Steven R. Samson had his work cut out for him when he quit Chase Manhattan Corp. last July to run a mutual fund company that had become the latest overnight sensation.

Even as Kinetics Asset Management was enjoying the extraordinary success and growth of its Internet Fund, it was reeling from a double whammy. Kinetics had just scrapped a plan to sell itself to the New York investment firm of Lepercq, de Neuflize & Co. Within weeks its star portfolio manager, Ryan Jacob, had bolted to launch his own fund.

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