Silicon Follies

Chapter 51: Caterers become cable moguls; Barry flies down under


Thomas Scoville
September 8, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

It was one of the few idle weekday mornings their high-tech catering business had allowed them in some time. Liz and Laurel reenacted their morning "rut-ual" at Chateau des Araignies: They brewed a pot of coffee and hunkered down with Angus and the morning newspaper.

Generally, Laurel wasn't the type to linger long over the business section, but this morning a story had caught her eye:

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Network Synergy Solutions Surprise Buyout

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) -- Cable giant Global Communications Corp. will buy privately held Network Synergy Solutions in a deal valued at about $3.6 billion including assumed debt.

The deal, the latest in the rapidly changing cable TV industry, will enable Global Communications Corp. of St. Louis to provide customized cable modem services over existing infrastructure. GCC is the nation's fourth-largest cable company with 5.5 million subscribers.

She didn't know what any of it meant, practically speaking. But she did know that "Network Synergy Solutions" sounded an awful lot like one of their recalcitrant customers who had paid a recent invoice in presumably worthless company stock.

Laurel guessed the newspaper story might indicate a potentially lucrative turn of events. She decided to consult Liz, the only person in her life even remotely resembling a Silicon Valley insider.

"Hey, what does it mean when a little high-tech company gets bought by a big one?"

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"Usually, it means the little guys get rich," Liz explained, rubbing the M on Angus' tabby brow. "Along with their stockholders, if they have any. That's always what people always hope, anyway."

Laurel abruptly put down her coffee cup, simultaneously dialing Vero and tossing the business section to Liz. Angus dived under the couch.

Vero's answering machine picked up: "Bon jour, this is Vero, bienvenue, ga va. You know what to do. Beep."

"Hey, Vero -- Laurel. What was the name of that cheeseball company who stiffed us with stock? Was it 'Network Synergy Solutions'? Check the paper today. Business section, column three. They just got bought by some mega-corporation. Maybe you should pull those certificates off the wall and see a stockbroker. Call me."

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Laurel hung up the phone, turning to Liz to share her excitement over her sleuthing.

"Oh, that would be so hysterical," she exclaimed. "Guerrilla Gourmet -- caterers and cable moguls."

Liz smiled wickedly. "That would be the ultimate irony, wouldn't it? I can see it now: 'Liberal arts catering babes strike it rich in technology gold rush.'"

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But the jovial mood fled as Liz happened to scan another story of more local interest. She pressed her fingers to her temple as she read.


Woman Dies in Felton Hit-and-run

A Felton woman died at Kaiser Hospital early Thursday after being hit by a vehicle on a remote section of Zayante Road Wednesday evening. Santa Cruz police report that the search for the vehicle is ongoing. Bystanders identified the deceased as Gretchen Jah Love, residence unknown.

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"Oh, no," Liz pleaded, softly. "This can't be. This can't be the same person."

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Barry had taken the controls of the Gulfstream on the approach into Sydney. Though he didn't have the patience to ride out long, dull flights in the cockpit, he liked to jump into the saddle on landing and takeoff -- during the exciting parts, in other words. Barry was the most dangerous kind of thrill-seeker: an adrenaline junkie with a short attention span.

He'd even insisted on taking the stick for the refueling stop in Honolulu. His co-pilot -- Len, a Vietnam-era fighter jock, and TeraMemory's official corporate pilot -- had learned to roll with Barry's sudden fits of hands-on enthusiasm; he'd sit patiently alongside, ready to jump in if things suddenly went bad. After all, Len thought to himself, it was Barry's bucket, and he'd earned his rating. It was annoying, but a lot less upsetting than Viet Cong triple-A.

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Once in Sydney, Barry decided to skip check-in at the Four Seasons and proceed
straight to the harbor. He arrived dockside to find the Singularity hauled out for maintenance and some small patches. The hull had picked up a few minor dings in transport; a crew member applied a restorative gloss to the ship's black, space-age keel with a spray-can of marine epoxy.

There was also some serious talk about the weather. Singularity's navigator had been tracking a storm system gathering in the west, out over the Indian Ocean, and it worried him more than a little.

"Not your job," Barry had admonished. "If weather's going to be a serious factor," he declared in sportsmanlike fashion, "the race officials will make the call. We need to focus on our game. We came down to win, not fret about conditions."

But in truth, Barry was having a hard time concentrating on nautical preparations. Even from a hemisphere away, the mutiny of his board of directors weighed heavily upon him, preoccupying his thoughts. With any luck, his slashing of personnel would pay off, and TeraMemory's share price would rebound by the time the blue water race was won. Then he could reassert control.

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Until then, he would struggle to put the specter of the Microsoft partnership out of his mind and keep his attention on the regatta. He looked forward to his time on the ocean, at least. Out on the water there was no ambiguity; Barry could allow his competitive instincts to run wild. Hobart was 700 nautical miles away, and he and his crew were going to get there first.


Thomas Scoville

Thomas Scoville is either an Information Age savant or an ex-Silicon Valley programmer with a bad attitude. He is the author of the Silicon Valley Tarot.

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