Normally, two wrongs don't make a right. But they do for Mark R. Goldston. In 2001, the 48-year-old eternal optimist merged NetZero and Juno -- two providers of free Internet service that never earned a penny between them -- and promised a skeptical Wall Street he'd make the marriage profitable. Well, he has done just that. In the fiscal year ended June, 2003, United Online (UNTD ) racked up a $27.8 million profit as sales jumped 66%, to $277.3 million.
Goldston has proved that it's possible to create a successful Net service for the masses that's both dependable and supercheap. United's $9.95 monthly charge, less than half America Online (AOL )'s rate, not only is drawing customers away from the big brands but it's also attracting first-time Net surfers who couldn't afford a premium price. Goldston is well on his way to creating the Southwest Airlines (LUV ) of the World Wide Web.