Editorial: Oh, Those Fun Internet Days

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Here's another item from the what-were-we-thinking department, circa the Internet's good, ol' days:

Marketing Services Group Inc. has "an explosive chart is all I can say rite now," TonyfromBklyn wrote in an investors message board on April 14, 1999. "Not much of a FUNDAMENTAL GUY and havent researched them as far as their Industry goes. ... If I owned them and all of the above is true I would ride them to death. I usually track a STOCK for at least a week b4 I jump in. Dont care if I miss an up-move. Like to try to get the feel of a stock."

Three weeks later, Karin wrote, "The next CMGI will be MSGI."

Fast-forward to Dec. 2, 2002: MKTG Services (formerly MSGI) said it will sell its direct marketing operations to CBC Companies for $11 million. The company had warned earlier this fall that it didn't have enough cash to fund its business for the next 12 months. The deal will leave MKTG with its telemarketing and telefundraising operations and enough working capital so it can function as a going concern. Gone from its portfolio are Stevens-Knox & Associates, The Coolidge Co. and Media Marketplace, all acquired when the company was soaring in the late 1990s. Sold off many, many months ago are the Grizzard Agency and WiredEmpire. Chairman/CEO Jeremy Barbera says he will continue to manage MKTG for CBC as well as his own company.

Barbera, an entrepreneur who started Metro Services Group with only $900 in 1987, has always liked to stand out from the crowd. In 1995, he told Inc. magazine "the best thing I ever did" was to rent a Madison Avenue address for $200 a month through a business incubator. To attract big clients, "you have to be a little arrogant and say that you're capable of doing something that someone else isn't." The key to successful bootstrapping, Inc. wrote, isn't so much what you're doing as it is what other people think you're doing. "It all depends on the light you portray yourself in," Barbera said.

So, did MKTG become the next CMGI? Yes and no. In 1999, their stocks were both trading at more than $300 a share. Last week, MKTG's stock was just over 20 cents. CMGI was trading at 60 cents a month ago but has more than doubled, thanks to the relaunch of its AltaVista division. The site features new search capabilities and a new targeted advertising strategy.


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