Contents | < Browse | Browse >

/// The Commodore Shareholder Movement Online Conference

This is a heavily edited transcript of a capture of a live chat which
took place in the Amiga Zone on Portal on the evening of Sunday,
Nov. 28, 1993.  The subject was the Commodore Shareholders Movement
and the guest speakers are introduced below. The conference took the
form of a Q&A session

The conference lasted approximately two hours in real time. Most all
of the superfluous chit chat, hellos and g'byes have been removed to
make it easier to read.  

User groups, non-commercial BBSes, public FTP sites, and Amiga Report
online magazine have our explicit permission to republish this transcript
in its entirety only.   - Harv Laser, AmigaZone Sysop

------------[ Edited Transcript Begins Here]------------

Harv: Tonite we have another special guest chat. Our guests tonite are
      Marc Rifkin and Mike Levin, the spokesmen of the Commodore
      Shareholders Movement.  You may or may not be aware of their
      efforts over the last year or so.  If not then tonite you will
      learn what this is all about.  If so this will be your chance to
      find out their plans and ask them questions.

      Without any further rambling, it's my pleasure to introduce
      Marc R. Rifkin and Mike Levin, of the CSM.  Gentlemen, the floor
      is yours.

Mike&MarcCSM: Hello everyone. Thanks for being here tonight.  We
              are here to answer your questions about who we are and what
              we're doing...  Most of what we're about is answered in our Q&A
              document and Survival Kit, for those who haven't seen it.
              We'll answer your questions in person.  But first, we have one:
              Who here considers themselves a part of the CSM?

(Three people responded)

DMcCoy: Is owning stock a prerequisite?  If not, I do.  If so, I'll buy
        stock.  :)

Mike&MarcCSM: Owning stock is NOT a prerequisite.

Harv: Before we start taking questions, I have a poll.  If and only if you
      own any CBM Int'l stock, please state "Yes" and the # shares you own
      if you're willing to say.

Harv: Yes, 20
soft-logik: Yes, 600
DeckApe: Yes, 30
drchip: Yes, 500
harsh: Yes, 600
Mike&MarcCSM: Yes, 540

Harv: Be advised that you can visit *any* stockbroker and buy just 1 or 2
      shares.  And ask to hold the certificates yourself.  The broker
      will take a small fee.  The stock will cost you less than $4 per

xterm: Ok, have you two been doing anything directly with Little Irv & Mehdi?

Mike&MarcCSM: We've sent certified letters out to both of them. No response
              so far...  Mike talked to both in person at the 1991
              Shareholders Meeting.

PKB: Be honest.  Are you haveing any real effect at CBM?

Mike&MarcCSM: Yes. In 1991 we had a great effect.  CD32 and the
              1200 are in part the results of our efforts...  We are now
              trying to make an ongoing relationship with the management...
              So that we are not limited to just speaking at shareholder
              meetings...  We have the support of everyone we have spoken
              to across the board.

Harv: Please explain how CD32 and the 1200 are in part the results of
      your efforts.

Mike&MarcCSM: At the 1991 meeting, Mike described products he felt needed
              to be developed...  They both had the promise of success like
              that of the C64...  CD32 and the 1200 match those

NES-Bill: 1. How many people are involved in the movement so far?
          2. How many shares does that represent?
          3. What makes you think that it is enough to make any real
             difference to how the company is run?

Mike&MarcCSM: 1. Over 500 people have stated their support...
              2. About 200 shareholders...
              3. Most of the shareholders are also customers.  Their
                 opinions are the most valuable to Commodore.

              We can identify with about 1% of the company ownership.
              There are 33 million shares.  All CBM directors have 20%
a              total.

Teletran: You've mentioned the upcoming shareholder meeting in the
          text files, but when iis it?

Mike&MarcCSM: We called CBM last tuesday.  Hock Tan (Shareholder
              Relations) is never available...  His secretary said the
              meeting was not being held that week (when it has been
              held in previous years).

DMcCoy: Not having owned stock before, is there a minimum amount required
        before one can be taken seriously?

Mike&MarcCSM: No, everything counts.

Harv: Okay.. I have a couple questions. #1 - Your earlier texts mentioned
      that you wanted our proxies so you could nominate new people to the
      board, yet later you seemed to have backed off on that saying that
      you were going to work with existing management.  Please explain.

Mike&MarcCSM: We do still want proxies...  We have not closed off that
              option but working with the management is more aligned with
              what we really want to achieve, which is to restore Commodore
              to a position of leadership in the industry.

Harv: #2 - Do you have any reason to believe that Gould is or is not going
      to avoid shareholders by holding the annual meeting in the Bahamas
      rather than in New York as they were for many years?  And, are you
      guys willing to go to the Bahamas if required?

Mike&MarcCSM: Mike went to the Bahamas in 1991 and we are prepared to go
              this year.

Harv: #3 - What about Al Haig?  I and many others would like to see him
      off the board.  What are your thoughts on this?  (Yes, this is the
      same Al Haig who used to be the Secretary of State and shows up
      on political talk shows all the time).

Mike&MarcCSM: Al Haig probably does some good for Commodore as far as
              favors.  We could probably suggest some better Directors.

Teletran: I assume that Commodore legally HAS to let the shareholders know
          when the meeting is?  Also, Can they stretch it out like they
          did the 4Q & 1Q '94 reports? GA.

Mike&MarcCSM: We've written to the SEC. Their position is that
              as a "foreign private issuer," Commodore is not subject to the
              U.S. proxy laws.  This means that they probably do not even need
              to announce the Shareholder Meeting.  The five directors make a
              quorum.  The shareholder meeting can be held in secrecy.  It
              would be contested by shareholders, but that would be after the

soft-logik: Do you think Commodore has a future?  Given the
            pressures of the industry that have even hurt companies like
            Apple?  Can yet another proprietary operating system have a
            place?  Do you advocate Commodore supporting UNIX? Focusing only
            on game machines?

Mike&MarcCSM: YES...  CD32 can become a C64-like success.  This success can
              be used to carry the Amiga product line forward by sinking
              profits back into R&D and turning the Amiga into a machine
              which can compete despite whatever machines are out there.

DeckApe: 1) Is CBM a subsidiary of Commodore Ltd?
         2) Is CBM completely held by C= Ltd?
         3) What kind of response have you gotten so far to your request
            for a show of support?

Mike&MarcCSM: CBM is a wholly owned subsidiary by Commodore Ltd.

Harv: CBM = Commodore Business Machines. They (in West Chester PA) are
      the USA mfg and sales USA HQ office.  There is also a CBM Canada,
      and many other countries, all subsidiaries of Commodore Int'l
      Ltd. a Bahamian company :)

DeckApe: I take it that means we can't buy stock in CBM (which I assume
         is a U.S. company?)

Harv: You can only buy stock in Commodore Int'l. Ltd., the Parent.

Mike&MarcCSM: We receive about a dozen E-Mail messages, a half
              dozen faxes and a handful of calls every week.  We've spoken to
              almost every major Amiga developer and distributor.  We have
              everyone's support in spirit, and the shareholders and
              customers support in practice.

xterm: Ok, my question -- do any major corporations have a stake in C=
       anymore besides the Big 5 and the "little people"?  Who?

Mike&MarcCSM: Yes...  Prudential Securities and over 70 other financial
              institutions according to the last Nelson Directory.  Only
              Irving Gould owns a controlling interest in shares.

DocPierce: I was wondering a few things.  Is there anything that non
           shareholders can do?  How much does stock cost and where is
           a good place to go?  How far do you have to go to accomplish
           your goal in terms of "you're 50% there, 75%, etc"?

Mike&MarcCSM: Non shareholders can state your support for the
              CSM publicly in letters to Commodore and the Press, on
              electronic nets and turn this media event.  Harv mentioned
              already how to get stock (contact a broker or your bank, it
              should be less than $4 a share).  We are 50% of the way to
              achieving our first objective which is to initiate ongoing
              cooperative efforts with Commodore officers.

DocPierce: Can you provide us with addresses and names to write to?

DeckApe: FYI: I recently purchased 20 additional shares of stock - I paid
         $3.25 a share, and the broker only cost me $11.  As of Wednesday,
         C= was trading at 3-3/4 a share.

Harv: Anyone can buy stock.  Call any broker.  I use Paine
      Webber but there are many big name ones.  You can buy 1 or 2
      shares.  Make SURE you tell the broker "I want to hold the
      certificates myself".  The broker will do the trade for you,
      will tell you what he bought at and you will have x days to pay
      his bill.

Mike&MarcCSM: We will put out a text file with all of the places
              to contact.  Start with your favorite magazine.

SkyPilot: I have 3 questions:
          1. Can the CD-32 be used as a cd-rom.
          2. What development is progressing with an AAA machine
          3. How serious is Commodore about staying in business?
             A basic no-show at Comdex??  I will be going to WOC.

Harv: #1 is not really covered by this chat. #2 - See the Dave Haynie
      transcript in the library (text files, near the bottom).

Mike&MarcCSM: We cannot answer for Commodore, but we are serious about
              them staying in business.

Harv: Commodore had a booth booked at Comdex but turned it over
      to Centaur at the last moment.  Commodore does plan to have a
      booth at CES/Vegas Jan 5-9 to unveil CD32 to the full USA market.

harsh: Clearly the Amiga is a competitive machine, but the current Commodore
       leadership doesn't seem to get it. What specifics will you propose
       to them to put Commodore back on the map?

Mike&MarcCSM: First, Appoint a new officer capable of acting as
              President and CEO of Commodore.  Then forge relationships with
              the Commodore community.  Then carry out strategies to direct
              your (the customers) enthusiastic evangelism.  And establish a
              feedback system (eg., Harv) to measure success.

soft-logik: Do you guys have any idea why Commodore stock didn't
            fall through the floor after the financials were released
            showing the company with a negative book value?

Mike&MarcCSM: There are several ideas. Buying activity
              propping the stock value up... Speculative purchasing by
              investors... Reports of European CD32 sales... And the stock
               being considered as "bottomed out." GA

xterm: [btw -- Ken Dyke of C= quoted me 70,000 CD32s moved as of last week]

Harv: You guys indicated in your last .txt posting that you
      would be reducing your roles in CSM. since you've been the
      driving force, what's gonna happen next.  Are successors in
      place?  Or what's the deal?

Mike&MarcCSM: We are working on successors.  We'd like to talk
              to anyone here who is interested.

DeckApe: #1: Please explain (for those ignorant like me) what exactly
             gives Irv "Controlling Interest".....
         #2: Who is your potential candidate for Prez/CEO of
             C=? What are his/her qualifications?

Mike&MarcCSM: Irving has 20% or 6 million shares. No one else
              has over 1 million.  We have spoken to several people including
              those in the Amiga community.  No one there can risk the
              involvement (risk to their own business).  We have now settled
              on an electronics industry veteran.  We can say that he as been
              the President of several large companies.  His name is not
              widely known. (not a celebrity).

DonM: 1. I'm just a full-time electronic tech and
         part-time airplane driver.  I've never news media'ed anything in
         my life.  Any suggestions?
      2. What signs, if any, do you see of C= not getting finances
         because of recent posted loss? GA

Mike&MarcCSM: 1. Write to editors of any magazines you think
              appropriate.  State things in your own words and get lots of
              other to do the same. Also think television, radio and

Harv: Write to New Media magazine. They claim Amiga coverage but
      generally blow their nose on us. Also write Compute and demand
      they reinstate the Amiga edition.

Mike&MarcCSM: So long as Commodore is selling product and has a
              positive cash flow, they can always get more money. (Prudential
              extened their loan to January).

SteveX: It sounds like everybody is counting on CD32 to save
        Commodore. We keep hearing that they are rolling off the
        production lines, and they are selling all they can make.
        20,000 a week is the number we keep hearing.  My question is
        whether or not they are making any money on these things. If
        they make 20,000 a week all year, that's a million machines, and
        if they make $50 on each machine, that's $50 million in sales -
        but if they only make $5 on each machine, then it's only 5
        million in sales for the whole year (since they don't seem to be
        making anything else).  What do you think? If they're betting
        the farm on CD32, they better not be selling it as a loss leader!

Harv: (Haynie said the C= factory in philippines has 4
      production lines, 3 are making CD32 and the fourth makes mainly
      4000s or whatever they have orders for)

Mike&MarcCSM: According to our numbers, Commodore has a 25%
              profit margin and should have made about $150 million by now on
              CD32 sales.

SteveX: 25% profit margin at that low US retail price?  It seems
        like a double-speed CD-ROM drive, 2 meg of ram, power supply,
        case, and all that should cost more than what they are selling
        it for.

Mike&MarcCSM: Commodore's greatest ability is producing high value machines
              at low cost.

DeckApe: My question: should we ease up on the mismanagement angle or hit
         it full force?

Mike&MarcCSM: It has to be dealt with, we want Commodore to
              accept a new officer at their level who can manage the company
              competently.  He has to be given enough leeway so that he
              wouldn't be afraid of being fired. GA

harsh: Assuming that Commodore has its meeting tomorrow and chooses to ignore
       you completely and keeps things going as usual, how will you change
       your approach?

Mike&MarcCSM: Give the story to the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Forbes,
              Business Week, Time, and everyone else.

JWolf: Any idea how to get CBM to get companies to acknoledge the Amiga and
       port their software?

Mike&MarcCSM: Commodore would need to build a strong corporate
              identity, increase the user base and potential markets and offer
              the right incentives to software developers including developer
              loans and cooperative advertising.

DeckApe: mentioned a while back that he thought Irv owned Prudential.
         True or false?

Mike&MarcCSM: False.  Medhi Ali used to work for Prudential and probably
              still represents their interests.

colins: I have no doubt that CBM can compete on the low-end with a machine
        like CD32.  If marketed correctly there is no reason it can't be the
         next Sega or Nintendo. Whether it will or not remains to be seen.
         But, in what markets do you believe CBM can competein the mid and
         high-end categories, with their existing technologies?

Mike&MarcCSM: Video, interactive communication, workstations, home
              computers, and just about anything else - the Amiga is the
              most versatile computer.

DeckApe: Laptops? (Hint!)

Mike&MarcCSM: We believe strongly in an Amiga laptop!

Harv: Thus endeth the formal portion of tonight's chat.  Thanks to Marc
      Rifkin and Mike Levin for their time, their answers, and the work
      they've put into the CSM.  Be sure to get their latest text file
      out of our text files library near the bottom.  "CSMKIT.LHA".

Mike&MarcCSM: Also, watch the next issue of Amazing Computing!

Harv: And go buy a few shares of Commodore Int'l, kids.  It won't cost you
      much, and it will give you a vote in the company's present and
      future.  Call any stock broker.  Tell him you want to buy a few
      shares of CBU and you want to hold the stock certificates yourself.
      To learn all about the CSM, get "CSMKIT.LHA" out of the text files
      library here and read it.  And act on it.

------------[ End of Transcript ]-----------