Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How I Sold My First Company to the Son of the Man Who Killed Hitler

By James Altucher

On twitter, someone said about this post, “Altucher has a lot of interesting thoughts, albeit messy”.

One time I was selling my company. It was going to be more money than I had ever seen in my life and I desperately wanted it. But first: There’s recent news out now that Hitler might, in fact, have been gay. I say this because it is related to me selling my first company and because if anyone knew whether or not Hitler was gay it probably would’ve been Werner Haase Sr, the doctor who provided the lethal injection that killed Hitler in the bunker in 1945.

Surrounded by the enemy from all sides, once so sure that a Third Reich was going to last forever, Hitler must have decided, “This is it” and asked Werner Haase Sr, the doctor, to come in the room. “Would it be painful?” Hitler asked. “Make it as painless as possible.”

Were there tears? Or did nobody really understand how truly bad things had gotten for them. Hitler’s bunker crew maybe didn’t realize that Dr. Werner Haase Sr had that lethal injection all ready for their Fuhrer.

“I have some forms that need to be filled out,” Dr. Werner Haase might’ve said. And, in any case, one of the forms might’ve then asked sexual preference, like medical forms often do. And perhaps Hitler checked his box. Or, with Eva Braun looking over his shoulder, perhaps he didn’t want to be so specific.

I say this all because one day Werner Haase Jr came into my office about 53 years later. Tall, very German. The CEO of a small public company called Xceed. Xceed manufactured burn gels. If a victim is on fire, you apply these gels to them and it’s not as if suddenly life is going to be a crazy party for them but perhaps the Xceed Burn Gel will make them feel slightly cooler, and they will get some relief. Relief under dire situations is the sort of thing Werner Haase Jr might know about.

In any case, he was accompanied by an orthodox Jew, Yitz Grossman. Through a chain of people (there’s only so many jews left in the world), I knew someone who knew someone who knew Yitz, who was a large shareholder in Xceed, where Werner was CEO. So I had the 6’5” very German Werner and the much smaller orthodox Yitz getting a tour of my offices. They were old friends.

Werner and Yitz knew what was on the tip of everyone’s tongue back in the Spring of 1998. You were probably saying it also. “Time to get out of the burn gel business and into the Internet.”

“I don’t know an Internet from a hamburger,” Yitz once told me, “but I know I want to take a bite out of the Internet.”

So they got the tour of my offices. In the kitchen we had a map of the world. In the map there were pins on every part of the world we were doing business. It was meant to be impressive. But to a sixty year old German businessman it turned into an opportunity to speak real truth. “There’s plenty of business here at home,” he said in his thick German accent, “You don’t always need to fly 8000 miles to find it.” Truth in May, 1998 was hard to find. Everybody dealt in the latest untruths that were being saluted up the flagpole. Real business was slowly disappearing and would leave us with the dark ages of 2000-2010 when truth would have to find its way back home again.

They offered to buy my first company. $6.2 million. I had never had more than $20,000 in my bank account before. The offer was a good one. Think New Ideas, another public company, had offered $9 million but mostly in stock that I would earn over time. We all knew then that there was a clock ticking on this bubble and so stock given out over the time was worth $0.

And Rare Medium, formerly an air conditioning company but then suddenly a hot Internet company, had made an offer in the one to two million dollar range. Rare Medium eventually disappeared – neither an Internet company or an air conditioning company, but their lawyer recently told me the CEO, Glenn Meyers, probably pulled $200 million out of it before it went down.

Once someone offers to buy your company, the worst period of your life is about to begin. I’ve seen grown men hospitalized for unstoppable twitching seizures in the stress that happens between the time the letter of intent is signed, and the time the final cash and stock are transferred (I’m not exaggerating. Another company Xceed tried to acquire involved this hospitalization). This situation with Werner Haase Jr. was the first time I had ever experienced an acquisition but it also became the worst. I got better with each time I went through the experience.

I’ll give you one scenario. When you sign the deal to sell your company, believe it or not, there are three people who have to approve: You, the guy who is buying your company, and…your landlord. Because suddenly, you’re not going to be his tenant anymore. The guy buying your company is going to be the new tenant. So he has to approve. Well, my landlord, an old school garmento (like my grandparents) not only didn’t want to approve, he decided arbitrarily he wanted to kick me out of the building. I don’t want to describe how I resolved this situation but it involved me buying more fabric than my grandparents ever had to sew together in the 50 years they worked on the same block in sweat shops where this garmento was based.

Read the rest here.

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