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Meet the mogul of moguls
[February 15, 2006]

Meet the mogul of moguls


(South Florida Sun-Sentinel (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) SAUZE D'OULX, Italy _ You had your usual suspects, the much-hyped American skiers, only one of whom (Toby Dawson) hit the board Wednesday evening at the men's moguls final.

You had a nice fellow from Finland (Mikko Ronkainen) who won a silver medal at these Winter Olympics, drives an Audi and has little else of note on his bio sheet.

And then you had Australian gold medalist Dale Begg-Smith, an international young man of mystery who is so ethereal they ought to call him Kaiser Sauze.

According to various reports, he has a net worth of somewhere between $1 million and $17 million. Which, if true, makes him the only actual mogul in his sport.

That wealth may or may not have been accumulated through business links to unsavory Internet sites, possibly even gambling and porn sites. Of course, the Kaiser would rather not talk about that.

Here's what we know about Begg-Smith. He is 21 and exceedingly private. He measures his words carefully. He bears a slight resemblance to Theo Epstein, the Boston Red Sox General Manager.

Begg-Smith grew up middle class in Vancouver, British Columbia. His mother coaches figure skating and his father is retired from owning a small construction company.

The Kaiser showed talent on the slopes starting at age 2. By age 8, while watching the Lillehammer Olympics, he announced his intention to become a champion moguls skier.

That meant he enjoyed zipping down ridiculously bumpy slopes and doing flips off strategically placed ramps. In other words, the kid had guts.

A few years later he made the Canadian junior national team, but quit at 15 because of scheduling conflicts.

"I was very busy when I was younger," he says.

That's because at age 13, in order to finance his skiing exploits and those of his brother Jason _ who is 4 years older and finished 29th Wednesday _ Begg-Smith started a software company. Two years later the brothers moved to Australia, where they expanded their business and later resumed their skiing careers.

That's where things get tricky.

According to some accounts, the Begg-Smith boys got so good making Internet-related software their business took off. Early last year the Kaiser told interviewers he had up to 40 employees, an office in New York and a black Lamborghini at his part-time apartment in Vancouver.


Wednesday, however, Begg-Smith proves evasive when asked about his business.

"The company is nowhere near as big as everybody's made it out to be," he says. "It was not a big deal. I just needed to make enough money to get by skiing."

Ask Maddie Begg about her son's business interests and you'll get nowhere.

"I'm not answering questions to do with the business or his citizenship," she says firmly.

Then she walks away.

The Kaiser says he "tapered down" the company in recent years and claims it's "kind of shut down so there's not really a name anymore."

Did he sell it?

"No, it wasn't that big," he says. "I couldn't have sold it for much. If anybody would have bought it, I would have sold it."

What exactly did it do? Is he really responsible, as some have reported, for those infernal pop-up ads that are the bane of Internet surfers everywhere?

"I don't know," he says. "It's sort of complicated."

Give us the simple version then.

"We make technology for companies to monitor their online ad campaigns basically," Begg-Smith continues. "I don't do any ad pops or anything like that. I just make the software so the companies can do whatever they want and track how it's performing for them."

In a 2002 press release from ValueAd.com, an online advertising and marketing company, Begg-Smith is cited as president of AdsCPM Network. Another of his reputed companies, CPM Media, was formerly based in Vancouver but now lists a Moscow, Idaho address.

Those companies, according to spywareguide.com, have ties to 2nd-thought.com and FreeScratchandWin.com. Those, the site claims, are "browser hijacker(s) that will reset your home page and often redirect your searches to porn sites."

They also can track Web usage patterns without the customer's knowledge, a legal but widely criticized endeavor.

So did Begg-Smith ever have a business relationship with either of those entities?

"Um, not that I know of," the Kaiser says. "I don't know why we're talking about my company. I won Olympic gold."

Yes, but it's how he got there that inspires curiosity. That, and the fact nobody wants to talk about it.

___

(c) 2006 South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Visit the Sun-Sentinel on the World Wide Web at http://www.sun-sentinel.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

_____

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): moguls

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