Halsey Minor

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When he was a computer hobbyist in the 1980s, tinkering with new media channels that eventually led to the development of the online information powerhouse CNET Networks, Halsey Minor learned to tune out naysayers and follow his own instincts.

"I didn't develop things for the Internet because I thought there would be a lot of money in it," says Mr. Minor, 35, chairman of CNET, the company he founded in 1992. "I did it because it was cool and it was fun, and I wanted to create things that I personally found useful."

It turned out that lots of other people were interested in the same kind of information Mr. Minor wanted: TV programming and online content about the Internet, plus news and information about buying, selling and using computers, electronics and business-to-business commerce. It turns out there was a lot of money in it, too.

Today the company is a juggernaut with a market capitalization of about $4.5 billion. Mr. Minor owns 11% of the stock, worth $495 million in late March. While he continues as chairman, CNET in March named his longtime colleague Shelby Bonnie to succeed him as CEO. This will allow Mr. Minor to concentrate on long-term strategic goals.

From its beginnings as a producer of cable TV content supporting its burgeoning Internet content services, CNET, under Mr. Minor's guidance, has maintained a chameleonlike ability to shift its emphasis to wherever growth seems hottest at the moment.

When TV looked like the way to promote the Internet, Mr. Minor beefed up his broadcast operations. When better opportunities appeared online, he shifted to a more online business model in the mid-1990s. And he created a radio operation that still offers programs about the Internet.

Perhaps Mr. Minor's most daring move was creating yet another Internet search engine, Snap, in 1997. At the time, naysayers said only two such companies would survive a shakeout among proliferating competitors. Snap survived. At the end of the decade, Snap was sold to NBC, netting Mr. Minor $500 million on a $20 million investment. CNET retains a partial ownership of NBC Internet.

Industry observers are closely watching CNET's next moves because the company has proved to be a survivor through several iterations on the Internet frontier. It's now repositioning itself yet again to capitalize on the explosion in e-commerce and business-to-business growth.

Mr. Minor now wants CNET to become a leading product information source by syndicating content to e-commerce Web sites. He figures CNET will act as a conduit of information about how products are bought and sold.

He believes TV and the Internet should serve different purposes: one for entertainment and one for information. With its recent acquisition of shopping-oriented site MySimon.com, CNET will boost its role as an information force on the Internet.

"Research and information may become the killer app in the next phase of the Internet, as the Web changes the way all products are bought and sold," Mr. Minor says. "People will still go to stores, but they will make buying decisions based on information they get online. We want to be one of the leading resources in that process."

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