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Oprah Will Eat Ellen DeGeneres for Breakfast

MEDIA • CNBC's Dylan Ratigan proposes a toast at the anniversary of his show Fast Money: "Here's to destroying … well, 'destroying Fox' is what I was going to say, to be totally honest about it. And I was going to say something even more profane than that except there's press in the room." [Mixed Media/Portfolio] • Oprah Winfrey won't stand for Ellen taking her place as America's favorite TV personality. The Queen of Talk announced plans to start her own network. And what's it called? OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. Which is only appropriate for a woman worth upwards of $2.5 billion. [HuffPo, NYP] • Will the Academy Awards suffer the same fate as the Golden Globes? WGA president Patric Verrone confirmed the guild has no plans to give the Oscars a pass if the strike hasn't been settled, and it's still unclear whether the Screen Actors Guild will cross picket lines to attend the awards. [B&C]

Ellen Dethrones Oprah, Finally Has a Real Reason to Dance

MEDIA • Ellen beat Oprah as the nation's favorite TV personality, dethroning the Queen of Talk who held the top spot for five years. [HR] • Will Schwalbe quit Hyperion after seven years as editor-in-chief. His decision seems to have come as something of a shock, and the publisher has no immediate successor planned. Schwalbe, co-author of Send, the recent guide to e-mail etiquette, won't divulge his own plans. [NYO] • Christopher Hitchens quits smoking! Really, we're excited and interested! [Radar]

Steve Schwarzman Takes the Fun Out of Buybacks

FINANCE • Steve Schwarzman found yet another way to stiff his investors, using the GSO deal as an elaborate cover to buyback shares of Blackstone without the typical benefit a buyback program gives to other shareholders. No wonder the Chinese, who have lost $1 billion on Blackstone, hate him. [DealBook/NYT] • Bank of America bought Countrywide Financial, the huge mortgage company teetering at the edge of bankruptcy, for $4 billion in stock. Some observers worry the deal will take the bank down, but considering Countrywide was worth $30 billion before the mortgage meltdown, it may yet make B of A CEO Ken Lewis a king. [Deal Journal/WSJ] • Merrill Lynch will likely take a $15 billion write-down next week, far in excess of the $12 billion some already bearish analysts had predicted. John Thain is looking to rescue the bank with still more foreign investment capital, but with the Senate getting anxious, that stream dry up. [NYT, NYP]

Kent Brownridge Still Stealing Silverware From the House of Wenner

MEDIA • Kent Brownridge picked a new fight with his old boss Jann Wenner, poaching ten-year Rolling Stone vet Joe Levy for the top spot at Blender. Brownridge already stole Men's Journal editor James Kaminsky to take over Maxim. [Mixed Media/Portfolio] • The OK! issue with the Jamie Lynn–pregnancy exclusive sold only 900,000 copies on the newsstand, well short of the roughly 1.5 million the mag had predicted. [WWD] • Steve Cohn on the Condé shake-up following so fast on Steve Florio's death: "It sort of reminds me of The Godfather. They go to the funeral and then they blow everything up." [NYP]

Bush to Economy: ‘Hey, Did You Get a Haircut? Something's Different.’

FINANCE • Bush acknowledges slower economy, but he stops short of warning about recession. Still, will he go for another round of tax cuts? [NYT, NYT] • Financial titans Warren Buffett and Maurice Greenberg came under attack in the Gen Re trial. Neither stands as a defendant, but both were accused of being intimately involved in a fraudulent transaction worth $500 million. [NYT] • Now that Jimmy Cayne's out of the picture, which hedge fund will step in to buy Bear Stearns? [Deal Journal/WSJ]

The Return of Aleksey Vayner

FINANCE • Aleksey Vayner, everyone's favorite bizarre self-promoting video maker, is back with a new Website and perhaps a book! Impossible may be nothing after all. [Gawker] • Goldman Sachs set new records with their $20.2 billion bonus pool, including $67.9 million for Lloyd Blankfein, but rumor has it the bank decided to stiff their back-office employees. [NYP] • Blankfein's salary still pales in comparison to hedge-fund kings like John Paulson and Paolo Pellegrini, who raked in more than $1 billion each in 2007 betting against the housing market. [NYT]

CNBC to Roger Ailes: ‘Nanny Nanny Boo Boo’

MEDIA • Despite Roger Ailes's declaration that Fox Business Channel would start a “revolution” against rival business channel CNBC, this war appears to have petered out after a skirmish: Only about 6,300 people a day, on average, watch the babes of FBN, compared to the 283,000 who tune in to CNBC for that dreamy hunk Charlie Gasparino. [NYT] • Let the stunts begin! David Letterman plans to shave off his beard on the air next Monday: "Can we get a guy in here Monday to shave me? Now, a good guy, because the last time we did this, I looked like—when he was done, I looked like I'd been in a knife fight." No word yet on whether Conan O'Brien, who's writers unlike Letterman's are still on strike, will lose his whiskers. Meanwhile, Nation editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel turned down Colbert's invite to appear on his show, showing solidarity with the strikers. [NYDN, NYO] • The Writers Guild is facing its own little labor problem: The East Coast branch's internal staff claims that the contract they signed back in October was later changed without their permission. Let's see, what's that word … something writers always love. Oh, right, irony. [NYP]

Richard Arens Is Having His Moment

FINANCE • Trader Richard Arens, who runs a brokerage named ABS, made a vanity trade in order to push oil past the $100/barrel milestone. We're sure the girls at the bar will be real impressed. [MarketBeat/WSJ] • Citigroup will likely start laying off between 5 and 10 percent of its workforce next week, cutting as many as 32,000 jobs. Merrill Lynch plans to cut around 1,600. [CNBC] • Former E*Trade CEO Mitch Caplan, who helped load the company with the subprime loans, made off with a $11 million golden parachute. Compare that with former H&R Block chief Mark Ernst, responsible for his own big subprime losses, who took home a paltry $2.5 million. [Deal Journal/WSJ, DealBook/NYT]

The ‘Times’ Touches Upon Checkbook Journalism — With Two Fingers, Of Course

MEDIA • "OK!, the celebrity magazine, could not possibly have purchased all the attention it enjoyed in late December after it got the scoop that Jamie Lynn Spears, the younger and until then less sensational sister of the troubled pop queen Britney Spears, was three months pregnant. Or could it?" [NYT] • Josh Stein isn't actually leaving Gawker; Emily Gould will write for Jezebel; Choire Sicha will continue contributing columns; and recently departed Wonkette editor Ken Layne returned after just a few months off the job. Can anyone escape the tentacles of Nick Denton? [HuffPo] • The Writers Guild plans to picket Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, and Conan O'Brien as the three late-night hosts return to the air. Letterman gets off easy since he struck a deal with the writers and may get a big boost since big stars (like Robin Williams, natch) won't have to cross the pickets to go on his show. [NYO, NYT]

Condoleezza Rice and Martin Scorsese Go Way Back, Didn't You Know?

FINANCE • Stephen Schwarzman, Lloyd Blankfein, and David Rubenstein got down with Bush, Condi, and friends (including Martin Scorsese?!) at this year's Kennedy Center Honors. [NYP] • Barron Hilton decided to donate almost his entire $2.3 billion fortune to the family foundation, including the proceeds from the recent sale of Hilton Hotels and Harrah's casinos. Does this mean we'll have to stop calling Paris an heiress? [NYT] • If private equity is the smart money on Wall Street, then why have Blackstone's shareholders lost so big? The Times gives the easy answer: "What Wall Street is about is smart guys thinking about ways to make money from dumb ones." Good work, Steve Schwarzman! [NYT]

Imus Sucker Punches Brokaw

MEDIA • Don Imus on Tom Brokaw: "He is not the most courageous person I've ever met in my life. He's not the guy I'd want to be in a foxhole with." You see, Brokaw didn't defend Imus when he was down-and-out because of the whole "nappy-headed-hos" incident. Resentment, now that takes courage! [NYP] • Shocker: CNBC is actually scared shitless of Fox Business News. They're now asking guests to choose sides, threatening to drop them if they dare to appear on Murdoch's new down-home network. [Silicon Alley Insider] • Veteran literary agent Lynn Nesbit wants a new publishing madman: "Even [former Simon & Schuster CEO] Dick Synder is a lot more colorful than [newly departed Simon & Schuster CEO] Jack Romanos, who is now gone. I mean, they had passion, they cared about literature. Even Dick, who's not an intellectual. He cared. He was a madman . . . . Who is a madman now in publishing? . . . It was just different then." Hi, Lynn, allow us to introduce you to our favorite publishing madwoman, Judith Regan. [Media Mob/NYO]

Let the Bear Blame Game Begin

FINANCE • Bear Stearns followed up yesterday's Morgan Stanley announcement with its own $850 million loss, again the first quarterly deficit in the bank's history. [DealBook/NYT] • Is former Bear Stearns exec Ralph Cioffi, the guy behind the two Bear funds that imploded this summer, the main culprit in the subprime crisis? New reporting suggests his team set off the plague of dirty debt that cost Citi and other top banks billions. Oh, and Cioffi's under investigation for pulling out a couple mil before anyone else got the chance. [Business Week] • What a mensch: David Rubenstein, the former lawyer turned Citadel private-equity master, decided to keep his new copy of the Magna Carta on display at the National Archives. Rubenstein paid $21.3 million — chump change for a guy worth around $2.5 billion. [Law Blog/WSJ]

Morgy Says, ‘I'm Too Old to Retire!’

LAW • Robert Morgenthau called a press conference in response to a "Page Six" item about him stepping down after 33 years: "I'm too old to retire." The man is 88! [NYT] • Big-time Mayer Brown partner Joseph Collins, who maintains offices in both New York and Chicago, has been indicted for fraud in the Refco case. [Above the Law] • Which court is the worst "judicial hellhole" in the country? [Law Blog/WSJ]

Hedi and LVMH: Together at Last!

FASHION • Hedi Slimane is back in talks with LVMH to launch his own fashion house. Everyone, commence jumping up and down. [WWD] • IMG is behind Bravo’s new model show but won’t be giving the winner a contract. [Fashionista] • Not even Cavalli can rev up H&M’s sales. [NYP]

Cravath's Good Ol' Boys Miss the Good Ol' Days

LAW • One old lawyer reminisces about his time at Cravath in the fifties and speculates on why big law used to be — used to be? — such a man's world: "Obviously, male bigotry played a major role. But I think something else was involved — an attempt to protect certain values that mattered greatly to the practitioners of that time. They wanted a workplace free of the messiness of male-female relations. They liked to say, 'Yes, sir,' and 'No, sir,' and be done with it. Women might bring distractions: flirtations, gossip, dating. No more male bonding." Aw…! [American Lawyer] • Everyone's talking about Robert Morgenthau stepping down after 33 years as Manhattan D.A. — except Robert Morgenthau. [NYT] • NYU Law School listserv smackdown! First e-mail: "I decided to compile a list of the easiest professors at NYU Law for those of us who: 1. Want an easy A, and 2. Don't care about the grade and just want a B without doing a thing." Second e-mail: "Does your mom still teach here? Because I heard that she's REALLY easy." Third e-mail: "If you came to NYU Law school thinking to take shortcuts to get easy As as opposed to taking classes that you would find challenging and helpful to your understanding of law practices, here's my nugget of advice: save the money and go to a state law school." Fourth e-mail: "We come to NYU to take made-up classes like 'Jesus & the Constitution,' 'Inter-Animal Contracts,' and 'International Law.' Coming to NYU for anything other than intellectual masturbation or an easy job is a waste of money." [Above the Law]

Some Lawyers Are Sad

LAW • Know a troubled lawyer? If you work in the law, you probably do — some estimates put the ratio of depressed attorneys at 20 percent — and a few new Websites are trying help them out. [Law Blog/WSJ, WSJ] • How not to get out of your marijuana arrest: When the judge lets you off easy, pull out a driver's license covered in pot. [New York Law Journal] • So just how lame was Cadwalader's Wild Wild West holiday party last night? Wildly. [Above the Law]

Howard Stern Is Quietly Gay-Loving

MEDIA • Howard Stern, good for the gays? A longtime lesbian listener calls Stern "one of the most pro-gay media personalities in the country." [Gay.com] • Murdoch finally gets his giant puffy hands on the Journal today at 10 a.m. The only question is just how much of the Bancroft family will try to show their noble intentions, however laughably inept, by registering a protest vote against the deal. [WSJ] • A great new/old debate: Should Democrats go on Fox News? [Mixed Media/Portfolio, NYO]

Rupert's Fingers Already Closing Around the Heart of the ‘Journal’

MEDIA • Rupert Murdoch won't officially take over the Journal until tomorrow, but he's already dipped his tentacles deep into the paper. Rumor has it the Journal will dismiss two or three dozen people, to be replaced with Rupe's cronies, and then go on a hiring spree. Oh, and apparently Murdoch briefly considered dropping "Wall Street" from the title. Tells you something about where the paper's headed. [NYT] • Sadly, Jane Pratt won't actually be starring in a reality-TV show titled American Ugly, as we reported yesterday. C'mon Jane, don't you love us? [Mixed Media/Portfolio] • New York Post "Metro" editor Dan Colarusso, whom Col Allan praised as "a quintessential New Yorker," walked out of the newsroom and quit yesterday. No word on why, but seems pretty quintessential to us. [Runnin' Scared/VV]