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Sunday, 13 February 2011

My big fat gorgeous Greek rip-off: Amnesia rules at AOL ... and Arianna laughs all the way to the bank

Many years ago there was a highly articulate, pretty little blue-stocking at Cambridge called Arianna Stassinopoulos who went on to appear on TV and lived with one of Britain's best and funniest journalists, Bernard Levin.

They parted and off she went to the land where money grows on trees and married a politician called Huffington who turned out to be bisexual, a happy state of affairs which Woody Allen pointed out doubles your chances of date on Saturday night.

This is why the Huffington Report is called what it is. I have commented on the wily Greeks more than once, but Arianna has pretty much out-wiled them all by selling her business to AOL for ten times its revenues. She spun her web, and in they walked.

Gary Halbert famously observed that the essential ingredient in marketing success if you run a restaurant is a starving crowd. In the same way, if you want to rip people off, you need a big, fat, stupid mug.

Arianna, bless her, needed to look no further than the buffoons at AOL whose last bit of stupidity I recall was to squander a fortune on redesigning their logo - a classic piece of masturbation marketing.

Perhaps the best book ever written on investment folly is "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds", written by Charles Mackay in 1841. The first (and best) half is little more than a catalogue of the ways in which people repeatedly succumb to mass hysteria and invest in silly things. The property bubble is the last example, but before that was the great internet cock-up.

I have read somewhere that it takes 40 years for people to remember their last act of collective lunacy, but it is not nearly that long since Time-Life pissed away millions by overpaying for AOL. You would think somewhere in the shell of that mishap someone might have bethought themselves of this before doing this new deal

As Santayana remarked, "Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them."

Arianna was voted"Greek of the Year" by the US Chamber of Commerce" a few years ago. She now deserves to be crowned Greek of the Decade.

You go, girl!.

And as for the CEO of AOL: You go, too - with the usual fat package for screwing things up.

The way these fat cats flourish like poisonous weeds whilst the incomes of the middle and lower classes stagnate or fall is a disgrace. Will we ever rise up in protest?

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