While Oracle Corp. (ORCL) CEO Lawrence J. Ellison was feasting on software sales driven by his dot-com customers last year--at the peak they amounted to 10% of Oracle's revenues, now down to about zilch--he also was surreptitiously ridiculing the hand that fed him.
For 18 months, Ellison, along with CEO Mitchell E. Kertzman of Liberate Technologies (LBRT), and venture capitalist David J. Roux, secretly ran the parody site HeyIdiot.com, joining other dot-com satirists such as iTulip.com, businesssucks.com, and itoilet.com. "HeyIdiot.com is your ticket to the Silicon-lined gravy train!" the graphics-rich site proclaimed. "Here's how it works: HeyIdiot.com is tightly focused on selling just one product. Elegantly enough, that product is the stock of HeyIdiot.com." Thankfully, no one went for the pitch.
Ellison recently came clean about who was backing the site. He confesses that he and his friends built and ran the site themselves as the dot-com bubble became more and more mystifying. "It was madness," he says. At least they had the good taste to take the site down a few months ago, before mocking dot-com nuttiness became pass?. But other satirists are not amused. iTulip's creators say on their site that HeyIdiot was a "blatant attemptto muscle in on our racket selling Internet company parody stock online." Perhaps it's time Ellison launched a new site, say, earningswarning.com. Motivated by letters from customers claiming that everything from Tofu Total to Chocolate Cheerios could be the Next Big Thing if only General Mills Inc. (GIS) would make it, the cereal giant is giving consumers a shot at proving they're right. MyCereal.com, launched last November, lets consumers formulate their own cereal and have it delivered to their doorstep.
At $1 per serving, the cereal is four times as expensive as the supermarket variety. But people can mix and match 100 different ingredients, yielding over 1 million possibilities. What have they come up with? Try Chocolatey Calci-yums!, a noxious mixture of chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallows, and macadamia nuts. The company swears this was sold to a grown woman. Then there's Last Mango in Paris and Soy Good For you. Mmmm. On second thought, just pass the Wheaties. It has been tough times for tech and dot-com companies. Since January,
2000, some 400 companies have gone belly-up and at least 335,000 workers
have lost their jobs. But whaddaya know--many departing bosses have still
lined their pockets amid the wreckage. Here are some of the silkiest
purses salvaged from the sow's ear of the Internet bust.
* Estimate of severance packages. May include cash, accelerated vesting
of stock and options, and forgiven debt.
** Estimates present value of 20-year retirement benefit that pays
$375,000 a year, assuming Webvan's continued existence.
Data: Analysis of company proxies and CEO contracts by SCA Consulting
for BusinessWeek e.biz