Sunday, May 18, 2008

Good (financial) Shtick

Ok, so I know not everyone follows business news all that closely. I don't blame you. It's pretty boring, most of the time. But the Microsoft-Yahoo soap opera has been entertaining on many levels. And something happened recently that is such good shtick (and sort of related to sports) that I felt I should bring it to people's attention.

Quick recap: Yahoo sucks. Google has been destroying them for years according to every conceivable metric - market share, financials, growth rate, etc. Yahoo's stock price (a very important thing for a public company) has been in the toilet. From around $50/share two years ago, the price sank below $20/share.

A few months ago, in steps Microsoft, who - losing money in their own online operations (internet gambling?) - decides they want to acquire Yahoo to help them take on Google. Microsoft offers $31/share, a 70% premium to the stock price prior to the offer. Yahoo shareholders, in other words, have hit the jackpot. Someone is willing to buy their piece-of-shit-($19)shares immediately for a price ($31) they have no chance of seeing for the next 5 years.

Yahoo management stonewalls the deal. They start looking around, trying to merge with AOL, trying to reach a deal with Google (!), trying to get Rupert Murdoch interested - anything but sell to Microsoft. They basically say the $31 offer is an insult, it grossly undervalues the company. Over the course of some bizarre and contentious negotiations, Microsoft ups its offer to $33, and Yahoo says it won't settle for less than $37/share. (each extra $1/share, by the way, costs Microsoft $3 billion). Microsoft's like "fuck it, we don't need this shit," and walks away.

Celebrations ensue in the Yahoo boardroom. The NYT reports that Yahoo directors and executives are, literally, high-fiving each other. Yahoo founder and CEO is quoted saying he's happy the "distraction" is behind them. The good cheer lasts for about three hours, until very, very important shareholders (mega- hedge fund moguls) start talking about how they're extremely disappointed in Yahoo management for botching the deal. There is talk of a shareholder rebellion (there really are such things, only they're democratically decided shareholder initiatives; pitchforks, regrettably, are not generally involved). Everyone expects Yahoo stock to tank on Monday to low 20s.

Only the stock doesn't tank. Well, it does for about a minute, then it just keeps going back up. Why? Well, because a rich dude named Carl Icahn has decided to buy 59 million shares of Yahoo stock (that's about $1.5 billion worth, for those scoring at home). Icahn realizes that the Microsoft offer was a sweet deal, and he figures he can threaten to or actually kick out Yahoo's board, restart negotiations with Microsoft, and make an easy 20% + on his money, likely within a year. This, in itself, is pretty good shtick. If we can somehow piece together $1.4 billion and make 20% on it, that would be very worthwhile according to my calculations.

But it gets better. As part of his initiative, Icahn compiles a list of 10 executives whom he proposes to replace Yahoo's existing board of directors. Prominently featured on this list - one Mark Cuban. That Mark Cuban? Well, yes, that Mark Cuban, the one who owns the Dallas Mavericks. The one who made his fortune...wait, how exactly did Mark Cuban make his fortune? Does anyone recall? I seem to remember it had something to do with the internet, broadcasting games on the internet? Oh, let's just go to the Wikipedia-tape:

"By 1999, had grown to 330 employees and annual revenues near $100 million.[17] In 1999, during the Dot-com boom, was acquired by Yahoo! for $5.9 billion in Yahoo! stock."

Wait, there's a history between Cuban and Yahoo? They've done business together before, that's great!? Nothing more satisfying than two successful business partners reuniting years after their initial glory. But, for the record, just how successful was that investment in for Yahoo?

"Over the next few years Yahoo! split the services previously offered by into separate services, Yahoo! Launchcast for music and Yahoo! Platinum for video entertainment. Yahoo! Platinum has since been discontinued, its functionality being offered as part of two pay services, AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet and Yahoo! Plus. As of 2007, neither nor are distinct web addresses; both simply redirect to"

Wait, so Cuban basically sold Yahoo a pile of shit for $5.9 billion? Essentially, yes. And now, Icahn is bringing in Cuban to the Yahoo board to make sure shareholders get fair value? This is madness. It is the fox guarding the henhouse. It is kategor become sanegor. It is an invitation to the O' Malleys to come back to NY and arrange for a midnight sale of the Mets to Dunder Mifflin. Yes, my friends, it is all these things. Or, quite simply, it's just "good (financial) shtick."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Latest Stunt Double

Some of my recent stunt doubles have not garnered the approbation I felt sure they deserved. But I really think this one is undeniable: has-been actor Grant Show (i.e. Jake from Melrose Place) and the somewhat popular Viggo Mortensen (LOTR and History of Violence):

Is any further explanation or comment necessary?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

And some more Lieberman material..

Barry Casselman writing for

He is now de facto the most powerful member of the Senate. That's because he will keep his promise to organize with the Democrats. But they will have to be very good to him. Whatever chairmanship he wants. Whatever he wants for Connecticut. If that does not happen, he can easily take a few steps in the Senate chamber and give control to the Republicans. No one will be able to complain. He would have kept his promise to vote for the Democrats, but it was his other promise that the voters of his state care most about, i.e., his promise to deliver for Connecticut. The senate Republicans would be glad to give him a chairmanship and whatever he wants for Connecticut. President Bush would be delighted to cooperate.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Krauthammer (no relation) agrees with my take on Lieberman in today's Washington Post:

To muddy even more the supposed ideological significance of this election, consider who is the biggest winner of the night: Joe Lieberman. Just a few months ago, he was scorned by his party and left for dead. Now he returns to the Senate as the Democrats' 51st seat -- and holder of the balance of power. From casualty to kingmaker in three months. Not bad. His Democratic olleagues who abandoned him this summer will now treat him very well.

Lieberman won with a platform that did not trim or hedge about seeking victory in Iraq. And he did it despite having a Republican in the race who siphoned off 10 percent of the
pro-war vote. All this in Connecticut, a very blue state.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Eyes on Lieberman, Kingmaker

Well, looks like I probably blew my modest political prediction that Republicans would retain control of the Senate. So what better time to make another?

Assuming the Democrats do hold on to an ostensible 51-49 Senate advantage, it is just a matter of time before Republicans come a-knocking to the door of re-elected incumbent Joe Lieberman. Lieberman, it bears recalling, was spurned by his own Democratic party in favor of shrill, faux-leftist zillionaire Ned Lamont - whom Lieberman soundly thumped running as an independent.

Lieberman has given every indication that he intends to be counted as a Democrat in the Senate balance, but as soon as the Republicans recover from their election-night shock, they'll wake up to the fact that Lieberman represents their best shot, however slim, at eking out control of the Senate.

Lieberman, in other words, has - in electoral terms - hit the jackpot. Republicans, soon to be followed by Democrats, will be falling all over themselves offering him whichever committee chairmanship strikes his fancy. Not bad for the man the Netroots thought they had defeated in early August.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


My prediction: GOP maintains control of Senate. I have no idea about the House; everyone thinks it goes Democratic, so I guess it probably will. Too many races for me to follow to make a real prediction.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More grade-school grammar

Matching singular subjects with singular verbs and plural subjects with plural verbs need not be a difficult task. But there are a couple of situations that seem to give people - including NYT reporters - trouble:

(1) Certain collective but singular subjects (this is my terminology) are often wrongly treated as plural. An example of this phenomenon would be the following: "Everyone must check their [should be "his" rather than "their"] bags at the door."

(2) When a singular subject is followed by a prepositional phrase with a plural object, the object is often incorrectly treated as the subject of the sentence: "Each of the students are [should be "is" rather than "are"]going to the game."

Now, in this NYT article, the reporters face a double-whammy that they (quite understandably) were unable to navigate - both of the aforementioned complications in the very same sentence:

To date, none of the Republicans who have spoken out have [should be "has" rather than "have," since "none" is a singular subject] called for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and some had expressed previous reservations about the war or opposed it initially.

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