Bill Regardie is convinced the Washington region's technology community has greed, vanity and ego enough to embrace his particular brand of magazine journalism.
Convincing the technology community of that may be another story, however.
Bill Regardie last week launched Regardie's Power, his third attempt at a local business magazine in 15 years. His first magazine successfully targeted real estate and banking in their heyday.
"We succeeded in the '80s by championing real estate and banking," said Regardie, Power's editor in chief. "It's clear in the millennium that we have to champion technology."
But his courtship of the technology elite today doesn't have the backslapping ease of his close relationship with real estate executives.
Regardie first presented himself to potential technology investors in March when he tried to get funding from the Capital Investors, a group of 20 or so of the richest local tech executives, including America Online chief executive Steve Case and Columbia Capital Managing Director Mark Warner.
The group as a whole decided not to invest in Power, but Regardie said he walked out with about $200,000 from "several" individual members.
According to one person who was at the meeting, some in the group remembered the previous magazine's tough stories about area celebrities and businesses, such as the infamous May 1989 cover story "Jerk in the Box," on D.C. Mayor Marion Barry. A November 1988 cover story, "What the Hell Happened to Woodies?," was typical, picking apart a company's downfall and skewering management in the process.
Regardie says he intends to be highly critical of individuals--when they deserve it--as he was in his previous magazines. "We made heroes of those people or identified the villains," he said.
One member of the Capital Investors said in an interview that he considered investing in the magazine as "insurance" that nothing bad would be written about him. But while Regardie said the issue came up that night, anyone is fair game.
Well, almost anyone. Regardie said long ago he promised Herbert Haft of the erstwhile Crown Books and Dart Drug empires that he would never, ever write about him, and he intends to keep that promise--even though Haft is running his own online vitamins retailing operation these days.
"Despite the tech revolution, this is still a small town," Regardie said.
A town with a short memory, too. Renay Regardie, Bill Regardie's wife and the magazine's publisher, said about one-third of the people they talk to about Power aren't aware they published magazines in the past, either because they weren't in Washington or they were just too young.
Harry Glazer, a technology lawyer for Greenberg Traurig who was a banking lawyer in the '80s, remembers Regardie's well.
"I used to read Regardie's in the past, and it was a hoot," Glazer said. "If he stirs the pot up like he did before, that's great. The question is how well he bonds with the younger tech players."
The first Regardie's folded in 1992 after a largely successful 12-year run. Regardie said at the time that he lost a half-million dollars at the end, when the real estate market tanked. He came back with an arty version with arresting black-and-white photos in 1994; that one ran out of money and was shut down after only a year of publication.
Regardie's Power, like its predecessors, is a reflection of its founder.
The first issue's cover story wraps together three fascinations: sex, greed and the Internet. It details the life of a Louisiana cybersquatter who owns the domain name www.americaonline.com and is holding out for the company of the same name to buy it and make him rich. The squatter holding the domain name hostage also happens to run a traveling show of bikini-clad women who wrestle in oil, and the story features no fewer than seven photographs of them in action.
Regardie defended the story's treatment, given its putative subject. "AOL is the hottest company in this town ever," he said. "I always put on my cover the strongest story possible."
The Regardies are close to the vest about how they are financing the venture, saying only that the magazine's launch will cost several million dollars.
"We have enough backing to run five years," Renay Regardie said.
Regardie's primary source of wealth comes from his sale last year of the Washington Metropolitan New Homes Guide to a subsidiary of The Washington Post Co. for an undisclosed sum. Renay Regardie also sold her market-research firm, Housing Data Reports, to a California research firm in 1998.
"We made enough that we'd never have to work again, and then some," Bill Regardie said.
Regardie won't be relying on that wealth alone. This version of the magazine is funded 20 percent by his family and 80 percent by outside investors, he said.
Power is targeted at the highest level people at a company, given out for free to 40,000 "decision-makers" and also sold on newsstands.
"I don't know middle management, and they don't read the magazine anyway," Regardie said.
Besides the Regardies, the two top people at the magazine are Kenny Day, director of sales, who came from the business side of Roll Call, and Editor Eric Felten, late of the Washington Times. The magazine has six full-time employees.
Regardie will focus on marketing. "I'm not a good editor, and I'm not a particularly good writer," he admits.
He's betting he can market to the people who hang out at Sam & Harry's, the techie haunt in Tysons Corner--and where he held the magazine's launch party last week--just as he did to the regulars at the Palm and Duke Zeibert's.
Regardie says he doesn't see a whole lot of difference, really, in tech business compared with real estate.
"What Renay and I believe is that the techie entrepreneur has as much of an ego as any real estate developer," he said.
But will area techies embrace Regardie's by advertising?
"If the tech community gets to know us and likes the stories we're writing, then they'll begin to use the magazine as a vehicle to advertise to their peers," said Renay Regardie.
There's more competition, though, this time around. Another new magazine, Washington Business Forward, was launched in the spring to cover local business. The Washington Post now publishes a magazine called TechCapital, which focuses on technology business on the East Coast; American City Business Journals, which owns the Washington Business Journal, is expected to come out soon with a new publication focused on Washington technology.
Bill Regardie said he is keenly aware of how a downturn in the economy can affect a magazine like his, and says he has the cash to weather it. It was a recession, after all, along with a skimpy paid subscriber base, that felled the first Regardie's.
"His voice is a voice for a time of exuberance," said Doug Poretz, president of the McLean investor-relations firm Poretz Group and a member of Regardie's advisory board.
"There's no desire for that type of voice when you go bust," Poretz said. "The real issue is 'How long will this period last for technology?' "
The Incarnations of Regardie's
1973: Bill and Renay Regardie launch Housing Data Reports.
1975: The Regardies launch Washington Metropolitan New Homes Guide, a free consumer guide.
1980: Bill Regardie launches his glossy business magazine for the first time.
1992: He folds the magazine after losing half a million dollars.
1994: Regardie revives the magazine with a more elegant look.
1995: He folds the magazine, citing an inability to attract luxury advertisers.
Fall 1997: Bill Regardie begins hosting a business talk show on WRC-AM (980), which is canceled in early 1998.
1998: Bill and Renay Regardie sell Housing Data Reports to a California market-research company, and Washington Metropolitan New Homes Guide to The Washington Post.
Last week: Bill Regardie launches a business magazine for the third time.