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.

Kausfiles' advanced Series-Skipper™ technology allows users to avoid actually reading award-winning newspaper series—without fear of missing anything good. (For more on the rationale for Series-Skipper™, click here.) Today's edition summarizes a Washington Post four-parter on the rise and fall of Michael Saylor, CEO of MicroStrategy, a Virginia software company. In a now-familiar pattern, MicroStrategy's stock rose dramatically and then fell precipitously in March 2000 after it was forced to restate its earnings to correct for accounting gimmickry.

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Series: "Dot-Com Halo: The Rise and Fall of Michael Saylor," by Mark Leibovich, Washington Post, four parts, January 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Oh-what-a-big-deal-this-is hype paragraph: "What emerges is a vivid dispatch from one of the most perplexing and tumultuous periods in economic history. It also provides one of the great, and largely unseen, corporate dramas in the evolution of the Washington area as a major technology center. At the story's hyperkinetic center is Michael Saylor, who became the exemplar of two eras, boom and bust, in their greatest extremes. "

Bonus significance-lending theme: MicroStrategy's fall didn't just symbolize the end of the New Economy boom, it actually provoked it. Columnist James Cramer says, "This one popped the bubble."

Essential problem: Saylor is such a voluble megalomaniac, and his career arc has been so ballistic, that his story has been told many times before—in Newsweek, in Time, in Forbes, in Slate, and in The New Yorker.

What the series makes you want to do: Read Larissa MacFarquhar's April 3, 2000, New Yorker profile. MacFarquhar caught Saylor before his fall, at the height of his serotonin-poisoned grandiosity. The best Saylorisms quoted by Leibovich are from MacFarquhar's piece. They include:

"I think my software is going to become so ubiquitous, so essential, that if it stops working, there will be riots. … I mean that people will die this year because they didn't buy my software."

What MacFarquhar captured better than Leibovich: Saylor's essential business concept. MicroStrategy's main product is "data-mining" software, which lets corporations glean useful nuggets of information from their files (e.g., that customers in Miami like fish filet sandwiches). But Saylor's big idea involved wireless transmission of information. MacFarquhar wrote:

Saylor envisions a world in which everyone will have a tiny device implanted in his ear that will whisper advice to him as he needs it. If a crime is taking place near him (the device will know where he is), the voice in his ear will warn him. If he is on the way to the hospital, the voice will inform him of the success rate of each of its doctors.

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