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May 12, 2008

Old Kirk Kerkorian Wandering the Neighborhood Again


Mr. Waggoner called Mr. Ford down the street:


“I just want to let you know there’s a strange old man who’s been wandering the neighborhood,” Mr. Waggoner said. “He has wavy gray hair and a wrinkled face like a catcher’s mitt. He’s going around to all the houses and blathering on about money or something.”


Mr. Ford thinks he’s heard about this guy before.


“Right, right . . . Mr. Iacocca saw him too,” Mr. Ford said. “He always wants to come in your house and says he can pay for all kinds of crazy remodeling. Then he’ll never leave? That guy? Ends up sitting on your couch in his underwear watching Jay Leno when you’re trying to get the kids in bed?”


Mr. Waggoner confirms it.


“That’s the guy! If he shows up, don’t let him in. Whatever you do. It’s almost impossible to get him to leave.”


Mr. Ford thanks Mr. Waggoner for the heads-up, only to look down the steps of his porch and gulp:


“He’s here!”


Yep, 90-year-old Kirk Kerkorian is wandering the neighborhood again, and now he’s decided to show up at the doorstep of Ford Motor Company – armed with millions of dollars and lots and lots of big plans.


Having already served his stints as the Crazy Billionaire Uncle at both General Motors and Chrysler (where he attempted several hostile takeovers, one with deposed CEO-for-Life Lee Iacocca in tow), Kerkorian is now trying to buy up lots and lots of Ford.


In fact, he already has. In April, Kerkorian bought 100 million shares – about 4.7 percent of the company – and this week began openly soliciting to buy another 20 million shares of Ford common stock at $8.50 a share, which means Old Catcher’s Mitt Face is willing to shell out an additional $170 million to become the proud owner of about 5.5 percent of what may be the most unprofitable company in the history of business.


The company expressed complete surprise when told that Kerkorian had already bought up nearly 5 percent of the company, even though he announced his intention a month ago to do exactly that. Ford executives. Nothing gets past them!


Ford’s board is urging its shareholders to take no action, even while company executives claim to “welcome” the investment and say it shows their turnaround plan is working.


Ford lost $2.7 billion in 2007 (you have to think counterintuitively; this is actually a good year by Ford standards), and in the first quarter of 2008, the company shocked the world by turning – are you sitting down? – a $100 million profit.


That must mean that Kerkorian will be perfectly happy to just be a silent investor. In fact, his investment company, Tracinda, put out a statement saying in part that it “believes Ford is an attractive investment. It does not have a present intent to acquire or influence control over the business of Ford.”


That must be why Kerkorian’s right-hand man, Jerry York, is publicly calling for Ford to sell Mercury and Volvo. Because Tracinda doesn’t want to influence any control.


Kerkorian’s return to the scene is always welcome as far as this columnist is concerned. He’s a hoot. See Kirk try to take over Chrysler. See Chrysler throw him out. See Kirk buy up a bunch of GM and make the board very nervous. See Kirk bail on GM when he thinks he can take over Chrysler again. See Chrysler hide in the basement until Kirk goes away.


See Kirk buy up 5 percent of Ford while its board isn’t looking.


Nothing beats when Kirk starts wandering the neighborhood again. Yet it’s hard to imagine anything he might suggest, no matter how outlandish, being dumber that what Ford has done to date. Maybe they should listen to him.


After all, a 90-year-old billionaire can’t afford to risk $170 million, can he? That wouldn’t be rational. How would he plan for his retirement years?


Uh oh. There’s someone wandering up to your door! Pretend you’re not home.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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