Opening Bell: 05.30.14

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Ballmer’s $2 Billion Offer Said to Win Clippers Bidding (Bloomberg)
Donald Sterling’s approval wasn’t needed as his wife completed the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, people familiar with the process said. Guidelines established in a family trust allowed for Shelly Sterling to unilaterally make the record-shattering deal, according to the people who asked not to be identified because the bidding was private...Ballmer, 58, outbid at least four other suitors. Each of the bids shattered the previous record sale price for an NBA team of $550 million paid in April for the Milwaukee Bucks.

M&A Party Attracts Uninvited Guests (WSJ)
As merger activity heats up this year, hostile or unsolicited approaches by companies undeterred by private brushoffs are also rising. Buyers have gone public with unsolicited takeover bids totaling $97.3 billion so far this year, representing about 7% of all global deals by dollar amount, according to Thomson Reuters. That's the highest percentage since 2007.

U.S. probing 15 banks, payment processors for fraud (Reuters)
The Justice Department's investigation, known as "Operation Choke Point," is more than a year old and aims to crack down on fraud by going after firms that handle and move money for various suspect businesses. According to documents released on Thursday by the House of Representatives' Oversight Committee, the DOJ had criminal probes open of four payment processors, one bank and several officials as of November 2013.

Kentucky’s Big Whiskey Investment: Is the Bourbon Boom a Bubble? (Corporate Intelligence)
A bourbon shortage today reflects decisions made many years — or decades — ago, leaving companies with few good options. Last year Beam Inc. faced a furious backlash from fans of its Maker’s Mark brand when the company said it would reduce the strength of the spirit to make limited supplies stretch further. It eventually backtracked on the decision, but not before panicking customers stockpiled supplies of the bourbon, sending sales up 44% in the quarter. Today’s big distillery expansions will put a flood of new bourbon on the market years from now. Will we still be drinking bourbon by then? Julian Proctor Van Winkle, the chief of the family business that makes Pappy Van Winkle, explained why his company is taking a conservative approach to adding capacity. “They legalize marijuana, and nobody is drinking bourbon anymore,” he said in an interview with Louisville Magazine. ”I don’t want to get caught with a bunch of whiskey.”

Realty Investors Flock to Spain (NYT)
As one of the most moribund housing markets in Europe, Spain has become a magnet for global bargain hunters. Real estate prices are down as much as 50 percent from their peak during a housing bubble, and investors from Asia to the United States and Britain are flocking to Spain to try to catch the uptick. British Airways flights to Madrid are packed with London-based real estate executives. The hedge fund Baupost is buying shopping centers, Goldman Sachs and Blackstone are buying apartments in Madrid, and Paulson & Company and George Soros’s fund are anchor investors in a publicly listed Spanish real estate investment vehicle. Kohlberg Kravis Roberts just bought a stake in a Spanish amusement park complex. Big-name private equity firms and banks are teaming up with and competing against one another on huge loan portfolios with names like Project Hercules and Project Octopus. “It’s surreal,” said Dilip Khullar, a 25-year veteran of Spanish real estate investing and director of Cadena, an investment fund. “One day it’s the worst place in the world to buy real estate and the next, it’s the best.”

UC Irvine Gives Anteaters 'Superfan' the Boot (WSJ)
A small crowd of UC Irvine parents and alumni cheered for their Anteaters. But the applause was drowned out by the hoots and hollers of one fan who looked like a California-bred cave man. He was deeply tanned, with thick, cascading blond hair, and wore a full get-up of UC Irvine gear—including fingernails painted in the team's signature blue and gold colors. "'Eaters in the house!" he yelled. The rabid reaction came from Keith Franklin, known around UC Irvine as "Superfan." He has been a zany fixture at the team's Anteater Ballpark, often clawing the net behind home plate, since 2006. He has nicknames for the players, and knows their statistics and families as if they were his own. Beyond his loud vocal stylings, Superfan is known for a repertoire of stadium theatrics. He has a special cheer for each batter, as well as for every run scored. He also celebrates with physical gusto, high-fiving people up and down rows of seats, even headbanging over the dugout. At dire moments when a run is sorely needed, he calls on the crowd to join him in breaking wind to spark a rally. Those days may be over. Mr. Franklin has been effectively banned from the team's home games, which means he can only cheer the Anteaters at road contests...Superfan's antics finally backfired several months ago, after some fans complained, according to the university. Security guards started asking him to behave, as Mr. Franklin recalls it, like "an ordinary fan." [...] Mr. Franklin's official ejection has many of UC Irvine's former players crying foul. They say he had a habit of showing up in unexpected places to shore up the team. He made it onto the field after two UC Irvine players, Matt Summers and Andrew Thurman, pitched no-hitters in recent seasons. He helped with chores like unspooling the stadium's tarp over the infield. Once, he appeared on campus at 2 a.m. to welcome the Anteaters home after a road trip.

Silicon Valley May Be in a Bubble, but It’s Not 2000 (The Upshot)
Mary Meeker says Silicon Valley is not in a bubble. Ms. Meeker, the venture capitalist and former tech stock analyst, has made an annual tradition out of the release of her slide show of Internet trends. Hovering over her projections this year — of smartphone and tablet use; China’s embrace of technology; and mobile advertising — was the question of The Bubble...Ms. Meeker has summoned a series of charts to make her case. She displayed three slides illustrating that the tech industry is nowhere near the era just ahead of the dot-com crash. Technology companies’ market value is only 19 percent of the S&P 500’s valuation, as opposed to 35 percent on March 10, 2000, the peak of the last tech bubble. The venture capital financing of start-ups is at 1998 levels and 77 percent below the 2000 peak.

Geneva, Dubai Rank as Priciest Cities in World for Hotels (Bloomberg)
Geneva, Dubai and Miami...rank among the most expensive markets for hotel rooms, according to an index compiled by Bloomberg. In Geneva, the average cost for a night is $308, followed by Dubai at $273, Kuwait City at $253 and Zurich at $250. Miami is next as the costliest place for lodging in the U.S., at $245 a night.

Why John Mack left Rosneft after only a year (NetNet)
A year after joining the Russian government-owned petroleum company Rosneft as a director, former Morgan Stanley chief executive John Mack is stepping down from it. In an interview, Mack said his resignation, which comes a month after the U.S. sanctioned Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin over Russia's handling of the turmoil in Ukraine, had nothing to do with geopolitics. "There was no pressure from the government," he told CNBC. "I just didn't have the time anymore."

Woman Arrested For Threatening To Shoot Up A Burger King Over Stale Cinnabon Roll (TSG)
South Carolina police today announced the arrest of a woman who allegedly threatened to “shoot down” a Burger King after she received a stale Cinnabon roll earlier this month. Andrea Ann McCullough, 33, was nabbed yesterday on a misdemeanor assault charge in connection with the May 13 incident at the eatery in Mount Pleasant, a Charleston suburb. According to police, McCullough quarreled with Burger King workers when she discovered that her Cinnabon roll was not fresh. The 7 PM dispute escalated, with McCullough threatening, “I’m going to shoot down the place.” After employees said they were calling police, McCullough and two female companions fled the restaurant’s parking lot in a Dodge Charger. McCullough’s eventual apprehension was aided by Burger King workers who were able to record the getaway car’s license plate number.

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Opening Bell: 08.08.12

Standard Chartered Probe Said To Require Up To $700 Million (Bloomberg) Standard Chartered might be asked to pay as much as $700 million to resolve money laundering allegations filed by New York’s banking superintendant after his department grew impatient with inaction by federal regulators, a person familiar with the case said. Benjamin Lawsky, who heads up New York’s Department of Financial Services, tried unsuccessfully a few months ago to get U.S. regulators to punish the London-based bank for conduct involving disguised Iranian money transfers, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. The transfers have been under investigation by federal agencies for more than two years, according to Lawsky’s Aug. 6 order. US Regulators Irate at NY Action Against Stanchart (Reuters) The U.S. Treasury Department and Federal Reserve were blindsided and angered by New York's banking regulator's decision to launch an explosive attack on Standard Chartered over $250 billion in alleged money laundering transactions tied to Iran, sources familiar with the situation said. ‘F-bomb’ banker fingered (NYP) The Standard Chartered Bank executive whose expletive-filled anti-US rant stands at the center of allegations that the bank improperly did business with Iran appears to be Richard Meddings. Meddings, 54, the Oxford-educated finance director at the UK bank, angrily dismissed concerns by his New York colleagues in 2006 that doing business with Iran’s despotic regime could sully the bank’s image, it is alleged. “You f—ing Americans,” Meddings shot back. “Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians?” The Department of Financial Services did not identify Meddings by name in its report — but disclosed the executive’s position, which Meddings occupied at the time. Standard declined to comment. Greece Credit-Rating Outlook Lowered By S&P As Economy Weakens (Bloomberg) The outlook on Greece’s CCC rating, already eight levels below investment grade, was revised to negative from stable, S&P said yesterday in a statement. The change reflects the risk of a downgrade if Greece is unable to obtain the next disbursement from the European Union and International Monetary Fund rescue package, the rating company said. The Bonds, They Are A-Changin' (WSJ) Bob Dylan's music was the soundtrack for the counterculture of 1960s America. Now it has become a selling point for an unusual bond offering being marketed to institutional investors and wealthy individuals. A privately held Nashville, Tenn., company is preparing a $300 million bond backed by the cut it receives as a middleman between music companies and songwriters and the outlets that broadcast their music. The company, Sesac Inc., has the exclusive rights to the public broadcast or performance of the music of Mr. Dylan, pop singer Neil Diamond, Canadian rock band Rush and jazz singer Cassandra Wilson. Woman in chase fled because she was topless, deputies say (TGS) Mandy Ramsey, 35, of Fort McCoy, was speeding south on County Road 318 in a Ford F-250 pickup truck when a patrol car chased after her to pull her over, according to a Marion County Sheriff's Office report. After seeing the patrol car in pursuit, the woman turned onto Northeast 220 Street and then continued down Northeast 10th Avenue, running a stop sign and eventually hitting an oak tree. The deputy lost Ramsey during the chase in the area, but soon found the truck parked behind a mobile home with its passenger side mirror broken with an oak tree leaf in it, according to reports. Deputies made contact with the vehicle's owner, Ramsey's boyfriend, who said he hadn't driven the truck in more than two hours. Ramsey then admitted to deputies that she didn't stop because she was driving topless and wanted to surprise her boyfriend. Rival Citadel Bid For Knight (WSJ) The offer, which was considered and discussed by Knight's board, was for a $500 million loan to Knight in exchange for a controlling stake in Knight's currencies trading platform Hotspot FX, plus a minority stake in the company of less than 20%, these people said. It followed an earlier offer on Friday, which Knight also reviewed, they said. The Citadel offer represented the potential for lesser dilution to existing Knight shareholders, by giving Citadel the right to as much as a 20% stake in the company, far less than the 73% stake anticipated in the investor group's deal, according to people familiar with the discussions. But Knight and its advisers believed there wasn't enough time to complete Citadel's deal, said people familiar with Knight's thinking. Further, they said, the Knight board and advisers viewed the Citadel terms as onerous for shareholders and the company, which not only would have had to repay the loan, but also surrender control of Hotspot, a "crown jewel" asset. The board also disagreed with Citadel's valuation of Hotspot, these people said. China Reforms Fail to End Stocks’ Bad Run (FT) When Guo Shuqing became China’s top securities regulator in October, investors hoped that he would bring a reformist zeal to the job that would help break the stock market’s two-year losing streak. They were right about the zeal but wrong about the impact on the market. Barely a week has gone by without the regulator announcing another new measure to improve the functioning of the country’s beleaguered market. But after a brief climb upwards, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index is down nearly 13 percent since Mr. Guo took office. Deutsche Bank Is Stuck on RREEF (WSJ) Deutsche Bank on-and-off effort to sell its giant real-estate fund group is taking its toll on one of the world's largest property-investment businesses. Nine months after the bank first raised the possibility of selling the business known as RREEF, investors are still wondering about its future. The bank's lack of clear direction is putting its real-estate fund group at a competitive disadvantage, some investors and consultants say. Many pension funds have been shifting to safer property funds and looking for new managers, and they may be hesitant about putting their money with RREEF because of the uncertainty, they say. Deutsche Bank's new management team is nearing completion of a companywide strategic review. That includes RREEF, which has $56 billion under management and invests primarily in commercial real estate globally. It is considered one of the jewels of Deutsche Bank's broader asset-management business, which has about $694 billion. While it isn't clear what the review will mean for RREEF, some analysts speculate that all or some of the group may be back up for sale. But some within RREEF expect the bank to keep the business, according to people who have spoken with RREEF staff. Wendy's debuts Lobster and Caviar Burger in Japan for $16-$20 (NYDN) The Lobster and Caviar Burger has lobster chunks, lobster salad and caviar. The Surf and Turf Burger features lobster and red onion. The Ocean Premium Salad has lobster, caviar, avocado, vegetables and an egg...Each seafood addition will range from $16 to $20. The current Japan Premium lineup features the Porcini Grilled Chicken Sandwich and the Foie Gras Rossini. Wendy's left Japan in 2009 but started up again in late-2011, according to Burger Business. For its returned, Wendy's reassessed its game plan and decided to situate itself as classier fast food.

Opening Bell: 10.5.15

Tsipras has work cut out for him; "Economic instabilities are showing no sign of dampening appetites for deal-making"; Merkel says f*ck VW, Germany is the place to take your biz; Schwarzman is in good with the Pope; "Australian artist to alter sexual cheeseburger mural"; and more.