The Publicly Traded Man

Here’s a really crazy story from Wired about a 30-something-year-old man named Mike Merrill who in 2008 decided to divide himself into 100,000 shares of stock and sell himself on the open market. Investors in Merrill—everyone from his girlfriend, friends, family members, and complete strangers—were given voting rights and a say in how he should live his life. As you can imagine, things got messy and complicated, like when Merrill decided to move in with his girlfriend:

Steve Schroeder, one of Merrill’s oldest friends, was upset that he hadn’t been consulted about the move-in. He may not have put much money in—just $139 for 66 shares—but that still gave him 4.8 percent of the voting stock. McCormick [Merill’s girlfriend] had only 19 shares, so technically Schroeder’s opinion should have carried approximately three times as much weight. If Merrill was now going to spend more time at home with his girlfriend, he would have less time to pursue activities that were priorities to shareholders with larger stakes.

Merrill hadn’t intended to give shareholders control over his private life, but he realized that Schroeder had a point. “I figured they’d make good decisions for me, since they had money on the line and wanted to see their investment appreciate,” Merrill says.

McCormick didn’t see it that way. Merrill started spending more time with Schroeder and his other shareholder friends, who jointly controlled a large block of stock. To McCormick, it seemed like a corporate takeover of her boyfriend and gave new resonance to the famous book about corporate buyouts, Barbarians at the Gate. “There were a ­couple of friends I did have some issues with, and they had a big say in how Mike spent his time,” McCormick says. But when she tried to talk to Merrill about it, he would offer what he said was a ­simple solution: “Buy more shares.” McCormick seethed.

And seethe she should! You can deduce what happened to their relationship.

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