Opening Bell: 9.22.06


How much did he know? Focus is on Hurd as HP stock price reacts to troubles (San Francisco Chronicle)
As we anticipated in yesterday's Opening Bell, the inclusion of CEO Mark Hurd in the scandal at HP took a shot at the company's stock for the first time. All those traders who thought they were so damn clever for buying up HP as soon as the initial scandal broke are now down on their bets, because they weren't clever enough to realize that this could be bigger than just the board. But while nobody likes trouble in the C-suites, maybe the real contrarian play is to realize that Hurd is not as important to HP's success as everyone else believes. Or, maybe people should realize that HP's turnaround is a bit of a fraud; by far the majority of its op income still comes from selling freakin' printer ink. And when your competitor's laptops blow up, yeah, you're going to look like your doing ok.
Billionaires rule US richest list (BBC)
Awesome, for the first time everyone on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans is a billionaire. Finally the least means something. Of course, Bill Gates came in at #1, and Buffett at #2. But #3 might be a bit of a surprise, as it goes to casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who had been #15th. What's really interesting is that if you look at the global list (just keep clicking refresh on, they're bound to have that list up soon, right?), the number of gambling related billionaires has skyrocketed. As the world gets richer, people like to throw their money down the toilet, it seems.
Cablevision Gave Backdated Grant To Dead Official (WSJ)
If the dead can vote, why shouldn't they be allowed to receive stock options? Really, people are all up in arms -- including self-appointed corporate governance experts -- because Cablevision has admitted to backdating options to prior to a VP's death. As one critic, a prof at Columbia, put it, "Trying to incentivize a corpse suggests they were not complying with the spirit of shareholder-approved stock-option plans." Well, ok, maybe you can't technically incentivize a corpse, we don't really know.
Herman Miller as Contrarian Indicator (Infectious Greed)
Is it a worrisome sign that Herman Miller is once again reporting blow-out quarters? Oh, allow us to rephrase that. Is it a worrisome sign that the maker of the Aeron Chair is once again reporting blow-out quarters? Or is an Aeron chair no longer the luxury item it once was; is it really a requisite piece of furniture for the modern office. Really, what's a few hundred dollars on a chair, if it means your employees don't have to take off early once a week for a visit to the chiropractor.

GM Talks Sputter With Renault And Nissan So Far (WSJ)
We'd been wondering what was going on with the plan for Carlos Ghosn to swoop in like Superman and save the US auto industry. Turns out, not much. But, they haven't given up the idea for good. GM, Nissan, and Renault have agreed to resume talks about a possible alliance, and how such an alliance will work out. It'll probably be something like, Nissan gets Ghosn on Monday and Tuesday, Renault gets him Wednesday and Thursday, while GM gets him on Friday and the weekend (which is fair, cause he only works half days on weekend). And if nothing comes of the meeting, Kirk Kerkorian could still demand that the board conduct its own internal investigation; man, if I were Wagoner I'd pretext that old jerk's ass in a second.
Sony Cuts PS3 Price by 20 Percent as Japan Users Balk (Bloomberg)
One of the only areas that Microsoft is really kicking ass in these days is in videogames, with their XBOX 360. And even in that division the company's losing money, so kicking ass probably should've been in quotes. And it's really not even that it's kicking ass or doing that well; it just happens to be lucky that it's going against Sony, one of the most inept technology companies around. The number of formats/standards battles that the company has come out on the losing side of is just staggering. Already, Sony is being forced to cut prices on the PS3 (due out.... sometime) so that it can compete. Meanwhile, everyday, serious gamers are forced to wait it out, while many bight the bullet and buy an XBOX. It's always great in business to have lousy competition.
Bias, bias everywhere! (Asymmetrical Information)
Last week, the econosphere was debating inequality -- something we can speak first hand about. That debate has now morphed to a discussion about inflation, wage growth, the CPI, standard of living, stuff like that. One thing seems pretty clear to us. Life is a whole hell of a lot better than it was 50 or even 30 years ago. You'd have to drag us kicking and screaming just to go back to the year before blogs broke, let alone the 70s. So when people talk about how the middle class has stagnated since then, it just seems impossible. How could that be? Is the middle class not experiencing the same things that we are? Are we really that out of touch? Or is it that the statistics we use to capture wages and the CPI simply aren't meaningful? (Yes).
Tribune Board Appoints "Value Creation" Committee; LAT Not For Sale (PaidContent)
The Tribune company has created a Value Creation committee. For give our old fashioned ignorance, but we though that value creations was the sole goal of an entire company.