Halsey Minor

Halsey McLean Minor (born 1964 in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA) is a technology entrepreneur who founded CNET in 1994[1] (initial plans for the company began in 1992).


Minor attended Woodberry Forest School and the University of Virginia, where he was a member of St. Elmo Hall and received a degree in anthropology. After graduation, he worked at Merrill Lynch, before moving on to start his own company.


Halsey Minor was a key figure in digital publishing. In 1993, he founded CNET Networks, the first comprehensive consumer-facing technology content publisher. Minor ran CNET for eight years during which time it became one of the Internet's first companies to achieve profitability. Halsey led CNET to become a NASDAQ 100 company and it was acquired by CBS Corporation in 2008 for $1.8 billion.

In 1997, Halsey spun off technology developed by CNET to Vignette, a web-publishing software company, acquiring a 33% stake in the company. Vignette was one of the most successful IPOs of the first tech boom, reaching a market capitalization of $26 billion. Halsey also provided the seed funding for music service Rhapsody in 1998.

Minor co-founded and was the largest financial investor and second largest shareholder in salesforce.com. Starting in 2000, Salesforce.com had achieved a market capitalization in excess of $15 billion. He was Salesforce’s second-largest shareholder at the company’s 2004 IPO, owning over 10% of the company.

In 2005, Halsey established Minor Ventures, the vehicle through which he founded and funded several tech startups, including OpenDNS, a web security leader and Grand Central Communications, a web-based telephony companies. In 2007, Halsey sold Grand Central Communications to Google, where it was rebranded as Google Voice.

In May 2014, Minor announced his current venture, Uphold [FKA Bitreserve], a digital money service.

Business projects

On September 4, 2007, Minor announced the development of a new three-star hotel located in historic downtown Charlottesville called the Landmark. The planned six-story hotel would be part of Minor Family Hotels, a series of three-star boutique hotels located in historical districts around the world. By early 2009, however, construction on the hotel had stopped as a result of financial problems involving the project developer and the bankruptcy and FDIC receivership of the construction lender. Minor alleges the FDIC's failure to act on the note for two years while costing taxpayers $11 million in legal fees.

On December 19, 2007 the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation announced that Halsey had purchased the historic Carter's Grove plantation on 720 acres (2.9 km2) on the James River for $15.3 million and that he "plans to use the mansion as a private residence and use the site as a center for a thoroughbred horse-breeding program."[2] The plan was to preserve the historic home and give it a use in keeping with its time, when Tidewater Virginia was the capital of horse racing in America. Minor's Carter's Grove LLC has since filed a bankruptcy petition, with more than $72 million in debts. Halsey never lived at Carter's Grove and by 2012 the vacant house was in disrepair.[3][4]

As of July 2008, Minor made known his interest in acquiring Hialeah Park Race Track, which opened in 1925. He stated that he wished to buy Hialeah Park and restore it to its original state and begin the process of restoring the popularity of thoroughbred racing. Minor had been in discussions with Hialeah Park owner John Brunetti and his attorney Andrew C. Hall,[5] however they never were able to agree on a price.[6] Minor then challenged Brunetti's ownership in Hialeah in Florida Federal court with a trial expected before the end of 2011. In October 2010 Minor bid for 5 tracks belonging to the MI Developments including Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields, Laurel Park Racecourse, Pimlico and Portland Meadows.

Legal complications

Minor was engaged in lawsuits beginning in 2007 with both Christie's and Sotheby's.

On May 22, 2008, Minor was the winning bidder in a Sotheby's auction of Edward Hicks' The Peaceable Kingdom, with a hammer price of $9.6 million, a record for the artist. Minor also won two other paintings, Diamond Dust Shoes by Andy Warhol and Paris, Winter Days by Childe Hassam. The Peaceable Kingdom had been on loan to the American Folk Art Museum from 2000 until 2008. The painting was owned by Ralph O. Esmerian, who took it back to pay his debts to Sotheby's, Christie's, and Merrill Lynch.

In September 2008 Minor was sued for failure to pay for these paintings while allegedly waiting for Sotheby's to provide the promised documents that showed their actions had not violated New York law.[7] In October, Minor countersued, contending the Sotheby's had had an interest in The Peaceable Kingdom that they did not disclose. Minor sought to have his countersuit designated as a class action October 1, 2008, in Northern District California but this claim was dismissed.[8]

The outcome of this complex litigation has been both favorable and unfavorable to Minor.

On March 30, 2010, Sotheby's won on all counts, and Minor was ordered to pay them nearly $4.4 million, plus interest, late charges and legal fees.[9] That amount represents the perceived drop in the resale value of Mr. Minor's artworks during the five months that Christie's kept the pieces—a lag that took place between late May and early November 2008 as the art market spiraled into recession.[10] This case is currently under appeal.

On the other hand, a May 21, 2010 jury verdict found for Minor in U.S. District Court. Judge William Alsup ordered Christie's to pay $8.57 million in damages to Mr. Minor.[11] Christie's was found guilty of fraud, theft and failure to honor a contract by a 10-person jury in federal court. Christie's then faced another $1.14 billion in outstanding litigation, the most threatening from billionaire Bill Koch. On March 18, 2011, this suit was settled in Christie's favor.[12]

Three days later, however, on May 24, 2010, Manhattan federal Judge Barbara Jones ordered Minor to pay the $6.6 million-plus he owed Sotheby's (see March 30, 2010 award cited above) for reneging on his winning bids for three paintings. Minor satisfied the judgment and appealed in June 2010.[13]

In addition to the suits cited above with the Landmark Hotel in Charlottesville, Minor now has actions against John Burnetti in Florida, Merrill Lynch in California and an appeal of Sotheby's non-trial verdict in New York Federal court. Merrill Lynch is being sued under the Rosenthal Act which defines the rights of debtors to be protected from abusive treatment by financial institutions.

Minor v. Merrill, filed March 10, 2009, State Superior Court, Los Angeles. Merrill filed a demurrer October 7, 2009; a hearing was set for November 25, 2009.[14]

In 2016, Halsey's $20m mansion in San Francisco's Pacific Heights district sold for $15.75 million as part of a confirmed bankruptcy sale.[15]


  1. Barnes, Lindsay. "Minor mishaps: He built an Internet giant, so why is Halsey hurting?". The Hook. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  2. Michelle Washington (20 December 2007). "Carter's Grove mansion sells for $15.3 million". Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  3. Tim McGlone (21 May 2012). "Court hears of problems at Carter's Grove mansion". Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  4. "sorry fate of a tech pioneer Halsey Minor and historic Virginia estate Carter's Grove - The Washington Post".
  5. Brinkmann, Paul (27 April 2009). "Fight over Hialeah Park ownership heats up". South Florida Business Journals. American City Business Journals. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  6. Freer, Jim. "Hialeah OK'd for Quarter Horse Racing". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved 2013-05-30.
  7. "Sotheby's Sues Buyer of Peaceable Kingdom", antiquesandthearts.com, 2008-09-09.
  8. "Lawsuits Galore: Minor v. Danielson", readthehook.com, 2009-11-19.
  9. "CNet Founder Owes Sotheby's $4.4M For Paintings", Hilary Russ, Law360.com
  10. Crow, Kelly (2010-05-24). "Minor Scores Major Victory in Christie's Dispute - WSJ.com". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved 2013-05-30.
  11. Itzkoff, Dave (May 24, 2010). "Judge Awards $8.57 Million in Suit Against Christie's - NYTimes.com". Artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-05-30.
  12. Hurtado, Patricia (2011-03-18). "Christie's Wins Dismissal of Koch's Counterfeit Wine Suit". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2013-05-30.
  13. Golding, Bruce (2010-05-24). "'Net tycoon Minor told to pay $6.6M to Sotheby's". NYPOST.com. Retrieved 2013-05-30.
  14. "Lawsuits galore: Minor v. Danielson hearing Friday | The Hook - Charlottesville's weekly newspaper, news magazine". Readthehook.com. Retrieved 2013-05-30.
  15. "Halsey Minor's $20 Million Mansion Sells for $4 Million Less". Retrieved 2016-07-18.

External links

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