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Opening Bell: 8.21.06

Quattrone Reportedly Cuts Deal (
Rumors emerged this weekend that former investment banker Frank Quattrone had cut a deal with prosecutors to avoid a third trial and, potentially, open the window for his return to finance. The resurgence of Quattrone has been a surprising and stunning comeback for the once-disgraced tech banker. It appears that Quattrone will receive something akin to probation, as one of the conditions for his avoidance of punishment is his ability to go a few years without breaking the law. It's unclear whether this means breaking securities law, or whether there's concern that Quattrone might one night decide to rob a gas station. It's also not clear whether he will actually return to finance. Apparently he still has a lot of money, and may dedicate himself to philanthropy and golf. Let's hope not.
Mob fury forces fuel price slash in Kathmandu (Hindustan Times)
However much Americans may talk about wanting lower gasoline price, they must not be too serious about it. If they were, they'd start a riot and literally take action. Forget about a windfall profits tax, or a cut in the per/gallon tax. Direct action is a lot quicker. In Nepal, a broad swath of the population, including well-known energy activists the Maoist guerillas joined hands to protest the government's recent price hike. Eventually, the government relented, and brought the price of gas down so that it was in line with international rates. See, that's all the Nepalese wanted, market rates.
Web Casinos Becoming a Riskier Bet for Investors (NYT)
There's a common saying that when it comes to casinos, "the house always wins". That may be true literally, like on the gambling floor, but it certainly doesn't apply to the broader casino operations. Just consider Donald Trump's Atlantic City gaming investments. They were the house; didn't do so hot. And online casinos haven't been doing so well in the wake of the arrest of David Carruthers, the CEO of BETonSPORTS, and the subsequent shutdown of its American operations (ahem, operations that happened to take bets from Americans.... allegedly). So yes, technically BETonSPORTS was the house. And on the majority of bets, it probably made money. But to say the house always wins, and then use that as an investment thesis is not a wise idea.
IRS Declares War on Swag (Hit & Run)
The IRS is starting to crack down on one of the great joys of life, swag (free shit). If you're a celebrity, musician, record store employee, rich, well-connected, or simply a widely read blogger, you've probably received some swag at some point in your life. Maybe it was free tickets to an event, or a certificate for a free massage, or maybe even a free iPod (others include free subscriptions, jeans, CDs, plane tickets, etc.). But while it may seem free to you, the IRS doesn't enjoy this non-monetary exchange, particularly at a time of record deficits. So the agency is beginning a crackdown on the stuff, and demanding that parties pay taxes on it. Well, that seems bound to pretty much kill it outright. Who's gonna figure out how to declare it? The Oscars is already killing of their gift bag. That's really rough for us, since Dealbreaker employees get paid in gold bullion, which we always just assumed counted as swag.

"Snakes on a Plane" tops box office in North America (People's Daily Online)
The above link is to the Chinese news site People's Daily, not because they have the best coverage of how Snakes on a Plane did this weekend, but only to demonstrate how widely the success of this film is being monitored. And, as you may have heard, it was not a big victory for people-powered marketing. Granted, we don't know how this film would have done without all of fan-created 'Snakes' art, but its $15 million weekend haul proved to be a disappointment. Turns out, there may be some life after all in traditional marketing. Or maybe, despite all of the hype, most people never even heard about all of the fuss. Or maybe, all of the hype in the world, couldn't bring people out to see a film that appears to be, um, a bit silly. That said, we'll give you our full review tomorrow.
EuroZinc and Lundin Mining to merge in stock deal (Forbes)
It's not much of a merger Monday today, but, surprisingly, the mining industry saw more consolidation. EuroZinc will become part of Lundin Mining to form a company worth approximatly $3 billion.
A Product Endorsement, Courtesy of the Revolution (NYT)
Adidas received a major, unexpected boost recently, when pictures of an ailing Fidel Castro showed him wearing an Adidas track suit from his sickbed. Certainly, whatever you think of the man, there's no denying that Castro embodies the 'impossible is nothing' credo that the company uses to pitch its gear. As light as an article about Castro wearing Adidas is, it's a nice change of pace for the Advertising section of the Times, which usually just writes about what mock ad appeared on YouTube that week. Of course, if anyone goes ahead and shoots a fake Adidas commercial featuring Fidel Castro, you can guess where we'll read about it.
Andy Young on capitalism (Ideoblog)
In arguing about Wal-Mart there are bad attacks on the company, and less bad attacks on the company. Of course, there are also good defenses of the company, and ones that fall flat. Other than the millions of shoppers in its stores, the company doesn't have organized supporters the way it has organized detractors. That's fine; better to be on the side whose supporters are spending billions of dollars on your behalf. Yet one person, who was part of Working Families for Wal-Mart was quoted saying what might possibly be the worst conceivable defense of the company. When asked about the allegations that Wal-Mart puts Mom & Pops out of business, spokesman Andy Young said that Wal-Mart did indeed put them out of business, but it was a good thing because Mom & Pops are run by Jews, Blacks, Arabs, and Koreans who sell stale bread. He has since resigned.
VCs see opportunity in blogosphere (The Deal)
Now that VCs invest in blogs (like the HuffingtonPost), some are talking -- sit down -- about blog IPOs. Just one question. Since so many blogs feature writing by the principals of the company, how could such companies ever make it through a quiet period?