Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Expect big things from the Bowles campaign blog -- one of the key people working on Bowles' Internet strategy is Matthew Gross, late of the Dean campaign, one of the true visionaries of Web politics.

4:00:27 PM    comment []

Erskine Bowles has launched a campaign weblog to support his run for the US Senate seat currently held by John Edwards.

You can see Bowles in Greensboro tonight, as his bus tour pulls up to the Tate Street Coffee House at 6 PM.

11:48:33 AM    comment []

An email from a New Yorker media relations person, in response to my request for an interview with Seymour Hersh: "Mr. Hersh does not conduct interviews unless he has a piece on the newsstands, at which time he will only discuss the contents of that specific piece.  At this time, I do not know when his next piece for us will appear."

11:38:13 AM    comment []

With Microsoft set to spend $75 billion to enrich its shareholders, I dusted off a column from 1999 in which I dusted off an interview with Bill Gates from 1986 about the origins of his great fortune...

by Edward Cone
News & Record
April 1, 1999

To: Bill Gates
Re: Congrats on your first $ 100 billion!
To think I knew you when.

Well, maybe ''knew you'' is overstating things, but we did have a very nice telephone conversation almost 13 years ago, on April 24, 1986, to be exact, when I interviewed you for your inaugural appearance on the Forbes magazine list of the wealthiest people in America.

I just came across my notes from that phone call, and I thought it would be nice to do a little catching up, especially since this week finds you arriving at such a major milestone. Lost in the hoopla of the Dow closing above 10,000 earlier this week was another big number: $100 billion. When Microsoft stock hit $90 on Monday, you became the first American ever to sport a 12-figure net worth.

Your stock and other assets, as valued by Forbes 400 editor Peter Newcomb, add up to more than the combined GDP of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Yes, a lot has changed for us both since our last conversation, Bill. Shortly thereafter I got a fat raise to $21,000 per year, and you became the richest man in the world. At the time, though, your net worth was just $350 million. $350 million! There was one recent year when your stock went up by that amount every week.

But we didn't know that was going to happen then. In fact, we were a little nervous about you. Microsoft had just recently come public (''he's only been only been filthy rich since Feb.,'' say my notes) and we wondered if your stock would hold up long enough to put you on the list. ''He will go on unless Microsoft dips below $15,'' I wrote.

Guess we didn't have to worry about that one, huh?

Adjusted for splits, those 1986 shares are trading at about $2,160 each. The computer business has changed a lot since then, too. For one thing, a 23-year-old reporter could just pick up the phone and get Bill Gates on the line (you were all of 30.) Netscape and AOL were years in the future and when people talked about monopolies they still thought of IBM, which along with Apple was the only computer company most folks had heard of.

Crazy as it sounds now, it seemed relevant to ask if you were planning to expand into hardware. Old paradigm, don't you know. You explained that you'd given it a lot of thought but decided that software was the ticket, saying, ''This is what I've decided will be the best way to make my contribution.'' You certainly played the right hunch on that one, Bill. Wouldn't want to trade your shares, er, your contribution with Steve Jobs.

Of course, your personal life has gone through some transformations as well. Now you're married, and to a Duke grad no less (gee, UConn's Rip Hamilton is about as scary as the Justice Department's David Boies, huh?) and you have a kid and live in that spiffy new high-tech lakefront Xanadu you built.

Back then you were just a shy single guy who was really into his job. ''This is my life ... I'm pretty hard core,'' you said, proving the unfairness of the critics who have been panning your bland new book ''Business the Speed of Thought'' - you actually talk this way. You lived near your parents and worried about distractions from things like charities and boards.

But you weren't going to let anything distract you. ''The way to do big, unique things is to focus on those things and pursue them,'' you said. And you weren't unaware of what you were building, as you made clear when you politely corrected me about your early departure from Harvard. ''Well, I didn't just drop out,'' you said. ''I went to found Microsoft.''

Point taken, Bill. I know that finding this old interview has changed my attitude. I'm not just dreaming about my future anymore - this time I'm really driving to Danville to buy that lottery ticket.

Now I'm no Barbara Walters, but let's talk for one moment about your feelings. Back in '86 you seemed nonplussed by your sudden richness, describing the sensation as ''a little unreal.'' So how does $100 billion feel?
Pretty darn good, I bet.
Be sure to write back to let us all know.

© News & Record 1999

NOTE: Gates has not yet written back.

11:22:38 AM    comment []

BizJournal: Shift of power

"Hagan and Garrou have held their titles for little more than a year, the first time in more than 50 years that two legislators from the Triad have had so much influence over the state's purse strings."

11:06:58 AM    comment []

Salon's Patrick Smith takes a whack at the much-discussed "Terror in the skies, again?" story...while Salon's Mark Follman takes a look at the real issues the story raises, no matter what its particular merits (you have to click thru an ad to read these articles).

Profiling is a tough issue. When I was in the Toronto airport last month, I got stopped at every possible checkpoint -- my luggage was searched, my carry-on was searched, and I was one of the pull-asides at the security gate and before getting on the plane. I guess dark-haired, bearded men were on the list that day in Canada. It didn't bother me a bit.

9:20:42 AM    comment []

Vernon Robinson will face state senator Virginia Foxx in a run-off for the GOP nomination in the NC 5th congressional district. The eventual Republican candidate is heavily favored to win the general election in November and succeed Richard Burr.

Robinson, the gay-baiting, immigrant-bashing, Ten-Commandments-signing Winston-Salem city councilman, was the top vote-getter in yesterday's primary. The 5th is the nation's most expensive congressional race, and one of the nastiest.

The News & Record seems to have managed to avoid printing a single word about the 5th district race in this morning's edition.

I'll be on WUNC's The State of Things radio program at about 12:30 today to talk about the fightin' 5th.

8:41:29 AM    comment []