RealTime IT News

Where's the Money Honey?

The dot-com boneyard is making room for financial news Web site and print magazine Individual Investor In Silicon Alley, Individual Investor's falling off the wagon attracts some note because its founder Jonathan Steinberg is married to everyone's favorite CNBC correspondent, Maria Bartiromo. You know me. I'm inclined to wonder aloud whether that bulky rock hugging Maria's ring finger might have something to do with all this mess.

Doubtful if we'll see an acquisition materialize, but something tells me there'll be a sugar daddy to the rescue here. Individual is a quality on and offline publication; unfortunately, the magazine business is ridiculously difficult to carve out a niche, let alone turn a profit.

Last year the company struggled to earn $17 million on losses of $4 million. This latest development is one in a long line of belt-tightening moves that have dogged the upstart for years. While the company is largely a victim of deep-pocketed competitors, it's also been punished for ill timing. Investors never quite flocked to Individual Investor's stock like they did newly minted dot-com start-ups.

Like many companies who were publicly-traded long before the Net hysteria, Individual Investor briefly rode the rising tide that lifted all ships back in early 1999. After enjoying a fleeting 52-week high of 12 bucks, it's been slow water torture ever since for unfortunate retail investors who've ridden this stock near its current 52-week low of $2.

While selling magazine subscriptions is Individual's bread and butter, there may have been a different ending written for the company had it pushed its Web presence earlier on. But, I got the feeling the financial news publication never took the Internet all that seriously until it was too late. Despite a handful of ambitious investments in other Net start-ups, Individual Investor let other more nimble players dominate the online space without putting up much of a struggle.

The real story here may be Steinberg's father Saul. The flamboyant former billionaire has fallen on rough times recently. Normally, he would've written out a blank check in a New York minute to bail out his son's sinking ship. But this latest market upheaval has yanked the Persian rug right out from under the tycoon.

Most of Saul's entire wealth is hogtied to the stock market, and Greenspan's roller coaster ride has forced the elder Steinberg to auction off his once-prized Reliance Group Holdings , hawk his Old Masters paintings, and sell his posh 34-room Rockefeller Park Avenue digs. And you thought your portfolio left you feeling light in the wallet.

Any questions or comments, love letters or hate mail? As always, feel free to forward them to kblack@internet.com.