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The Almighty Buck

The Man Who Sold Shares of Himself 215

RougeFemme writes "This is a fascinating story about a man who sold shares in himself, primarily to fund his start-up ideas. He ran into the same issues that companies run into when taking on corporate funding — except that in his case, the decisions made by his shareholders bled over into his personal life. This incuded his relationship with his now ex-girlfriend, who became a shareholder activist over the issue of whether or not he should have a vasectomy. The experiment continues." The perils of selling yourself to your friends.
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The Man Who Sold Shares of Himself

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  • Egads! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @12:44PM (#43304113) Homepage Journal

    This incuded his relationship with his now ex-girlfriend, who became a shareholder activist over the issue of whether or not he should have a vasectomy.

    Talk about a Directors Cut!

  • This man (Score:3, Informative)

    by WilyCoder ( 736280 ) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @12:46PM (#43304139)

    This man defines the word 'sellout'.

    • He put up 100,000 shares of himself and didn't even sell 1000. I think failed entrepreneur is a better description.
      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

        And they only cost $11.

        I would love to buy a huge chunk, if he let me vote on more interesting things, or better yet let me propose what we are voting on.

      • He sold so few initially because he kept a huge chunk of treasury stock and limited not only the buyer pool but also the purchase window. So, your description is based on (very) faulty assumptions.

  • by wompa ( 656355 ) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @12:49PM (#43304171)
    A great read by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin about the distant future where everyone is incorporated and the one man who isn't. It might have been helpful if this guy had read that before his IPO.
    • I agree. The moment I saw this, I thought immediately of The Unincorporated Man []. The tale-telling isn't perfect, but the world-building is scary-believable. Especially since we now have an example of someone actually doing this!
      • by cusco ( 717999 )
        This was actually a fairly popular tax dodge in the 1970s. Incorporate yourself, mark your paycheck as corporate revenue, make your house and car corporate property, chalk up their costs as corporate expenses, and pay yourself a small stipend for living expenses from the corporation. Since corporate taxes were so much lower than personal income tax someone with a fairly good job could save quite a bit of money. Too many middle class people were taking advantage of it though, so that got axed during the R
        • Cool. I never heard of that. I knew someone in the early 80s -- a weird friend of a weird friend -- who instead turned himself into a Church, since religious organizations didn't have to pay taxes (or as much of them). I suppose it came from the same intent.
          • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

            Considering all the trouble Scientology had with the IRS in getting non-profit status, I am surprised that worked for an individual. Granted Scientology did get to become non-profit eventually, but they at least have a set of beliefs and a number of adherents. As well as a lot of money and lawyers to get the IRS to see their way.

            • I had a similar thought at the time. But I wasn't going to pick a fight with the guy over it. He had the bright light of fervor in his eye, and it was clear that I wouldn't change his mind.

              I've no idea what happened to the dude. And I stopped being friends with the sort-of-weird friend 20 years ago, so now we'll never find out.

  • So, this is how much his life is worth, 100.000$.

  • This is a great way to find out who your real friends are:

    the folks who respect you enough as a free human being not to *buy control of your life* for their profit.

    • the folks who respect you enough as a free human being not to *buy control of your life* for their profit.

      Sorry, but he set himself up so he doesn't actually have voting shares, and entirely put his life in the hands of his, er, 'investors'.

      Sounds like a case of 'epic stupid' to me.

      • But, shouldn't you be able to trust your friends to make decisions for you?

        • In an abstract, ideal world, maybe. Or at least consider their advice.

          But if you really think turning over your life decisions to a committee of your friends is going to be a good idea, you deserve something like this.

  • by puddingebola ( 2036796 ) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:02PM (#43304317) Journal
    Whatever he does, he better make sure he never lets Chainsaw Al Dunlap near him. He'll saw him up and sell off the body parts as assets.
  • I would buy many shares if I could vote on more important stuff. Since they are only $11 and it appears ~100 shares is enough to control a decision I would be a buyer when he offers up more control.

    I also hope he enjoys eating broken glass and putting tattoos on his face.

  • It's just a gimmick. It's entertaining, and so catches the news (I think it was on It's also basically a dumb idea. The guy is a poster child for the idea that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. He might be able to roll this into a movie and make a little money (Catfish, anyone?) but other than that, there's nothing to see here. Move along.

  • I'm not surprised that this guy is from Portland, OR. We got so many weird people here. sigh....

    From the website, it says one of the votes was whether or not this guys should become a vegetarian. 453 votes for yes, 288 for no. Ah Portland, you never disappoint.
  • It was good and thought provoking. []

    "A brilliant industrialist named Justin Cord awakes from a 300-year cryonic suspension into a world that has accepted an extreme form of market capitalism. It's a world in which humans themselves have become incorporated and most people no longer own a majority of themselves."

  • by Beeftopia ( 1846720 ) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:13PM (#43304431)

    Financial products are logical constructs. Virtual products. Like objects in an online game which people buy and sell.

    The financial world depends on logical constructs. Currency, the base of the financial world, is a logical construct. Slips of paper to which people ascribe value. Gold is the same way. One cannot eat gold, wear it, drink it, shelter under it, use it to bind wounds or cure ailments. But to many (most) it has "value." Currency is a durable construct because it makes people's lives easier, and improves their standard of living.

    Stocks ("shares of ownership") are an older financial product. So are bonds. Futures are bets. Then you get into the myriad financial products/bets and their derivatives on which today's global financial system is based.

    1) "A financial product is about as conceptual as you can get,” says Wilson Ervin, a senior adviser at Credit Suisse. “You just need paper and ink.”-- The Economist magazine []

    2) "In an even more blunt description, Tourre calls the CDOs he produced "intellectual masturbation" and likens himself to Dr. Frankenstein. "When I think that I had some input into the creation of this product (which by the way is a product of pure intellectual masturbation, the type of thing which you invent telling yourself: 'well, what if we created a 'thing', which has no purpose, which is absolutely conceptual and highly theoretical and which nobody knows how to price?")" -- CNN / Money []

    "Financial Innovation" consists of two things:

    1) Creation of new virtual products / logical constructs.

    2) Methods by which one can entice others to take on more debt.

    Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, said the only beneficial financial innovation of the last 30 years was the ATM. [] However, the ATM is not a financial innovation, but a technological one. So that leaves a dim legacy of recent financial innovation.

    I'm all for financial innovation just as long as it doesn't lead to "financial pollution" - public costs. Like a tannery which dumps effluent into a river. The tannery keeps the profit and the public bears the costs. The concept is known in the financial sector as "privatize the profits, socialize the losses." In recent years, the financial sector has been able to successfully privatize its profits, yet push the costs onto the public. This is done by government insurance of private debt, and outright rescues and bailouts.

    In any regulation of the financial sector, the key I think is to make sure that losses are limited to the participants in the transaction.

    This fellow - well if he is able to make money, bravo. If he and his shareholders lose money, the laws regulating the financial sector should make sure that the losses are limited to participants in the transaction, and not imposed on the public.

    • Great post, to me financial innovation is defined as "when one or more parties take advantage of legal edge-cases (loopholes) to their benefit". This happens a lot in the insurance industry.

      Now to nit-pick, but with a comedic approach...

      You said: "One cannot eat gold, wear it, drink it, shelter under it, use it to bind wounds or cure ailments."

      * Eat Gold - Gold flaked ice cream: []
      * Wear Gold - Seriously, this is

    • by slew ( 2918 )

      An interesting tirade on financial products. Sadly, many human endeavors suffer from similar limitations/pitfalls: computer programming, law and torts, diplomacy/war.

      Each of these virtual constructs are created from the human mind, have ephemerial existance (outside of some recorded media like paper and ink), and have the potential for serious impact on the public at large when things go wrong at a large scale.

      At the end of the day, human social institutions are all that hold up these virtual constructs of

  • by fredrated ( 639554 ) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:16PM (#43304477) Journal

    Someone gave me a copy a couple of years ago (a galley proof I think) about a future where shares are issued at birth for everyone, and what happens when someone shows up who is not incorporated.
    A good read, though I didn't like the ending. It was as if someone said "Quick, we need to publish the book, end it".

  • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:32PM (#43304627)

    This was kind of funny, but from reading the article it looks like he took it way too seriously. (And it seemed he frequently used "shareholder value" or "shareholder votes" as a good excuse for doing what he wanted to do instead of doing what his girlfriend wanted him to do.)

  • And, potentially could put a lot of money in his pocket. I'd be more interested in how the shareholders use their powers.

    • So, kind of like a Neal Stephenson book? (disclaimer: Cryptonomicon is probably my favorite book ever)
  • Invest in me! lol. I'm working 25 hours, zero benefits, as head IT manager. I do website design, printing, graphics and photoshop, server maintenance, security, hardware, software testing and deployment, long-term planning, smartphones, tablets, and for 1/3 the local industry norm for pay. This market has nowhere to go but up, my friends! And I might risk insider trading but I just beat 89% of Tek Systems employees on a programming assessment so they're likely to make me a better offer any day now. Buy
  • I'm pretty sure everyone who bought shares is guilty of Human Trafficking
  • The first thing that came to mind when I read the title was when David Bowie sold bonds, based on future royalties. He took that one time payment to buy some of his discography back. Not bad for him.

    But... James Brown tried the same thing, and it ended not as well. There were lawsuits about what the value should have been. This is now literally a textbook case [] of how hard an oddball bond valuation is. It went all the way to the NY Supreme Court [] (posthumously, for Brown).

    Back to this case... valuation will b

  • This was one of the most absurd glibertarian experiments in "free-market" bullshit I've ever read. I did not finish the story. Stopped when we had shareholders considering whether Merril's life insurance policy belonged to them or not.

    I hope Mr. Merrill likes his philosophies. They are fucking ruining his life.

  • FTFA:

    Merrill debuted the Romance Advisory Committee site in June 2012. Each interested shareholder received a password and could monitor Merrill’s romantic activity while anonymously voting candidates up or down. There was also a “candidate referral form” in case anybody wanted to suggest a match. ... [The shareholders] gave a 97 percent approval rating to a guy referred to as Jordon California. Feeling the weight of investor expectations, Merrill spent a drunken night “fooling around” with him. [emphasis mine]

    If that's Merrill's orientation, no foul. But if it isn't, and he did it anyway...? Yikes.

  • ...and this just proves it.

    What seems, theoretically, to be a clever 'experiment' in market capitalism ends up, essentially, to be an exercise in voluntary slavery.

    "Soon after the split, Merrill received a $100,000 life insurance policy as a new benefit at his customer-service job. Shareholders quickly decided that in the event of Merrillâ(TM)s death, the policy should be distributed among them. It opened up the possibility that, in financial terms, Merrill might be a more valuable asset if he were liq

    • That's hilarious, because if, in fact, he was honestly following through with this experiment (and had, apparently, neglected to leave himself an out-clause), they should have had him jump off a bridge.

      Committing suicide is usually illegal in US states (not that they can put you in jail after you are dead). US contract law cannot bind you to illegal acts, thus the shareholders cannot force him to do it regardless of how honestly he was following the experiment.

  • ... was that he set the IPO price way too low. That, or his policy on voting rights for shareholders was way off base.
  • howdy y'all,

    the 1st thot i had on reading the title was the RAH story "the man who sold the moon". this ...
    The Man Who Sold the Moon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - []
    Harriman intends to be on the ship, but the majority owners of the venture object to his presence on the flight; he is too valuable to the company to risk in space. The rocket leaves without Harriman, who "looks as Moses must have looked, when he gazed out over the promised land."


Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson