Baltimore Business Journal sends techie twins to time out over prank

Mike Brenner -- or was it his twin, Dan? -- poses for The Sun in April.
(Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Oh those mischievous Brenner Brothers!

Mike Brenner, the founder of Betamore, a technology incubator and campus in Federal Hill, was named one of the Baltimore Business Journal's "40 under 40."


But when it came time for the photo, Mike Brenner's identical twin, Dan Brenner, himself a local tech leader, posed instead.

"It was a thoughtful prank," said Mike Brenner in a phone interview (although, frankly, it could have been Dan Brenner on the phone for all we know).


The 29-year-old said he felt a bit sheepish about all the accolades he has won for Betamore, which launched earlier this year.  And he wanted to share some of the credit with his younger-by-two-minutes brother, who helped get Betamore started.

When the BBJ came out with the issue last week, Mike Brenner fessed up on Facebook: "It's been a minute since we've done a proper prank. All in good fun people, all in good fun. #40Under40 #Punkd — with Dan Brenner."

But BBJ editor Joanna Sullivan didn't think the stunt was very funny.  She called it "an outrage."

"I'm just a stick-in-the-mud newspaper editor who still worries about our readers getting the correct information. The BBJ's credibility is everything. When we make a mistake, we correct it. And in this case, a mere correction wasn't enough," Sullivan wrote in a post on the site.

Sullivan also told Mike Brenner that he wasn't welcome to attend the party for winners -- although his brother was welcome.  She noted that Mike Brenner apologized for the switcheroo.
"I too am sorry for the many worthy nominees for 40 Under 40 who, if chosen, wouldn’t have seen it as a chance to play a prank," she wrote.
But here's where it starts to get really interesting.  As of Wednesday evening, 143 comments had been made on Sullivan's post.  It seems BBJ readers, friends of the Brenners, and others have very strong opinions on the prank and the punishment.  The vast majority were supportive of the twins.
"I have known of the Brenner boys for quite some time, they are both very intelligent, successful men from the eastern shore. How DARE you be ashamed to have some one like Mike attend your snooty event?" wrote one commenter.
But others said they agreed with Sullivan's actions.
"No, this is not the worst thing to happen to the BBJ, but it plants a seed of doubt as to the integrity of Mr. Brenner and Betamore. I would think twice before doing business with them," one commenter wrote.  
Some speculated that Sullivan would get the last laugh.  By inviting Mike Brenner's twin, wasn't she, in effect, inviting him?  She sure got some healthy web traffic from the kerfuffle. 
In an email, Sullivan remarked on how much attention the incident had gotten. 
"It's been interesting to see how the story has caught fire on social media," she wrote.  "I definitely have a few haters. My favorite tweet was "if only @BaltBizEditor could realize our generation lives for fun energy to turn this city around."

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