RALEIGH, N.C. — The remarkable 10-year-old story of Web advertising services firm Accipiter entered into a new chapter Monday night when the Raleigh-based firm announced it was being acquired by a Seattle company for $30.3 million cash.

Yes, Accipiter has been sold — again.

Accipiter, launched in 1996, was sold for the first time to CMGI (now Engage) for $35 million in 1998. (The value of the deal was inflated later as the price of CMGI stock soared.)

However, in 2002, current Accipiter management led by Chief Executive Officer Brian Handly, convinced Engage management to spin Accipiter back out as a separate firm.

Now, Accipiter is selling out to Atlas, a business unit of publicly traded aQuantive (NASDAQ: AQNT).

The deal was announced after the markets closed on Monday.

In an interview Tuesday Handly said the decision to sell was made only after months of negotiations as well as considerations for other means of growing, such as raising another round of venture capital.

“This is a very logical step for us,” Handly explained. “We were in the process of seeking another round of funding or whether we could fight the right suitor. — The sales and marketing strengths of Atlas will help us really grow the publisher side of the business.”

Accipter’s pursuit of venture capital went as far as reviewing term sheets. “We went pretty far down that path,” he said.

Accipiter will remain based in Raleigh but operate under the Atlas name. The company is also likely to add employees to the Raleigh office.

“Accipiter has a market-leading product satisfying customers in over 20 countries,” Handly said in a statement. “Joining with Atlas allows us to leverage the resources of a large company to expand our technology, serve our existing clients in new ways, and accelerate our penetration into both domestic and international markets. My team is excited to collaborate with the rest of the Atlas team, reach broader sets of key publishers and unlock value in emerging digital media markets.”

Accipiter’s management team will join Atlas as a senior vice president and remain in Raleigh, Atlas said in a statement.

In 2002, Handly and several other executives took control of Accipiter. Joining him were Robert Cox, who is vice president of technical operations; Jeff Wood, vice president of sales; and Guy Taylor, vice president of research and development.

Overseas employees will become part of the Atlas operation for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“Certain” Accipiter employees will also receive stock options in aQuantive in exchange for stock options they held in Accipiter, Atlas added.

Privately held Accipiter was self-financed until it accepted $2 million in venture funding from Charlotte-based Frontier Capital. The deal was announced in January of 2005.

Atlas provides digital marketing technology and services for integrated advertising campaigns and online ad management. The company has offices in Seattle, London, Denver, New York and San Francisco.

“As Internet advertising has grown increasingly specialized, and as Atlas has continued to gain market share amongst advertisers and agencies, publishers have asked Atlas for sell-side-focused digital advertising solutions,” said Karl Siebrecht, president of Atlas, in a statement.

“Accipiter’s highly developed ability to maximize publishers’ revenue from both brand and direct response-focused advertisers complements Atlas’s core strength and position among buyers of Internet advertising,” he added. “We believe our position with the buy-side – where media purchasing decisions are made – coupled with our core strengths in analytics, will enable us to deliver meaningful innovations to market for publishers.”

Online ad spending makes up about 4 percent of all advertising, but its share of the market is growing.

In 2005, online advertising in the U.S. increased more than 30 percent to $12.5 billion, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Capitalizing on the growing amount of money spent on Web-based advertising, Accipiter has announced a long series of new customers in recent months. Accipiter’s proprietary technology enables it to “serve” ads over the Web based on geographic, demographic, behavioral targeting and other information.

Entrepreneur Chris Evans founded Accipiter in 1996.

Accipiter: www.accipiter.com