Bankrupt Doubledown Media, the former publisher of Trader Monthly magazine, is up for auction August 20th. Yes, auction, because apparently some people think it's actually worth something-- court documents state the bidding starts at $50,000. The real question is...what the hell is anyone buying? A brand name magazine title that epitomized the "greed is good" ethos of Wall Street, is likely a toxic brand right now.
When asked about the auction price Dan Ryan, former head of DDM's capital markets ad sales, laughed, saying, "No one in the U.S. is going to pay anywhere near $50k for that title now. They're dreaming."
Considering press reports that say Businessweek might sell for only $1, the Trader Monthly price tag leaves us with questions. There must something left of the $1 million intangible asset value Lane said his publications were worth when he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy this February, right? Maybe the market really thinks everyone reader on the Street who told the mag how to reach you, what you make, and what you like to buy - just to get a free copy of Trader Monthly - is worth something. But Dealbreaker has learned that the supposedly coveted list of big-money spend-it-all traders isn't what it appears to be.
Sources at the executive level of Doubledown Media confirmed that starting as far back as the summer of 2008, Hallmark Data, the company's fulfillment house, stopped updating the list for the publisher. In fact Hallmark, which directly received each subscriber's name and details passing it on to Doubledown, froze the information because Doubledown wasn't paying their bill. According to bankruptcy filings signed by Randall Lane, Hallmark is owed $150,057 - which shows it had been a while since they'd actually received any coin. This likely rendered DDM's mailing list old and inaccurate, given the tremendous amount of layoffs and upheavals within its audience.
Hallmark Data confirmed if a client signed a contract and didn't pay, they'd freeze an account. But HD wouldn't comment on when Doubledown first became a deadbeat bill or how long the freeze had actually been on.
A former Doubledown executive directly involved with the list who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, "DDM unfortunately did nothing to really protect the privacy of their subscribers, and their most valuable asset, the database. In the end, it was a free-for-all with lots of different parties apparently grabbing the list." On every piece of subscriber marketing material Doubledown boldly guaranteed "We will never rent or sell your name or personal information."
One such list-grabber appears to be Randall Lane's first cousin, Josh Lane, who was the publisher's events manager. According to several sources, Josh is apparently using the old Trader Monthly subscriber list to market a corporate boxing event set to run this November in New York. Three former Trader Monthly subscribers told us that they'd received emails from Josh this month at addresses they'd only used to sign up for the magazine. They also confirmed they'd never agreed to give Josh's boxing event their emails, nor had they attended Trader Monthly's boxing events in the past.
One trader said, "I don't know how they got my email but it's really disappointing because Trader guaranteed privacy. I am wondering who else they gave my details to." Josh Lane did not return a call for comment.
Other former staffers, who basically worked for free when Randall couldn't make its payroll at the end of January, seconded the notion that other Doubledown mag titles wouldn't fetch the initial auction prices the trustee set. Aaron Sigmond, founder of The Cigar Report, told Dealbreaker he tried to buy the title at the end for around $125,000 because he had just secured over $750,000 of big name ad contracts. But Doubledown wouldn't sell. The auction price for The Cigar Report is now set at $25,000.
Sigmond says, "The momentum of the title has expediently ceased in the last few months and they will never get it back. If Lane or former Doubledown Chairman Jim Dunning had sold The Cigar Report to me in the beginning they could have realized real money, which would have helped pay off all those creditors. I wouldn't pay $25 for it now."
Doubledown's court documents showed they owe $3.1 million dollars to 349 unsecured creditors. Sadly it's not looking good for any of them to get their money back.
Disclaimer: Teri Buhl worked for Doubledown Media's edit team until January 2008. She says she was always paid and had a great experience working with the Doubledown team.