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Barksdale to pull trigger on next move

The former chief executive of Netscape Communications plans to launch into the next phase of his professional life as early as next week.

Jim Barksdale, the former chief executive of Netscape Communications, plans to launch into the next phase of his professional life as early as next week.

Barksdale, who intends to become an individual investor in start-ups and early-stage companies, said he expects to close his first investment deal within a week. The move would come only a month after the mega-merger between Netscape Communications and America Online closed.

Barksdale declined to release details of the company or sector that he will fund, other than to say it will focus on companies that will serve the new "Net economy."

"They will be companies that do business over the Internet or offer services over the Internet," Barksdale said.

The former CEO has no plans to take an active management role in any of the companies that receive his funding; instead he plans to offer advice ranging from formulating business plans to launching an initial public offering. He also will assist in recruiting executives and serve on boards of directors.

In other words, Barksdale plans to take a path similar to that of Netscape cofounder Jim Clark, who funded such companies as Netscape and Healtheon but avoided active management.

"I want to work toward maximizing shareholder value?It's something that I find personally interesting. I want to help make a successful company, one where it's a good place to work, has good products, and brings good shareholder value," said Barksdale.

Taking the role of a financial angel, rather than that of venture capitalist, the former CEO will run his operations from his home in Aspen, Colorado, where he will take some time to hit the slopes as an intermediate skier. He also will maintain an office in Silicon Valley and occasionally spend time in Jackson, Mississippi, where he and his wife, Sally, are building a home next door to his wife's sister, he said.

A portion of his time also will be spent as a director on various corporate boards, such as AOL, Network Computer, and the Robert Mondavi winery.

"I'll help AOL with public policy issues, transition issues, and customer issues," he said. AOL is interested in such public policy issues as gaining an open connection to carry its service on cable and has been lobbying in Washington.

Barksdale is no stranger to Washington. He spent many days there lobbying for such issues as expanding the quota of U.S. work visas for foreign nationals with technical experience. Barksdale also made appearances in Washington during the Justice Department's (DOJ) antitrust suit against Microsoft.

The former Netscape executive also will help raise money for Texas Gov. George Bush, who may seek the Republican nomination for president. However, Barksdale said helping others will be the extent of his political activity.

"People have approached me about running for office, but it's something I find that I don't want to do," he said. "I'm interested in good government and the effect government can have in the right areas, but I'm not interested in politics. I don't see running for office, ever."

Barksdale also will devote a portion of his time to nonprofit groups such as TechNet, a bipartisan lobbying group that seeks tech-friendly legislation. As cochairman, he will focus on areas such as education and ways to increase funding for research and development.

In addressing the path he has chosen for the next phase of his life, Barksdale said: "I'm interested in giving vs. building or learning. I'm at a stage where I am financially able to and at an age where I've already done the first two stages. Now I'm at the third stage."