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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 12, 2001

Millionaires try living on a budget

By Jon Swartz
USA Today

SAN FRANCISCO — High-tech executives aren't just shrinking their companies — they're shrinking their lifestyles, too.

Hurt by deflated stock portfolios and spending hangovers, tech and telecom executives are selling homes, planes, cars — anything — to conserve cash.

Getting the heave-ho are:

• Homes. Proxity Digital Networks CEO Billy Robinson, 46, enjoyed the heyday of the Internet Age. But he is now reducing expenditures. Before the Internet bubble started bursting, his personal worth was $50 million. But now, it's about $10 million.

Company shares have nose-dived from $117.50 in January 2000 to 85 cents Wednesday.

In September, he sold a $1.5 million luxury home in New Orleans, where his company is located, in order to have some extra cash.

• Luxury items. This past summer, Seattle-based telecom magnate Craig McCaw sold his 300-foot yacht, named Tatoosh, to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen for $100 million. The yacht came with two helicopters, a 40-foot speedboat and a swimming pool.

McCaw's fortune had plunged 65 percent to $2.7 billion the past year, according to Forbes magazine,

• Art collections. Bob Heyman, 53, founder of high-tech marketing firm New Canoe based near San Francisco, is auctioning a third of his tribal art, one of the largest private collections of its kind in the world.

He hopes to fetch "at least six figures" for the ancient shields and clubs from the South Pacific.

• Donations. In addition to selling high-ticket items, some executives — who routinely donated $50,000 annually to nonprofit organizations — have shaved their contributions to $5,000 or nothing at all, industry insiders say.

"It's led to some embarrassing situations," says Silicon Valley venture capitalist David Batstone, who has attended meetings between penny-pinching executives and nonprofit groups.

"Execs no longer can afford to give to nonprofits, and some have a hard time admitting it."