Lou Dobbs Navigating Stormy Skies

Former CNN Moneyline host, Lou
Dobbs, announced late last week that his SPACE.com brainchild would go where few Net
start-ups have gone before – profitability. And to get there, the newcomer
will apparently have to lighten its load to the tune of 22 layoffs, or
about 20% of its workforce. According to official statements, the move is
curiously part of the New York-based Web site’s “aggressive growth strategy.”


To date, the outer space-centric upstart has managed to raise an impressive
$60 million from blue chip investors solely on Dobbs’ crackerjack
reputation. But it’s likely that the company was put on notice sometime
during the last month that additional funding would be a crapshoot in light
of the market’s ongoing meltdown. Further, it’s a gamble at best that
apathetic retail investors will realistically embrace an IPO from a niche
content player like SPACE.com, regardless of its celebrity founder. In
light of the dimming prospects, previously anxious investors can’t be
blamed for becoming a tad more tight-fisted with the pocketbook.


If there’s any hope left of panning for Internet gold in the new issues
market, a few whirlwind belt-tightening efforts were in order to achieve
“an accelerated path to profitability.” That target date has been pushed up
to the fourth quarter of 2001, which still sounds an awful lot like the
bare minimum that might have been needed to appease antsy investors. In
addition to the job cuts, SPACE.com’s president Sally Ride, the first
American woman in space, resigned from her post after more than a year and
a half at the helm.


SPACE.com has been on the acquisition trail since this last summer, first
scooping up astronomy software developer Sienna Software in May. Following
this was its SpaceWatch.com
land-grab in July from now defunct Pseudo Programs, which shuttered its
doors for good two weeks ago. Dobbs said in an interview that his company
plans to make a pair of additional acquisition announcements sometime over
the next few weeks.


The space odyssey marks Dobbs’ first solo dot-com venture following his
sudden resignation from CNN last year. He was the cable network’s lead
financial news anchor as well as the top banana of the company’s flagship
online Web property, CNNfn.com. After
nearly two decades working for Turner, Dobbs unceremoniously dumped his
million-dollar-a-year post as a result of an ongoing feud with CNN
president, Rick Kaplan. The up-to-the-minute news channel was left
scrambling to replace its big money draw with a handful of unimpressive
financial news personalities in the wake of Dobbs’ departure.
Not-so-coincidentally, Kaplan was given his walking papers earlier this month.


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