Audit Notes: not Fortune tellers; Foursquare, two million; Big Ten

The magazine's picks for future Apple and Microsoft CEOs go awry immediately

Fortune peered into its crystal ball for the October 29 issue and came up with four “best bets” on who’s in line to replace four tech CEOs, presumably years down the road (although it’s a wonder how Steve Ballmer continues to hang on at Microsoft).

The mag’s top picks: iPhone chief Scott Forstall at Apple and Windows honcho Steven Sinofsky at Microsoft.


Before the issue was even off newsstands this bet had gone awry. Apple fired Scott Forstall and Microsoft forced out Sinofsky two weeks later.

With Fortune’s track record here, I wouldn’t want to be Robert Lloyd of Cisco or Safra Catz of Oracle—the other two possible successors it picks.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the bursting of the social media bubble isn’t just hurting overvalued companies like Facebook and Groupon. It’s dinging smaller upstarts like industry darling Foursquare, which is having a tough time raising money that would value it at 380 times annual sales.

Last year, Internet companies including Foursquare and Tumblr Inc. raised tens of millions of dollars at valuations between $500 million and $1 billion. With shares of Facebook down around 40% from its IPO price and other social media stocks such asZynga Inc. and Groupon Inc. off more than 75% since they went public, some investors reckon valuations of closely held companies will give way as well.

In the third quarter of this year, 39% of the companies that raised venture capital did so at valuations at or below those secured in their previous investments, up from 26% of companies in the second quarter, according to a financing survey by Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West LLP.

Foursquare is four years old and only has $2 million in annual revenue.

— The Big Ten’s decision to water down its conference by adding Maryland and Rutgers to is baffling, particularly when you remember it turned up its nose last year at a much more valuable—and Midwestern—expansion school in the University of Missouri.

The thinking, presumably, is that the Big Ten will get better access to the giant, rich New York and D.C. media markets and make more money, which is what college football unfortunately is all about these days. But Nate Silver writes that the moves may not help them grab much more of a toehold since very few New Yorkers care about Rutgers football. And far fewer D.C. area people care about the Terps.

And then there’s the issue of the integrity of the business game:

The question, rather, is what the Big Ten stands to gain at all by expanding. Fans of a current Big Ten team might find their new schedules less compelling.

Wisconsin Badgers fans, for example, will now have fewer opportunities to see their team play against regional rivals like Iowa, Michigan and Illinois. Those matchups will instead be replaced by more games against Rutgers and Maryland.

Many college football fans also travel to road games, which bolsters business for local restaurants and hotels. It is about a three-hour drive from Madison, Wis., to Iowa City. But it is 15 hours to College Park, Md., and more than 16 hours to New Brunswick, N.J.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,