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Wired's founder speaks out

After relinquishing his role as Wired's publisher, Louis Rossetto offers a few choice words in defending his company's financial stability.

3 min read
Defending his company's financial stability and discussing his reasons for relinquishing his role as publisher of Wired magazine today, Louis Rossetto had a few choice words to offer those following the digital revolution.

In an interview with CNET's NEWS.COM, the magazine founder's voice resonated with disgust as he addressed rumors that parts or all of Wired Ventures would soon be placed on the auction block. Wired Ventures publishes the magazine and related Web sites.

"Wired Digital is not for sale. Wired magazine is not for sale. Wired Ventures is not for sale," said Rossetto, who also gave up the title of editor in chief today. Succeeding him as publisher is Dana Lyon, who will add the new role to her existing duties as vice president of the Wired Magazine Group.

At times using language too colorful for publication, Rossetto angrily denied a report speculating that parts of his company could be sold. "What part of 'no truth' don't you understand?" he asked rhetorically. "Not a single line is true. It is the kind of story that gives online journalism a bad name."

That report notwithstanding, financial troubles within the Wired empire have been widely publicized for some time. The company's losses ballooned to $42.8 million in the first nine months of 1996, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and its digital operations are still in the red.

Last year, Wired Ventures made two runs at an initial public stock offering. The company filed for an IPO last May, placed a temporary halt on it in July, refiled in September, and then withdraw it in October. In addition, Wired Ventures cut 33 positions from its Wired Digital unit last month as part of its goal to become profitable by late 1998.

Rossetto said the cutbacks were simply the end of a reorganization process. "I don't see any more cutting back in this company. We have done as much downsizing that needs to be done," he said. "This company is lean and mean. We have no need for a cash infusion."

As for Rossetto himself, it remains unclear what his most recent transition means. Today's announcement marked the second attempt for the company founder to move himself away from Wired's day-to-day operations in just six months. In July, he said the company was going to start a search for a new CEO of Wired Ventures, but no replacement has yet been named.

While that search continues--it is still "active," a company spokeswoman said today--Rossetto continues to serve as chairman and chief executive of Wired Ventures. He said that the company started interviewing candidates in September and that it is in no hurry to fill the spot.

"We have gone past the start-up phase and past the entrepreneurial stage," Rossetto added. "We are not desperate. We are looking for the right person to take us to the next stage of growth."

Although Katrina Heron has been named the magazine's editor in chief, she will report to Rossetto. Heron, who had been the magazine's editor at large, is to steer the editorial and creative direction of Wired in her new position.

Confusing matters more, though, Rossetto actually secured a new title of his own today: "editorial director" for all of Wired Ventures. "I gave myself a promotion," he declared.

Lyon, the magazine's new publisher, will continue to report to Wired Ventures president Jane Metcalfe. Martha Baer was named managing editor of the magazine after serving as executive editor and senior producer at Wired Digital.

Rossetto said he would like to continue strengthening the Wired brand and to create more products like Wired magazine, which became profitable last January. He said he also would like to take the brand into new arenas, such as conferences and newsletters.

"We are poised for serious growth in this industry," he vaunted.