Co-Founding father of CNET Goes Bankrupt

Halsey Minor goes bankrupt buying paintings like Peaceable Kingdom

Halsey Minor, who co-founded CNET, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Minor was a mega-millionaire who once was pegged by Fortune magazine, back in 1999, as having a net worth of $350 million.  Now his net worth may be negative $90 million,  per a Wall Street Journal blog post .  He even owes money to his former executive assistant.

CNET was sold to CBS in 2008 for $1.8 Billion, although he had left years earlier before the DotCom bust of 2000.  Minor, is a descendant on his mother’s side to Admiral Halsey, also was a tech investor who picked some winners.  One was acquired by Google and have become Google Voice. Minor was also an investor in Salesforce.com.

CNET, Salesforce, Google Voice — clearly the person is a tech genius who knows methods to identify tech’s next big thing. He made a fortune by the point he was in his thirties. So what went wrong?

Minor’s financial troubles appear to stem from expenditures and investments that later proved disastrous.

He bought expensive real estate. Working example: a home in posh Bel Air that he bought for $20 million and put back for sale a year later for $12.9 million.

Then there has been the home in Presidio Heights, San Francisco, that he bought for one more $22 million — and claims to have installed another $15 million in improvements.  There was other real estate, too, including the Landmark Hotel, Charlottesville, Virginia, that he was developing for $31 million — among other properties.

Let’s not forget the race horse. He paid $3 million for a Kentucky Derby contender that went lame before the large race.

And then there has been the pricy artwork. He bought millions of bucks of artwork at Sotheby’s auction house, after which was sued for not buying it.  One of the paintings in question was Peaceable Kingdom (pictured above), by artist Edward Hicks.  Minor ended up in litigation, lost and paid $6.6. million to Sotheby’s.

And now he’s bankrupt.

I don’t write about Minor to brag about someone else’s misfortune. In fact, “there but for the grace of God go I” is more of my sentiment in such situations.

But it does suggest two points for entrepreneurs to remove from this sage of “tech millionaire goes bankrupt:”

  • You is usually a genius in a single area and be a large success — but get from your element and it usually is a very different story.  When it involves diversifying, walk carefully.  On the only hand, diversifying can reduce risks inherent in over-counting on a single area. But get too far afield from what you recognize best on your business, and it increases other forms of risks.
  • Financial independence isn’t such a lot about how much you’re making — it’s about the way you spend it.  Even multimillionaires can spend all of it foolishly.  Cost control in business, in government and on your personal finances is significant. Don’t be the one that goes bankrupt.

Image: Peaceable Kingdom

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