Whittling Down

An ambitious media mogul sheds projects as he struggles to keep his education-reform project alive

To his admirers, media tycoon Christopher Whittle, 46, is a visionary marketing genius whose ideas for privatizing public schools could revolutionize education in the U.S. To his detractors, Chris Whittle is an all-hat, no-cattle huckster with more talent for raising funds than making money and one Big, Bad Idea: imposing ads upon captive audiences in classrooms and doctors' offices.

Yet even some of Whittle's fans have begun to worry that their beau ideal -- who has said "few people really know me" -- may be closer to the fast- talking Barnum portrayed by critics. Last week Whittle Communications L.P. announced the...

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