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.


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