Mark Green, the Mayoral candidate, was in the lobby of 55
Broad Street on Monday, June 25, working up a frothy pitch about the Internet,
technology, high-speed access.
“We have to expand broadband,” the Democratic candidate said
at the campaign stop. “The next Mayor has to sit down with Verizon and AOL Time
Warner and do a survey right away, and then make sure that all businesses and
families in our city have broadband and I.S.P. connections.”
Mr. Green’s staff had chosen the setting to emphasize his
coziness with New York’s business and technology honchos-and to give him a
chance to show off his big plans for a fully wired city, lorded over by a city
But the companies Mr. Green named that afternoon seemed to
be carefully selected as well. While AOL Time Warner would have occurred to any
Mayoral candidate talking about the Internet that day, Mr. Green had an added
incentive to bring them up: He has important friends there.
Or as his spokesman, Joe DePlasco, put it: “Mark Green has a
lot of support at AOL.”
Ken Lerer, the executive vice president, is a former
roommate. Bob Friedman, president of AOLTV, is a close friend, as is Richard
Bressler, the former chief financial officer of Time Warner Inc. who’s now the
chief financial officer of Viacom. And if that wasn’t enough, Mr. Green’s wife,
Deni Frand, is a vice president at the AOL Time Warner Foundation.
Sources in the company also said that Bob Pittman (co–chief
operating officer of the company and one of the founders of MTV), Michael
Lynton (president of AOL Time Warner International) and Neil Davis (vice
president of interactive marketing) are all Green supporters.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Pittman said: “Bob Pittman is a friend
and admirer of Mark Green,” although she said that Mr. Pittman is not
supporting him. The other two did not return calls for comment.
Part of the support is related to Mr. Green’s background,
and the kinds of acquaintances he made at Harvard and through Nader’s Raiders,
public service and other runs for higher office. Part comes from being on the
New York social scene, connecting with many young, similarly ambitious players
along the way.
“A lot of his old friends are now in very senior positions”
in New York media, said one executive at AOL Time Warner. “We were 25 years old
building cable, and as we grew up, Mark was growing up. Then new media came
around. Now you’re looking and you’re saying, ‘Jesus, there are seven company
presidents who are friends with him!'”
Part of the support is also related to the personality of
AOL Time Warner-and, indeed, the personality of other new-media and
entertainment companies in the uniquely liberal (at least on social issues)
business community of New York.
“People grow and evolve over time, and I think Mark has,”
said one AOL Time Warner executive, referring to Mr. Green’s amicable
relationship with business. “New York is a better place for many of the
pro-business things that have happened during the last administration, and I
think Mark recognizes this. But he also stands for not ignoring the pro-social
Still, AOL Time Warner
executives insist that no company-wide endorsement exists.
“He’s one of my best friends and I love him dearly, and I
hope he becomes Mayor,” said Mr. Lerer. “But,” he added, “there’s no
Indeed, the upper ranks of Viacom’s companies are also rife
with Friends of Mark: Andrew Rasiej, a Silicon Alley fixture, is his point man
on technology. And Mr. Green’s liaison to Wall Street is none other than Bruce
Wasserstein, the legendary banker.
Sources at AOL Time Warner also cited as Mark backers Matt
Blank, chief executive officer of Showtime; Tom Rogers, chairman and chief
executive of Primedia; Judy McGrath, president of MTV; Tom Freston, chairman of
MTV Networks; and John Sykes, president of VH1. All of those people declined to
comment for this article.
Some of these connections were made during Mr. Green’s years
as New York’s consumer-affairs chief, some as Public Advocate, some because he
was often front, center and outspoken on social and economic issues that
affected the quality of life in the city-and kept his profile in the media.
“He’s been around a long
time,” said Mr. Lerer. “He’s won a few things, he’s lost a few things and he’s
gotten to know a lot of people.”
But Mr. Green’s connections to AOL Time Warner are
particularly extensive, and particularly important given his campaign themes.
In addition to putting the city’s government bureaucracy
online-“transforming city government into E-government,” as the press release
reads-Mr. Green wants to speed along the languishing initiative to create a
Board of Education portal and provide free at-home Internet access to every
public-school student and teacher in New York. To sell such involved plans to
the City Council, he’ll need more than the services of the city’s largest
Internet, telephone and cable companies; he’ll also need to show that the
project has their support.
The Board of Education sent out a request for proposals for
the portal project last year and is now selecting vendors.
“The other candidates probably don’t even know what the
Portal I.S.P. project is,” said Mr. Rasiej, who first met Mr. Green in the
early 1990’s when he owned the club Irving Plaza and butted heads over street
posters with the then Commissioner of Consumer Affairs. “Mark has been thinking
about technology and talking to technologists about New York for five or six
years now …. The technology community is behind him.”
Mr. Rasiej said that Mr. Green’s plan not only is to employ
certain companies to install servers and cables, but to make “partnerships”
with corporate “donors” who would take an active role in teaching the
technology to students.
But Mr. Rasiej emphasized that “Mark is completely unaware
of the bidders,” referring to the Board of Ed’s proposal request. “I can’t
imagine AOL not being happy” about Mr. Green’s ideas, Mr. Rasiej said, “but I
can almost completely assure you that no one at AOL has talked to Mark about
Deni Frand, Mr. Green’s
wife, also claimed that communication between her husband and her company has
“I am excited about him advocating on these issues, but I
really haven’t been part of his policy planning and thinking,” she said. A vice
president at the AOL Time Warner Foundation, Ms. Frand specializes in
public-education initiatives involving the Internet.
Mr. Green’s AOL friends have been helpful in raising money
for him. Last year, Mr. Lerer co-chaired a fund-raiser for Mr. Green with
Messrs. Friedman, Blank and Bressler. Mr. Bressler declined to comment. Also
last year, Mr. Friedman co-hosted a fund-raiser with film and television
producer Steven Haft ( Dead Poets Society , Jakob the Liar ).
Mr. Lerer met Mr. Green in 1974, when they were working on
the Senatorial campaign of civil-rights lawyer Ramsey Clark. Mr. Green was an
idealistic young attorney working for Ralph Nader; Mr. Lerer was Mr. Clark’s
deputy campaign manager. Although Mr. Clark lost, the two men hit it off,
became roommates and even met their wives together. Unlike his friend, Mr.
Lerer got out of politics and, in the early 1980’s, went to work for Time
Warner. Later he started a corporate communications consultancy, left that in
the mid-1990’s to go to AOL, and now finds himself back, merged with his old
employer, in New York. Mr. Lerer has gradually moved his way up the corporate
ranks, all the while staying close with Mr. Green.
“Mark has a lot of relationships throughout the entertainment
and information business in New York,” said one executive at AOL Time Warner.
“Here’s why: These are people who didn’t want to move to L.A. They are die-hard
New Yorkers, as is Mark.”
Utah Sex, Drug Scandal Stirs the Troops at CSFB
Credit Suisse First Boston’s morning call on June 21 was
going along just fine: the analysts doing their usual bland run-down, the
troops on the receiving end casually throwing down cups of caffeine. And then,
into their midst, there came one of those spit-out-the-coffee moments.
By the way, reported an analyst whose group includes the
Zions Bancorporation of Utah, the bank’s C.F.O. has been arrested. On sex and
drug charges. It was news, gossip, scandal, and the troops-hardened New York
bankers though they are-feasted upon it for the rest of the day.
Zions Bancorporation is a Mormon bank, founded by Brigham
Young himself. Its chief financial officer, 41-year-old Dale Gibbons, had been
charged with felony counts of methamphetamine possession, dealing in material
harmful to a minor and endangering a child.
The police apparently had been brought into the case by Mr.
Gibbons himself, who had called 911 on Monday, July 11, after finding his
19-year-old girlfriend and 15-year-old daughter nearly comatose from what
police thought was an overdose of either ketamine, an animal anesthetic also
known as Special K, or GHB, a date-rape drug.
“He said his 19-year-old girlfriend tried to commit suicide
because she had been raped four hours earlier, but he’d been with her all
night,” said Salt Lake City Police Sergeant Darren Carr. Further, Sgt. Carr
said, Mr. Gibbons had been uncooperative on the phone with 911. Asked “Is she
breathing?”, Mr. Gibbons allegedly replied, “I don’t know.” They advised him to
administer C.P.R. and learned later that he hadn’t. “He didn’t want to touch
her,” said Sergeant Carr.
When police arrived,
they allegedly found the girlfriend naked, sprawled on a bed. A video camera
and tripod were set up nearby.
Mr. Gibbon’s daughter
was found passed out in another bedroom-along with seven hard-core porn
magazines, several spent nitrous-oxide containers and rave beads personalized
with the name “Dale” on them, police said.
Police also said they
found a gram of methamphetamine in Mr. Gibbon’s night stand.
Police said neighbors had been complaining of large, noisy
parties. “Underage kids started showing up passed out on neighbors’ lawns,”
said Sgt. Carr. Police also said Mr. Gibbons would pull up to nightclubs in a
stretch Jaguar limo with a license plate that read “ROLLING”-“basically
advertising Ecstasy,” Sergeant Carr charged.
Mr. Gibbons has hired Robert Shapiro, formerly of the O.J.
Simpson “Dream Team,” to defend him. Mr. Gibbons is free on bail, which was
originally set at $200,000, but lowered to $75,000 on July 12.
“We’re convinced of our client’s innocence,” said Sara
Caplan, a member of the Shapiro firm.
Mr. Gibbons, who’d been at the bank since 1996 and was
responsible for $21 million in assets, was immediately suspended. He resigned
on June 28, saying in a statement: “I regret reaching this decision at this
time; but I feel strongly that I must put my personal considerations and those
of my family first …. As an innocent man, my focus must be on the court
proceedings ahead.” The next scheduled court date is Aug. 14.
Meanwhile, those jaded New York traders and analysts were
titillated by the story-but not tainted. An analyst at Credit Suisse First
Boston, whose group deals with the Zion stock, said: “We think Mr. Gibbons is a
key component of the management team, but until they say what his long-term
future is, we’ll know better” whether or not to downgrade the stock.
In fact, the stock went up after the arrest-from $56.24 on
June 11 to $57.67 on June 25. It closed on Monday, July 16, at $57.84.