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> New AP story about Wikipedia's money woes
post Thu 20th March 2008, 6:39pm
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"Another subject getting carefully parsed is the foundation's relationship with Elevation Partners, the venture firm co-founded by Roger McNamee and U2's Bono. Elevation owns stakes in Forbes magazine and Palm Inc. (PALM), among other companies.

McNamee has donated at least $300,000 to the Foundation, according to Danny Wool, a former Wikimedia employee who processed the transactions. More recently, the foundation said, McNamee introduced the group to people who made separate $500,000 gifts. Their identities have not been disclosed.

Officially, Gardner and McNamee say he is a merely a fan of Wikimedia's free-information project, separate from Elevation's profit-making interests. "He has been clear - when he talks to me, he's talking as a private individual," Gardner said.

Yet the relationship runs deeper than that would suggest.

Another Elevation partner, Marc Bodnick, has met with Wales multiple times and went to a 2007 Wikimedia board meeting in the Netherlands. (Wales described that as a "get to know you session" and said Elevation, among many other venture firms, quickly learned that the foundation was not interested in changing its core, nonprofit mission.)

Bodnick and Bono had also been with Wales in 2006 in Mexico City, where U2 was touring. On a hotel rooftop, Bono suggested that Wikipedia use its volunteer-written articles as a starting point, then augment that with professionals who would polish and publish the content, according to two people who were present. Bono compared it to Bob Dylan going electric - a jarring move that people came to love.

McNamee and Bodnick declined to comment.

Although Wales says no business with Elevation is planned, that hasn't quelled that element ever-present in Wikipedia: questions.

In a recent interview, Devouard, the board chair, said she believed Elevation was interested in being more than just friends, though she wasn't sure just what the firm hoped to get out of the nonprofit project.

"It is easy to see which interest WE have in getting their interest," she wrote to Wales that day on an internal board mailing list, in an exchange obtained by The Associated Press. "The contrary is not obvious at all: Can you explain to me why EP (Elevation Partners) are interested in us?""
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