Series-Skipper™ on WaPo's favorite tycoon.

Political commentary and more.
Feb. 7 2002 4:36 PM

Series-Skipper: Hello, Saylor!

The Washington Post on its favorite bloviating tycoon.

(Continued from Page 2)

The Post saves Saylor's ass:  Saylor, in explaining his fall, "spins metaphors of extreme violence—rape metaphors, a knifing metaphor." But Leibovich doesn't reveal what they are.

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Structural advance: There's no "log cabin" paragraph with all the tedious boilerplate details (e.g., "Michael Saylor was born in …"). Instead, they're painlessly fed to the reader when relevant. Much better!

Buried story tip: Leibovich reports:

In preparing for MicroStrategy's IPO that year, Saylor offered to sell "friends and family" stock—coveted shares that are usually reserved for company insiders—to a special class of people he dubbed "influencers." These were the top executives at about 200 nationally known firms, carefully selected by Bisnow. About 5 percent of these "influencers" accepted the shares, according to a source familiar with their apportionment.

Is this sort of ingenious bribery entirely legal? If so, why didn't Enron think of it? Or did they?

Missing perspective: How many (if any) great, successful firms start out by conning Wall Street with inflated earnings charts and then, before they're unmasked, use the money they've raised to generate real earnings? If this is a common trajectory, then maybe Saylor's actions are defensible.

The series' most embarrassing failure: To examine the Washington Post's own role as Saylor's hometown booster. Only in ombudsman Michael Getler's harsh critique of the series, for example, do readers learn that The Washington Post Company's vice president for technology (portrayed favorably by Leibovich) not only served as a MicroStrategy director on the audit committee, but, along with his sons, grossed $866,460 in a "wave of insider selling that had started in October 1999," a few months before the disastrous "restatement." (Back in 2000, this Post-MicroStrategy connection was revealed, not in the Post, but in a brutally on-target column by David Carr in Washington City Paper.) What was the extent of MicroStrategy euphoria at the Post? How did it affect coverage? How many reporters bought stock? Here Leibovich was in a unique position to add something to the oft-told Saylor story, and he punted. Where's David Shaw when you need him?

The series' most fundamental failure: How big a phony is Saylor? Is he one of those effective con men who believes his own con, or something worse? Not only do I not know what to think, I don't know what Leibovich thinks—and I've read all 14,500 words. Don't make kausfiles' mistake!

Estimated time saved by reading Series-Skipper instead of the actual series: 1.2 hours.

            Fifth in a series.

Previous applications of Series-Skipper™:

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