Mouthy Internet Mogul Halsey Minor Might Be Broke

A decade ago, Fortune pegged CNET founder Halsey Minor's net worth at $354 million. Today he's fending off lawsuits seeking $60 million. Has he run out of money?

The $60 million in lawsuits cover a series of botched deals for art, real-estate and other expensive toys. The root cause, however, as PEHub's Connie Loizos writes, is that Minor has been "living like a billionaire." (Coincidentally, $60 million is also what he hoped to spend on a Gulfstream jet — a deal that he claims fell through because of a lender's misdeeds.)

Minor is contesting all of these lawsuits, and has filed some countersuits of his own. But think about what it says that all these institutions devoted to serving the wealthy are suing the entrepreneur. If they thought there was money to be made with Minor down the road, would they be contesting his dealings in court as opposed to quietly working out a settlement?

What Minor doesn't have, according to at least one lawsuit filed against him: cash on hand. He's being sued by Sotheby's and Christie's for nonpayment of artwork he bid on. Merrill Lynch is suing over a $25 million loan it extended. Silverton Bank, the lender for a Charlottesville hotel, is suing for $10.5 million in missed payments.

Sotheby's says Minor told its employees that he couldn't pay because he didn't have the cash, a charge he testily disputes. In his lawsuit with Merrill, he contends that the investment bank's move to freeze his account forced him to sell other investments at a loss — again, a move he wouldn't have had to make if he had the cash on hand. He also claims Merrill's merger with Bank of America scotched the financing for his Gulfstream jet.

His splurges, chronicled in Portfolio last year include:

  • A divorce which cost him roughly half of the $100 million fortune he walked away from CNET with, as well as the $300 million he made as an investor in Salesforce.com.
  • An estate in Charlottesville, Va.
  • A $15.3 million plantation in Williamsburg, Va.
  • A $20 million home in Bel Air, which he's been trying to sell without success; it's now listed at $11.4 million.

  • A $22 million house in San Francisco's Presidio Heights neighborhood, for which he'd hired celebrity designer Michael Smith to oversee a $15 million makeover.
  • A $30 million luxury hotel development in downtown Charlottesville, now on hold amidst a lawsuit.
  • A $3 million deposit on the $58.5 million Gulfstream G650 jet.
  • A modern art collection, including several works by Richard Prince, whose estimated value runs into the tens of millions of dollars.
  • A host of startups under the umbrella of his investment firm, Minor Ventures. One of them, 8020 Media, flamed out spectacularly earlier this year.

The picture that these lawsuits paint is one of an angry dotcom mogul with a vanished fortune who's looking for someone else to blame for his woes. As a riches-to-rags story, it makes for great art.