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Friday, May 27, 2005

Jon Klein's Ironic Anniversary

Well, that was fast. I just got a call from Bart Feder, CEO of the Feedroom, and it turns out that I am just a humble little blogging guy, not a bringer-downer of media titans, and the extraordinary coincidence of Jon Klein resigning from Feedroom's board within days of my questioning the propriety of his continuing to sit on said board was just that--an extraordinary, really really convenient coincidence.

"Ironically," Feder told me, "it happens to be Jon's six-month anniversary of leaving the company." How very ironic indeed. And apparently, the plan all along had been for Klein to stick around for a six month transitionary period. "You can take credit for it if you want," Feder said--thanks, I think I will, just for kicks--"but he had notified us of his intent to leave the board a long time ago. Officially, he has no active role in the company. I think Jon understands well what his new job is."

Feder is a very nice guy, and I don't want to second-guess him (although I did ask Klein about this back in November when I covered his hiring at CNN for the Chicago Tribune, and at the time he didn't mention any six-month window, he just said that, since he wasn't in a decision-making capacity at the Feedroom, there was no conflict of interest--I just assumed at the time that, after he settled in, someone would point out the impropriety and he'd quietly resign).

But, to beat a dead horse, which is, after all, about 85 percent of what bloggers are trained to do, I asked Feder if Klein still held a significant financial stake in Feedroom--which, to repeat, gets about half its revenue from folks like GM, Wal-Mart, and the Pentagon. Here's what he said: "He and I have been friends for 22 years, and I won't speak for him. But he was the founder of the company. We're a private company, so we don't have to talk about our finances. But he put five years of his life into this company, and to think he would walk out the door one day and not care about it is an unrealistic expectation."

So, if Klein's retirement account really really cares a lot about a firm that needs the Pentagon's money to survive, and helps the Pentagon and other institutions like Wal-Mart get their corporate messages out to the public in a format that, as Feder told Lost Remote in a recent interview, "feel[s] like news," is that not still a problem? Just asking.