A group of long-time users has succeeded in banding together to buy the 27-year-old online community The WELL from its previous owner, Salon Media Group. Efforts began with a pledge drive among the site's approximately 2,700 members, but the acquisition — the price of which has not been disclosed — was ultimately financed by a consortium of larger investors, incorporated as The Well Group. According to a listing on the site, The Well Group, whose members have an average tenure on the site of more than 20 years, includes playwrights Brady Lea and Evelyn Jean Pine, former Network Solutions CEO Jim Rutt, and Scott Mauvais, director of the Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) in Silicon Valley.
According to an announcement posted on the site, "the purchase marks the first major online business taken private by users of the business itself." Founded in 1985, The WELL began as a private bulletin board system (BBS), and currently operates as a paid-for forum. Users pay either $10 / month for an Essential subscription, which provides basic forum access, or $15 / month for Complete membership, which offers a "well.com" email address and features such as SSH access. Well Group CEO Earl Crabb hopes to sustain the site entirely through subscription revenues, focusing on maintaining the site in the short term before looking at small growth opportunities.