Holiday extravagance at Samsung
Okay, so I said I wasn't going to be posting much. But this is too good not to share:
I got a DHL Express Letter the other day sent straight from "Samsung Main Building" in Seoul. What could be so important that the Korean electronics giant would spend $30 or $40 to get to me? (According to the DHL website, it would cost me $44.10 to send such a letter to Korea; I'm willing to allow that Samsung gets some sort of bulk discount.)
Why it was a holiday card, signed by Samsung CEO Jong-Yong Yun, whom I met last year at the Fortune Global Forum in Beijing. I truly do appreciate the sentiment. But it's interesting to see that, for all the impressive changes that Samsung and other Korean corporations have gone through since the country's financial crisis almost a decade ago, the whole idea of frugality doesn't seem to have really hit home. Glad I'm not a Samsung shareholder. Oh, wait--I imagine that, by way of one of the international funds in my 401(k), I am. This is an outrage!
Work slowdown at the Curious Capitalist
I haven't been posting much lately, and won't post much (if at all) over the next few weeks because I'm taking some time off to finally really and truly finish the book I've been working on for the past few years.
The book is tentatively titled The Myth of the Rational Investor, and it grew out of an article I wrote for Fortune's annual Investor Guide four years ago. It's an intellectual history of the rise, impact, and partial fall of the ivory-tower idea that financial markets can be relied upon to rationally and perfectly set prices for stocks, bonds and other securities. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will render you capable of discussing the ideas of Gene Fama and Dick Thaler at cocktail parties. But only if I finish it.
Mastercard wins a big legal (and soccer) victory
Unlike my friend and fellow CNNMoney blogger Roger Parloff, I don't spend a lot of time reading legal documents. But I'm still pretty sure that the "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law" issued last night by U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska (and passed on to me this morning by a friend) in the case of Mastercard (MA) v. FIFA were a heckuva lot more incendiary than your average legal ruling.
Mastercard is suing FIFA, the global governing body of soccer, for reneging on a World Cup sponsorship deal. The company (with its ubiquitous spokesman Pele) has been a key sponsor of the world's biggest sporting event for 16 years, and had right of first refusal for future sponsorships. FIFA, however, went and signed an eight-year deal with Mastercard archrival Visa that was due to start in January. Chicago's IEG estimates that such sponsorships cost $35 million a year (far more than similar Olympics deals), but the card issuers presumably see all the publicity as worth it.
Anyway, the judge found last night in Mastercard's favor, and ordered FIFA to cancel its deal with Visa and put Mastercard back in the saddle. With Mastercard now publicly traded and Visa planning an IPO soon, this is a big deal--although it's hard to put a dollar value on it since Mastercard was suing for the privilege to pay FIFA money.There will be much more informed coverage of this to come from journalists who have actually been following the case (here's a brief month-old summary from the Times of London and here's one from the WSJ by way of the Kansas City Star). But no one seems to have noticed yet that the ruling is out, so I figured I'd let the judge's somewhat incredulous words speak for themselves. You can get the entire 125-page ruling here, but this is my favorite part:
FIFA's negotiators lied repeatedly to MasterCard, including when they assured MasterCard that, consistently with MasterCard's first right to acquire, FIFA would not sign a deal for the post-2006 sponsorship rights with anyone else unless it could not reach agreement with MasterCard.
Can you make a great business magazine without socialists?
The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, has just relaunched its magazine (formerly known as--get this--"American Enterprise") as The American.
The editor is James K. Glassman, who will never be able to escape the fact that he co-authored the book Dow 36,000 in 1999 but is otherwise a pretty great journalist of both business and ideas, and he has big plans for the endeavor. To quote from his editor's letter in the inaugural issue:
Business magazines have gone tiny. Clearly, there are readers who want nuts-and-bolts stories on how to climb the corporate ladder or how to find the best mutual funds. I have read--indeed, written--such stories myself. But by going tiny, business magazines have provided us with an opportunity that Henry Luce recognized when he proposed the original Fortune magazine: "The field which lies open is as immense and as rich as was ever offered to journalistic enterprise.... Industry is a world in itself ... and this World is more macrocosm than microcosm, is, in fact, the largest of the planets which make up our system."
I like to think that we retain some of that Lucian approach in the pages of Fortune, but Glassman is right that we now put far more emphasis on the nuts and bolts of corporate life than did the Fortune of the 1930s and 1940s. (I'm not so sure I agree about the 1950s and 1960s.)
What Glassman fails to mention, though, is that the people who produced that magazine he admires so much were lefties: critic (and lapsed Trotskyite) Dwight MacDonald, poet and playwright Archibald Macleish, novelist James Agee, economist John Kenneth Galbraith. As Galbraith put it in his autobiography (I lifted the quote out of Richard Parker's massive new biography, John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics):
It had been Harry Luce's reluctant discovery that, with rare exceptions, good writers on business were either liberals or socialists. To this he was reconciled. Better someone with questionable ideas who wrote interesting and readable English than a man of sound view who could not be read at all.
So there you have it. The American Enterprise Institute, that bastion of respectable conservative thought, is publishing a magazine modeled upon the work of a bunch of liberals and socialists. To quote my old boss, the late, great Ron Casey: Is this a great country or what?
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