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'Net consultant apologizes for e-mail blizzard


July 18, 2001

NEW YORK — Razorfish Inc. should have known there could be days like this -- but they weren't supposed to happen to the Internet consulting firm itself.

Razorfish, which advises companies on how to harness technology, scrambled to apologize Tuesday after unleashing a blizzard of unwanted e-mail on scores of clients, including some using language that was far from businesslike.

The problems apparently began Monday, soon after the New York-based company sent out the first edition of an electronic newsletter to clients on its e-mail list. Many of those people evidently didn't want the newsletter, and responded by following instructions included with the message on how to "unsubscribe."

But instead of merely relaying their wishes just to Razorfish, the responses went to everybody on the e-mail list. As the e-mail piled up, people sent additional e-mail to complain -- and those also went to everybody on the list.

"Why would anyone want to do business with you guys when you can't even get a simple newsletter/mail distribution correct?" said one message from a U.S. Navy-based e-mail address, intended for Razorfish but apparently bounced to scores of clients.

Some other messages circulated used foul language, as did one cryptic response that appeared to come from within Razorfish itself.

The company sought to defuse the mess Tuesday in an e-mailed apology from chief executive officer Jean-Philippe Maheu.

"We sincerely regret this error and the inconvenience it has caused," Maheu said in the e-mail. "Unfortunately we cannot retract the message, but we will refrain from future e-mails of this type to prevent any possibility of this happening in the future."

Company officials did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The mixup is just the latest setback facing Razorfish, one of the many Internet consultants struggling as companies have cut back on Internet-related spending.

The problems led Razorfish founders Jeff Dachis and Craig Kanarick to give up their posts as chief executive and chief strategy officer in May and cede day-to-day control to Maheu.

The company simultaneously announced a net loss of $24.9 million in its first quarter. To make do, the company has been cutting jobs and trimming operations. Earlier this month, its subsidiary in Finland filed for bankruptcy protection and the company closed its Helsinki office.

Razorfish's stock has suffered as a result. The shares, which sold for more than $23 a year ago, were trading Tuesday at 52 cents, down 6 cents, on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

By Adam Geller, The Associated Press, Copyright © 2001, The Associated Press


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