Hyped hacker-investor claims to flee Germany
By Rick Perera
(IDG) -- One of the flashier figures of Germany's New Economy is disappearing in a puff of smoke. Kim Schmitz, who touted his reputation as a hacker and then sought to fashion himself as a Net entrepreneur, says he is leaving the country, claiming victimization by organized criminals and the government.
Schmitz published a "farewell letter" packed with self-praise, using terms from some of the media hype he has enjoyed, thanks in large part to his own relentless self-promotion. He could not be reached personally for comment.
"A German high-tech fairy tale has ended. The 500-million-mark ($255 million) man has left Germany, because the star among young German investors has had his fill of Germany. Because a super-brain and Internet tycoon has been made out in Germany as a braggart, trickster, and fraud, and people want to destroy his plans and visions," he wrote in a posting on his Web site, http://www.kimble.org. Formerly the site had carried pictures of Schmitz with expensive cars and private aircraft or frolicking on the beach with bikini-clad beauties.
Schmitz said officials and tax authorities were throwing roadblocks before his investment plans, and that police had failed to act on death threats, simply suggesting that he "go underground." So, he said, he will. "Bye bye, Germany."
Not that he'll be missed. Market watchers said his self-proclaimed investment activities don't amount to much.
"All that I've heard is that he's a total windbag," said analyst Michael Schafer, who follows the German high-tech venture capital market for UBS Warburg LLC.
Does Schmitz have any holdings of note? "Not that I know of," said Schafer.
One company in which Schmitz is a confirmed investor, group-buying Web site operator Letsbuyit.com NV, was not concerned about his alleged disappearance.
"His life is his life and whatever he does, he's responsible for," said spokeswoman Linda Qvarnstrom. "As far as I know, this will not affect his investment. That money is already invested, and if he wants to sell that's his decision."
Schmitz helped save Letsbuyit from collapse with a letter of intent to invest "up to 50 million euros" ($45 million) early last year. Qvarnstrom could not immediately say how much money he in fact put up.
Others who knew Schmitz from the hacker scene said even there he was never what he claimed, and that his alleged millions are in fact massive debt.
"In my opinion, he's a notorious liar," said Jens Ohlig, spokesman for the hackers' group Chaos Computer Club. "He was once a small light in the hacker scene ... later he told all kinds of lies about hacking credit card servers, the German chancellor's office, which isn't possible, and that he hacked (Citigroup Inc. subsidiary) Citibank to give millions to (environmental group) Greenpeace, which Greenpeace itself denied. This person told all kinds of stories."
Ohlig said he suspected Schmitz's self-proclaimed disappearance could be yet another stunt.
"This person seems to be addicted to publicity," he said.
Letsbuyit.com, in Amsterdam, can be reached at http://www.letsbuyit.com/.
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