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Netscape Founder Hits Jackpot Jim Clark’s $4.1 Million Investment Worth $1 Billion After Only 19 Months

Bloomberg Business News

Jim Clark became a Netscape billionaire Friday.

As shares of Netscape Communications Corp. soared $9.75 to close at $110.50, its co-founder and chairman saw his 9.4 million shares in the Internet software company top $1 billion in value for the first time. The 19-month-old company, started with a $4.1 million investment by Clark, is now worth about $4 billion.

Other insiders at the Netscape aren’t doing badly either. Marc Andreessen, the 24-year-old student who helped create the underlying technology for Netscape’s products, has 2.6 million shares, valued at about $287 million. Jim Barksdale, 52, Netscape’s president and chief executive, has 3.8 million shares, valued at about $420 million.

“Clark took an idea and marketed it even before anyone knew what the product was,” said Stan Lepeak, analyst at Meta Group Inc., a market researcher. “Who says you can’t make money on the Internet?”

The stock rise represents Clark’s second technology-driven-windfall. Clark, 51, co-founded Silicon Graphics Inc. in 1981, a software company now worth $6 billion. His stake at one point was valued at $50 million, analysts said.

He stunned industry watchers by leaving Silicon Graphics in 1994 to found Netscape, devoted to making products for the global computer network.

Clark and the other Netscape insiders can’t touch their new fortune right away. They agreed not to sell any of their shares for up to two years.

Clark’s stake crossed the billion dollar mark a day after Goldman, Sachs & Co. software analyst Rick Sherlund said smaller, nimbler Internet companies are a threat to late-comers, including the No. 1 maker of personal computer software, Microsoft Corp. Two days earlier, Mountain View, Calif.-based Netscape said it will split its shares 2-for-1 to get their price down.

Netscape sold 5 million shares to the public on Aug. 9 at a price of $28 each. The shares closed the first day of trading at $58.25 amid booming interest in the Internet. The shares are now priced at almost four times their public offering price.

The stock split, set for January, is one of the fastest to happen after an IPO in the past five years for a company with a market capitalization similar to Netscape’s.

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