Junglee Execs Said To Be Cashing Out of Amazon

Also, Maria's missing? What's up with that?
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Testimony from

Alan Greenspan

, perceived to be hawkish by Wall Street, and earnings disappointments delivered a blow to tech stocks and bonds today, but blue-chips escaped without serious damage. (For more, see today's

Market Roundup .)

Take the Money and Run

In early August 1998,

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

paid about $112 million (based on the 1.6 million shares of the stock -- of course -- used as currency) to acquire

Junglee, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based developer of Shop the Web technology.

Barely a year later, Junglee co-founders Rakesh Mathur and Ram ShriRam, are reportedly leaving or planning to leave the online bookseller with some serious Internet-era wealth, according to sources familiar with situation.

According to Amazon.com's S-3 filing of Sept. 30, 1998, Mathur received options of 175,899 shares and ShirRam 110,274 at the time of the acquisition. Incorporating a 3-for-1 stock split last January, those shares would theoretically be worth $56.6 million and $35.5 million, respectively, based on today's closing price of 107 3/16.

I say "theoretically," because I can't say for certain if all the shares have vested and it's possible they've both earned more since the deal was done. Moreover, I highly doubt both executives opted out of the entire stakes TODAY -- although maybe that contributed to Amazon.com's 14.5% decline. All of this, of course, assumes they are indeed leaving the company. And if that is the case, we're talking about

serious

money in any regard.

The person who answered a call to Mathur's office gave me a cell phone number, which I summarily (and with my fingers) punched up.

Mathur, general manager of Shop the Web at Amazon, answered. I explained who I was and why I was calling.

He chuckled heartily -- but did NOT deny he's leaving -- and asked if he could call me back tomorrow. Apparently, he was in a meeting (perhaps with his financial adviser?) and couldn't discuss this matter. Obviously, I'll let you know if he calls.

At press time, neither ShriRam, a vice president of business development, nor Amazon.com's public relations department had returned calls seeking comment.

Meanwhile, the Shop the Web product "has been discontinued" at Amazon, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, although the Web page remains. "The supporting staff has been re-assigned to other projects within the company," the source said.

TSC

columnist

Adam Lashinsky

who's far-better versed in the ways of Silicon Valley and its ilk than this reporter, notes it's not unusual for executives of small tech companies bought out by big ones to cash out after a year or so with the acquiring company, unless they're given a "key role."

Maybe so, but did Amazon.com flush

shareholder

money down the toilet by paying big bucks to the developers of a technology it has since abandoned? Did Amazon.com fail to do proper due diligence before it made the acquisition? And does Mathur's departure have anything to do with the cold response he got when he wore a dress in an attempt to spoof

CrossWorld's

Katrina Garnett?

Inquiring minds want to know.

TSC Special

A tie may go to the runner but I don't have time for a jog right now, I've got a column to do! Anyway, be sure to check out staff reporter Kevin Petrie's

NetZero Shrugs at Y2K Problem and a group effort on the digital music package, which got under way yesterday with staff reporter Spencer Ante's

Digital Music Unplugged: Investing in the New Music Revolution.

MariaWatch '99

Got to hand it to our readers, they are certainly keen-eyed and anxious to help.

Rick Blair of Rocklin, Calif., emailed earlier in the week to say: "u

leaving off the first two letters for "Yo!" as in "Adrian" commented on Maria's gaffe re: Argentina on

June 13. Have noticed her conspicuous absence ever since. What have u heard?"

Oh, if only I had that much control ...

But I digress. I figured it was worth checking out. Maybe those rumors about

Maria Bartiromo

hooking up with

Bryant Gumble

(who -- for my money -- peaked with

NFL '77

) were true. Maybe it was a huge scoop waiting to happen.

I contacted my spies in the

CNBC

newsroom. When you've been around the "game" as long as I have, you make friends and having a mole or two is a good thing, unless -- of course -- you're a sweet potato farmer.

Anyway, the mole -- who would be killed if I ID'd him or her -- confirmed Maria's absence, noting "She's just listed as 'out'," on the newsroom's In/Out board.

My pulse quickened. My heart raced. My eyes watered. Then I adjusted my pants and everything was fine.

I queried the mole as to whether that was S.O.P. (if you have to ask, get out of the spy game).

Radio silence followed and I fretted my mole had been ratted out. Minutes later came the reply: "Ok -- here's the deal -- she's on her honeymoon and will be out all week."

A quick call to

CNBC's

front desk confirmed Maria is on vacation, but the receptionist said "Maria does not take phone calls," which I found curious indeed.

The receptionist refused to divulge where the honeymoon is taking place and our mole couldn't provide the info.

So I alerted my sources on the beaches of the Caribbean, Fiji and Coney Island for any evidence of the elusive couple.

Subsequently, I received this message from another

CNBC

insider, which I've decoded for your convenience: "Ask one person, she's in Hawaii. Ask another, Italy. Just asked

someone else -- Martha's Vineyard."

Clearly there's a huge dis- and misinformation campaign at work that probably reaches to the highest levels of government, if not Wall Street. Rest assured, the TaskMaster will not rest until all sources are exhausted or pertinent information found.

Any of the latter, of course, will be reported in this space.

Aaron L. Task writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback at

taskmaster@thestreet.com.