Normally I don’t like to talk about fringe historians’ outside business dealings since it isn’t really relevant to the allegations they make about history. Sometimes, though, it becomes impossible not to take notice of what they do outside their work in zaniness. Jason Martell, for example, spent many years trying to pander to Christian conservatives as a tech mogul while simultaneously ridiculing their faith with his ancient astronaut theories. Erich von Däniken’s repeated efforts to enter the entertainment industry with a theme park and mall-based branded entertainment locations were hilarious both as failed businesses and for their connections to his ancient astronaut theories.
Today we look at the latest business venture from J. Hutton Pulitzer, which is not directly relevant to fringe history but completely baffled me to the point that I can’t help but think that it must speak to something about Pulitzer that pulls others into his eccentric orbit. It also led me down a Kafkaesque rabbit hole when I tried to get an answer to a simple question: What does Pulitzer’s latest company do? It turns out that he doesn’t want you to know—or at least that’s the impression I got when I tried to get the company to answer two simple questions: “What do you do?” and “When are you launching?”
And it all started with Pulitzer’s latest cri de coeur.
Yesterday Pulitzer published a lengthy article on LinkedIn, and my first thought was: LinkedIn? Yes, he still doesn’t have a centralized location for his output, and he shoots it promiscuously across the internet in the hopes that some hits its target. In his new posting, Pulitzer brags about his humility, recounting his various business ventures and how their failure was due to him being too prescient and too ambitious. This exercise in Trumpian humility came from the dual crises that befell him this month, in which he lost his (unnamed) business mentor and discovered that both this mentor and another unnamed person with whom he was doing business had lied to him about their backgrounds:
In trying to make sense of this loss and trying to understand the life and times of this individual, I searched for answers only to be served another round of devastating blows finding out a person I cherished my time with had a sordid checkered past. The dubious past I discovered devastated me further. How could I have not known this information?
He went on to explain that he was perplexed and confused that someone could lie to him for forty years: “My own personal views amplified greatness and enabled me to miss the things which were out of place. This was a humbling lesson.” Pulitzer says that he now recognizes that he comes across as “a braggart, a mega ego, a know-it-all and worse at times.” He says this is a defense mechanism, and then without irony he moves into a series of brags about his youthful business prowess and how he would even wealthier today if only he had taken stock options instead of a consulting fee and royalties on an early deal. “My monthly consulting fee of $3500 made me rich for a 23 year old and it was not until years later I took a long hard look at what I really gave up and it hammered my being. How could I have done that?” Oh, the humanity!
This is the same lesson in humility Pulitzer claimed to have learned in a 2012 interview. Clearly it didn’t stick then and probably won’t now.
Don’t feel too bad for him, though. Pulitzer’s holding company, J. Hutton Pulitzer and Company, reports annual revenue of $2,400,000 and has 12 full time employees, according to the Zoom.com database entry updated on June 13.
I, of course, have no desire to deny Pulitzer his grief, or to question his way of mourning. I only wish to point out that Pulitzer’s failure to discover the truth about those close to him closely mirrors his own self-righteous defense of his preferred lies about ancient history. He purposely chooses to see what he wants to see, to be taken in by superficial charm and a good story, and to value emotion over evidence.
But I noticed that in his LinkedIn post Pulitzer describes himself as the founder of something called “FEVR Tech,” which was the first I had heard of it. Naturally, I was curious, and this made me wonder how Pulitzer—a man who is by his own account unpleasant and by his published and broadcast statements somewhere between inadvertently racist and a Confederate rervaunchist—keeps convincing higher profile people to join him in partnerships. (Cough, Scott Wolter, cough.) I had no idea that trying to find out what FEVR Tech is would become a horrible nightmare of confusion and anger.
FEVR Tech is a secretive new company cofounded by Pulitzer and the founder of ESPN, Bill Ramussen, in Wyoming last August. According to a press release the pair put out in January, the company provides the technology for sports stadiums communicate with people attending events at the stadium. However, the company did not actually describe what their product is or how it would be used.
“It’s really whatever the team wants to do with it,” Rasmussen said in the press release. “FEVR Tech engagement creates multiple revenue streams where there have never been opportunities to monetize before, and will make fans appreciate more than ever that live events are the best events. It magnifies the excitement of the live event experience many times over.”
He declined to say exactly what it is, but an April press release linked it in a vague way to “massive video screens” like the Colossus that Rasmussen and Pulitzer unveiled in Bristol, Tenn. in April to absolutely no media coverage at all other than their own press release. (A Lexis-Nexis search last night returned no newspaper, magazine, or broadcast coverage of FEVR.) According to Pulitzer himself in the press release, Rasmussen brought him into the company because Pulitzer owned patents Rasmussen wanted to use. I suppose it’s worth noting that Pulitzer also says that he is the founder of Flip.Ventures, a “patent packager” that offers companies partnership rather than lawsuits to speed up monetizing patents. (He says this is different than patent trolling.) Pulitzer launched Flip.Ventures in 2013, and it quickly joined the pile of half-finished Pulitzer ventures.
There is, incidentally, a direct connection to fringe history: Pulitzer uses his social media accounts to direct his fringe history audience to his new venture, though his attempted viral hashtags return virtually no content since they launched in March. (Pulitzer has blocked me from viewing his social media accounts, which is just silly since they are publicly visible.)
I was curious as to what exactly FEVR does, so I asked the company’s PR flak, which turned out to be a mistake. Unbeknownst to me, according to a 2012 interview with Pulitzer, she is actually a longtime Pulitzer confidante from his CueCat days. She informed me that company employees are not allowed to describe the FEVR system or explain what it does or how customers will use it because they have all signed non-disclosure agreements. Yes, the company can’t explain what the company is promoting because Pulitzer’s NDA prevents employees from discussing their own product until an unspecified future “roll out” date! Oh, and the date is secret, too. My simple question led to veiled insinuations that should I attempt to discuss the technology at all they would consider it libelous. Having been on the receiving end of Pulitzer’s lawsuit threats in the past, this did not surprise me.
According to their trademark application for the “FEVR” name, the company’s business is “managing interactive live engagement systems for others.” You are welcome to visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to review Pulitzer’s patents yourself and imagine the technology how you will.
Rasmussen shelled out cash so FEVR’s currently pointless name would be splashed across “MDM car 40 driven by Kyle Benjamin in the NASCAR K&N East Series and car 28 in the ARCA Series,” according to Rasmussen’s website. Why? I guess to promote a product they won’t tell NASCAR viewers about. And be sure to check out the logo he and Pulitzer are using. It uses the typeface of ESPN, now the property of ESPN, Inc., owned by the Walt Disney Company, to imply a connection to ESPN that so far as I can determine does not exist. It also uses heavy drop shadow and an odd gradient, like it was designed in 2005. The company trademarked the name and logo in April.
I’ll get sued if I reproduce Pulitzer’s intellectual “property,” so let’s say that if I were to try to use the same color and font, it might be a:
As with almost all Pulitzer products, FEVR has failed to develop a complete and informative online presentation for its audience. Pulitzer promised that FEVR would dominate sports viewing in 2016, but at the halfway point of the year, the product dropped off the media’s radar. The company has not put out a press release since April. Its website, a mostly blank Wordpress template, is unfinished, just like Pulitzer’s XpLrR.org website, another unfinished mess. This is apparently because Pulitzer recently switched the company to a new URL, FEVR.team, last month, and it, too, redirects to a Wordpress site run by Pulitzer himself and is unfinished. The switch had the silly result that the PR agent’s email address given in its press release from April no longer works.
The company’s home page icon on its current website, which does not match the ESPN-emulating logo on its press releases, is a slight variation on a common off-the-shelf clipart pattern, trimmed into a circle.
I have to admit to being curious why Rasmussen would team up with Pulitzer, and whether Rasmussen was aware of Pulitzer’s controversial other life as a treasure hunter and advocate of alternative history claims, including his borderline racist podcast statements (such as his claim that ancient Egypt was ruled by red-haired Europeans, and his insistence that white people stand up for “your” pre-Columbian American history). I asked Rasmussen’s representative for comment, and as of this writing his office not responded to my request for comment.
There are many questions I have about the FEVR technology, but it looks like I am not going to be getting any answers. The larger question is this: How does Pulitzer manage to pull in revenue and land high profile partners while churning out unprofessional, incomplete, and ineffective websites, books, audio-visual media, etc.?
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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