More troubles for Sam Zell, Heather Mills is coming to town, and half of Bear Stearns employees are facing the ax. Click through to read the rest of our news roundup from the fields of media, law, finance and real estate.
This past weekend, in the wake of former Bear Stearns CEO James Cayne's getting over the denial stage and selling out his shares in the firm, thereby clearing the way for takeover by JPMorgan, 85-year-old Bear Stearns was prepared for death with more pomp and circumstance than an Egyptian pharaoh.
Did Bear Stearns collapse in part because of a whisper campaign? How will Starbucks keep its customers if everyone starts pinching pennies? And what did Sarah Jessica Parker think of Maxim naming her the "unsexiest woman alive"? Our weekly roundup of law, media, and business news.
Everyone was feeling a lot yesterday when JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon met with Bear Stearns executives to discuss the changes he'll make when and if his takeover deal of the firm comes to fruition, and a lot of what they were feeling was anger.
The Wall Street Journal today has a big story walking us through the events leading up to the collapse of Bear Stearns this past week. But perhaps you haven't gotten to it yet. It's so large and inky, and you've been busy, going to meetings and calculating your annual income should you become a high-class hooker. Still, you don't want to look like an idiot, should someone, somewhere, bring up What Happened at Bear Stearns. You will want to nod knowledgably and pontificate on how it Might Affect the Economy. Which is why, using handy bullet points, we've summarized how the bank's dalliance with subprime lending, coupled with a dope-smoking CEO, finally caught up with them in a stunning week-or-so period. To keep things in perspective, we started at the beginning. The very beginning.
• JPMorgan Chase will probably move its investment-banking unit to Bear Stearns' smokin'-hot headquarters on Madison Avenue. The building is valued at $1.2 billion, which is just one-fourth of quadruple the price JPMorgan paid for the firm itself. [NYP]
• JPMorgan Chase's valuation of Bear Stearns shows that financial institutions are significantly overvalued. Speaking of which, many employees had their life savings wiped out. [NYP, WSJ]
• Meanwhile Goldman Sachs' earnings are down but beat analysts' expectations. [DealBook/NYT]
After this weekend's deal to sell collapsing investment bank Bear Stearns to JPMorgan, market watchers were frantically scanning the horizon to see which financial firm might be next. The name on everybody's lips turned out to be Lehman Brothers. The bank, whose profile is similar to that of Bear Stearns, was a major player in the subprime-mortgage market as of last summer, and its shares have tumbled from $82 then to $31.75 last night. It's also the smallest of the most important Wall Street power firms. But Lehman CEO Richard Fuld aggressively made it clear yesterday that if there is in fact a domino effect among the firms, it won't be his company that will be tumbled first. Why?
• Because Lehman learned a ton from a similar crisis in 1998, after a panic over Russian debt, and returned stronger.
• As a result, they have a much higher level of liquidity this time around. Like, $35 billion in cash and liquid assets, on top of $160 billion in "unencumbered" assets, so it can borrow more.
"This is like waking up in summer with snow on the ground,” Ron Geffner, a former SEC lawyer, told the Times of the news that last night JPMorgan, aided by the Federal Reserve Bank, bought Bear Stearns at a shocking 93 percent discount on Bear's Friday closing price: $2 a share, or $236 million. Including the Madison Avenue headquarters, a property valued at least $1.2 billion. It was a nice present for JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who celebrated his 52nd birthday on Thursday, but not so much for the world economy: Although the last-minute buyout was supposed to stem the credit crisis and, as the Fed said yesterday, "bolster market liquidity and promote orderly market functioning," it seems to have done precisely the opposite. Markets in Europe and Asia tanked overnight, the dollar plunged, and trading on Wall Street is hobbled by fears of a domino effect. Today's economic conditions are "the most wrenching since the end of the second World War," Alan Greenspan told CNN. Fortunately, it's Saint Patrick's Day, so even though there's no green circulating in the market, there is green beer. Drink up, folks. It's going to be a long, depressing ride.
JP Morgan Pays $2 a Share For Bear Stearns [NYT]
A Deal For Bear Stearns [WSJ]
Press Release [Federal Reserve]
Amid all the vengeful glee on Wall Street, the Ashleymania, and the coverage that has accompanied Spitzer’s fall, one aspect of the story has been underexplored, according to journalist Greg Palast: Could the Lonesome Gov’s fall have had something to do with the Fed's $200 billion bailout of the subprime-mortgage industry, which Spitzer conspicuously opposed and which coincidentally occurred on the same day as his resignation? It was a federal investigation which uncovered Spitzer, Palast points out, and his outing could be seen as unusual.
Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, paid Washington DC prostitutes to put him in diapers (ewww!), yet the Senator was not exposed by the US prosecutors busting the pimp-ring that pampered him. Naming and shaming and ruining Spitzer — rarely done in these cases — was made at the ‘discretion’ of Bush’s Justice Department.
Palast, a cult hero in underground journalism circles (he’s the winner of six “Project Censored” awards), doesn’t really unload any evidence as much as speculate at sinister motives, but it's interesting, and better than watching Ashley’s maddeningly chaste dance moves on some scrub’s cell-phone camera. —Josh OzerskyEliot’s Mess [Greg Palast]
Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime [WP]
Eliot Spitzer’s political career, gravely injured after a collision with reality on Monday, finally passed into the great unknown two days later. But Spitzerism — the soul, that is, of his career — expired months ago.
Unlike virtually every other Democratic politician in the country, Eliot Spitzer understood markets. He believed in the potential of widespread investing in stocks to build and spread genuine wealth, and as attorney general, he was like a Money magazine editor on crack, targeting enemies of small investors: self-promoting analysts, corrupt mutual-fund traders, predatory lenders. Spitzerism wasn't about taxing and regulating profits; it was about diffusing profits to people who have never received a dividend check.
• Of the top twenty American newspapers, the circulation of New York ones suffered less than others over the past few years. [Mixed Media/Portfolio]
• We hear ... that gossip Website Jossip.com is up for sale. [NYP]
• And that ESPN The Magazine is beefing up its fashion coverage. [WWD]
Oh, not really. We're just exaggerating. That's what the media does, according to former Citigroup CEO Chuck Prince, Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo, and former Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O'Neal,all of whom who have all offered up the line that the media has "grossly exaggerated" the amounts of their compensation in their testimony in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today. “The reality is that I received no severance package," said O'Neal. This is technically true: but he did recieve $161.5 million in cash, stock and stock options upon his "retirement" in October. Over at Portfolio, Elizabeth Olson is live-blogging the hearing, and she has reported that, among other things, Countrywide Financial CEO Mozilo looks "tan and confident," but everyone looks totes unhappy. The day started out with a bang: Chair Henry Waxman, who called for the hearing, wondered aloud whether the "hundreds of millions of dollars [the CEOs] were given represent a complete disconnect from reality," but Republican representative Tom Davis killed his joy by saying that they "should not degenerate into a sanctimonious search for scapegoats.… Punishing individual corporate executives with public floggings like this may be a politically satisfying ritual — like an island tribe sacrificing a virgin to a grumbling volcano." Indeed. Also, who knew Davis was so creative?
Credit C.E.O. Comp Under Fire, IV [Daily Brief/Portfolio]
• Where has all of Steve Schwarzman's money gone? A report saying that his fund would earn less than half of what was predicted caused Blackstone's stock price to tumble. [NYP]
• Former Countrywide Financial, Citigroup, and Merrill Lynch execs get ready to explain to Congress why they got huge paychecks as their shareholders lost billions. [DealBook/NYT]
• Financier Carl Icahn ups his stake in Motorola. [DealBook/NYT]
• Former Star editor-in-chief Joe Dolce resurfaces, bringing Culture & Travel magazine back into the spotlight. [WWD]
• Former Seventeen editrix Atoosa Rubenstein resurfaces, bringing Alpha Kitty back into the spotlight. [HuffPo]
• And for those wondering how to keep tabs on colleagues who are masthead hopping, check out e-newsletter Gorkana, brought to your in-box by friendly PR people. [NYT]
• Fired Portfolio editor Jim Impoco makes his comeback at The New York Times Magazine, where he'll be a consulting editor. [NYO]
• NBC puts its traditional glitzy advertising on the back burner. That's really too bad for the girl who was hoping to be assigned to keep tabs on John Krasinski during the day of the presentations. [NYP]
• Nielsen CEO David Calhoun charts a new course for his media-measuring company. [Fortune]