, hang out with my two best buddies, hubby Grant and vivacious Keri, and generally enjoy life. I'm pretty fanatical about keeping life flexible, so I don't have a 'five-year plan' or anything as grown up as that ...

The magazine employs nine staff, four full-time, and Ms Crossan-Nicholls, a onetime high school dropout, claims it has been operating in the black for some time. The site attracts 1000 unique impressions a day, she says, placing it among this country's 50 most-visited local sites. Until this point, nzgirl's backers have all been family members.

Mr Morrison, who was in Germany this week, said his decision to back the venture was "a broad-horizon type of thing" based on both the verve of its publisher and the revenue-making potential in electronic publishing.

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