No Such Nonsense

A little of this, that and... what was I talking about again? It's TV, sports, pop culture and politics - all the stuff that really matters in life.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sometimes, Business is Better than a Soap Opera

I know a lot of people who avoid the business pages of the paper at almost any cost. They figure that the ROB or the Financial Post are full of dusty, dry stories about finance and accounting and other dreadfully dull subjects. And sometimes they are dreadfully dull. But, having just finished my MBA, I can tell you that sometimes business can offer the best drama going.

Everyone knows about the sinister doings at Enron and the other big scandals of the past few years. From Dennis Kozlowski's $6000 shower curtains at the expense of Tyco shareholders to Martha Stewart's infamous stock deal and prison term, we've spent the past five years learning about the levels of corporate malfeasance.

But even without the dirt and grime of corporate misdeeds, business can be an intriguing place to be - and two recent stories are particularly good examples.

Inco weds Falconbridge weds Phelps Dodge

Polygamy is so hot right now.

Earlier this year, Canadian mining giant Inco made a play for fellow Canadian firm Falconbridge. The marriage, if given the government's blessing, would have created the largest nickel producer in the world. But, just as Inco made it's overture, another suitor appeared, fighting Inco for the love of Falconbridge's shareholders. The dashing foreign stranger was Swiss-based Xstrata. And then, kids, things get interesting. Inco and Falconbridge reach an agreement to merge, Xstrata tries to get in the middle and steal Falconbrige and a new player, Teck Cominco, makes an unsolicited offer to buy Inco, but only if Inco would promise to jilt Falconbridge at the altar. It's enough to make one feel dirty all over. Finally, today comes news that Inco has agreed to merge with American copper giant Phelps Dodge, combining Inco, Falconbridge and Phelps Dodge into a happy blended family called Phelps Dodge Inco, worth about $56 billion overall. Congratulations to the bride on keeping her own name.

Warren Buffett Makes a Small Donation

We all give to charity from time to time. Whether it's making an annual contribution to the Red Cross or handing a few dollars to the guy sleeping on the subway grate, giving can make a real difference in the world and it's good for the soul. So imagine how good Warren Buffett's soul must feel today. Over the weekend, he announced that he would be giving the bulk of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Just how bulky is that fortune? Well, as Chairman of investment conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett's personal fortune is estimated to be about $44 billion. That makes Buffett the world's second richest man, just behind his good pal Bill Gates. And, rather than bequeath his fortune to his children and grandchildren, Buffett has decided to use to money to help the Gates' change the world. Remarkably, as a recent Oprah Winfrey show detailed, Buffett chose not to offer any on-going financial support to his grandchildren - paying for their college education but then encouraging them to make their own way in the world. On Oprah, his grand-daughter seemed resigned to the decision, if obviously not thrilled about it. Which does make you wonder what Thanksgiving at the Buffetts must look like.

Family drama. Hostile takeovers. Billions of dollars. Beats the Young and Restless any day.


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