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.


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™:


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 4:08 PM More Than Scottish Pride Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 5:07 PM One Comedy Group Has the Perfect Idea for Ken Burns’ Next Project
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.