Opening Bell: 4.18.06

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Ex-Disney CEO Eisner invests in online TV (AP)
Apparently hosting a talk show isn't enough to hold Michael Eisner's interest these days. Now he's gonna take his poor track record at Disney, and try to prove himself in the world of venture capital. His first investment is in video sharing site VEOH, which emphasizes broadcast-quality content. Now why did it take him to leave Disney before he decided that online content would be pretty big? Did he have this revelation at some point in the last few months? Seriously, why wasn't he making investments into companies like that when he was at Disney, possibly improving his reputation and results?
Evidence Of Bubbly Sentiment (The Big Picture)
Barry Ritholtz chalks up the anecdotal evidence that froth is starting to rise in the cup. There's been a spate of financial IPOs (not just the stock markets, but second tier brokerages), while 90's TV fixture Joe Battapaglia is back on TV. Hadn't actually caught him, ourselves, yet, but this is the scariest news of them all. This man truly believed (still?) that bullishness was a religion. To him it probably was -- be wary.
Bear Stearns' Big Strategy (Forbes)
The news emerged yesterday that Bear Stearns may be close to receiving a major investment from a Chinese bank. Is this a small drop in the big wave of Chinese takeovers, which are bound to happen right around the corner? Aah, but what if Bear uses the money to make investments in the Chinese market? Then, we've basically kept the capital in China, with the company benefiting from its expertise and economies of scale. Either way, it highlights even more the meaninglessness of borders and national ownership when it comes to commerce these days.
Exxon’s CEO didn’t really get a $398 million retirement package (Truth On The Market)
You may have heard that at a time when the rest of us are paying record prices at the gas pump, Exxon CEO Lee Raymond is walking away with a $398 million retirement package. Well, it's not true. The actual number is closer to $99 million, with the remaining $300 million coming from options and other payments to which he was already entitled. So have some sympathy for the guy, he's gotta drive too.


Oil Prices Reach New High Amid Supply-Disruption Fears (WSJ)
The oil market has become an entirely politically driven market. It's not about peak oil, Chinese consumption, US consumption, or even loosening by the Federal Reserve. Every day, it seems, that Iran (and to some extent Nigeria) continue to exist in the world is an excuse for the market to drive prices higher. And every day that the price is driven higher, is another day of support for the alternative energy makers, which pose a grave threat to the OPEC powers. Of course, if war is your fear, imagine what will happen when these countries lose their energy monopoly. It won't be a smooth transition, like Boston moving from disk drives to biotech over the course of a decade. It might be really ugly.
The Coming Oil Crisis (Robert Kiyosaki)
Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief now; Robert Kiyosaki is talking about a coming oil crisis. This can only mean that crisis is nowhere on the horizon and prosperity will still be ours. We wouldn't normally mention the inane ramblings of a personal finance guru, but it's nice to reference a useful idiot every once in a while. And while, ideally, most of our readers are more sophisticated, a lot of people are drawn in by Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad ramblings.
Uncle Sam's hand in high gas prices? (CNN Money)
Maybe the pundits are misreading market signals, and all this Iran stuff has nothing to do with the ascent in oil prices -- maybe. Some people are (surprise surprise) blaming the government, particularly for not granting liability protection for makers of gasoline additive MTBE, a carcinogen. Generally speaking, we'd like to blame the government for most things, but this seems like a stretch even to us. It seems that gasoline prices have more to do with... maybe the crude market? Just a guess.
No Firm Safe From Crooked Staff (Here Is The City)
The recent insider trading scandal helps make a pretty obvious point -- no amount of regulation, controls, oversight, and compliance can prevent an individual from doing bad things and damaging a company. To think otherwise is evidence of an unhealthy love for government regulation. One thing to think about, with respect to Sarbanes-Oxley regulations, is that it's impossible to have confidence in any scheme developed quickly in the aftermath of crisis. Most of our laws are purely reactive, made in response to some bad event that politicians want to stamp out. If they actually wanted to do something, they should try to ban the desire to cheat, or any other selfish activities that might encourage insider trading. Good luck.
US Airways Fires Salvo In Airline Wars (Charlotte Observer)
If you're the CEO of US Airways, and popular discounter jetBlue is about to encroach on your market, what do you do? Uh, write a letter? Instead of, you know, cutting fares and doing what it will take to stave off the plucky upstart (well, they're no longer an upstart we guess), CEO Doug Parker has written a letter trumpeting US Airways on-time flights this quarter and declaring, "It doesn't appear that our customers are overpaying; rather it appears that passengers aren't willing to pay JetBlue enough for them to be profitable". Yeah, whatever that means.

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