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The news doesn't stop for anyone's vacation. Still, it was nice of Wall Street to take things relatively slowly last week while I lollygagged on the beach. I went Webless for nine days, a (welcome) eternity. But same-day copies of

The Wall Street Journal

and day-old issues of

The New York Times

kept me in touch. It's odd how stories pursued, pondered and stewed over for months have a way of washing ashore while one relaxes in the sunshine. For example...

Finally, Soup for

According to three reliable sources,

(AMZN) - Get Inc. Report

made a large investment in

of Bellevue, Wash., way back in April. At least that's what I

reported in the

San Jose Mercury News

on April 20. Then why oh why, wondered more than one reader over the ensuing weeks, was no announcement forthcoming from the tight-lipped upstart company or Amazon, which denied to comment on "rumor and speculation"?

The answer, according to a far more talkative Amazon spokesman Monday, is that was in the middle of a crucial upgrade to its Web site so it can expand beyond the two markets it currently serves, Seattle and Portland, Ore. The last thing it wanted was the sort of premature publicity that brings potentially site-crashing traffic.

"We were afraid before the site upgrade that if large numbers of sightseers and the curious logged on to see what the site was like, they would have interfered with the services for's customers," says the Amazon spokesman. For example, when the Seattle-based retailer announced its August 1998 purchase of

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, he notes, the Web calendar and datebook site crashed for two consecutive days. "Whatever else, you can't allow things to get in the way of the customer experience," he says.

For the record, Amazon said last week it had paid $42.5 million for a 35% stake in, which delivers fresh groceries to customers who order them on the Web. raised an additional $10 million from other investors, including a $5 million chunk from the

Barksdale Group

, the new investment boutique of former


CEO James Barksdale.

Also for the record, when this column reports something as a fact, that's different from "rumor and speculation." The latter -- like recent

navel gazing about


(ORCL) - Get Oracle Corporation Report

President Raymond Lane bolting for



or about



CEO Eric Schmidt

selling his company to


(IBM) - Get International Business Machines Corporation Report



(LU) - Get Lufax Holding Ltd American Depositary Shares two of which representing one Report

-- always will be labeled as such.

Level 3 CEO's Enlightened Self-Interest

Another old item humorously suggested that Pierre Omidyar, the founder and chairman of


(EBAY) - Get eBay Inc. Report

(and a very, very rich person), should announce publicly that he'll sell a nominal number of shares every day for a certain period of time. That would enable him to convert some of his fabulous paper wealth into cash without suggesting a thing to investors about Omidyar's views on eBay's (still) lofty valuation.

Omidyar hasn't taken the advice. But another executive,

Level 3 Communications


CEO James Crowe, followed the script almost word for word.

In an "open letter" to shareholders last week, Crowe said he'll dispose of 1 million shares of Level 3 stock by selling 4,000 shares every trading day for 250 days. He'll do this by shifting the shares into a trust that will sell the shares "whether the stock price is higher or lower than it is today," he wrote May 17. The shares represent 9% of his stake in the Omaha, Neb.-based telecommunications service provider. Crowe said the trustee will "have no authority to expand, limit or suspend" the daily sales.

Crowe's move is a masterstroke. He takes the game out of analyzing his intentions. And he works his way around the oleaginous excuse many executives use for why they dump all their shares at once: that their "trading window" is too narrow to allow more orderly selling. (See

Herb Greenberg's


column for more on trading windows.)

There's another reason shareholders can feel good about the Level 3 CEO's gesture. It insulates them from plaintiff lawyers who sue the company on the grounds that the CEO manipulated the stock price for short-term gain.

"It's bulletproof," says Boris Feldman, a litigator with

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

in Palo Alto, Calif., who ends up defending companies whose executives sell stock just before the you-know-what hits the fan. Feldman has penned a

manifesto urging executives to establish such blind trusts, though few have heeded the call.

Hoop Dreams

Finally, it was interesting to note that presidential hopeful

Bill Bradley

has invested some of his hard-earned speaking and consulting fees with

Hummer Winblad Venture Partners

of San Francisco, whose partners include former


pal John Hummer. Bradley no doubt hopes that in addition to adding to his wealth, the association with the VCs will boost his fundraising ability in Silicon Valley.

That presidential campaign fundraising, notes Mark Gorenberg, another Hummer Winblad partner, is surprisingly similar to the process startups follow.

"These people are like startups," notes Gorenberg, whose firm is one of's backers. "How much they've raised is all that matters at the beginning." In other words, just as

George W. Bush

can scare off other contenders by piling up so much coin, a venture-backed startup can spook other would-be contestants.

The Silicon Valley mindset at work.

Adam Lashinsky's column appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Lashinsky writes a monthly column for Fortune called the Wired Investor, and is a frequent commentator on public radio's Marketplace program. He welcomes your feedback at