Cathie Anderson

Seattle media company buys Carmichael’s SimplyRecipes.com

Elise Bauer whips up a recipe of Brazilian Cheese Bread for her food blog in her parents kitchen in Carmichael, March 18, 2010.
Elise Bauer whips up a recipe of Brazilian Cheese Bread for her food blog in her parents kitchen in Carmichael, March 18, 2010. lsterling@sacbee.com

Carmichael’s Elise Bauer announced Thursday that she has sold her award-winning cooking and recipe blog, SimplyRecipes.com, to Seattle-based Fexy Media, a company led by the woman who grew Allrecipes.com into one of the world’s biggest food websites.

“There’s only so far I can go on my own,” Bauer told me. “I think I’ve really built something lovely and wonderful. I love my site. It’s a great source for recipes. There’s so much care that I’ve put into it over the years. I want to make sure it continues to grow and thrive, and I think the best way to do that in this market that is constantly changing is to do that in a bigger organization. They have the resources I would need to continue to grow the company.”

Neither Fexy nor Bauer disclosed the purchase price. Lisa and Cliff Sharples, both veterans of the digital media industry, founded Fexy Media in 2014 with investment banker Ben Sternberg. Lisa Sharples ran Allrecipes for six years before leaving in 2007, a year after the business was acquired by Meredith Corp. for $175 million. Meredith publishes such magazines as Better Homes & Gardens and Ladies’ Home Journal.

Before Allrecipes, Lisa Sharples spent time as an executive with Classmates.com and was a co-founder of Garden.com with her husband. Cliff Sharples’ résumé includes a stint as the chief operating officer of the digital humor site Cheezburger, and he now is chief cultivator at the social networking site DigtheDirt.com. The couple are co-CEOs at Fexy, and Sternberg is the CFO.

Of the Simply Recipes acquisition, Cliff Sharples said: “We are very deliberate about our acquisition strategy as we build a complementary portfolio of food-focused brands. Simply Recipes is the cornerstone site from which we are going to expand the Fexy network’s recipe content strategy. We are thrilled to have Elise join the Fexy family, partnering with our growing talent across the portfolio and utilizing resources at Fexy studios and labs to help realize the brand’s full potential.”

Longtime readers of The Sacramento Bee may recall past articles about how Bauer became one of the earliest food bloggers, along with David Lebovitz and 101 Cookbooks. She launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to create a repository for favorite family recipes.

Bauer, a St. Francis Catholic High School graduate who has a master’s in business administration from Stanford University, had built a successful career in the technology industry but fell ill in 2001 with chronic fatigue. After fighting it alone for two years, she said, she decided to return to her parents’ Carmichael home and remained there seven years while recuperating. She now owns her home just a few blocks from her parents.

“My folks … are really amazing home cooks,” the 55-year-old Bauer said. “They raised six kids on a state worker’s salary and are scratch cooks and gardeners. That’s the type of food I grew up with. When I moved home, I thought, ‘Well, I might as well learn how to cook while … I get better.’”

Bauer’s parents, former teachers Thomas and Alice Bauer, shared her passion. Her father, who later worked for the state Department of Education, really loves searching for and developing recipes, while her mother loves cooking, she said. The site’s readership grew to 6.5 million unique monthly visitors by November. Over the years, Bauer and her website has been lauded by Forbes, The Daily Meal, Redbook magazine and other institutions. She will continue to run Simply Recipes as its president.

Cliff Sharples said the Fexy strategy is to assemble a portfolio of diverse digital brands that appeal to specific food lifestyle needs, and he and his wife have long been impressed by how Bauer, working alone, had expanded the audience for Simply Recipes.

“Simply Recipes is all about home cooks looking for great recipes to cook during the week for their families that are well-tested, scratch cooking, whole ingredients, whereas Roadfood is about exploring regional culture through local dishes,” Sharples said. “Serious Eats is different as well. Their primary market is millennials living in big, urban markets like L.A. It’s really about discovering great eating experiences.”

What Fexy offers is data analysis of followers that would otherwise be unaffordable, Bauer and Sharples said. Fexy also can help the bloggers to produce and distribute videos in a cost-effective way.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee

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