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IT Confidential

A lot of people were given blank checks in terms of optimizing E-commerce and Internet initiatives, headhunter Davis says.

Andy Parsons is VP of Vector Networks, a developer of server-management software in Duluth, Ga. When Parsons received an E-mail from a disgruntled employee at one of Vector's competitors, offering to sell his employer's complete customer database for the bargain price of $20,000, Parsons contacted the CEO of the competing company and found it wasn't the first time it had been the victim of employee espionage. Soon after, the FBI approached Parsons and asked him to cooperate in a "sting" operation, first by negotiating with the perpetrator on a tapped phone, then by setting up a meeting to complete the transaction in a Georgia hotel. The bust went off without a hitch, and Parsons says he was concerned for his safety only after the fact, when he thought about what could've gone wrong. But during the operation, the FBI made it easy for him to participate. "They have a habit of making you feel safe and secure," he says of the FBI. "You come out after thinking, 'My God, he could have had a gun.'"

EToys co-founder Frank Han has been tapped for the new position of senior VP for E-commerce at Park Place Entertainment. Park Place, which operates 28 casino-hotel properties under the Bally's, Caesars, Flamingo, Grand, and Hilton brand names, is looking to cash in on the fast-growing market for online gambling, and Han is charged with driving the company's Web marketing efforts and creating its online gambling strategy. "Our goal is to become an online leader in the resort, gaming, and entertainment industry," CEO Thomas Gallagher said in a statement, and that means "creating new online products that ultimately may include gaming-related offerings where they are legal and appropriate." EToys was one of the most spectacular of the dot-com flameouts, going from startup to Web darling to bankruptcy in less than three years; it was acquired by KB Toys last year.

Celera Genomics Group chairman J. Craig Venter once said, "Biology can't proceed without high-end computing." But Celera will proceed without Venter, as the scientist credited with helping crack the human genome resigned his position last week. Venter helped shift the locus of high-performance computing from physics to biology when his company shared credit with the Human Genome Project last year for mapping the genetic sequence of 3 billion DNA units in human chromosomes. Celera's move from genome database subscription sales to drug research didn't suit Venter's interests and experience, and Venter apparently didn't suit Celera's parent company, Applera, which pushed the company's new direction. Applera chairman and CEO Tony White will serve as Celera's interim president.

More proof the world has turned upside-down: Pittsburgh was the fastest-growing city last year in terms of residents accessing the Internet, says a new report from Internet research firm Nielsen/NetRatings. According to the report, 1.2 million Pittsburgh residents plugged into the Net for the first time in 2001, a growth rate of 20.4%; Salt Lake City was a close second, with 20% growth in its Web surfers. Also scoring in the top 10: Philadelphia (12.8% growth), Cleveland (12.6%), Minneapolis (11.2%), and Detroit (8.2%). On the other hand, tech standout cities showed declines last year, according to Jarvis Mak, NetRatings senior media analyst, including San Diego, San Francisco, and Houston.

Less vision, more mission. That's the trend in hiring top IT execs, says John Davis, president of John J. Davis & Associates, a 25-year technology executive-search firm in New York. "In the 1990s, there was great emphasis on the strategy side of the fence," Davis says. "Now companies want to optimize the technology dollar." Not only has the CIO's mission statement changed, he says, so have candidates' resumés. "What we find in recent resumés is an emphasis on deliverables--'Here's what I've done and here's how I did it.'" Also gone are the days when IT execs got a blank check for E-commerce initiatives. Says Davis, "they're not getting carte blanche any more."

I've never gotten carte blanche for anything. I wouldn't know what to do with a blanche carte even if I got one. Send your blanche cartes, or an industry tip, to or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about corporate espionage or blank checks, meet me at's Listening Post.

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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