Although the future looked bleak, the Hugheses couldn't have imagined how soon FSPI's outlook would change. Entrepreneurial to the core, Hughes had taken an ingenious step six months earlier that was about to rescue FSPI's bottom line.
Retracing the earlier events that would eventually fuel FSPI's comeback, Hughes says, "After attending conferences on interactive television, one day I realized there wasn't an industrywide magazine for the phenomenon of interactive television. So I came up with a [magazine] name I thought would be perfect." Hughes immediately invested $1,500 in securing a trademark on the name "Interactive Age."
The result of that foresight couldn't have been scripted better by the Hugheses themselves. With FSPI's cash flow and the Hughes' spirits waning, "out of the blue, the phone rings, and it's an attorney saying his firm represents a major magazine publisher who's interested in purchasing all of the rights to my [magazine name] trademark," says Hughes. Not one to cave in to excitement, Hughes was cautious. "My instincts told me `Don't negotiate over the phone. Ask them to fax an offer,' " remembers Hughes.
The fax arrived within minutes. Hughes knew he had nothing to lose, so he countered the attorney's faxed offer of $5,000 with an offer of $120,000. "As it turned out, the publisher had its magazine literally on the presses when the lawyers discovered I owned the trademark," says Hughes.
Aware that the publisher was between a rock and a hard place, Hughes was prepared to go for broke. When a second offer was made, this time for $25,000, Hughes kept his eyes planted firmly on his company's long-term needs--and declined.
The Hugheses reeled with anticipation and waited. At the end of the week, Hughes recounts, "The attorney called and said, `I'll fax you one final offer on Monday with a contract that needs to be signed and faxed back immediately, and we'll send you a certified check.' "
Pacing all weekend, the Hugheses agreed they'd take whatever the publisher offered. "We figured their [final offer] would be around $40,000 to $50,000," Hughes recalls. "Lo and behold, it was $120,000. I called Cheryl and told her, and then I think I danced around the room a little bit. It was total elation."