septiembre 18, 2004

More Apprentice blogging -- Bradford

Firing the top performer is dumb, and it seemed to me (see below post) that Bradford was the top performer.

What'd he do? Oh, just led his team to victory in the first week, and then appeared to be the best seller on the streets. Sales ability is important.

Also, he played to win. What's with the girls not dressing attractively? It's pretty much a given that a girls team should beat a boys team in street selling. As Bradford pointed out, guys will buy anything from a hot girl. Everyone knows this; men are very visually oriented. The girls have a huge advantage here. But they chose not to use it, because they didn't want to sell themselves.

I don't have alot of patience for this idea, and I fault all the girls. Putting on a skirt and a halter top (Bradford's suggested wardrobe, according to Ivana I believe) is not selling sex, as the girls suggested. You dress more scantily than that when you're at the beach. No, it's using your attractiveness to win the game. That's not selling sex.

I play to win. I don't think there's any value in losing. I believe in acting ethically in competitions, but I'm very competitive. I hate to lose. And so if I were Bradford I probably would have been more upset that the girls chose to give away one of their greatest advantages. Why bother playing if you're not going to try to win?

Apprentice blogging

Donald Trump annoys me. So much so that I try not to watch the Apprentice. But I admit that Burnette is good at making storylines, and so I ended up watching the latest episode of the Apprentice that my girlfriend tivo'd.

This episode underscored for me why I don't like Trump. He's a jerk, arrogant and self-centered. His first loyalty is always to himself. Honestly, it surprises me that someone who apparently values others and relationships as low as he does has been so successful.

I'd already read Jeremy's post on this episode, so I already knew the outcome, but could hardly believe it. In fact, that may be why I ended up watching the whole thing, because I had to know how it evolved this way.

Look, I don't think I would have done what Bradford did -- waive my exemption not to be fired -- but I think he could have defended himself better. I think you can make a case that Bradford was trying to promote himself as someone who doesn't want to win on a technicality. He wants to win on his own merits, which so far were substantial**. So, because there was such a miniscule chance of his being fired, he was willing to take that chance in order to build an image now of someone who gets results and doesn't want to win on technicalities. That could potentially pay off in the long run, and this is technically a winner-take-all game.

In effect it isn't a winner-take-all game though, because of the tv coverage. There's certainly value in having the potential to create a brand out of your self (such as Troy or even Omarosa), so if I were playing the game I'd try hard to make it to the end, but winning wouldn't really concern me. After all, I don't want to work for Trump. That's the last thing in the world I would want.

Trump has written that he is very risk-adverse (mildly ironic for a casino owner), so perhaps he doesn't like this.

I think Bradford could have and should have defended himself better, but I think it is divorced from reality for Trump to say that Bradford's action was a major mistake. It's a game, Donald, and as long as he can assume you won't turn on him for taking a risk, then I think it's an acceptable risk.

So who knows, maybe I'll end up watching more episodes intermittently like I did last year. I think I ended up watching four episodes, including the finale. But I hate supporting Trump in any way.

More Browser Wars

My last post was laughing at the Browser wars, as I saw that Internet Explorer had about 99% of my visits. However, apparently there are competitors growing their market share. Businessweek writes:
When was the last time you heard about the browser wars? Well, they're back. The reason: For the first time in more than seven years, Microsoft (MSFT ) is losing Web browser market share. And it's not just a blip. According to Web analytics company WebSideStory, Microsoft's share of browser users who visited top e-commerce and corporate sites shrank from 95.6% in June to 93.7% in September. And people using browsers made by the Mozilla open-source software group grew from 3.5% to 5.2%.
Apparently some commenters to the previous post are big fans of Firefox.

septiembre 17, 2004

Browser Wars

The Browser Wars really were long ago, weren't they?

I have several websites from long ago. I checked their stats tonight. Both did not register a single hit from Netscape. There was some Opera and other browsers, but no Netscape. And 99% of the hits were Internet Explorer.

Microsoft seems to be a well run company, don't they? Perhaps I'll write more about this later.

Kathy Ireland

I love Kathy Ireland. Okay, slight hyperbole.

But she's obviously done a wonderful job of creating a brand as a model and adapting it to her clothing line. Kudos.

More on NextWave

A few weeks ago, I linked to an article about how NextWave had "arbitraged government policies for billions."

If you read the article, essentially NextWave found a loophole in an FCC auction that allowed them to bid $4.8 billion with just a $500 million down payment for the rights to certain wireless airwaves. NextWave won the auction and then went into bankruptcy. Because of the US Bankruptcy code, NextWave could keep the rights without paying for them. (There was a court battle in there, and at one point the FCC re-auctioned off NextWave's licenses for $15.8 billion. However, the Supreme Court ruled that bankruptcy law took precedence over communications law, and the re-auction was invalidated.) Just recently, the FCC gave up and settled with Nextwave by giving them $3 billion worth of licenses.

Well when I read the story, I thought it was interesting. Legal, but on a technicality and a bit shady. However, a few days ago I picked up a book called "The Money Men: the real story of fundraising's influence on political power in America" written in 2000 by Jeff Birnbaum. Here's a passage about NextWave: provision pushed by the FCC in a gigantic budget bill a few years ago. The provision would have stripped NextWave Telecom of New York City, then in bankruptcy proceedings, of one billion dollars' worth of federally auctioned digital wireless-telephone licenses. [Fred] Graefe [a bigshot Democratic lobbyist], who represented NextWave Telecom, was alerted to this potential catastrophe while he was on a golf course. He left the links to contact some of the friends he had made over the years via fundraising.

He telephoned Tom Daschle and Bob Kerrey. He also reached White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles; Graefe had been a loyal Democratic solicitor for years and was well known to top Democrats such as these. All three men intervened at the eleventh hour on Graefe's behalf, and, with the additional intervention of other lobbyists from the GOP side, the offending provision was crossed out by hand mere moments before the bill went to the printer.
Anyway, I thought this was an interesting followup to my earlier posts.

Tom Daschle claims to be a "prairie populist," but to me this is special interest politics at its worst. Basically Tom Daschle trusted this lobbyist because Graefe had raised alot of money for him (when an article suggests that a lobbyist is close to a Senator, that means the lobbyist raises money for him). Graefe also gave $2000 to Daschle in each of the last two election cycles and has donated regularly to Daschle over the last decade.

So because of a lobbyist request, Daschle stripped the budget bill of a provision relating to NextWave. This cost the federal government somewhere between $3 billion and $15 billion, depending on how you look at it. Either figure is probably more than South Dakota pays in income tax each year.

Could Daschle have believed that he was doing the right thing? Well, he could have, but I think an honest assessment of NextWave's situation makes clear that NextWave was exploiting an FCC loophole for billions.

UPDATE: In 2002, South Dakota paid $1.67 billion in personal income taxes, and an additional $0.37 billion in corporate income taxes.

septiembre 16, 2004

Very cool map

Check out this map of hurricane frequency, via Accidental Verbosity.

Amazon search engine?

I'm not sure how I missed it, but I hadn't heard of Amazon's new search engine until today when I saw it at BusinessPundit. BusinessWeek has an article on it.

Two things I find particularly interesting:
1. Everyone is getting into search. Microsoft is planning their own google competitor, and the BW article suggests that Ebay is as well. Of course, Amazon is using Google's database as the basis for their search engine, but will probably apply it slightly different ways so that each gives you slightly different results.

Everyone is spending alot of money on search, when profits are only now beginning to be made.

2. will have one of the functions that is great about Amazon: it suggests new sites for you to visit based on your search history. Now, I find it a little creepy that amazon would keep track of my search results...I like my privacy. But I also like the idea of having new sites suggested to me.


I just tried to leave a comment at BusinessPundit, and it wouldn't let me. I assume this was an anti-spam measure...perhaps because I had a email?


septiembre 15, 2004

The Benefactor

Mark Cuban hasn't blogged since the airing of the first episode of the Benefactor, a show where he gives $1 million to whomever he decides he likes the best.

Perhaps this is because the show has gotten nearly universally panned.

I didn't see the show, but critics were scathing in their reviews. And apparently ABC accidentally revealed the final four contestants right after the credits rolled. Kinda takes away the drama, doesn't it?

Being rich and having options

Kirk Kerkorian has bought and sold MGM three times.
Instead, Kerkorian has treated the famous studio as he has every other property he's owned -- as a business asset he buys low with the intention of building, but will sell high at the right price.

So Kerkorian put MGM on the market, and Sony snatched it for $2.9 billion. Kerkorian's team paid $1.3 billion for the studio in 1996; his cut alone from the Sony sale is worth more than $1.7 billion.
I also like details like this:
(His first marriage lasted 10 years; his second, to a Vegas showgirl, lasted 29 and produced two children, Tracy and Linda, whose names he combined to create his company name -- Tracinda. His charity is called the Lincy Foundation.)

septiembre 14, 2004

Small biz stats

Small biz optimism:
U.S. small business optimism dipped slightly last month but remained near record levels, suggesting a strong outlook for growth, a survey released on Tuesday showed.

The National Federation of Independent Business said its monthly small business optimism index fell 3.0 points in August to 102.9, its 17th straight reading of 100 or more.
My own admittedly anecdotal experience is that many of my peers are also increasingly considering entrepreneurialism. Not exactly a direct correlation to small biz optimism.

Don't believe the hype

When I was young -- that is, younger than I am now, or 13ish -- I started getting into investing. I was investing the money I made mowing lawns, so it was paltry amounts.

One of the first things I learned was: don't believe the hype.

I saw this report today on Campbell's Soup:
Food conglomerate Campbell Soup Co. posted a 20 percent drop in fourth-quarter profits as the company began its latest restructuring effort. (emphasis mine)
Campbell's Soup was named Board of the Year by BusinessWeek in December 1996. Many of the business magazines at the time wrote glowing articles about the company and its management.

Don't believe the hype.

Around this time, Campbell's Soup board spun off Vlasic Pickles and some of their other poorly performing brands. Vlasic soon went into a very expensive bankruptcy, sold off its brands, paid lawyers, and then had a couple cents left over for shareholders (my memory is vague on the point).

In April 1998, Campbell's analyst consensus projections for fiscal year 98 sales were about $8 billion, with earnings at about 950 million, or $2.10 a share. The stock was selling in the mid 50s. These were enthusiastic numbers (the 97 numbers were $1.67 EPS), but they were the consensus.

The EPS has since stagnated and been restated a few times. The stock now sells at $25.