imagine how all the late-night comedians felt when Dan Quayle finally
exited the scene in 1993? That’s how I feel right now. Kirk Kerkorian is
a business humor columnist’s dream – or should I say, the combination of
Kerkorian and GM. It’s like gold.
is eccentric, old, strange-looking and really, really rich. And best of
all, he scares the bejeezus out of stuffed-shirt corporate types, who
cower under the conference table in the boardroom wondering, “What will
he want us to do now? Merge with Purina?” (As if dog food would
lower itself to be co-branded with GM cars.)
Motors? Oh my goodness. Talk about a company that simultaneously suffers
from delusions of grandeur and fear of its own shadow. Hovering over the GM
board is the perfect role for Kerkorian. No matter how loony his
proposals – and they can get pretty loony – they can’t possibly be more
insane than the things GM has already done.
sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach signals that the best gift ever
given me may soon be taken away. Last week, Kerkorian sold a quarter of
his GM shares, leaving him as the proud owner of only 7.4 percent of the
company. He has vowed to quickly sell the rest of it and, in turn, significantly
increase his stake in the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas (which he built –
the hotel, not the city, and yes I’m told there is a difference),
washing his hands of GM entirely.
happens, what will I do? Kerkorian as GM's major shareholder? Do you
have any idea how much material that was good for? Listen. Writing a
business humor column isn’t as easy as it looks, buster. Every week, I
have to make the most boring subject on Earth funny. When deadline is
approaching and the business world is just not amusing me, do you have
any idea how comforting it is to simply do a news search for “Kerkorian
GM” and know that a column will practically write itself?
getting his lackey Jerome York appointed to the board to the horror of
Chairman Rick Waggoner. Here’s York demanding that GM stop making the
Hummer, sell Jaguar and initiate merger talks with Renault and Nissan.
the popcorn! There’s Waggoner pretending to discuss the aforementioned
merger with his CEO counterparts at Renault and Nissan because the last
thing he needs is Kerkorian throwing a fit.
And on it
goes. Kerkorian sells a bunch of stock. York resigns. Kerkorian buys
back a bunch more stock. Someone remembers that Kerkorian once tried a
hostile takeover of Chrysler, but is relieved that he seems content at
89 to just sit around making people nervous.
I’d do the same thing if I were him. Kerkorian declared a few years ago
that if GM liquidated all its assets, they would be worth three times
the actual market price of its stock. In terms of shareholder value, GM
is at best a long-term investment, and that’s assuming it stops losing
$4 billion a year at some point in the not-too-distant future.
What is an
89-year-old geezer clinging to here? The employee discount? (Besides,
they keep giving that away to everyone too.)
I’ve always figured that Kerkorian invested in GM mainly for purposes of
self-amusement. That he also managed to amuse me in the process is
surely a bonus he cherishes, but if the toy has started to bore him, can
I reasonably expect him to hang on just because I will have to start
digging for actual column topics of my own?
will still be ridiculous, so I can always make fun of it, but it’s not
the same without a freaky major shareholder who looks like a catcher’s mitt
and has a name that reminds people of a suicide doctor.
I’ll be OK,
everyone. Just give me a minute. I guess I can always make fun of Donald
Trump – not that that hasn’t been done to death. Kirk, I thought
we were a team, you and me. Now you’re on your way back to Vegas, and I
have to start working for a living again.
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