Opening Bell: 12.7.07

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Seminoles to buy Hard Rock chain for $965 million (MarketWatch)
It's been known that the Hard Rock cafe has been on the block for some time, and it's been revealed that the winning bidder is the Seminole tribe, based in Florida. The tribe, as you may expect, already has several gaming operations, and operates a pair of Hard Rock casinos based in Florida. The irony of the Seminoles turning into such major players in business is that Native American tribes are banned by law from having any private property on the reservations. By law, they're forced to live communally, which goes a long way in explaining the poor economic progress made on the reservations. But at the same time, they've got a nice regulatory loophole going for them, allowing them to be big in leisure and gaming, which is gunslinging capitalism at its best. Now they need to lobby for a law allowing them to operate casinos anywhere they want, not just on the rez. Then we'd have on in Times Square.
No Stock-Class Shift, Times Co. Chief Says (NYT)
Seriously, we'd love nothing more than to see a major battle for control of the New York Times. The story would certainly take on all kinds of cultural, business and political implications. Unfortunately, due to the company's ownership structure, it would seem hard for any third party to crack the Ochs-Sulzberger fortress. And the company has reiterated that it won't be shifting ownership structure anytime soon because, "The Ochs-Sulzberger family, which owns approximately 20 percent of the equity of our company — more than any other investor — has no intention of opening our doors to the kind of action that is tearing at the heart of some of the other great journalistic institutions in our country." Note: tearing at the heart = increasing value for shareholders.
Does Santa Clause reduce the rate of savings? (Marginal Revolution)
The holiday season is many things to many people. For Christians, obviously, Christmas is the big one. For Jews, it's Chanukkah. For conservatives, they're less interested in Christmas than they are the 'war on Christmas', which they see as an organized attempt by secular humanists to banish any mention of the holiday from the public sphere. And for economists, it's the 'time to trot out our arguments why Christmas is bad for the economy' season. They think they're being sooo rebellious, explaining all the downsides to shopping and sharing, which the media tends to look at only positively. But at this point, the arguments are growing a little bit tired. Yes, we know that gift-giving is inefficient and that it's hard to know the tastes of a recipient, leading to poor choices. And the seasonal nature of it all creates strains on the economy that wouldn't exist if the purchasing were more smoothed out. Still, we'd like next year to read some reverse contrarianism about how Christmas shopping is the bedrock to a strong economy.
Murdoch and Malone Find a Way to Make Up (NYT)
Back off, News Corp. is Rupert Murdoch's. A couple years ago, Liberty Media's John Malone had taken a major stake in the company, much to the chagrin of Murdoch, who didn't want any interlopers in his fiefdom. Now after much effort, the Malone scourge is gone. He's agreed to sell back his stake in the company, in exchange for Murdoch's stake in DirectTV. It's not too surprising that Murdoch was willing to part with DirectTV. He recently called it a "Turd Bird", which is mediaspeak for, well, something that sucks.


Companies join forces on 'medical Internet' (Boston Globe)
The state of technology within the healthcare industry is rather sorry. You've got a bunch of papers and files flying around, the likes of which you never see elsewhere. Your hairstylist probably has a more efficient system for keeping track of appointments. Unfortunately, we've been hearing about the coming wave of electronic medical data for a long time, so we won't get our hopes up that a few companies are joining forces to standardize and centralize health data on their employees. And because the poisonous Wal-Mart (the single largest employer in the US) is involved in the project, expect privacy advocates to have a conniption.
Should slackers get year-end bonuses, too? (CNNMoney)
No.
European Central Bank lifts key rate a quarter point (Markewatch)
If your hedge fund is somehow playing the transatlantic spread, then here's some news you should pay attention to. The ECB has lifted interest rates from 3.25% to 3.5%, no doubt in a bid to temper the smokin' hot German economy. Hell, even France's unemployment rate is below 9%, which has to qualify for the European definition of full employment. The central bank is also concerned about the expanding money supply, and they hope to sop up the excess Euros floating around. Meanwhile, the Bank of England, which still won't have any of this Monetary Union nonsense has decided to hold its rate steady.
Delta Pilots Union Denounces US Airways Bid (Dealbook)
A few weeks ago, when he had a few stories about possible airline mergers, like RyanAir and AerLingus and Delta and US Airways, we said that airline mergers were tough and rarely happened. As if it weren't already very obvious, it looks like US Airways won't get its hands on Delta anytime soon. The management has voiced opposition, and very importantly, so has the pilot's union. And you can't underestimate the importance of the pilots to an airline. They've got a lot riding on the fate of their company, since so much of their employment terms revolves around the seniority they have. And in a merger, there's no telling how this would be disrupted. Yesterday, US Airways basically admitted that without some buy-in from Delta management, nothing would happen. So yeah, nothing's gonna happen.

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