Opening Bell: 3.21.07

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Virgin America can fly if CEO goes (Bloomberg)
The American virgin, Virgin America, has been told it can fly in America under one condition, it needs to get a new CEO. It's been a long haul for Virgin America, which has had to battle the highly protected domestic airline industry and convince regulators that it really is an American company, and not some Redcoat in sheep's clothing. The Transportation Department said the current CEO, Fred Reid, had to go because he was "too beholden to foreign interests", though we have no clue how they determined that there was a Benedict Arnold in our midst. For Virgin America, which has put a ton of effort into making the dream happen, this final nuisance is irritating, but it's not one that will stop it, and so it's likely to jettison the man on top. Hopefully, Richard Branson will give him a cushy role at the real Virgin to compensate him for his troubles.
Blockbuster Chief Agrees to Exit Deal (NYT)
Yesterday, Blockbuster chief John Antioco announced that he would be leaving the company at the end of the year, two years before his contract was set to expire. Antioco, as everyone knows, was involved in a long running dispute about the size of his pay package, and he felt that the couple million he had earned last year was far less than the $7 million or so to which he was entitled. This prompted the predictable gasps of outrage from the non-executive world, as people couldn't understand how a man who made multiple millions could be complaining. But it's really not so hard to understand. If you feel like you're getting stiffed $5 million, that's a pretty large amount. Most people would have a fit if their employer cut their salary by $20,000, or even $5,000, for that matter.
Crude Oil Rises on Speculation Gasoline Demand Will Increase (Bloomberg)
Some geniuses are "speculating" that gasoline demand will increase as the summer roles around and more people jump in their cars to take road trips. We'll save you our typical spiel about summer driving season, but really, what kind of speculation is this?
Inside Japan’s Puzzle Palace (NYT)
Is it just us, or has the Sudoku craze died down a little bit. There was a point when you couldn't ride the subway without seeing at least three people playing Sudoku on each car. Apparently it has died down, because the company responsible for pushing it out to the world, Japan's Nikoli, is looking for its next hit. The company's chief -- a high school dropout like all good entrepreneurs -- says they've got a lot more where Sudoku came from, although it's not clear what consumers will take to. Our only clever Sudoku-related quip came one time when someone said, "oh, is Sudoku a math game, do all the numbers in a row need to add up to something?", and we responded "Yeah, 45".


TXU Investors Take Their Case to Texas (Dealbook)
The TXU deal ain't done yet. The folks at KKR are lobbying the Texas legisulature (The Leg, as they call it) to ensure that no excessive regulations are placed on the company post-buyout. If The Leg does want to get nasy, there have been some murmuring that KKR could walk. The big winner then would be the Guinness Book of World Records, which wouldn't have to change its listing for "World's Biggesst LBO" in the next edition.
Official pet death toll raised to 14 (LA Times)
So this is apparently a serious news story. We'd been pretty much ignoring this whole thing about a major pet food recall, and an epidemic of pet deaths, but now the death toll, associated with tainted food, is up to 14. Honestly, we're really curious how they know this. Pets die all the time, so we find it a little bit hard to believe that the FDA can pinpoint 14 of those deaths and tie it to the food. Although next, we're sure, this number is going to spike to 100 as more pet owners learn about the recall right around the same time they have a dead pet. Also, quite strange is that the company behind the tainted food is called Menu Foods Income Fund. What the hell kind of name is that?
Oracle Results Reflect Successful Acquisitions (WSJ)
The bull run for Oracle continues. The database and enterprise software giant has been on a high profile mission to gobble up smaller players in the space at a pace reminiscent of Cisco during the late 90s. The company's efforts seem to be paying off, as the firm continues to show rapid earnings growth at a time when many software companies are struggling. All of this has to be a massive, massive, ego boost to chief Larry Ellison, who already has a ginormous ego to begin with. Let's just hope is big head doesn't weigh down his racing yachts.
Day 2: of the Nacchio Trial: Opening and Closing (The Race To The Bottom)
We're rather intrigued by it, but somehow we don't expect the Nacchio trial to get nearly the coverage in the media that the Enron trial did. In part, it's because the scale of the scandal isn't nearly as big, so less coverage is probably warranted. But, if you're looking for a good blog to follow the ins and outs of things, check out the above link, from a blog that claims it's "Pro SOX". Ok, that's a little different, but if they can provide some good analysis of the trial, they're cool by us.
Fannie Mae deals New Century a new blow (CNNMoney)
Just in case New Century didn't have enough problems on its hands (seriously, what're they waiting for, close up shop already), the firm has been barred from operating in a number of states and FannieMae (a paragon of proper business activity if ever there were one) has said it will no longer deal with the company.

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