CNET Founder Halsey Minor Bankrupt 5 Years After Firm's $1.8 Billion Sale

Minor by Darryl Estrine, Corbis
Darryl Estrine, Corbis

In 2008, Halsey Minor sold CNET Networks, the technology media property he founded, to CBS Corp. (CBS) for $1.8 billion. Minor's personal haul was $200 million, according to CNNMoney. Now, just five years later, Minor, 47, has declared bankruptcy, listing debts of up to $100 million and claiming assets of at most half that much.

Minor has filed for Chapter 7 protection, which a bankruptcy lawyer who spoke to Bloomberg said "is clearing the slate":

"He isn't required like Middle America to pay his debts, because they're mostly business-related."

For individuals, Chapter 7 provides a chance to start over, and basically stiffs creditors (of which Minor has 60, The LA Times reports). For businesses or partnerships, on the other hand, no debts are discharged.

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This isn't the first time Minor has struggled with financial obligations. Bloomberg reports that Sotheby's (BID) won a $6.6 million judgement against him in April 2010 after he refused to pay for three artworks he bought at auction. He also sold two paintings that year to help pay for a $21.6 million judgement on a delinquent loan from a Bank of America (BAC) affiliate. And Businessweek reported in 1997 that Minor "was on the brink of bankruptcy" four years earlier, in the early stages of CNET's development. $5 million from Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Paul Allen made the difference back then.

By 2012, The LA Times says, California declared Minor and his wife to be the state's top income-tax delinquents, with an unpaid bill of $10.5 million.

Minor blames his financial downfall on speculation outside the tech industry, which he calls his "comfort zone." In addition to art, he invested heavily in real estate, hotels and horses.

According to Bloomberg, the address Minor gave on his bankruptcy filing carries the Beverly Hills zip code 90210. When a reporter went there looking for Minor, "There were three SUVs in the driveway -- a black Mercedes Benz, a black Range Rover and a black GMC Yukon -- and a bicycle. Gardeners were mowing the lawn." Those cars may soon be sold at auction by a court-appointed trustee. No idea what the gardeners were still doing there. Minor didn't come to the door.