Charles Payne

Over the years, I have written periodically on the World of Online IPO s, which was marked to the top of the tech bubble. Most market historians missed this one when talking about the shenanigans of that period, in part because this was a Dutch IPO, but for me that underscores its significance even more. The kind of out-of-control mania for the market in general, and for tech stocks in particular, could be one of those occurrences that can only come around every few hundred years. It was truly the Tulip craze, and yet everyone aware of such history could barely resist the excitement.

The Scene

What would you think if I sang out of tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key.

Oh, I will get by with a little help from my friends.
-Joe Cocker

March 17, 2000: the Amsterdam Stock Exchange and the debut of World Online (WOL), was the largest IPO in the exchanges' history and largest internet IPO in European history. The place was buzzing as management brought in celebrities including Sarah Ferguson, Christopher Reeve, and Joe Cocker, in order to make it a day the world would never forget. It was only four years earlier when the company launched its Internet services and became something of a juggernaut.

Of course, one must remember that in the land of the blind, the one-eye man is king and back in those days a juggernaut did not mean profits, and in some cases, it referred solely to the hype factor.

That morning the most popular person in the room was the attractive and outgoing CEO of WOL, Nina Brink, who floated on air as she was doing more than just getting by with a little help from her friends. The shares priced at £43, giving the company a market valuation of £12 billion. This valuation also valued the 1.9 million users at £6,500 each, making Mark Zuckerberg's $42 a user price tag for 'WhatsApp' look like the steal of a lifetime.

The Big Bang

The Internet was born in 1969, but the Big Bang period of hype and dreams of unlimited potential, that ushered in phrases like "paradigm shift” was birthed in 1995, with the initial public offering of Netscape. The brainchild of Jim Clark and Marc Andreessen, was sizzling as the dominate web browser with more than 90% market share.

Charles Payne

Charles V. Payne is a regular contributor to the Fox Business and Fox News Networks. He is also the Chief Executive Officer and Principle Analyst of Wall Street Strategies, Inc. (WSSI), founded in 1991 which provides subscription analytical services to both individual and institutional investors.

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