April 16, 2007
Will Kerkorian Finally
Get the Girl?
man always returns to his first love. OK, granted, when he’s 89 years
old and has a face that looks like a crumpled paper bag, she might claim
to be married, or tell him she’s contracted herpes. But return he will.
Kirk Kerkorian owning a tenth of General Motors never seemed quite
right. It was sort of like when Burt Reynolds was married to Loni
Anderson. Everyone knew he was pining for Sally Field.
Chrysler is to Kirk as Sally is to Burt. When the object of his heart’s
desire went to live with the dashing German fellow instead of settling
down with Kirk forever and ever, Kirk took what he could get and hooked
up with the girl down the street who at least had the respectable
But Kirk wasn’t happy with her. She never listened to him. Granted, he
had some bizarre suggestions for her – like when he wanted her to hook
up with a Japanese fellow while Kirk watched. Or when he wanted them to
drive the Hummer up to the cliff – then push it over the edge.
They weren’t meant to be together, and a few months ago, Kirk finally
left her for good. Somewhere, deep down inside, she was probably
thinking, “I bet that Chrysler woman is available again!”
Actually she was probably just thinking, “I thought he would never
leave.” Either way, Kirk was a free agent again, and what do you know?
That Chrysler woman is available again!
Would the match that was meant to be finally be?
You have to hand it to Kirk. He knows what he wants and he goes for it.
As soon as Daimler-Chrysler made it clear it would like to unload its
struggling Chrysler Group, Kirk made a $4.5 billion offer.
The two Detroit newspapers – the News and Free Press – ran
identical massive front-page headlines: “HE’S BACK!” Actually the
Free Press stretched it out like the girl in Poltergeist, who
is probably spinning in her grave at the creative affront – but we
Maybe Kirk would finally get the girl! After all, when an 89-year-old
man announces his intention to take a “long-term approach” to an
investment – or anything, for that matter – he has to mean it, right?
Alas, there are a few problems. When Daimler-Benz bought Chrysler 1998,
Chrysler’s major shareholder sued the German outfit for paying too
little per share. That, of course, was our boy Kirk. The Germans have
this little problem with being sued, and this time around, when they
started setting up meeting with prospective buyers of Chrysler, they
conveniently forgot to set one up with Kirk!
Kirk also announced upon making his bid that he would immediately demand
concessions from the unionized workforce, while demanding that
Daimler-Benz continue to pay for a share of existing pension and health
of course, the unions and existing management immediately got on board –
except that they didn’t.
Usually when a match made in Heaven ends up looking more like it was
made in Gary, Indiana, there are reasons. The history of this
relationship provides a guide. Kirk’s last two attempts to take over
Chrysler were of the, shall we say, hostile variety. The best one came
in 1995, when Kirk launched a hostile takeover attempt with recently
dethroned Chairman Forever Lee Iacocca on his team – the crazy uncle at
the wedding, standing in the balcony waving a gun – while Kirk tried to
muscle the shareholders into tendering their shares.
But he was young back then. OK, 77. He’s matured. He’ll be different
this time. He’ll treat the girl with respect and they’ll live happily
ever after. All she has to do is give him a chance.
Will she? Did Sally take Burt back? Oh. She didn’t? Well maybe she would
if she’d lost $1.5 billion last year. Never underestimate what true love
can accomplish, especially when it rests on the heart of a wacky,
octogenarian, paper-bag-faced investor who won’t give up.
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