Thursday, March 06, 2008

Al Gore's Convenient IPO

Al Gore's Convenient IPO
By Ron Grover

CurrentTV's parent is launching a public offering whose terms, though sweet for the company's high-profile founder, may be inconvenient for investors

What's an Emmy worth? If you're former Vice-President Al Gore, it's worth just north of $1 million a year and roughly another $48 million in stock. That's a hefty sum for a guy who of late has traveled the globe as a goodwill ambassador for mankind, stressing the need for humanity to wake up to the dangers of global warming.

Where's Gore getting the dough? From a tiny, lightly watched cable TV channel called CurrentTV. The channel is seen in roughly 19 million U.S. homes (about one-quarter the viewers of ESPN or CNN) and over the last three years has lost $31.5 million while increasing revenues to $53.5 million from $23.4 million three years ago. Still, CurrentTV may be the next hot thing—it won the Emmy last year for its ability to present a forum for user-generated content from its mostly younger viewers. "It is true participatory media," Gore told me in a Beverly Hills hotel room the day after the Emmy presentation, grasping the gold statue as he spoke.

Cash and Control

Or maybe it's an IPO bust waiting to happen? In the financial election of his life, Al Gore is betting that investors will vote with their dollars for him and his big idea. CurrentTV's parent company, Current Media, hopes to raise $100 million in a public offering it filed on Jan. 28. Some of the money will go to pay off lenders, who include a couple of Democratic Party biggies that joined the onetime Veep to launch a new style of citizen-journalism. Of course the IPO will also help make Gore, who sits on the board of Apple (AAPL) and is a senior adviser to Google (GOOG), a sizable bundle of cash.

Something about this deal just doesn't sit right with me. Gore isn't just taking piles of cash.



Anonymous cassie said...

I thought Current TV went belly-up a long time ago...

12:29 PM  

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