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Rupert Pearce

Vice president, operations, Atlas Ventures

By Richard Tyler

It was not just private investors who swallowed the over-optimistic e-commerce sales pitch. Professional advisers were also caught up by the euphoria. Highly respected bankers, accountants, financial PRs and even risk-averse lawyers came out from behind the safety of their desks to join in. When it came, the market correction left many stranded.

One such high-profile figure was an English lawyer, Rupert Pearce, who played an important role in fomenting the rush to list internet stocks, and appeared himself to have been Flattened by the backlash against the net.

For five months from April 1999, Pearce led the legal team that rewrote the London Stock Exchange’s rulebook to allow the first UK internet IPO – Freeserve. In doing so he created the framework that would allow a rash of internet-related companies to join the market over the next 12 months.

But in March 2000, he resigned from Linklaters to become chief operating officer of Swedish internet incubator Cognition Ventures, owned by a Norwegian, Christen Ager-Hanssen. At the time, Cognition was planning a London flotation in June and hoped to raise Skr5 billion ($500 million).

Then in mid-March, the market for companies like Cognition collapsed.

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