01 September 1998

ONLINE BUSINESS information provider Dialog Corporation saw its share price almost halve in value after admitting it would fail to deliver the increased revenues forecast in October 1997 when, as Maid [Marketing and Advertising Information Database], it took over Knight-Ridder Information of the USA. Maid’s founder, now Dialog chief executive, the flamboyant ex-agency suit Dan Wagner, is already the butt of investors’ criticism for making over-optimistic assumptions. He was for once in subdued mood: Dialog, he said, was now in 'the horrible position' of 'looking like an easy takeover target'. Analysts expressed concern that the company might default on interest payments on its current debt of some £140m. 'Rubbish', retorted Dan, assuring his interrogators that Dialog could still service interest payments running at around £4m per quarter. Deciding, perhaps, that a spot of contrition might go down well with the punters, Dan assumed the unaccustomed mantle of humility for all of ten seconds: 'I have to take the blame, but do I take blame to the degree that I should not be here?' Unable to contain himself a moment longer, the old Dan burst through in all his technicolor bombast: 'No way!', he proclaimed, assuring the world that his role in restoring Knight-Ridder had been 'vital' and that 'it would have been a disaster' without him. [If Debrief’s memory doesn’t play false, Knight-Ridder was doing nicely, thanks, before being put up for sale by its American parent.]