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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

God Is Dead

Much like Friedrich Nietzsche, who scandalized 19th-century Europe by declaring that "God is dead," Mark Cuban has some bad news for all the true believers who are investing billions in the Web.

The internet is "dead and boring," Cuban says in an interview with Portfolio.com. "We have reached the point of diminishing returns with today's internet. The speed of broadband to your home won't increase much more in the next five years than it has in the last five years. That is not enough to work as a platform for new levels of applications that will require much, much higher levels of bandwidth."

Of course, the 49-year-old Cuban made his $2.3 billion fortune as an internet entrepreneur. In 1999, he and business partner Todd Wagner sold their Web TV company, Broadcast.com, to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in Yahoo stock, then cashed out before the tech market imploded -- leaving Cuban with plenty of money to buy a basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks; launch a high-definition television network, HDNet; hire Dan Rather; and start a vertically integrated entertainment company, 2929 Entertainment, that makes and distributes movies and owns a chain of theaters.

He apparently still has enough left over to bid on the Chicago Cubs, recently put on the block by the Tribune Co., though he's uncharacteristically mum about his plans. "If I told you I would have to kill you," says Cuban, who last month officially joined the list of prospective buyers by applying to Major League Baseball to examine the team's books. "I'm sworn to secrecy."

Answering questions by email from the Cayman Islands, where he was vacationing with his family and recovering from hip-replacement surgery, Cuban also shared his views on Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo versus Google, day-trading, his personal investment strategy, and why he won't pull the plug on his much-criticized business journalism operation, Sharesleuth.com, in which he shorts companies that the site plans to trash-hoping to turn a tidy profit on his pre-publication insider knowledge.

Lloyd Grove: As recently as May 2007, you told the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet that government policy could encourage internet providers to make the necessary investment in fiber optics to significantly increase bandwidth to home users, in line with industrialized nations such as Japan, Germany, and South Korea, and that the economic benefits would eventually outweigh the costs. But last month, you declared: “The internet is dead. It’s over.” You said it’s “for old people” and it’s a “stagnant consumer platform.” Did you change your mind between May and July? Who or what killed the internet? And aren’t you biting the hand that fed you?

Mark Cuban: The internet of today versus what I suggested to the committee would happen if internet speeds to the home increased to 1 gigabyte per second, is like comparing the plane Orville and Wilbur Wright built in 1903 to a brand-new Boeing.

We have reached a point of diminishing returns with today’s internet. The speed of broadband to your home won’t increase much more in the next five years than it has in the last five years. That is not enough to work as a platform for new levels of applications that will require much, much higher levels of bandwidth.

Broadband to the home isn’t fast enough for downloads of movies at DVD quality to be ubiquitous. That means it’s no longer a platform for technological innovation.

Think of it this way. Way back when, electricity changed the world. It was the platform for everything electronic that we do today. Do you get excited about electricity or is it just a utility? Maybe old people who remember the advent of electricity still get excited about it. No one else does.

The internet is in the same position today. It’s no longer an exciting platform for societal and business change. It’s a utility. It’s something that is exciting to people who remember the old days of the internet.

The only way to change that is to upgrade the platform for bandwidth transport across the country to a minimum of 1 gigabyte per second throughout to every home. At that point kids will come up with new and unique applications that we can’t imagine today. That’s when it becomes exciting. Until then, it’s dead and boring.

L.G.: What percentage of U.S. households have access to HDNet and HDNet Movies, and what will that number be a year from now, and when will there be 100 percent penetration? What percentage of households have HDTVs? Other than Time Warner, what other major cable providers carry your channels?

M.C.: Since we are on DirecTV and Dish Network, pretty much 100 percent have access to us. On the cable side, we are on Time Warner, Verizon, AT&T, Charter, Mediacom, Insight, and about 30 others in the U.S. as well as Canada; there is a full list at www.hd.net, or better yet, just call your cable, telco, or sat provider and just order us. It’s easy.



L.G.: Why the resistance from Comcast and Cablevision? How many viewers are actually watching HDNet programming? Where do you see HDNet in five years? And five years from now, will Dan Rather still have his own show on HDNet?

M.C.: I don’t have exact viewership numbers; no one does. But where we are rated in and around L.A., we often, if not usually, have a bigger share of the HD viewing audience than the other networks: ESPN, Discovery, TNT, Universal, MTV, HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and sometimes even more than the broadcast networks on weekends.

We plan on continuing to have great programming that people love to watch and growing our subscription base.

We are the only individually owned network available today. I think that puts us in a unique position. Sure, it’s tough competing against huge conglomerates like G.E. and Comcast-owned programming for carriage. No question they have the leverage and use it. But our viewers love us and we think that still counts for something, and fortunately we have great partners like DirecTV, Dish, Time Warner, Charter, Verizon, etc., that have happy HDNet subscribers because of our partnership.

And yes, we hope Dan Rather continues with Dan Rather Reports for another 100 years.

L.G.: How much of your time do you spend on—and how big an investment have you made in—2929 Entertainment? Why movies? Why low-budget art-house movies? Are you in it for fun—and hanging out with George Clooney—or profit?

M.C.: Most of my time is spent on HDNet and the original movies that HDNet makes or buys for our unique Sneak Preview program (where we release movies to our HDNet subscribers and our partners up to two weeks before they are in theaters).

We have a vertically integrated entertainment company. We make movies; we show them in Landmark theaters; we show them on HDNet; we release them through our own DVD company, Magnolia Home Entertainment, and distribute them through Magnolia Pictures. Being vertically integrated gives us the unique opportunity to distribute our movies how and where we want to.

And low-budget? You need to do some homework. Have you seen Akeelah and the Bee, We Own the Night (which comes out October 12), Good Night, and Good Luck. We don’t make dumb-ass budget movies like some people. We make great movies at the budgets that give us the opportunity to make money.

L.G.: Has buying a distribution company and a chain of 57 theaters worked out well thus far?

M.C.: Yep. They are making money, and they give us the unique opportunity to control our product. No other studio can do a nationwide sneak preview of their movies like we can because no other studio owns a national theater chain. No network other than HDNet can offer Ultra V.O.D. [video on demand], where we allow our V.O.D. partners to sell movies two weeks before they are in theaters. Only HDNet can offer a sneak preview of a movie the Wednesday before it’s released in theaters.

The ability to offer consumers what they want is a great opportunity for us. If any other studio tried it, the other theater owners would boycott the studio in a heartbeat.

L.G.: And have you found customers willing to pay $30 (or more?) to see new releases on their HDTVs instead of $10 in see them in theaters?

M.C.: Yes. We give them a choice. If you have to hire a babysitter, pay for parking and then the movie, the $19.95 we now charge is cheap. If you want to go on a date and get out of the house away from the kids, then seeing a movie at a Landmark Theatre is a great date experience for grownups.

L.G.: In 2002, you criticized Yahoo for having a bureaucratic, “consensus-first, action-second” culture that stymied the company’s success with Web TV shortly after you and Todd Wagner sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $5.7 billion. But you seemed optimistic about the company’s potential with a change in management. What’s your assessment of Yahoo’s performance and strategic direction in the five years since then? What were Terry Semel’s successes and failures? And what do you think Yahoo’s future holds?

M.C.: I have no idea. Jerry Yang is a smart guy, so if anyone can do well, he can. I think Yahoo’s real problem is that they are being compared to Google. Used to be that companies struggled in comparison to Yahoo; now Google is the top of the heap. At some point it will be someone else.



L.G.: Was Rupert Murdoch smart to spend $5 billion on Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal? Why or why not? How, for better or worse, will the Journal be transformed? If you were Murdoch, how would you integrate this acquisition into News Corp.’s journalistic enterprises, including the soon-to-launched Fox Business Channel, and what do you think of Murdoch’s stated plans to invest $200 million in the Journal’s online operations?

M.C.: He got a great bargain. The W.S.J., brand can be applied to all of his business operations. The Fox Business Channel can be the Wall Street Journal Channel and gain immediate credibility.

As far as how to integrate them, I have no idea, and Rupert doesn’t need my advice. There are things I know and things I don’t know. I don’t know the internals of Fox, so there is no reason to speculate.

L.G.: How much time do you spend day-trading?

M.C.: None, zero. I think only idiots day-trade. Over the last 10 years the business of trading stocks has been very specialized. There is more professional brainpower and money applied to picking stocks than ever before. Anyone who thinks they can beat the market day-trading over the long term is just waiting for their luck to run out.

L.G.: What percentage of your net worth do you have in the markets, versus C.D.’s and other risk-averse investments, and how do you decide where to put your money? What stocks do you like, dislike?

M.C.: I don’t know the percentages. I stay pretty conservative and try to stick to things that pay me rather than things I just pray go up because someone else decided to buy some shares.

I have some stock investments that I have made over the years but don’t look at them very often and haven’t traded them much if at all over the past few years.

L.G.: And most important, how have you done?

M.C.: I do fine. I bought things that paid dividends or interest, and they go up over time. I will take positions in strategic shorts, meaning I don’t go through and read all the S.E.C. filings. I look for companies that are out-and-out liars or are in a business that I don’t think has a future. (And no, I’m not going to name names. Companies that are shorted tend to put more effort into being litigious rather than spending time trying to actually run a profitable business.)

L.G.: Is the subprime-mortgage scare likely to have lasting impact on the Dow? Do you believe Bernanke and the Fed have responded reasonably? Where do you think the markets are headed in the next few months? How should the average investor respond? Should any of this be of concern to a billionaire in the media, entertainment, or sports biz?

M.C.: I have no idea, and neither does anyone else. All I can say is to remember the months of July and August and how you felt every time you saw what the market was doing. Imprint the volatility and angst that most in the market felt in your brain. Then when one of these funds tries to come along and explain to you how wonderful buy-and-hold is and how it always works, think about these couple months. Then make a decision whether the upset stomach from watching the markets go up and down, plus the risk of losing some, or possibly all, your money, is worth the few percentage points you might make over the 5 percent or more a C.D. is paying.

L.G.: In July 2006, you launched Sharesleuth.com with veteran business journalist Christopher Carey, with the stated goal of uncovering waste, fraud, and abuse in publicly traded companies. But business journalists quickly condemned you for your allegedly unethical plan to pay for the site with profits from shorting targeted companies in advance of publication. So far, Sharesleuth.com has investigated two public companies, Xethanol and UTEK, and their stock prices tumbled immediately after publication. This June, Sharesleuth.com attacked a private company, Orthopedic Development. A couple of weeks ago, on the occasion of Sharesleuth.com’s first anniversary, business blogger Gary Weiss declared your venture “a flop in every way imaginable.” Anything you’d do differently with the benefit of hindsight? Has the site lived up to your expectations? You said you made around $90,000 by shorting Xethanol but were “underwater” on your UTEK trades. In the end, have you made or lost money, and beyond that, was your business model a P.R. mistake? Did you ever hear from the S.E.C. concerning your stock-shorting plan? Do you intend to continue with Sharesleuth.com, or will you pull the plug?

M.C.: Gary Weiss is a nice guy, and I actually like checking out and reading his blog. We agree on more than we disagree on, but Gary’s commenting on Sharesleuth is nothing more than trying to get his name in the paper or a magazine somewhere. Sharesleuth is doing everything it has set out to do. It is there to find companies that are not what they say they are. It is an approach that is not based on having to publish to a schedule or within a number of words. We can spend a year researching a company and write or not write, at our discretion. That freedom alone makes it a success. And as far as my profits on the site, I’ve more than covered my costs with trade ideas brought to me by Chris.

Our emphasis is not on the companies that will make me the most money; it’s on covering the companies that aren’t who they say they are.

Writing the truth about XNL and UTK was great. Making money made it a little nicer.

L.G.: You have said that you read four to five hours a day to keep up. Specifically what publications and websites do you read and visit regularly, and where else do you get your business information?

M.C.: Other than Portfolio? I can’t even begin to list them all. Technology, entertainment, sports, general business . . . Some that I read are Make; PC Magazine; CPU magazine; a Macintosh journal, I think; Adweek; Advertising Age; Film Journal [International]; the Producers Guild [newsletter]; HighDef; BusinessWeek; the Wall Street Journal; the New York Times; Good; Billboard; the Economist; Entertainment Weekly; TV Week; Multichannel News; Broadcasting & Cable; CableWorld; Variety; the Hollywood Reporter; MMA Worldwide; Tapout; Kagan reports; [Street & Smith’s] Sports Business Journal; Forbes; and Fortune—and that’s off the top of my head. Then I probably have RSS feeds from another 100 websites.


L.G.: What gets you out of bed in the morning, and what makes you enthused?

M.C.: All of it. I love challenges. I love challenging conventional wisdom. I love the satisfaction of being right and the motivation of being wrong.

L.G.: Aside from bad officiating against the Mavs, what makes you mad?

M.C.: I’m not a big fan of politicians and politics or bureaucrats in general, but generally, the only time I raise my voice is at a Mavs game. People always expect me to be volatile or outrageous, but I save it all for Mavs games or when I’m playing basketball. That’s when I let it all come out. It used to be during rugby games, when I played, but when I couldn’t play any longer, the Mavs became my outlet. What cracks up my friends and family is that they knew that I was the same way before I bought the team. I would be just as crazy, if not more so back then. There just weren’t any cameras pointed at me back then.

L.G.: What makes you scared? What do you lose sleep over?

M.C.: My family’s health.

L.G.: What’s going on with the Chicago Cubs? The Tribune Co.has put the Cubs on the block as part of its agreement with Trib buyer Sam Zell, and last month you put yourself in the running to buy the team by submitting an application to Major League Baseball to examine the books. Why would you want to buy the Cubs? The conventional wisdom is that the bidding will start at $600 million and may go as high as $1 billion. Are you seriously moving ahead? Can you afford it? And what, if anything, are you doing to convince Bud Selig and the M.L.B. establishment that, as an owner, you wouldn’t make their lives hell on earth?

M.C.: If I told you, I would have to kill you. I’m sworn to secrecy.

L.G.: Since you bought the Dallas Mavericks in 2000 with $280 million of your Yahoo cash, you’ve turned the team from a ragtag bunch of losers into one of America’s more exciting sports franchises—and turned yourself into a brand-name celebrity. You’ve spent untold millions on players and facilities, and you’ve demonstrated brilliant showmanship and won over the fans. But are you making money? In general, can one make big bucks by owning a professional sports team—or is it more a vanity play for rich guys?

M.C.: I can make as much money as I want to from the Mavs. There is a tradeoff, however, between losing and maximizing tradeoffs. As I have said, my emotional release is with the Mavs, so winning is more important to me than making money. That said, I should make a few shekels this year.

L.G.: Given your storied antagonism for the refs of the N.B.A. and your sometimes fractious relationship with Commissioner David Stern—who has fined you approximately $1.5 million for voicing expletive-laced opinions on and off the court—the recent gambling scandal involving referee Tim Donaghy might have been a golden opportunity for you to say “I told you so.” Instead, as soon as the scandal broke, you expressed your “complete confidence” in Stern to “proactively put in place people, processes, and transparency that will forever silence those who will question the N.B.A.’s integrity,” and you added that “the N.B.A. and our officiating will be all the stronger for it.” Hey, Mark, what gives? Are you a changed man?

M.C.: Nope. I’ve said and done what I have said and done. There is no reason to rehash it. My goal has always been to make the league better, better as a business and better as a product for the fans. It makes no sense to look back. I think it’s smarter to take the hand you are dealt and make the most of it.

L.G.: On your blog, you seemed to suggest that Barry Bonds’ use of steroids shouldn’t detract from his accomplishment of breaking Hank Aaron’s non-steroid-enhanced home run record. “In 25 years, any controversy associated with Barry’s quest for the record will be long forgotten,” you wrote. What are you saying here? That in order to achieve our goals in this competitive world, we are justified in exploiting any advantage at our disposal, even if it’s against the rules? Where does one draw the line?

M.C.: I’m saying that the media tries to make a big issue out of things most fans couldn’t care less about. Back when Babe Ruth set the mark, there were allegations of every sort to explain why he was able to do things no other player was.

When my kids or grandkids look back on Barry Bonds, they will know him as the home run champ. They won’t invest the energy to try to find out what the context of the record was any more than any of us explore the context of when Ruth broke the record.

In reference to exploiting any means possible, that is an individual’s choice. Each person lives with the decisions they make. The only certainty is that no one really cares about how and why others, whether it’s Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, or you‑name‑it, make the decisions they make, because they are nothing more or less than entertainers to us.

Just because the media depends on glorifying it for ratings and sales, doesn’t make it anything more than it really is. All you have to do is ask when a scandal had a negative impact on a sport or entertainment business. It certainly hasn’t been during the digital era of ultracompetitive media.

L.G.: How have you been spending your time in the Caymans? How’s the new hip?

M.C.: Hip is great. I’m working out every day. Two months in, and the only thing I can’t do is run, dunk, or cut with the ball like Barry Sanders :). I only wish I would have done it sooner.
L.G.: Why the resistance from Comcast and Cablevision? How many viewers are actually watching HDNet programming? Where do you see HDNet in five years? And five years from now, will Dan Rather still have his own show on HDNet?

M.C.: I don’t have exact viewership numbers; no one does. But where we are rated in and around L.A., we often, if not usually, have a bigger share of the HD viewing audience than the other networks: ESPN, Discovery, TNT, Universal, MTV, HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and sometimes even more than the broadcast networks on weekends.

We plan on continuing to have great programming that people love to watch and growing our subscription base.

We are the only individually owned network available today. I think that puts us in a unique position. Sure, it’s tough competing against huge conglomerates like G.E. and Comcast-owned programming for carriage. No question they have the leverage and use it. But our viewers love us and we think that still counts for something, and fortunately we have great partners like DirecTV, Dish, Time Warner, Charter, Verizon, etc., that have happy HDNet subscribers because of our partnership.

And yes, we hope Dan Rather continues with Dan Rather Reports for another 100 years.

L.G.: How much of your time do you spend on—and how big an investment have you made in—2929 Entertainment? Why movies? Why low-budget art-house movies? Are you in it for fun—and hanging out with George Clooney—or profit?

M.C.: Most of my time is spent on HDNet and the original movies that HDNet makes or buys for our unique Sneak Preview program (where we release movies to our HDNet subscribers and our partners up to two weeks before they are in theaters).

We have a vertically integrated entertainment company. We make movies; we show them in Landmark theaters; we show them on HDNet; we release them through our own DVD company, Magnolia Home Entertainment, and distribute them through Magnolia Pictures. Being vertically integrated gives us the unique opportunity to distribute our movies how and where we want to.

And low-budget? You need to do some homework. Have you seen Akeelah and the Bee, We Own the Night (which comes out October 12), Good Night, and Good Luck. We don’t make dumb-ass budget movies like some people. We make great movies at the budgets that give us the opportunity to make money.

L.G.: Has buying a distribution company and a chain of 57 theaters worked out well thus far?

M.C.: Yep. They are making money, and they give us the unique opportunity to control our product. No other studio can do a nationwide sneak preview of their movies like we can because no other studio owns a national theater chain. No network other than HDNet can offer Ultra V.O.D. [video on demand], where we allow our V.O.D. partners to sell movies two weeks before they are in theaters. Only HDNet can offer a sneak preview of a movie the Wednesday before it’s released in theaters.

The ability to offer consumers what they want is a great opportunity for us. If any other studio tried it, the other theater owners would boycott the studio in a heartbeat.

L.G.: And have you found customers willing to pay $30 (or more?) to see new releases on their HDTVs instead of $10 in see them in theaters?

M.C.: Yes. We give them a choice. If you have to hire a babysitter, pay for parking and then the movie, the $19.95 we now charge is cheap. If you want to go on a date and get out of the house away from the kids, then seeing a movie at a Landmark Theatre is a great date experience for grownups.

L.G.: In 2002, you criticized Yahoo for having a bureaucratic, “consensus-first, action-second” culture that stymied the company’s success with Web TV shortly after you and Todd Wagner sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $5.7 billion. But you seemed optimistic about the company’s potential with a change in management. What’s your assessment of Yahoo’s performance and strategic direction in the five years since then? What were Terry Semel’s successes and failures? And what do you think Yahoo’s future holds?

M.C.: I have no idea. Jerry Yang is a smart guy, so if anyone can do well, he can. I think Yahoo’s real problem is that they are being compared to Google. Used to be that companies struggled in comparison to Yahoo; now Google is the top of the heap. At some point it will be someone else.



L.G.: Was Rupert Murdoch smart to spend $5 billion on Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal? Why or why not? How, for better or worse, will the Journal be transformed? If you were Murdoch, how would you integrate this acquisition into News Corp.’s journalistic enterprises, including the soon-to-launched Fox Business Channel, and what do you think of Murdoch’s stated plans to invest $200 million in the Journal’s online operations?

M.C.: He got a great bargain. The W.S.J., brand can be applied to all of his business operations. The Fox Business Channel can be the Wall Street Journal Channel and gain immediate credibility.

As far as how to integrate them, I have no idea, and Rupert doesn’t need my advice. There are things I know and things I don’t know. I don’t know the internals of Fox, so there is no reason to speculate.

L.G.: How much time do you spend day-trading?

M.C.: None, zero. I think only idiots day-trade. Over the last 10 years the business of trading stocks has been very specialized. There is more professional brainpower and money applied to picking stocks than ever before. Anyone who thinks they can beat the market day-trading over the long term is just waiting for their luck to run out.

L.G.: What percentage of your net worth do you have in the markets, versus C.D.’s and other risk-averse investments, and how do you decide where to put your money? What stocks do you like, dislike?

M.C.: I don’t know the percentages. I stay pretty conservative and try to stick to things that pay me rather than things I just pray go up because someone else decided to buy some shares.

I have some stock investments that I have made over the years but don’t look at them very often and haven’t traded them much if at all over the past few years.

L.G.: And most important, how have you done?

M.C.: I do fine. I bought things that paid dividends or interest, and they go up over time. I will take positions in strategic shorts, meaning I don’t go through and read all the S.E.C. filings. I look for companies that are out-and-out liars or are in a business that I don’t think has a future. (And no, I’m not going to name names. Companies that are shorted tend to put more effort into being litigious rather than spending time trying to actually run a profitable business.)

L.G.: Is the subprime-mortgage scare likely to have lasting impact on the Dow? Do you believe Bernanke and the Fed have responded reasonably? Where do you think the markets are headed in the next few months? How should the average investor respond? Should any of this be of concern to a billionaire in the media, entertainment, or sports biz?

M.C.: I have no idea, and neither does anyone else. All I can say is to remember the months of July and August and how you felt every time you saw what the market was doing. Imprint the volatility and angst that most in the market felt in your brain. Then when one of these funds tries to come along and explain to you how wonderful buy-and-hold is and how it always works, think about these couple months. Then make a decision whether the upset stomach from watching the markets go up and down, plus the risk of losing some, or possibly all, your money, is worth the few percentage points you might make over the 5 percent or more a C.D. is paying.

L.G.: In July 2006, you launched Sharesleuth.com with veteran business journalist Christopher Carey, with the stated goal of uncovering waste, fraud, and abuse in publicly traded companies. But business journalists quickly condemned you for your allegedly unethical plan to pay for the site with profits from shorting targeted companies in advance of publication. So far, Sharesleuth.com has investigated two public companies, Xethanol and UTEK, and their stock prices tumbled immediately after publication. This June, Sharesleuth.com attacked a private company, Orthopedic Development. A couple of weeks ago, on the occasion of Sharesleuth.com’s first anniversary, business blogger Gary Weiss declared your venture “a flop in every way imaginable.” Anything you’d do differently with the benefit of hindsight? Has the site lived up to your expectations? You said you made around $90,000 by shorting Xethanol but were “underwater” on your UTEK trades. In the end, have you made or lost money, and beyond that, was your business model a P.R. mistake? Did you ever hear from the S.E.C. concerning your stock-shorting plan? Do you intend to continue with Sharesleuth.com, or will you pull the plug?

M.C.: Gary Weiss is a nice guy, and I actually like checking out and reading his blog. We agree on more than we disagree on, but Gary’s commenting on Sharesleuth is nothing more than trying to get his name in the paper or a magazine somewhere. Sharesleuth is doing everything it has set out to do. It is there to find companies that are not what they say they are. It is an approach that is not based on having to publish to a schedule or within a number of words. We can spend a year researching a company and write or not write, at our discretion. That freedom alone makes it a success. And as far as my profits on the site, I’ve more than covered my costs with trade ideas brought to me by Chris.

Our emphasis is not on the companies that will make me the most money; it’s on covering the companies that aren’t who they say they are.

Writing the truth about XNL and UTK was great. Making money made it a little nicer.

L.G.: You have said that you read four to five hours a day to keep up. Specifically what publications and websites do you read and visit regularly, and where else do you get your business information?

M.C.: Other than Portfolio? I can’t even begin to list them all. Technology, entertainment, sports, general business . . . Some that I read are Make; PC Magazine; CPU magazine; a Macintosh journal, I think; Adweek; Advertising Age; Film Journal [International]; the Producers Guild [newsletter]; HighDef; BusinessWeek; the Wall Street Journal; the New York Times; Good; Billboard; the Economist; Entertainment Weekly; TV Week; Multichannel News; Broadcasting & Cable; CableWorld; Variety; the Hollywood Reporter; MMA Worldwide; Tapout; Kagan reports; [Street & Smith’s] Sports Business Journal; Forbes; and Fortune—and that’s off the top of my head. Then I probably have RSS feeds from another 100 websites.


L.G.: What gets you out of bed in the morning, and what makes you enthused?

M.C.: All of it. I love challenges. I love challenging conventional wisdom. I love the satisfaction of being right and the motivation of being wrong.

L.G.: Aside from bad officiating against the Mavs, what makes you mad?

M.C.: I’m not a big fan of politicians and politics or bureaucrats in general, but generally, the only time I raise my voice is at a Mavs game. People always expect me to be volatile or outrageous, but I save it all for Mavs games or when I’m playing basketball. That’s when I let it all come out. It used to be during rugby games, when I played, but when I couldn’t play any longer, the Mavs became my outlet. What cracks up my friends and family is that they knew that I was the same way before I bought the team. I would be just as crazy, if not more so back then. There just weren’t any cameras pointed at me back then.

L.G.: What makes you scared? What do you lose sleep over?

M.C.: My family’s health.

L.G.: What’s going on with the Chicago Cubs? The Tribune Co.has put the Cubs on the block as part of its agreement with Trib buyer Sam Zell, and last month you put yourself in the running to buy the team by submitting an application to Major League Baseball to examine the books. Why would you want to buy the Cubs? The conventional wisdom is that the bidding will start at $600 million and may go as high as $1 billion. Are you seriously moving ahead? Can you afford it? And what, if anything, are you doing to convince Bud Selig and the M.L.B. establishment that, as an owner, you wouldn’t make their lives hell on earth?

M.C.: If I told you, I would have to kill you. I’m sworn to secrecy.

L.G.: Since you bought the Dallas Mavericks in 2000 with $280 million of your Yahoo cash, you’ve turned the team from a ragtag bunch of losers into one of America’s more exciting sports franchises—and turned yourself into a brand-name celebrity. You’ve spent untold millions on players and facilities, and you’ve demonstrated brilliant showmanship and won over the fans. But are you making money? In general, can one make big bucks by owning a professional sports team—or is it more a vanity play for rich guys?

M.C.: I can make as much money as I want to from the Mavs. There is a tradeoff, however, between losing and maximizing tradeoffs. As I have said, my emotional release is with the Mavs, so winning is more important to me than making money. That said, I should make a few shekels this year.

L.G.: Given your storied antagonism for the refs of the N.B.A. and your sometimes fractious relationship with Commissioner David Stern—who has fined you approximately $1.5 million for voicing expletive-laced opinions on and off the court—the recent gambling scandal involving referee Tim Donaghy might have been a golden opportunity for you to say “I told you so.” Instead, as soon as the scandal broke, you expressed your “complete confidence” in Stern to “proactively put in place people, processes, and transparency that will forever silence those who will question the N.B.A.’s integrity,” and you added that “the N.B.A. and our officiating will be all the stronger for it.” Hey, Mark, what gives? Are you a changed man?

M.C.: Nope. I’ve said and done what I have said and done. There is no reason to rehash it. My goal has always been to make the league better, better as a business and better as a product for the fans. It makes no sense to look back. I think it’s smarter to take the hand you are dealt and make the most of it.

L.G.: On your blog, you seemed to suggest that Barry Bonds’ use of steroids shouldn’t detract from his accomplishment of breaking Hank Aaron’s non-steroid-enhanced home run record. “In 25 years, any controversy associated with Barry’s quest for the record will be long forgotten,” you wrote. What are you saying here? That in order to achieve our goals in this competitive world, we are justified in exploiting any advantage at our disposal, even if it’s against the rules? Where does one draw the line?

M.C.: I’m saying that the media tries to make a big issue out of things most fans couldn’t care less about. Back when Babe Ruth set the mark, there were allegations of every sort to explain why he was able to do things no other player was.

When my kids or grandkids look back on Barry Bonds, they will know him as the home run champ. They won’t invest the energy to try to find out what the context of the record was any more than any of us explore the context of when Ruth broke the record.

In reference to exploiting any means possible, that is an individual’s choice. Each person lives with the decisions they make. The only certainty is that no one really cares about how and why others, whether it’s Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, or you‑name‑it, make the decisions they make, because they are nothing more or less than entertainers to us.

Just because the media depends on glorifying it for ratings and sales, doesn’t make it anything more than it really is. All you have to do is ask when a scandal had a negative impact on a sport or entertainment business. It certainly hasn’t been during the digital era of ultracompetitive media.

L.G.: How have you been spending your time in the Caymans? How’s the new hip?

M.C.: Hip is great. I’m working out every day. Two months in, and the only thing I can’t do is run, dunk, or cut with the ball like Barry Sanders :). I only wish I would have done it sooner.

L.G.: Why the resistance from Comcast and Cablevision? How many viewers are actually watching HDNet programming? Where do you see HDNet in five years? And five years from now, will Dan Rather still have his own show on HDNet?

M.C.: I don’t have exact viewership numbers; no one does. But where we are rated in and around L.A., we often, if not usually, have a bigger share of the HD viewing audience than the other networks: ESPN, Discovery, TNT, Universal, MTV, HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and sometimes even more than the broadcast networks on weekends.

We plan on continuing to have great programming that people love to watch and growing our subscription base.

We are the only individually owned network available today. I think that puts us in a unique position. Sure, it’s tough competing against huge conglomerates like G.E. and Comcast-owned programming for carriage. No question they have the leverage and use it. But our viewers love us and we think that still counts for something, and fortunately we have great partners like DirecTV, Dish, Time Warner, Charter, Verizon, etc., that have happy HDNet subscribers because of our partnership.

And yes, we hope Dan Rather continues with Dan Rather Reports for another 100 years.

L.G.: How much of your time do you spend on—and how big an investment have you made in—2929 Entertainment? Why movies? Why low-budget art-house movies? Are you in it for fun—and hanging out with George Clooney—or profit?

M.C.: Most of my time is spent on HDNet and the original movies that HDNet makes or buys for our unique Sneak Preview program (where we release movies to our HDNet subscribers and our partners up to two weeks before they are in theaters).

We have a vertically integrated entertainment company. We make movies; we show them in Landmark theaters; we show them on HDNet; we release them through our own DVD company, Magnolia Home Entertainment, and distribute them through Magnolia Pictures. Being vertically integrated gives us the unique opportunity to distribute our movies how and where we want to.

And low-budget? You need to do some homework. Have you seen Akeelah and the Bee, We Own the Night (which comes out October 12), Good Night, and Good Luck. We don’t make dumb-ass budget movies like some people. We make great movies at the budgets that give us the opportunity to make money.

L.G.: Has buying a distribution company and a chain of 57 theaters worked out well thus far?

M.C.: Yep. They are making money, and they give us the unique opportunity to control our product. No other studio can do a nationwide sneak preview of their movies like we can because no other studio owns a national theater chain. No network other than HDNet can offer Ultra V.O.D. [video on demand], where we allow our V.O.D. partners to sell movies two weeks before they are in theaters. Only HDNet can offer a sneak preview of a movie the Wednesday before it’s released in theaters.

The ability to offer consumers what they want is a great opportunity for us. If any other studio tried it, the other theater owners would boycott the studio in a heartbeat.

L.G.: And have you found customers willing to pay $30 (or more?) to see new releases on their HDTVs instead of $10 in see them in theaters?

M.C.: Yes. We give them a choice. If you have to hire a babysitter, pay for parking and then the movie, the $19.95 we now charge is cheap. If you want to go on a date and get out of the house away from the kids, then seeing a movie at a Landmark Theatre is a great date experience for grownups.

L.G.: In 2002, you criticized Yahoo for having a bureaucratic, “consensus-first, action-second” culture that stymied the company’s success with Web TV shortly after you and Todd Wagner sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $5.7 billion. But you seemed optimistic about the company’s potential with a change in management. What’s your assessment of Yahoo’s performance and strategic direction in the five years since then? What were Terry Semel’s successes and failures? And what do you think Yahoo’s future holds?

M.C.: I have no idea. Jerry Yang is a smart guy, so if anyone can do well, he can. I think Yahoo’s real problem is that they are being compared to Google. Used to be that companies struggled in comparison to Yahoo; now Google is the top of the heap. At some point it will be someone else.



L.G.: Was Rupert Murdoch smart to spend $5 billion on Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal? Why or why not? How, for better or worse, will the Journal be transformed? If you were Murdoch, how would you integrate this acquisition into News Corp.’s journalistic enterprises, including the soon-to-launched Fox Business Channel, and what do you think of Murdoch’s stated plans to invest $200 million in the Journal’s online operations?

M.C.: He got a great bargain. The W.S.J., brand can be applied to all of his business operations. The Fox Business Channel can be the Wall Street Journal Channel and gain immediate credibility.

As far as how to integrate them, I have no idea, and Rupert doesn’t need my advice. There are things I know and things I don’t know. I don’t know the internals of Fox, so there is no reason to speculate.

L.G.: How much time do you spend day-trading?

M.C.: None, zero. I think only idiots day-trade. Over the last 10 years the business of trading stocks has been very specialized. There is more professional brainpower and money applied to picking stocks than ever before. Anyone who thinks they can beat the market day-trading over the long term is just waiting for their luck to run out.

L.G.: What percentage of your net worth do you have in the markets, versus C.D.’s and other risk-averse investments, and how do you decide where to put your money? What stocks do you like, dislike?

M.C.: I don’t know the percentages. I stay pretty conservative and try to stick to things that pay me rather than things I just pray go up because someone else decided to buy some shares.

I have some stock investments that I have made over the years but don’t look at them very often and haven’t traded them much if at all over the past few years.

L.G.: And most important, how have you done?

M.C.: I do fine. I bought things that paid dividends or interest, and they go up over time. I will take positions in strategic shorts, meaning I don’t go through and read all the S.E.C. filings. I look for companies that are out-and-out liars or are in a business that I don’t think has a future. (And no, I’m not going to name names. Companies that are shorted tend to put more effort into being litigious rather than spending time trying to actually run a profitable business.)

L.G.: Is the subprime-mortgage scare likely to have lasting impact on the Dow? Do you believe Bernanke and the Fed have responded reasonably? Where do you think the markets are headed in the next few months? How should the average investor respond? Should any of this be of concern to a billionaire in the media, entertainment, or sports biz?

M.C.: I have no idea, and neither does anyone else. All I can say is to remember the months of July and August and how you felt every time you saw what the market was doing. Imprint the volatility and angst that most in the market felt in your brain. Then when one of these funds tries to come along and explain to you how wonderful buy-and-hold is and how it always works, think about these couple months. Then make a decision whether the upset stomach from watching the markets go up and down, plus the risk of losing some, or possibly all, your money, is worth the few percentage points you might make over the 5 percent or more a C.D. is paying.

L.G.: In July 2006, you launched Sharesleuth.com with veteran business journalist Christopher Carey, with the stated goal of uncovering waste, fraud, and abuse in publicly traded companies. But business journalists quickly condemned you for your allegedly unethical plan to pay for the site with profits from shorting targeted companies in advance of publication. So far, Sharesleuth.com has investigated two public companies, Xethanol and UTEK, and their stock prices tumbled immediately after publication. This June, Sharesleuth.com attacked a private company, Orthopedic Development. A couple of weeks ago, on the occasion of Sharesleuth.com’s first anniversary, business blogger Gary Weiss declared your venture “a flop in every way imaginable.” Anything you’d do differently with the benefit of hindsight? Has the site lived up to your expectations? You said you made around $90,000 by shorting Xethanol but were “underwater” on your UTEK trades. In the end, have you made or lost money, and beyond that, was your business model a P.R. mistake? Did you ever hear from the S.E.C. concerning your stock-shorting plan? Do you intend to continue with Sharesleuth.com, or will you pull the plug?

M.C.: Gary Weiss is a nice guy, and I actually like checking out and reading his blog. We agree on more than we disagree on, but Gary’s commenting on Sharesleuth is nothing more than trying to get his name in the paper or a magazine somewhere. Sharesleuth is doing everything it has set out to do. It is there to find companies that are not what they say they are. It is an approach that is not based on having to publish to a schedule or within a number of words. We can spend a year researching a company and write or not write, at our discretion. That freedom alone makes it a success. And as far as my profits on the site, I’ve more than covered my costs with trade ideas brought to me by Chris.

Our emphasis is not on the companies that will make me the most money; it’s on covering the companies that aren’t who they say they are.

Writing the truth about XNL and UTK was great. Making money made it a little nicer.

L.G.: You have said that you read four to five hours a day to keep up. Specifically what publications and websites do you read and visit regularly, and where else do you get your business information?

M.C.: Other than Portfolio? I can’t even begin to list them all. Technology, entertainment, sports, general business . . . Some that I read are Make; PC Magazine; CPU magazine; a Macintosh journal, I think; Adweek; Advertising Age; Film Journal [International]; the Producers Guild [newsletter]; HighDef; BusinessWeek; the Wall Street Journal; the New York Times; Good; Billboard; the Economist; Entertainment Weekly; TV Week; Multichannel News; Broadcasting & Cable; CableWorld; Variety; the Hollywood Reporter; MMA Worldwide; Tapout; Kagan reports; [Street & Smith’s] Sports Business Journal; Forbes; and Fortune—and that’s off the top of my head. Then I probably have RSS feeds from another 100 websites.


L.G.: What gets you out of bed in the morning, and what makes you enthused?

M.C.: All of it. I love challenges. I love challenging conventional wisdom. I love the satisfaction of being right and the motivation of being wrong.

L.G.: Aside from bad officiating against the Mavs, what makes you mad?

M.C.: I’m not a big fan of politicians and politics or bureaucrats in general, but generally, the only time I raise my voice is at a Mavs game. People always expect me to be volatile or outrageous, but I save it all for Mavs games or when I’m playing basketball. That’s when I let it all come out. It used to be during rugby games, when I played, but when I couldn’t play any longer, the Mavs became my outlet. What cracks up my friends and family is that they knew that I was the same way before I bought the team. I would be just as crazy, if not more so back then. There just weren’t any cameras pointed at me back then.

L.G.: What makes you scared? What do you lose sleep over?

M.C.: My family’s health.

L.G.: What’s going on with the Chicago Cubs? The Tribune Co.has put the Cubs on the block as part of its agreement with Trib buyer Sam Zell, and last month you put yourself in the running to buy the team by submitting an application to Major League Baseball to examine the books. Why would you want to buy the Cubs? The conventional wisdom is that the bidding will start at $600 million and may go as high as $1 billion. Are you seriously moving ahead? Can you afford it? And what, if anything, are you doing to convince Bud Selig and the M.L.B. establishment that, as an owner, you wouldn’t make their lives hell on earth?

M.C.: If I told you, I would have to kill you. I’m sworn to secrecy.

L.G.: Since you bought the Dallas Mavericks in 2000 with $280 million of your Yahoo cash, you’ve turned the team from a ragtag bunch of losers into one of America’s more exciting sports franchises—and turned yourself into a brand-name celebrity. You’ve spent untold millions on players and facilities, and you’ve demonstrated brilliant showmanship and won over the fans. But are you making money? In general, can one make big bucks by owning a professional sports team—or is it more a vanity play for rich guys?

M.C.: I can make as much money as I want to from the Mavs. There is a tradeoff, however, between losing and maximizing tradeoffs. As I have said, my emotional release is with the Mavs, so winning is more important to me than making money. That said, I should make a few shekels this year.

L.G.: Given your storied antagonism for the refs of the N.B.A. and your sometimes fractious relationship with Commissioner David Stern—who has fined you approximately $1.5 million for voicing expletive-laced opinions on and off the court—the recent gambling scandal involving referee Tim Donaghy might have been a golden opportunity for you to say “I told you so.” Instead, as soon as the scandal broke, you expressed your “complete confidence” in Stern to “proactively put in place people, processes, and transparency that will forever silence those who will question the N.B.A.’s integrity,” and you added that “the N.B.A. and our officiating will be all the stronger for it.” Hey, Mark, what gives? Are you a changed man?

M.C.: Nope. I’ve said and done what I have said and done. There is no reason to rehash it. My goal has always been to make the league better, better as a business and better as a product for the fans. It makes no sense to look back. I think it’s smarter to take the hand you are dealt and make the most of it.

L.G.: On your blog, you seemed to suggest that Barry Bonds’ use of steroids shouldn’t detract from his accomplishment of breaking Hank Aaron’s non-steroid-enhanced home run record. “In 25 years, any controversy associated with Barry’s quest for the record will be long forgotten,” you wrote. What are you saying here? That in order to achieve our goals in this competitive world, we are justified in exploiting any advantage at our disposal, even if it’s against the rules? Where does one draw the line?

M.C.: I’m saying that the media tries to make a big issue out of things most fans couldn’t care less about. Back when Babe Ruth set the mark, there were allegations of every sort to explain why he was able to do things no other player was.

When my kids or grandkids look back on Barry Bonds, they will know him as the home run champ. They won’t invest the energy to try to find out what the context of the record was any more than any of us explore the context of when Ruth broke the record.

In reference to exploiting any means possible, that is an individual’s choice. Each person lives with the decisions they make. The only certainty is that no one really cares about how and why others, whether it’s Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, or you‑name‑it, make the decisions they make, because they are nothing more or less than entertainers to us.

Just because the media depends on glorifying it for ratings and sales, doesn’t make it anything more than it really is. All you have to do is ask when a scandal had a negative impact on a sport or entertainment business. It certainly hasn’t been during the digital era of ultracompetitive media.

L.G.: How have you been spending your time in the Caymans? How’s the new hip?

M.C.: Hip is great. I’m working out every day. Two months in, and the only thing I can’t do is run, dunk, or cut with the ball like Barry Sanders :). I only wish I would have done it sooner.

Posted by Ajay :: 11:47 AM :: 0 comments

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---------------oOo---------------
Born At height Of 30,000ft !

As Nicola Delemere struggled through the pain of contractions, she was gripped with greater fears than the average expectant mother.


She and her husband were 30,000ft in the air on a plane to Crete, she was 25 weeks into her pregnancy - and there were no doctors on board.

The jet had been diverted when her waters broke but Mrs Delemere knew that Alfie couldn't wait for landing.

Somewhere above Dusseldorf in Germany, as she sat in her seat with an air hostess and a passenger acting as midwives, he arrived, barely alive and weighing only 1lb 1oz.
Thankfully, flight supervisor Carol Miller was there. The woman described as "Alfie's angel" used a drinking straw to clear the boy's lungs, before carrying out mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and heart massage for half an hour.

She relied on her basic medical training, and a retired nurse and ambulance driver were also there to offer advice. The plane soon arrived at Gatwick Airport and Alfie was taken straight to hospital.

He was not out of danger yet, however. Doctors told Mrs Delemere, 31, and her husband Dominic, 28, that the boy, their first child, might have gone too long without oxygen.

Even when his condition began to improve after a few days, there were still fears that he could have brain damage. And after four weeks in hospital, he caught the bug E.coli.

But against all the odds, Alfie pulled through. He spent six weeks at St George's Hospital in Tooting, and was then transferred to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Scunthorpe General Hospital.

Yesterday, four months after the extraordinary mid-air drama, he was at home with his parents in Scunthorpe. Although still requiring oxygen and weighing only 5lb 5oz, his parents expect him to grow up to be a normal, healthy boy.

"I was really scared thinking he wasn't going to make it," said Mrs Delemere.

She had been checked by a doctor before taking the First Choice flight from Manchester to Heraklion on April 17, and had no inkling that Alfie would be premature.

"All the staff on board were shocked but they were brilliant," she said. Mrs Delemere also praised Miss Miller for her quick thinking.

Yesterday, the flight supervisor said: "I'm delighted to learn Alfie is at home. He was born very quickly and at first we weren't sure he was breathing so I just applied my medical training, cleared his lungs gently using a straw and then carried out mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

"We were also lucky to have the support of a retired nurse and ambulance driver on board until paramedics arrived."

Captain Peter Thomas, who was flying the plane, said: "The whole crew showed exemplary professionalism and our passengers gave us their full support through an emotional time."

Mr Delemere, a steel worker, said he and his wife were delighted Alfie was recovering well.

"I would like to thank everyone involved for supporting us in the air and on the ground. We can't begin to thank Carol enough for saving Alfie's life. We are really happy he is home."
More at:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=477300&in_page_id=1770

Posted by Ajay :: 11:43 AM :: 0 comments

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