Monkey Business

Who needs a product when you can sell stock? The mind-boggling success of PinkMonkey.com.

The chart of the company's stock had always been a black line slithering along the ground like a snake. Almost no one noticed it, and those who did weren't tempted to pick it up. The line continued its dull progress, and it seemed that nothing extraordinary would ever happen to the company, when suddenly something did.

The transformation occurred on the last day of November. The black line shot out of its pattern like an oil gusher out of the earth. Speculators began getting rich, then some of them got poor, and the CEO got more telephone calls than the company line could handle.

"Hey," said Pat Greene, to those who got through, "we don't know what's going on."

"Absolute nuttiness," he called it, and though he comes across as a pretty sharp fellow, Greene was one of the few people not to connect the soaring stock price to a company news release issued that morning. The first sentence contained all the pertinent information: the name of the company (three times), its stock symbol and the news that it was open for business.

"PinkMonkey.com, Inc. (OTC BB:PMKY) ... announced today the launch of PinkMonkey.com, located at www.pinkmonkey.com. The new service will challenge well-established Cliffs Notes by providing literature notes, study guides and test preparation software to high school and college students via the Web."

Monkey Notes were of "impeccable quality." They were half the price of Cliffs Notes. Greene expressed faith his company would "quickly reach" a significant share of the $400-million study aids market. But it was the headline that grabbed people: "PinkMonkey.com Poised to Become the Amazon.com of the Educational Study Aid Market."

Investors went wild. And how important was it really that PinkMonkey.com had actually been selling its $3 books for more than a year by then, or that it had rarely sold more than ten in a day, or that it was about $2 million in debt? These were just details, and as a Cliffs Notes competitor, PinkMonkey.com did not deal in details.

Two days after the release, PinkMonkey's share price had risen 1700 percent. The company was worth a quarter of a billion dollars.

Many people wanted to get a look at Pat Greene's operation, but the first supplicants were told PinkMonkey.com was a "virtual organization" without need for physical space. When it became clear they would not go away, Greene gave company headquarters as One Liberty Plaza, Liberty, Texas.

At Liberty's town hall, the secretary asked over her shoulder, "Y'all ever heard of One Liberty Plaza?" The answer came back: "Nope." Other Libertians didn't know, either. An associate of Pat Greene's gave directions to a modest ranch house, across from a pasture, beneath two ancient live oaks. The sign in the driveway read, "Pat and Twinkle." Twinkle was the pretty blonde who looked up from her gardening. Pat was the fiftyish fellow at the door with the ponytail and the pipe.

One Liberty Plaza?
"Oh, that just sort of, heh heh heh, doesn't make us look so bad," he said. "Sounds better than a guy in his garage, heh heh heh."

The house smelled of new paint, and it was Pat's idea to give a tour. There were new hardwoods on the floor, new furniture in the dining room. Pat rang the gong on the table and pointed out the new glass sculpture "by a noted artist whose name I can't remember." The backyard had been newly landscaped, but the seven dogs preferred the air-conditioning. At the end of the house, a macaw named Butterfly shared a large den with many cockatiels. The big-screen TV was tuned to a cooking show; the birds were watching the chef prepare chicken Kiev.

"Welcome to the Monkey House," said Greene.
He led the way back to the other side of the house, to the old garage. It was now mission control. Greene sat down at a bank of computer equipment, beneath a bare light bulb on a string. He pulled the cord. The only light was the computer screen, which displayed the Yahoo! Finance Web site and the latest price of PinkMonkey stock. Greene, with pipe smoke swirling about his head, leaned back and said the company had come a long way since last we spoke, and "what kind of article are we going to do this time -- another slash and burn?"

He hadn't liked what I wrote a year and a half before, when PinkMonkey, like a young turkey, was first attempting to fly. It was true that he was a "flamboyant promoter," he said, and that he occasionally used colorful language -- but it wasn't fair of me to quote it. The board of directors convened afterward and directed Pat Greene never to speak with the media again. He ignored them. Who were they to muzzle him? This was his idea, and he was the CEO, and the fact was, his company could use any publicity at all, even from "a down in the trenches kind of tabloid" like the Houston Press.

I told him I had come this time to chronicle his success. He drew deeply on his pipe and said reporters were always looking for something nefarious, but he had done nothing wrong. For speaking with me, he set two conditions: "No cuss words" and the inclusion of this quote: "No one should ever invest in a stock without doing good basic research. When I say what a stock may sell for, that has no basis in reality. You shouldn't buy off press releases."

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