Minor mishaps: He built an Internet giant, so why is Halsey hurting?

 


Halsey Minor, seen here at the March groundbreaking of the Landmark Hotel, has gotten into a public dispute with his developer and his bank over the luxury Downtown Mall property.
PHOTO BY JAY KUHLMANN

 


At the time of this interview on PBS' Charlie Rose, Minor had just sold his search engine Snap.com to NBC for $63 million
SCREEN CAPTURE


Though now locked in a public dispute over fiinancing, Minor (center) and his Landmark developer Lee Danielson (right) were all smiles with Mayor Dave Norris the day of the Landmark Hotel's groundbreaking.
PHOTO BY JAY KUHLMANN

Halsey Minor is the greatest character Charles Dickens never created. But if he had, the 19th century author with the penchant for giving characters descriptively accurate monikers might have given Minor a different last name.

Major was the ambition when Minor founded news company CNet in 1992 with the intent of becoming the top media mogul of the new medium called the Internet. 

Major was his wealth when CNet became the go-to site for tech industry news and when advertising dollars began to pour into the company.

Major was his foresight in March of 2000 when he walked away from CNet with hundreds of millions at the peak of its success, just weeks before the dot-com bubble burst and scores of other young entrepreneurs lost their fortunes.

Now, less than a decade later, at age 43, major are Minor's losing gambles and unpaid bills.

 

Landmark laments

Earlier this month when the loan money temporarily fell through for his Landmark Hotel, Minor claimed it was a bank defaulting amid a worldwide banking crisis.  

"They flat-out did not pay," he said.

However, looking at the rest of his empire, some wonder if it isn't Minor himself who's running out of cash.

In March, Minor paid $3 million for a stallion that some considered a contender to win the Kentucky Derby.

That month at the Florida Derby, the horse pulled up lame, finished dead last, missed the Kentucky Derby, and has not raced since.

Also in March, Minor purchased three paintings at  auction for $13 million. In September, New York-based Sotheby's auction house sued Minor because he had yet to pay for the paintings, and as of press time he still had not paid.

In June, Minor put his house in the posh Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles on the market, asking $12.9 million. Two years earlier, Minor paid $20 million for the property.

All this comes more than seven years after Minor pledged $25 million to the University of Virginia. To date, Minor confirms, he has yet to fulfill his pledge to his alma mater.

Minor spoke with the Hook and offered explanations for all of these issues. The question left unanswered is why a man who built a multi-billion dollar company from scratch and who was worth more than $500 million less than a decade ago is now having trouble finishing some of the projects he's started.

 

Local heroes

Halsey Minor could have played it safe. Had he decided to live his entire life as one of the leading members of Charlottesville's gentry, nobody would have blamed him.

The son of real estate broker Venable Minor, Halsey Minor is the great-great grandson of John B. Minor, a UVA law professor who, legend has it, saved the Rotunda when he rode across enemy lines during the Civil War to tell Union Major General George Custer not to burn Jefferson's architectural masterpiece. For these contributions and others, in 1911 the law school dedicated Minor Hall.

On Minor's mother's side of the family tree is Fleet Admiral William "Bull" Halsey. A UVA alumnus who looms large in U.S. military lore for commanding the South Pacific Theater during World War II, he returned in peacetime to raise money for an on-Grounds naval armory. When the building was complete in the mid-'50s, it was christened Halsey Hall.

The two buildings, located within a couple of hundred yards of each other on UVA's Central Grounds, continue to house classrooms and academic offices. 

So when Halsey McLean Minor was born in 1964, the smart money had it that he, too, would follow the family line and prosper here in Virginia by building on the goodwill fostered locally by both sides of his family. For a while, it seemed, that's what he did, attending elite all-boys' boarding school Woodberry Forest in Orange County before matriculating at UVA, where he studied anthropology and joined the hard-partying but socially secure St. Elmo Hall Fraternity. 

Yet when Minor graduated in 1987 from the university where his family roots run so deep, he was not long for Charlottesville.

Now you CNet, now you don't
Instead, he joined the investment banking program at Merrill Lynch in New York. There he met a fellow trainee named Jeff Bezos, and together they hatched an idea to use a new technology called the Internet to send customized news alerts to high-powered business executives. Before it ever got off the ground, Merrill Lynch terminated the project to save costs, but Minor and Bezos each eventually hatched bigger, more ambitious, and more lucrative plans.

In 1992, while Bezos was busy starting up a newfangled online store he called Amazon, Minor kept his sights on the Internet as a news medium, and hired UVA classmate Shelby Bonnie to help him found CNet. He envisioned CNet as a combined television network and website bringing viewers the latest in tech industry news.

While the television side of the business sputtered (although it did spawn the Sci-Fi Channel's The New Edge, which launched the career of American Idol host Ryan Seacrest), the website quickly became the go-to place in cyberspace for anyone and everyone wanting to know the latest about the booming dot-com business.

Six years after its founding, Minor told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose that CNet had become "the Bible for technology news" and was getting more web traffic than all the Disney Corporation's websites combined– which included ABCNews.com and ESPN.com (in addition to all things Mickey).

Minor also had the prescience to start up websites with such valuable web addresses as news.com, tv.com, search.com, and download.com, all of which are still owned and operated by CNet.

In 1996, Minor's company had become so successful that he was able to take it public. That same year he let his Internet winnings ride one more time when he decided to diversify CNet and create search engine Snap.com. Although pre-Google, the Internet already had its share of search engines like Yahoo and Lycos. Once again, the gamble paid off two years later when Minor sold a 60 percent interest in Snap to NBC for $63 million, a deal heralded by the New York Times under a one-word headline: "Validation."

But Minor wasn't finished.

On May 25, 1999, a month after CNet stock was trading at $70 per share, the company became part of its NASDAQ 100 index, joining America Online, Yahoo, and Amazon as the only Internet-based companies to gain admission into this exclusive club.

Such business acumen was rewarded with worldwide acclaim and a huge bank account. In 1999, when Fortune published its inaugural "40 Richest Americans under 40" issue, there was Minor at age 35 and #31, with an estimated net worth of $354.1 million. 

 

Know when to fold 'em...

Like all good gamblers, Minor knew when to walk away from the table. On Thursday, March 9, 2000, just three days after CNet stock had its second-highest close ever at nearly $71, Minor announced he was resigning as chairman and CEO. He  received a retirement package worth an estimated $200 million. 

The timing appeared to be perfect. Over the weekend, the value of the NASDAQ dropped four percent, and CNet stock fell 13 percent. A little more than a month later on April 17, CNet was down to less than $25 per share, as the dot-com bubble had officially begun to burst.

By December 24, CNet had lost its coveted spot in the NASDAQ 100. And one year after Minor's retirement, CNet stock was worth just $9.44 per share, an 87 percent loss.

Yet, there was Minor on Fortune's "40 under 40" list for 2000, at #34 still worth $180.2 million. Minor's CNet co-founder Bonnie, who had been #24 on the 1999 list and who had stayed on with CNet, was nowhere to be found on the 2000 list.

 

Halsey comes home

On March 11 of this year, nearly eight years to the day after Minor left CNet, Charlottesville's prodigal son returned. But when he stood on the Downtown Mall to proudly proclaim that this would be the site of a nine-story, $31 million luxury hotel he called the Landmark, he looked different. 

Gone was the pallid computer geek who parted his brown hair to one side and wore a necktie and round wire-rimmed glasses. The new Minor, now a tanned venture capitalist with shoulder-length salt and pepper hair brushed back, wearing a grey suit and white linen shirt– the top two buttons undone to reveal a bare chest– spoke in wistful oratory about his memory of buying his first baseball glove at Downtown Athletic. His new hotel would honor but not ape Charlottesville's heritage.

 "There won't be any sappy busts of the three presidents in the lobby," he   said. "We want to call attention to Charlottesville's history with humor and elegance."

The project had long been the vision of Charlottesville developer Lee Danielson, the man behind such downtown landmarks as the Charlottesville Ice Park and the Regal Cinema 6, who wore a sunny smile on that bright almost-spring day. 

"You can't imagine how it feels to be starting this," Danielson said. "I was wondering if it was ever going to happen."

However, more than seven months later, after a public squabble between Minor and his lender, some are still wondering if it's ever going to happen.

 

 Money floundering

On November 12, Minor cried foul, alleging that Georgia-based Silverton Bank had defaulted on $23.6 million of loan money for his Landmark Hotel on the Downtown Mall. 

"They flat out did not pay," Minor said. "Halsey Minor paid. The bank didn't pay."

The bank begged to differ.

"We disagree with Mr. Minor's comments," said Silverton Bank in a statement. "The loan is proceeding per the terms specified clearly in the loan agreement  between the borrower and Specialty Finance Group.  Any assertion otherwise is inaccurate."

Danielson is having trouble believing Minor's story, saying Minor had "unfairly maligned" Silverton Bank. Danielson says the real problem was changes Minor made to the project after having reached an agreement with Silverton, including putting a bar on the roof of the building.

"The way construction lending works," says Danielson, "is you put in your equity, and the bank has its debt, and if there are changes in the scope of the project, and those change orders are not presented to the bank, the bank is under no obligation to continue to fund the project, unless they know where the money is coming from to fund those changes."

Where such a turn of events would put Minor is unclear, but Minor says that despite the public spat with his lender, he will remain the project's owner.

"I own it, and I'm not selling it," he says. "People have asked me to sell it to them, and I've said no. I'm going to deal with the issues at hand and find financing that's fair once the market improves, and we'll carry this project whole."

If Minor has his way, Danielson won't be along for the ride. Minor has begun calling Danielson the project's "former developer," although he declined to respond to the Hook's request for elaboration, and Danielson says he's not about to step aside.

"I can say with certainty," says Danielson, "that I will be in this project until the end."

Unfortunately for Minor, this isn't his only venture that isn't going as planned. It could be a result of bad investment decisions, poor management, or just plain bad luck, but the fact is that Minor has his fingers in many pies, and he's getting scalded.

 

Fresh prince of Bel Air?

Like many who bought real estate two years ago, Minor has seen the value of his house plummet. However, his is a palatial, glassed-in mansion in the Los Angeles gated community of Bel Air. This 1965 modernist wonder features 4,749 square feet, four bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a manicured courtyard, a full gym, and an unspoiled view of the city. So, when Minor found the house in March 2006, he paid attorney and Las Vegas real estate developer Reagan Silber $20 million to make it his own.

Soon, however, Minor discovered that this house that once glittered was not golden.

"It had something like 40 different leaks," Minor says. "It took hundreds of hours of painting and caulking to fix them all."

Not only did Minor put the house back on the market, but he sued Silber and won $5.2 million in damages (including $1.3 million in attorney's fees). 

Still, Minor is taking a loss. On May 29, he listed the property on the market with the price tag of $11.4 million. Even adding the sum from his lawsuit, Minor is still out at least $3.4 million. Of course, that's if Minor gets the price he's asking. He admits the house is now worth only $10 million.

 

Artistic differences

In addition to Bel Air, Minor's real estate holdings include a farm in Free Union, a Beaux Arts mansion in San Francisco, and the historic Carter's Grove plantation near Williamsburg [see sidebar], but houses aren't the only items Minor collects.

He has also been buying up expensive works of art, and his tastes are eclectic. On May 22, at Sotheby's, Minor purchased both a snowy impressionist cityscape by Childe Hassam and a day-glo painting of high-heel shoes by Andy Warhol.

However, "purchased" is a loose term. To date, Minor has still not paid for these two paintings along with a third, Edward Hicks' "Peaceable Kingdom with the Leopard of Serenity," for which he bid a combined $16.8 million.

It's easy to understand why Minor would covet these particular works.

"Well, Warhol is Warhol," says Alan Bamberger, a nationally renowned art appraiser based in San Francisco, "and 'Peaceable Kingdom' is one of the most important works of American folk art."

Still, according to Minor, he wouldn't have wanted "Peaceable Kingdom" to the tune of $9.6 million had he known one reason why Sotheby's was selling it. In his countersuit against Sotheby's– a class-action on behalf of Minor and "others similarly situated"– Minor claims the auction house failed to disclose that the previous owner had given Sotheby's the painting as a means of paying a debt.

"What they did is so egregious," says Minor, "I'm not going to pay a nickel to them."

Sotheby's and Minor can't even agree on what Minor said he'd pay for "Peaceable Kingdom." Sotheby's says in its suit that he bid $9.6 million. Minor says it's actually $8.6 million.

Whatever the price, Bamberger says, Minor will probably have a hard time getting out of paying it.

"I'm no legal expert, but I do know you can put a painting up at auction for any reason," he says. "Usually, the only reason there could be for pulling your bid after the fact is if there's something wrong with the painting itself, like if there's undisclosed damage or if it's a forgery, and even that is rare."

Minor contends that the lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt by Sotheby's to squeeze money out of him that they aren't able to find elsewhere in the current economy.

"Look at their stock price [$7.99 per share at press time], and you tell me what you think of this lawsuit," says Minor. "They're down just like any other high-end luxury brand right now. They're losing hundreds of millions of dollars." 

Even if Sotheby's did fail to disclose its interest in selling the painting, Bamberger says, Minor's problem could have been solved had he simply done his homework.

"Like any multi-million dollar purchase," says Bamberger, "when they put the painting up there, you had better have solicited multiple opinions of what the painting is worth, know why it's worth that price, and know what you're willing to pay for it."

 

Horse sense?

Art collection isn't the only high-stakes game of the rich and famous Minor has recently joined. 

In March, he jumped into the horse racing business in a big way, paying $3 million for Fierce Wind, a three-year-old thoroughbred colt, four months after having already dropped $3.3 million on a filly named Dream Rush.

While Dream Rush seemed a promising pick, experts believed Fierce Wind had a chance to run in the Kentucky Derby. He certainly had the right genes.

"His pedigree is fantastic," says Jeremy Plonk, who covers horse racing for ESPN. "His grandfather is A.P. Indy, who won the Belmont Stakes in 1992. His father, Dixie Union, had a great career as a three-year-old as well. His mother, Post Parade, has turned into one of the preeminent dams."

That's not to mention the champions further back in Fierce Wind's lineage. His great-grandfather is Seattle Slew, who in 1977 became only the ninth horse to capture the Triple Crown, and his great-great-grandfather is Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner whom ESPN ranked the 35th Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century (human or otherwise). 

So when Minor plucked up Fierce Wind just two months before the Kentucky Derby– allegedly telling associates that "he looks just like Seabiscuit," it was still a gamble, but not an unprecedented one.

"You see this sometimes with people with a lot of money who enjoy the limelight and are looking for that horse," says Plonk, "who will put them in the Derby and make them socially relevant."

The last person to pull off the rare feat of buying a horse right before a Derby win was also a crown prince of the financial world– only he also happened to be an actual crown prince. Prince Ahmed bin Salman from the Saudi royal family bought War Emblem right before he won the Derby in 2002.

Minor's first race as the owner of Fierce Wind was the March 29 running of the Florida Derby, the last big race before Louisville. With four-time Breeder's Cup winning jockey Cornelio Velasquez on his back, Fierce Wind started strong, charging to the front on the inside. He was second behind Big Brown heading into the first turn, but pulled up lame in the backstretch and slowly faded as Big Brown ran to victory.

Minor did not make it to Churchill Downs, as Fierce Wind finished dead last in Florida. The horse did not race in the Kentucky Derby, also won by Big Brown, and has not raced since.

Still, Plonk says hope is not lost for Minor's equine expenditure.

"He just started training again in Florida," says Plonk. "The injury could be a blessing in disguise because horses sometimes have a tendency to break down after the grind of the Triple Crown, with three races in five weeks. If he has a good four-year-old season, Minor could easily make that money back in breeding fees."

That won't necessarily be the case for filly Dream Rush. Since the average gestation period for horses lasts 11 months, fillies usually make the bulk of their revenue during their racing careers. 

And, thus far, Dream Rush has yet to win a race, and has earned Minor only $109,000 of her $3.3 million price tag. As for her $3 million male counterpart in Minor Stables, Fierce Wind has netted his owner $0 in winnings.

 

Politically correct?

Minor has also bet big on other, metaphorical, race horses. In 1999, he made his one and only donation to a candidate running for state office, and he made it count. Minor donated a whopping $50,000 to the successful re-election campaign of then-Albemarle delegate Paul Harris (R), which constituted more than a quarter of the money Harris raised that cycle. 

How much did Minor like Harris? To date, he has donated a combined $10,000 to candidates running for president or the U.S. Senate. 

But in 2007, Minor hinted he'd rather be running the race himself than simply wagering on the contenders, and said he'd like to run for Governor of Virginia. 

On paper Minor doesn't look like a bad candidate. Lately, the Republicans have lost with conservative candidates with backgrounds in law like former governor Jim Gilmore and former senator George Allen. Minor, by contrast– and like former governor and now Senator-elect Mark Warner (D)– is a business-based moderate (Minor has donated to Democratic candidates as often as to Republican ones). 

However, when Portfolio magazine profiled Minor in September and asked him whether he'd run for an open governor's mansion in 2009, Minor demurred. 

"I don't spend enough time right now in Virginia to understand the complexity of the issues," he said. "And I think I'm too blunt, ultimately."

Still he wouldn't go so far as to rule it out in the future, even comparing himself to Virginia's most famous governor of all.

"I have faith in my own decision-making process," he said. "Thomas Jefferson had James Madison to kind of make things happen. And maybe I'll find a James Madison, and he can take my idealistic visions and get them implemented."

This quote got the attention of local political blogger and one-time Democratic candidate for City Council Waldo Jaquith.

"Read the whole profile to learn why this is such a hilariously bad idea," Jaquith wrote. "He's got the money of Mark Warner, but all of the lovable attributes of Jim Gilmore and the myriad enemies of Harry Byrd."

As fate and Google should have it, that quote got Minor's attention.

 

Talking back

If the screen name is to be believed, Minor weighed in on Waldo.Jaquith.org with a 200-word comment of his own ripping the Portfolio piece.

"These are just stupid words in an article without a reason for being," Minor allegedly wrote. "And I'll just stand by my accomplishments. Lets see if Portfolio makes it 10 years and gets bought for $2 billion by CBS [as CNet had in May]. Something tells me I don't have to worry about a follow-up story in five years."

It would appear Minor had more to say on Portfolio's website with another 379-word comment under the online version of the magazine's profile. His main quibble? The headline.

"It says I am the 'baddest boy in Silicon Valley,'" Minor reportedly wrote. "The strange thing is I commute between LA and San Francisco, and the week I am in San Francisco I am with my kids the whole time and never go out. I don't go to Silicon Valley parties, conferences, dinner parties, roof top gatherings, and I don't know any of the V[enture] C[apitalist]s except the few top ones I knew when I ran CNET."

Still, it would seem Minor liked the idea of being the "baddest boy of an area where I'm totally irrelevant." 

"I decided that I am now the baddest boy in bass fishing," Minor would appear to have written. "I don't have a boat, and I am not sure what a bass looks like, although I am certain I could tell the difference between a bass and a tuna. And then there was one of the many 'unnamed' sources who said I was a 'psycho.' So how about this, 'I am 'the baddest psycho in bass fishing.' I think its an insanely cool way to be introduced."

If appearances are to be believed, Minor doesn't save his comments for just big national magazines like Portfolio. Last month, a real estate blog called "Curbed San Francisco" tweaked Minor for his Sotheby's lawsuit calling him "litigious as all hell."

"Well...," Minor allegedly responded. "I am not sure you can be considered litigious when you have run a publicly traded internet company during the bubble and you have your first lawsuit at age 43."

It also looks like Minor took time to address one "guest" commenter who wrote, "Halsey Minor will be more remembered as an aging rich kid throwing temper tantrums than for anything else."

"Its so ironic," shot back the "Halsey Minor" screen name, "that I am painted as having this huge temper, and I swear 'guest' seems like he would throw something on me if he could. What's up with that? Not sure why you are so angry, 'guest,' but I did have a few thousand employees, and I do remember that not all of them practiced Yoga regularly."

Indeed, when the Hook spoke with Minor, he did not seem to be a particularly angry sort. He has, however, not returned repeated calls for follow-up questions, perhaps because of inquires about one particular unkept promise.

Wahoo woe

Before he began acquiring historic works of art or Triple Crown contenders, Minor had an interest in merging two of his great loves, the Internet and the University of Virginia. 

In 2000, he put a price on that love when he pledged $25 million to the University to fund something called the Digital Academical Village.

"Extraordinary in its foresight," is the way UVA president John Casteen heralded the pledge– as well as the donor for his "creative thinking and generosity."

Six years later, when the University of Virginia undertook its $3 billion capital campaign, the university published an "honor roll" to thank those who had already given generously. But Halsey Minor's name was missing from the list of those who had given $10 million or more. 

Asked by the Hook whether he's fulfilled his $25 million pledge, Minor confirms he has not.

"UVA killed the project," he says. "I can't donate to what is not there.

"I had some very specific ideas about following Jeffersonian ideals through using things like distance learning," he continues. "I really wanted to reshape the way education was delivered."

Technically, the project was subsumed into the campus expansion known as the "South Lawn Project," an ambitious mix of classroom and public spaces that includes a grassed terrace over Jefferson Park Avenue from the historic Lawn.

But Minor says he's not as concerned with merely constructing more buildings.

"I'm sure they'll have wi-fi and that the architecture will be beautiful," he says, "but this is about building classrooms, and I find that less interesting. There's no innovation for me to participate in."

Nevertheless, the two other original donors to the Digital Academical Village came through with their gifts. Former Citibank executive David Gibson and Georgia media mogul Bert Ellis have each fulfilled their respective pledges of $5 million, even if the project morphed.

"I just gave the money," says Ellis. "I didn't tell them what to do with it."

Still Minor says he continues to support UVA in a big way.

"I still donate to other things like stadiums and scholarships," he says.

Indeed, that 2006 honor roll of donors does list "The Halsey Minor Family" as having given between $500,000 and $1 million.

 

Buying futures

Minor wasn't always set on high-profile investments. In that 1998 Charlie Rose interview, the PBS host asked Minor what he'd do if he suddenly couldn't run CNet anymore.

"I would do something e-commerce related," Minor said. "In other words, opening a store on the Internet."

As an example of where Internet commerce was headed, Minor cited a little-known company based in California.

"One company I think is really interesting is a company called eBay," he said. "What they've done is take markets like trading cards, for example, where people would get together once a year, and they've created a continuous virtual marketplace."

Nowadays, though, Minor has invested in both virtual and literal marketplaces, and the man who once spoke so much of Internet-driven synergy says he doesn't see the connection between his investments.

Asked about whether his other financial losses in the real estate world of California, or on the race tracks of Florida, or at the auction houses of New York would affect his hotel in Charlottesville, Minor said the following: 

"How would that have anything to do with it? The bank didn't write a check. How does that have to do with Sotheby's, or my horses, or that I'm selling my house in Bel Air? We're going beyond where we need to go in this conversation. You can twist facts around all you want, but I don't see what the hotel has to do with any of these other facts."

Editor's Note: The print edition of this story contained an error about thoroughbred Fierce Wind's lineage. It has been corrected in this online edition.

#

52 comments

this seems to prove that you can't "buy" class.

the article about Sarbonne says that the house is in disrepair so it appears that Minor didn't fix the problem (40 leaks) with whatever the judge gave him. Must have used that money for something else.

Washington St. looks like the "Adams Family" home. Nothing been done there in ages.

And what is Minor saying about the stock price of Sotheby's? does he think his countersuit is the reason?

If all his friends stay at The Landmark there should be plenty of room at the "Inn".

I still have to wonder if we will have a Radisson-Landmark Hotel before this is all over and done. Owned by the city of course.

And another interesting point..... Halsey Minor's plane, of the Canadair Challenger lineup, is a pretty large plane. Much larger than a person normally visulaizes when thinking of a Lear jet. Can this reporter hook me up with Minor? I would love to see how he finsihed the interior of the plane. And preferably while flying to California and back with him on his next trip out! :)

"His pedigree is fantastic," says Jeremy Plonk, who covers horse racing for ESPN. "His mother is A.P. Indy, who won the Belmont Stakes in 1992 and has turned into one of the preeminent dams. His father, Dixie Union, had a great career as a three-year-old as well."

When did this happen? Last I checked, i did have at least ONE testical!

"His pedigree is fantastic," says Jeremy Plonk, who covers horse racing for ESPN. "His mother is A.P. Indy, who won the Belmont Stakes in 1992 and has turned into one of the preeminent dams. His father, Dixie Union, had a great career as a three-year-old as well."

OK...the author of this article doesn't quite know how to properly print the quote by Plonk. Plonk was saying "Fierce Winds" momma, Post Parade is by A.P. Indy. It's the distaff side that is A. P. Indy. So the author doesn't quite know how to properly quote a TB pedigree...but I get it. Although, I had to chuckle when I read the quote the first time. You read it quickly and it sounds as if they are trying to tell us A.P. Indy is the dam...pretty funny and Fierce Wind is a very well bred horse. Hey, crap happens at the track...just ask Big Brown and his connections.

The quote about Fierce Wind's pedigree has been amended. Indeed, Jeremy Plonk knows his stuff. The error in transcribing his quote is entirely mine.

Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,
Lindsay Barnes

Geez, Lidsay you make me feel so apologetic for having done what appears on the bottom of this page, "We want vibrant debate, so please comment on this story."

Lindsay, there are a ton of things to correct but I am not going to take that much time. These are a few of the important ones.

The reason I was called by you and everyone else was that people had not been paid on the job. Remember, you called me? And when you did I told you the bank had until Friday to pay and on Friday they did not pay. Unfortunately my lawyer allowed for a long cure period where they could claim no foul even though they violated the agreement. That is how they can say they lived up to the agreement while still not paying people when they were suppose to.

As for Lee, I can report that contrary to his statements he will not be anywhere near the project. I have hired a firm that specializes in construction management of hotels to replace Lee and they are busy cleaning up all the issues. Because there were many issues of poor coordination on the project we will most likely go on hiatus for some short period of time. It is too early to tell how long the hiatus will be until we figure out all the issues and how long it will take to fix them.

Lee's history speaks for itself in Charlottesville and LA. He had been trying to get someone to back him for 4 years on the hotel and just as time was running out I gave him a shot. I don't think there are any Halsey Minor's left for Lee in his future I am afraid. This nasty blowup will most likely be his last. Life is too short.

This UVa thing is incredibly annoying since I do give quite a bit of money to the University. Your argument that after the project I was interested in was killed I should have just thrown the money over the wall to UVa is silly. It was a huge amount of money and I was not about to direct it to something ambiguous or that I was not interested in. South Lawn did not even exist then. The other guys had much smaller pledges and they had already committed in writing. Before I made my pledge I talked to Micheal Bloomberg and he said to not sign until you knew the project was real and going in the direction you approved. Apparently they did not call Micheal.

LA house, get ever it. I bought a house from someone found guilty of fraud and I lost money. Its called a mistake and justice. Don't bring it up again unless you want to buy it.

Fierce Wind. In 2009 just pay attention to the colt you dissed. Just so you know with filly's you make your money breeding and not running. I am quite confident her offspring will pay for her purchase. If not she is the most beautiful creature you have ever seen and its a joy having her.

Mr Bamberger should have closed his mouth just after he said, "i am no legal expert" because his legal opinions were idiotic. Where did you find this Bamberger guy anyway? Is he a made up character? Why did he say he was no legal expert then pretend to give legal advice? Lindsay, that was bush league and you can do better. Next time maybe someone who at least plays a lawyer on tv.

Anyway, I have run out steam going through this endless article correcting things. Now I am sure you are going to write about how unsavory it is for me to respond despite being begged at the bottom of this page to participate. Its so funny that there is more hypocrisy in the press than reported by the press.

Thanks.

Halsey Minor Rocks. How does a person that does so much with his life get so ridiculed. Having been raised in Charlottesville and working as a hotelier my entire life I am so glad someone is taking the initiative to build a true luxury hotel. Hopefully the project will gain a respectable AAA or Mobil rating to rival the medicore properties that Charlottesville curently refers to as luxury hotels.

Hey, Mr/Ms Barnes...the quote re:pedigree for Fierce Winds has been amended? Not yet. And Seattle Slew is a great grandsire...not grandsire. But boy, is that some impressive company at the 3rd generation (1 of 4 great sires...WOW). But you know that author, right? After the simple things being inaccurate with regard to pedigrees and not correcting/amending in a timely fashion, what else is wrong with the truly complicated "facts" in your article?

And how many people read this, errors intact that will never really know facts? Question: You working for the National Inquirer or a really committed journalist sans media affliation? Is this an exercise in truth or getting printed at all costs...truth being the first casualty? Do your freakin' homework before you publish!

I'm not a fan or cheerleader of Mr. Minor, but I'm willing to give his operation the courtesy of respect; listening and "let's see what happens". And anything is better than what we have in the racing game now. He can't be any worse than AIG, Detroit, Citbank, Lehman's......

Colnel (think you might be missin' an "o" there):

I've got a better question...

Just why are so many bangin' Minor for trying to put money "into" a situation, while Stronach is bleeding it dry to the bone (racing that is)? Secondly, if Mr. Minor is having problem with art or construction, banks yah-dah-yadah...why isn't anyone asking the yahdah's why Mr. Minor is unhappy and thereby trying to find an amicable settlement (I smell too many lawyers, but..). Any possibilty the banks, MEC, the auction company are hacks?...not providing the service or professional protocal at this financial level necessary to conduct business. I've been around very wealthy people and THEY ARE FUSSY. But who is to say Mr. Minor is at fault. Let's see what settles to the bottom of the pond first.

Hey Lindsay, I dare you to publish my response to your article. Scared to let people see it?

Halsey Minor, Welcome!

I sure would like to see your response. Lindsay?

"Sick of the Local Rambos", author Barnes, Observer (Minor, your not off the hook either)...I'd love to see any modecum of truth and sensibility with regard to the real world and most especially, devoid of editorializing and expression of self interest (Minor, you get a pass on the later).

I'm concerned about the TB racing industry (and most especially the animals that give their all). It is basically a microcosim of our world. You want a lesson in "trickle down" economics?...follow the rich folks. Now, I'll grant you horse racing is irrelevant to most Americans (just like they feel about history and don't know who the vice-president is). But it is a thermometer of largesse. These are the same people that fund research, new business, investment, etc. They ain't spendin'? They loosin'? Then every body better start puckerin' up! Stronach is no different than Lehman's, et al...difference is he ain't on the train wreck radar yet...and he KNOWS it.

Barnes..the info re: TB pedigree still is not corrected. (based on date/time stamp of this post...you know how to read a TB pedigree?)

Mr Minor,

Why would Mr. Barnes want to publish your response? His well-written aticle respresents you better than you do...corrections to make? Did you even read the article? As far as the bank business with the hotel, that section appears to present all sides. In fact, you are allowed to say pretty much the same thing you wrote yourself in your comment. That said, the bank and Mr. Danielson seem to disagree with you. Is that Mr. Barnes fault too?

Again, as far as the UVA money goes...Mr Barnes allows you to say in the article the same thing you say in your comment. It says in the article---Still Minor says he continues to support UVA in a big way.
"I still donate to other things like stadiums and scholarships," he says. He also allows you to explain that you wanted to contribute to something specific, not just hand over the money for anything. What exactly are you "correcting"?

The Alan Bamberger stuff is just laughable. Who is Alan Bamberger? Why don't you do a simple Google search, Mr. Minor. He was probably someone you should have spoken to before you decided to buy some art.

Anyway, I just wonder if any of you folks even read beyond the headline....this is a very detailed, well-thought out piece that goes out of its way to get everyone's side of the story here.

Like I said, as far as I can see, publishing Mr. Minor's comments would seem to add absolutely nothing to the piece that isn't already there. Am I wrong here? Can anyone tell me what is so revealing about Mr. Minor's comments that Mr. Barnes would somehow be trembling to have the public see them?

The Minor article seems to be an all time low for local journalism in Cville. It's one thing to publish an article about the stumbling blocks of a current development project, but to dig up bit and pieces from old blog postings and word of mouth just to completely trash someone's character hardly qualifies as news.

Anyone could have googled Mr. Minor and found out some of the information about him, but why put it all in a cover story? It's beyond mean spirited, and not even worthy of a high school newspaper article.

I for one would like to thank Halsey for his contribution to Downtown Cville, and I hope the Hook considers writing an apology.

Dear Mr. Minor,

We would be happy to review any letter you would care to send us for publication in our next issue. We have certainly run letters by the subjects of articles in the past. The best way to send us a letter for publication is to click the "Write a letter to the editor" link at the top of the story.

Sincerely,
Lindsay Barnes

Lindsay, you can use what I said above and add "letter to the editor".

"Voice of Reason" (odd choice) why are you so against the concept of a letter to the editor. Clearly I see things differently or I would not have wasted my time. Are you the official arbiter of whether someone can believe their points differ from those printed? I did not know that job existed.

But let me just say one more thing about your attitude which quite frankly really pisses me off. The so called hotel "incident" involved a lot of people not getting paid and thinking they didn't have a job. "Voice of reason" this wasn't a "he said she said" news story -- it was a stinking mess that had a lot of people scared.

If you read what I wrote above closely it contains new information about the project so people can be informed. This hotel is incredibly important to me and and the people working on it and you turning the undertaking into a series of snide news events means you must be a professor with tenor who doesn't live in the real world and hasn't figured out we are in one hell of a recession.

OK "Voice of..." you still think you get to pick and choose whether I get a letter to the editor or not?

Thanks

Don't know why anyone would do an interview with this rag. Mr. Minor, haven't you ever read this paper? It's free for a good reason. These are National Enquirer wannabes. This is the worst written article yet. Stop debating with Ms. Barnes, he and the rag loves the attention.

Dang, Barnes is solidifying his rep as a hack - doesn't matter what the content is, if you see "Barnes" on the byline, prepare for some hackery.

A nerve has been touched------and some paid (Minor's only friend) responses.

Guess Portfolio Magazine got it wrong, Sotheby's got it wrong, Danielson got it wrong,all of Minor's former partners got it wrong, his ex-wife got it wrong, the appraiser on Sarbonne got it wrong, everybody is wrong except ???????

even a "hack" can get something right (and did).

I wasn't "paid" to post my comment. I just thought the article gave new meaning to "below the belt." It was a personal attack, not a "news" story. My respect for the Hook, already low, now couldn't be lower.

I thought this was a good article. It was interesting to read. Reminds me of the Omni bailout by the city back in the day. I think the major issue here is does Minor have the loot to see this thing through or not? The article dances all around this question talking about when he bought this and lost money on that. I don't know this guy all I have is your article to go on. I hope we are being presented the facts although they may be smeared on the page I hope they are still facts. I wish you would write an article on CC and give the same details of his history. Strange that nobody has done an article on him. The whole vehicular manslaughter thing is so hushed up but hey this town loves the money so don't ask too many questions right? I hope everyone gets paid who worked on this and I hope it comes to fruition and is a great success. Anything short of this will be a failure. The only thing better than building up our hometown heroes is tearing them apart when things don't go perfectly. Good luck Mr. Minor you have only one way out of this. Succeed

Looks like Mr. Minor is up early. Must have been a fun night last night judging by the time he wrote and his "friend" right afterwards.

Anyway, I believe the article is still asking the question, does he have the money or not? I mean think about all the houses (taxes and upkeep), airplane (upkeep), horses (upkeep), family (upkeep), art (insurance). TAXES. Pretty big lifestyle for a guy with non-earning assets in a down market.

Too cold outside so maybe writing this stuff all day will finally get Minor to let everyone know where the money is.

There could be a good premise for a movie------"Show me the money".

All people want happiness and do not want suffering. But that's the trick figuring it out.

Wish you people could get it right. It was the Radisson Hotel back then, not the Omni.

And it wasn't city money that bailed them out, it was taxpayer money.

Is a Tom Cruise wannabe in the room? Why do I keep hearing a "show me the money".

Lastly (and I mean lastly), I don't give a damn if you find one prurient article about me interesting or the whole bunch (there are actually nice ones too just not referenced here by the way).

I want to build a nice, fun hotel in my home town. If I go broke while building it (technically not possible since the bank is now funding from here on out) then i guess something i wanted to do won't happen the way i wanted it to happen.

My life expectation is not that everything I do will work out. I do a lot of things and I take a lot of chances. There is almost always some one on the sidelines throwing stones like Lindsay.

I don't expect issues with the hotel but i am not going to be a hostage to its success. Boutique hotels make very little money and are usually a labor of love. This was suppose to be fun but I am a little appalled at how some people in my own home town ride me endlessly for doing something that I thought would add to the city and the Historic Downtown Area.

It really sucks that there are people waiting on the edge of there seats to see if the project fails. Actually, with all things considered, the economy, banks, declining tourism it will be a hell of an accomplishment to complete this project. There are thousands of larger projects across the country that have already been stopped for one reason or another.

Anyway, these are my final words on the matter. Bitch, moan, scream, ask to "see the money", I don't care. I am not building it for you but the other 98 percent who enjoy something new and don't live their lives to witness the failure of others.

Now you can go ahead and resume your pointless bitching and speculation. I have a hotel to build.

From the article I read seems to me Lindsay is doing what journalists are suppose to do, report the news and those that make news.

Seems like Minor is losing it. It was Cuba Gooding that started the"show me the money" and the initial character Cruise played (Jerry McGuire) was at least had some endearing characteristics. Notice how everything is someone else's fault. He doesn't give two bits about Charlottesville. I guess pleading insanity is the next defense. He is his own PR machine. Something about someone acting as his own attorney has a fool for a client. Same for doing his own PR. He has never seen a blog he didn't comment on. I am afraid that Minor is a one trick pony (he has two).

Mr. Minor, Learn your lesson yet? Lindsay Barnes is a "hack." He gains joy and approval from using your good name and famous name to put his right under it. This rag is not something anyone other than desparate people would even do an interview with. They have a fan club of sleaze readers who like tacky tabloid dish, but it's FREE for a reason. Bob says it best, "This is a below the belt paper." Well, rag! You keep doing your work, Mr. Minor. That's what counts. Not the Hook writers, all working for just over minimum wage.

Thanks DAD

I think I have about 3,496 channels to choose from on satellite TV now. But it's much more fun to stop in here and watch people mouth off to a successful person who can buy and sell each one of them about 100,000 times each.

Halsey Minor is a newsworthy character. He's a jillionare, living a grandiose life on a scale unimaginable to most anyone in Charlottesville, the town that spawned him. Minor is not a humble feller. He's not remotely self-effacing, and certainly not genteel. By his actions, one might surmise that he's molded himself after another pugnacious braggart, Donald Trump.

Needless to say, the aptly named Minor can do whatever the heigh-ho he wants with his outrageous fortune. It does boggle the mind, however, when one considers the miraculous good that might occur were he to toss even one-tenth of the cost of the Vanity Hotel into finding solutions for some very real problems like homelessness, impoverished children and elderly, and so forth, in his home town of Charlottesville.

There are other wealthy people in Charlottesville who are NOT written about. They lead quiet circumspect lives, donate much to local charities, and have no need to pull the spotlight onto themselves when doing so. They are heroes. Had Mr Barnes targeted one of them unfairly, then I'd have a problem with that. But Minor is a character study who engages in public spats, and therefore will be written about and discussed.

I'm not a friend of Halsey Minor's; in fact, I've never even met him. But I do know something about the racing game (I run a thoroughbred partnership operation and I'm a Director of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's association), which is more than Lindsay Barnes can say.

Halsey Minor's involvement in taking on John Brunetti of Hialeah and Frank Stronach (of Gulfstream, Santa Anita, Maryland, etc.) has been salutary in exposing the stupidity of some track owners, even if he hasn't yet succeeded. His bid to buy up Magna debt forced the issue of Stronach abuse of minority shareholders, and may yet result in a change in ownership for the badly run Magna tracks. And his proposal for Hialeah is one that I know would be welcomed by a lot of New York horsemen.

So, keep it up, Halsey Minor. Some folks in the game are rooting for you.

You are right! This man has a life and a career and hacks take swipes at him both writing the story and coming on this site to try to belittle a man who has more than they all do - put together. Mr. Minor must be MAJOR the way the hack/tabloid hack writer tries to put him down at the writer's and paper's level. You go, Mr. Minor. As long as they are talking about you, and not going out and making their dreams come true, that proves you are doing something right. This rag paper always tries to take a bite out of successful people. Jealousy is sadly a major part of it. No life is the other! Barnes, et al are all losers!

Yay: Do you not also have a life and a career, or are those attributes only possessed by your esteemed Mr Minor? I'm terribly sorry that you feel the need to worship at someone's feet solely because they've made an immense fortune. Ah, but it's the one of the uglier sides of capitalism, isn't it? "Noblesse oblige"-- it's a fine old concept. You'd do well to look into it.

Sick: Interesting-- so you are a man who can be bought and sold? How sad for you and your family.

Didn't you learn anything from the Nuns? Weaving baskets and shutting up. : )

Yes, Lulu. Like politicians, most of us can be bought and sold.

That would be welcome from Minor. Shutting up and being humble would be a good start. It is well known that Minor cannot fund most of his ventures so how in the world did he think he was going to save horse racing? Hate to say it but he is in lala land if he thinks that those huge capital intensive projects can be supported anymore in the "pure" world of horse racing.

Minor is smart enough for some things but he really needs an extreme makeover from top to bottom

Oh, brother! This is getting more hysterical by the post.

To the author: You still have it wrong. Let me walk you through this: Fierce Wind, colt = Dixie Union (sire/father)- Post Parade (dam/mother) BY A.P. Indy (that means the Daddy of Post Parade).

Now, I'll go back to my original point. If the author can't get a simple thing like the pedigree (mom and dad of Fierce Wind) correct, that is absolutely not up for debate and still referenced incorrectly, what the hell else is wrong with this, "Bad boy, Halsey...Bad Halsey!" piece? All that's missing is the rolled up newspaper and a swat across the snout. Seems slanted to me.

Here's a tip- http://www.pedigreequery.com/fierce+wind2

READ IT; the girls are in pink and the boys are in blue...Dixie Union is a "boy horse": son of the magnificent stallion, Dixieland Band. Now I'll grant you, getting the "out of" and "by" is a bit confusing to the nonpedigree afficienado, but really...come on, ask a horse person if you don't know how to print it. For God's sake, call the Jockey Club if you're still confused.

And no one paid me to post anything. I respect history and study it. TB racing is a part of our history and horses are a crucial part of the history of mankind. I want someone to save those tracks and rescue this industry. Now, one person cannot save an entire industry by themselves, but it's a start. And if this little rag has the banking, credit and corporate thing wired as to accuracy and insight; please call Bernake and Paulson...because they are still trying to figure out this mess of an economy and failures.

reading D. Masters analysis of the future of horse racing is much like how many Virginians it takes to screw in a light bulb.

Love horse racing but the gig is up. The overall capital costs is too much for a generation that believes in multi-tasking.

Anything that eats and shits while you are sleeping is not a good investment. Ask any horse owner.

To "Green Jacket"...ever the cynic and boy, doesn't the world need more of those! They are such "doers". And I made no "burning bush" analysis of the racing world. I offered up my concerns.

Suggestions: fix the freakin' IRS and USDA/AG laws, reduce racing dates and reward for lifetime care costs. Now I could go on, but I think your (GJ) approach to this endeavor is a bit fixed on a disposable/instant gratification consistent with the US consumption mindset and disrespect of history. Don't worry, you're not the first; nor the last.

Finally, "Green Jacket" (p.s. ...why isn't that a red jacket? Not Master of the hounds yet?), never under estimate the abilities of Virginians...Not only would one decent, self-respecting Virginian be able to screw that bulb in; they would know where to put it! What's your address...seems you need a refresh of your dead bulb. And I'm not a cheerleader for Minor. I'm sick and tired of stupid, useless trash that is considered news. Let's see a piece on Stronach or Jacobs (?Jacobsen re: Colonial/ADW/OTB), VHC and the VTA.

p.s. Green Jacket, you zenith of horse racing...the golden age is gone, agreed. But the idea that racing is forever gone is absolutely absurded...as long as there are men/powerful people, they will continue to demonstrate same (powe/ego) with many hobbies. And horses will never go away. Not as long as man has the need to compete and an ego or pocketbook to make it happen. Horses shouldn't solely be an investment; they should be a passion and love...you got a toilet in your house Green Jacket?...then you subsidize something that doesn't pay the perfect dividend either (spouse, kids, etc)? Ask Riddle, Widener, Whitney, Mellon, DuPont.....

Talk about multi-tasking?..become a farmer, rancher, horse or business owner or committed mother or father with multiple children in this economy. You can't be serious? But sadly, I think you are.

Very well said.........a lot there. I am a rancher with over 50 head of horses, many children, and broke (not really) but sure is a tough way to make a living (isn't everything today?).

All I am saying is that the capital cost is huge with very little return. I hope for good things at all times and horse racing is one of those things.

Someday the Queen will be gone too.

Appreciate your thoughts and I do agree (with most of it).

Have a pleasant evening.

As I suggested in my previous reply, anyone that goes into the horse business to MAKE money has to have a screw loose...and there are people out there that think they can, and some do (frequently at the expense of the horse and the purchaser). If anyone can break even, that person is more than competent in my opinion; ergo one must have a passion for and love of the horse to be involved ethically. The problem is the current IRS tax structure. It supports overbreeding and does not allow any deductions if you don't breed or race. Showing and lifetime care for a horse that doesn't make the cut are a whole other bag of worms. A very messed up system especially when you consider that it involves living beings.

Anyway, the whole system needs an overhaul...as does our AG system. Corporate farming and ranching is killing the little guy. That said, Europe seems to do just fine with racing. What do they do that we don't? I could tell you a few things, but it would take too much space for this post.

As to the Queen, she may be gone in the physical sense soon, but I don't believe you'll ever see monarchies completely wiped off the face of the earth. But then that gets back to history and respect for it, not contempt for it.

On another note, it seems our author has finally made the appropriate corrections. I can't speak to the financial issues, but in this screwed market and credit situation coupled with sleezy big time players like the banks, real estate, corporations, etc I'm willing to give Mr. Minor the benefit of doubt re: the veracity of this article.

He ain't no Saint. I'd keep my hand on my wallet and make sure you get paid up front.

Green Jacket:

I'm not suggesting sainthood and that being said, I'm not real pleased with the Wall Street, Detroit, or Congress toads either (they have done more damage than Minor could ever begin to do). Mr. Minor isn't a saint, nor is he the devil incarnate. Like I suggested before, why are people aggitaed by Minor's attempt to put money into an industry?...what has Stronach done but rape his shareholders? I bet they didn't even get a kiss. I like to get at least one before I get screwed....and they are still throwing money at him.

BTW, to the author: I had to giggle again, after article review when you wrote that Dream Rush won't make (or hasn't) any money (get money back out of her) for Minor as a purchase/broodmare propect. Did you happen to note that "Better Than Honor" sold for an astronomical amount of money? Granted, that was a uptick on a basically sorry auction and overall market trend, but money can be made on broodmares.

The exchange above is, as has been said many times, the price we pay for freedom of speech. Have at it, but recognize that we all pay a price when ugly and destructive comments are published, whether in an article or in a blog.

Unfortunately, sometimes the "truth" is ugly. "Destructive" is what Minor is doing to the City, people and tearing everything he touches apart. Getting lucky on the internet doesn't mean he is all knowing regarding the rest of the world. You can't buy class; this is apparent in his multi-legal issues. It is the generation of not taking responsibility for one's actions. Blame the other guy.

Hey the guy made his fortune, what's the big deal. How many lawsuits are there involving non-millionares? I am sure ALOT more. Just because he lacks common sense when spending his money really isn't a big concern of mine or anyone elses IMO. Its probably play money for him anyway.

Remind me never to do an interview with the Hook though :)

"observer":

Whose truth? I don't think we've seen full disclosure (motivation, intent or accuracy) from either the author or Mr. Minor. I hardly call c/net getting lucky. The only omniscient being I know of is God and no posts seem to be forthcoming.

You people. I read through the blogs until I got to Halsey's last response. I wonder if he learned his lesson, good thing he isn't Britney Spears we would have really seen a meltdown, he should be smart enough not to interview with the Hook if he doesn't want negative press. He must realize that Charlottesville is a bastion of liberals, making 15 bucks an hour, hanging out in one of the 30 coffee shops in this town with free wifi, just waiting to express their opinions regarding things that they don't understand, ie. rich people can spend their money on whatever they want and it never makes sense, poor people do the same thing. I did like the last post from him claiming to be a guy who just wanted to build a hotel in his hometown... a nine story 31million dollar palace... he is a real champion of the community... John Grisham's first move in the community that I can remember was to build a nice baseball park for the kids in Covesville and he has been loved ever since. Had he invested a million on a soup kitchen first no one would be questioning his UVA contributions or his questionable tactics regarding the hotel. Finally if I had his money I don't think I would give a f…. what anybody blogs about me. I would have a big ass plane like him, a suite in Lane Stadium, a duck palace in North Dakota, and I might buy the Hook and Cville Weekly just so I could fire all their dumbass liberal writers who spend all their time in the mudhouse and greenberries and shut them down. They really piss me off taking pot shots from the couch sipping on espresso at people who are actually running businesses and creating jobs in this town. I am not taking the time to make sure this is grammatically correct, because I actually have productive things to do.

Hello Lindsay:not for publication or blog, but do you have a contact e-mail for Mr. Minor or any # for that matter?
I'm a writer for art+auction magazine in ny & am trying, so far unsuccessfully to contact HM.
thanks so much & really enjoyed your Dickensian article in Hook.
cheers,
JT