Lamar and Theresa Keener know what it's like to go public. As Christian newspaper publishers for more than 15 years, they've written about public issues for a public readership. And the best way to go truly national with their paper, they believed, was to accept a bid by a publicly traded company.

And ever since, their lives have been shaped by public frustration.

In 2000, the Keeners' Christian Times was already the largest Christian newspaper in the country, but their combined 175,000 monthly circulation in eight regional areas was still limited to California.

"It was pretty much a Mom and Pop shop out of the house, with a couple of employees," Lamar Keener recalls.

Then the dot-com bust came knocking. In March 2000, iExalt Inc., a lesser-known Christian company, was one of several Internet-related, small-time stock success stories. The Houston Business Chroniclecalled it "hotter than a burning bush," reporting that "even within the sizzling Internet group, iExalt stands out for its sudden conversion from sleepy bulletin-board stock to an enormously volatile issue active on the radar screens of momentum investors."

That momentum quickly turned, and iExalt's trading high of $18 a share plummeted to below $1 during the April 2000 "market correction" that heralded the end of the dot-com millionaire era. Executives at iExalt, which touted itself as "the Christian's Gateway to the Web," turned to more traditional businesses to reinvigorate the company. They began approaching a series of existing companies, such as the Capital Artist Agency, Alive Communications Speakers Bureau, Life Perspectives and Dawson McAllister Live radio programs, and Rapha Christian Counseling. And the Internet company saw old-fashioned print newspapers ...

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