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Shutterfly says "no," but who's asking?

Numerous Shutterflies on the wall report that Chairman Jim Clark rejected a verbal buyout offer from Kodak as far low of his minimum bid.

    My 12-year-old son Vermel and his paramour, Ammonia Blossom, got into their first domestic spat this week, and it wasn't pretty.

    Vermel, it came out, had hacked into the VPN shared by Ammonia and her computer-savvy girlfriends to read their password-protected online diaries. The girls detected the intrusion and retaliated by holding Vermel's best friend Jai Pegue hostage and giving him a perm (Jai Pegue later admitted the perm was consensual). They refused to release him or uncurl his hair until Vermel apologized for the hack.

    "I regret the sorry state of your network's security apparatus and the resulting exposure of the tissue of lies otherwise known as your diaries," Vermel wrote in a draft he ran by me.

    "Is that the best you can do?" I asked. "You might try to sound a little more contrite. And why the slap at the diaries?"

    "Because they're full of lies!" Vermel exploded. "Ammonia wrote that I asked her to go with me, but it was the other way around!"

    Clearly the children have futures in international diplomacy. But if that fails, they might want to go into the online photo business, where the diary contretemps would pass as a run-of-the-mill affair.

    Shutterfly has been making headlines recently: Founder Jim Clark sank more of his hard-earned millions into the venture to keep it afloat, the company announced layoffs, CEO Jayne Spiegelman yielded the corner office, and the company named Andy Wood to take her place after a brief interregnum.

    But Skinsiders are more interested in the fact that Chairman Clark is rumored to have spurned advances by Kodak to buy the company. Numerous Shutterflies on the wall report that Clark rejected the verbal offer as far low of his minimum bid.

    Kodak flatly denied it had offered to buy Clark's online photo shop. Au contraire!

    "Shutterfly has contacted Kodak regularly asking for us to buy them," said Kodak flack Anthony Sanzio. "It's not surprising that Shutterfly is looking to be sold--they fired their CEO, had layoffs, and now they're running on Jim Clark's money. And there are only a limited number of companies that would buy them."

    That's what he said. Here's what she said:

    "It's not true," said Shutterflack Whitney Brown. "We have no plans to be acquired."

    Brown declined to comment directly on whether Kodak had offered to buy Shutterfly, but reiterated her contention that Sanzio's denial of Kodak's offer was untrue.

    While Kodak and Shutterfly duke it out over who asked whom to do what, Kodak and Shutterfly competitor Ofoto are busy refuting widespread rumors that they will soon be joined in corporate matrimony.

    "This would be total news to me," said Ofoto flack Cameron Brown (no relation to Whitney). "And I would be in a position to know."

    Kodak's Sanzio said he wouldn't lend "any credence" to the Ofoto rumors.

    Shutterfly, on the other hand, said the Ofoto rumors rang true.

    "I definitely think Kodak is shopping around," said Brown (Whitney). "I'm pretty confident that the No. 2 company in our space will be acquired. They were built as an acquisition target."

    Brown (Cameron) took issue with Shutterfly's categorization of Ofoto as the "No. 2" company in the online photo business, pointing out that Yahoo Internet Life just rated the company "No. 1."

    But now we must wrench ourselves away from the machinations of online photo start-ups and turn our attention to the phenomenon of underage CTOs staffing beleaguered Web site aggregators. We refer to James Reno, high school junior and the chief technology prodigy of eFront Media.

    The company, you may recall, gained its fifteen minutes of shame after the ICQ logs of CEO Sam Jain were posted to the Web. The company also made headlines recently after being evicted by its hosting provider for lack of payment.

    We caught up with eFront's new CTO, who was working the telecommuting late shift out of his bedroom in suburban Cincinnati, where he has been sitting out the recent curfews.

    RUMOR MILL: I hear you're CTO now--as of when?
    RENO: Beginning, middle of March--I'd say around the 10th.
    RUMOR MILL: When did you start with eFront?
    RENO: October '99, as a Webmaster for Bytecenter.com.
    RUMOR MILL: So you were acquired.
    RENO: Correct.
    RUMOR MILL: Tell me how you handled the recent departure from (hosting provider) S4R.
    RENO: That was hard. Before S4R shut us down--shut down the servers--we FTP'd almost 40 gigs of data to other servers and set up shop on them. We are still working on getting everything back up and running.
    RUMOR MILL: Is this your first full-time job?
    RENO: Well, it's not exactly full time, as I do still have school and can only work X amount of hours a day...around five.
    RUMOR MILL: How do your folks feel about your job?
    RENO: They put limitations on it but other than that they don't mind. They see it as a good learning experience.
    RUMOR MILL: Do you think you're being paid competitively with other CTOs in the industry--on account of your age?
    RENO: Above.
    RUMOR MILL: Really now! I didn't think eFront had that kind of cash.
    RENO: That still doesn't say if I've been paid or not...But the regular payment is above average. Help me keep my column above average. Send me your rumors.