Culture

CrossWorlds collide while BizWeek eyes Upside

Pluto isn't alone among heavenly bodies on the brink of dis-aster. Remember Katrina Garnett, top model (and CEO) of CrossWorlds? That Silicon Valley company sells software, but nobody knows what kind because all they can remember about the firm is its chief executive posing in a slinky black fabric swatch for a CrossWorlds ad that mentioned her line of work in teeny-tiny sideways print.

Supper at the DuBaud household can leave a bad taste in your mouth. Denial of dinner service attacks are not uncommon, sarcastic barbs lurk behind every bib, and barring an intervention by my 12-year-old son Vermel's paramour Ammonia Blossom and school chum Jai Pegue (precocious gourmets both), dinner is likely to be of the TV variety. But last night I faced a new threat to our familial breaking of bread when the three youngsters announced they were launching a hunger strike.

The beneficiary of this appalling self-deprivation? Nothing so deserving as unemployed Sybase engineers or SyQuest refugees--instead, a hard cold ball of rock and ice.

"Dad, you gotta join our hunger strike," Vermel urged. "Pluto's about to be demoted to space junk and we have to save it.

"Besides," he added, eyeing me critically, "you could stand to lose a few more pounds."

Such are the slings and arrows I endure from my sharp-tongued issue. I pay it no mind, and even managed a moment of sympathy for the ill-fated ninth planet on the verge of astronomical impeachment.

Pluto isn't alone among heavenly bodies on the brink of dis-aster. Remember Katrina Garnett, top model (and CEO) of CrossWorlds? That Silicon Valley company sells software, but nobody knows what kind because all they can remember about the firm is its chief executive posing in a slinky black fabric swatch for a CrossWorlds ad that mentioned her line of work in teeny-tiny sideways print.

Ms. Garnett hasn't been minding the shop too closely of late, for the excellent reason that she's getting ready to give birth for the third time (not bad for a supermodel!). Hubby, CrossWorlds chairman and Venrock VC Terence Garnett has been overseeing operations, but company observers are wondering if this corporate family isn't getting dangerously dysfunctional.

Recent layoffs are old news already, but Skinformants have supplied an impressive list of additional high-placed departures, including the VP of business development, the CFO, and the controller. Soon to follow: the PR manager.

The dirt behind at least some of these departures is rumored to concern tension over the proper gourmet way of handling the books. Rumor has it that the CFO parted following some smokin' discussions about what exactly constitutes "reportable revenue."

"But the big dish is whether she or Terry is really running the company," we are Skinformed. "And whither the IPO?" (cackle)

While CrossWorlds crumbles, Upside humbles itself before potential buyer Business Week. Last week we reported that Upside's print arm was on the market. Fortune turned up its nose, but now we hear that Business Week is seriously sizing up the purchase.

Some are speculating that Biz Week wants to turn Upside mag--or its subscriber list, anyway--into a knock-off of Forbes's tech extra ASAP. The irony here is that Upside and Forbes courted each other over this same idea years ago, but negotiations fell apart.

Ever since we reported that Marc Andreessen was taking off, rumors have been floating our way suggesting that Marc is trying to work a deal to get all his Netscape stock vested out before the AOL merger is closed. This is what is known in the biz as a liquid diet: "He wants to leverage his position both from a liquid capital perspective, as well as get some more Skin in the game with AOL," reports our source. Ah, the price of being Skinny!

Y2K alarmists are storming the Rumor Mill! On seeing last week's column dated "December 14, 1998," reader Curt Tucker asks, non-verbosely, "Rumor Mill not Y2K-1 compliant?" Yes, compliant, just a little hung over...but has Y2K-1 hit the Dow Jones newsroom? "The Dow Jones News Service this morning told StorageTek that it found StorageTek's October 1998, third-quarter earnings on the company's Web site and mistakenly wrote headlines and stories early this morning based on that three-month-old report," reports BusinessWire. Whoops! Well, you know what they say about the reliability of information you find on the Web...

More Y2K, OK? One reader wants to know why the term "doomsdate" has not taken off for the start of the faux-millennium...and yet another wants me to apprise you all of the Y2K pins for sale on the Web. "Wear the countdown to Y2K on your coat, jacket, shirt, sweater, etc," he spams me. Will do, but will they still work in 343 days?

While I'm plugging products, you might find excellent Valentine's Day gifts for geeks at TheSmokingGun.com, which is vending T-shirts with Bill Gates's mug on them. Literally his mug (check out the last item here).

Honestly, I don't know why people are so intent on bashing Bill. Have we all forgotten the many millions he pledged to international child immunization efforts, a whopping sum that, according to this week's Harper's Index, represents 0.0017 percent of his fortune?

I've finally found some appropriate bedtime reading for Vermel, who will doubtless be sleepless with hunger and plotting his escape to McDonald's by the time I tuck him in. This passage from Brit Martin Amis's 1995 novel The Information should prove apt music to accompany the growls emanating from my son's stomach:

"One must never mock the afflicted, of course, but Pluto really is an awful little piece of shit. Jupiter didn't make it as a star; Pluto didn't even make it as a planet. Tenuous atmosphere, a crust of ice (300 miles deep), and then rock. Pluto's mass is about a fifth of the mass of our moon, and its moon, Charon (another toilet), is half as small again. There are no rings, so Charon is no shepherd: he is a ferryman, ferrying the dead to Pluto's underworld."

There's more, but sticklers will remind me that I'm off-topic again. Help me keep my mind on my job and send me some rumors.