Is it possible to meaningfully rank universities across countries, with no regard for individual departments? Some researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University have tried, and the results are here.
Conrad Black’s Hollinger vs Hollinger case is underway in Delaware, and it is predictably juicy. The gist of the three-day trial in Delaware’s Chancery Court is that Hollinger International (not Black) is trying to block the sale of Hollinger Inc. (Black-controlled) to the Barclay Brothers of Britain.
Hollinger International board members have taken heat for their “flexible” history with respect to Conrad’s prior edicts. According to testimony from former SEC chair Richard Breeden today, Black had ways of making people agree:
“I’ve heard [Black] start several meetings by saying he’d sue every individual member of the board of they didn’t go along with what he wanted.”
Not only that, he apparently made faces at board members and taunted them mercilessly:
One conversation “began with Mr. Black glaring at us … He said he’d fix their wagon good, [although] those weren’t his exact words.”
I’m a tireless reader of corrections in the financial press and so I thought I had seen it all. But this correction from today’s WSJ concerning a recent Money & Investing story is a classic:
Corrections & Amplifications
Chapman Capital LLC didn’t state in a 13D filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had earned $1.4 million from trading in Footstar stock. The $1.4 million estimate in a Jan. 28 Money & Investing article actually was taken from an article on TheStreet.com and should have been attributed properly. Chapman Capital hasn’t specified the correct number.
The offices of Robert Chapman, head of the firm, aren’t decorated with sharks teeth and he doesn’t liken himself to the fictional characters Darth Vader and the Terminator, as incorrectly stated in the Jan. 28 article.
The article incorrectly attributed certain comments to a representative of the firm who had been identified as Robert Lewis; after publication, Mr. Chapman said he had made those comments himself.
What is really going on with Warren Buffett and Cadbury-Schweppes? First, on Tuesday, Buffett’s Berkshire-Hathaway told the SEC that as of December 31st, 2003, it controlled $73.3-million in Cadbury-Schweppes ADRs (American Depository Receipts).
Then, two days later, Buffett’s filed with the SEC to say that it didn’t actually hold said ADRs. Instead, it held Cadbury-Schweppes shares (say that ten times fast) that it had purchased on the London exchange. In other words, it didn’t have to disclose the holding to the SEC, but it had made a mistake (it seems) and did so anyways.
Now, however, we have another 13F-HR filing from the increasingly prolific Berkshire. The Cadbury-Schweppes holding has been excised, but there is a new disclaimer saying that a disclaimer was missing in the last filing:
“This amendment is being filed to add a statement which was inadvertently omitted from the original filing made on February 17, 2004. The statement which is on the 13F summary page is as follows: ‘Confidential Information has been omitted from the public form 13F and filed separately with the commission.’”
In other words, Berkshire hasn’t disclosed some positions that it actually holds. While Berkshire is an aggressive pursuer of such allowances from the SEC — it likes to claim that disclosing all its positions would put it at a competitive disadvantage — this one is baffling. Because if it means that Cadbury-Schweppes is the thing not being disclosed, then it’s too late — Berkshire already accidentally filed about the holding.
I’m not the only one confused. I see that Fortune columnist Andy Serwer has gotten all muddled about the difference between Lou Simpson, who runs the public-market money at Berkshire, and Berkshire itself:
As for “Buffett’s” purchase of some Cadbury Schweppes stock, my understanding is that was Lou Simpson, not Buffett.
Note to Andy: It is, of course, Simpson who owns the Cadbury stock, but Simpson is still part of Berkshire so the holding gets disclosed in the latter firm’s quarterly 13F. Mind you, it’s all secret so we don’t actually know any of this. I think.
Somewhat off-topic, because I don’t do much science here or much straight-up pointer stuff, but Nature now has an RSS feed. Indulge your inner scientist here.
Funny that this piece on Google’s dumbing-down of research has come out when it has. I just went through a similar exercise, one where I weaned myself off the knee-jerk reflex of immediately going to Google every time I want to look up some financial markets papers. It’s a bad habit, and it leads to cluttered thinking.
This quote from the piece was particularly appropriate concerning students’ attitudes toward university research:
“Oh, our campus has a library? I didn’t know that, but now that you mention it, why would I go there?”
Surprisingly interesting, contrite, and thoughtful apologia here on the economy of the late-1990s from Fast Company. Perhaps its best contribution is it explicitly refutes the false orthodoxy of technology wherein all new things supplant, rather than augment, what has gone before. The piece also does a mini mea culpa for the whole Free Agent Nation mythology, as well as conceding that first-mover advantage is generally a canard.
Mind you, I said all the same things in columns, lectures, and on television back in 1997-98. Maybe Fast Company isn’t so fast after all.
Is too much money still screwing up the venture capital business? There is no doubt that things were out of control in the late 1990s, with everyone and their Pomeranian opening a venture firm. But how about now?
Well, some think the situation is little better. At a recent venture capital conference, David Aronoff, a newly-minted general partner at Greylock Capital, pined for the good old days:
The motto in VC used to be “Undersupply of capital for oversupply of good ideas.” But now capital markets are increasingly willing to take on risk with VCs, and this situation has turned for the worse.
I take his point, and few things ruin an investing party faster than too much money. The question is, of course, at what level does a venture capital allocation become less competitive vis-a-vis other investments? I understand that incumbent VCs might prefer other VCs get less money, but that is not the same as saying that allocations should be lower across the board.
Interesting piece here profiling some thoughtful recent comments by Sequoia Capital partner Michael Moritz. While Moritz engages in a bit of revisionism about his firm’s investments in Cisco and Yahoo — neither was originally as hang-dog as he self-servingly portrays them — he makes fair points about the role of contrarianism (Billy Bean-style) in venture capital, why putting “a lot of money to work” isn’t a good idea, and why patience is underrated.
A legit question for people who think well-known properties like Disney’s are licenses to print money is this: Why aren’t the Muppets worth more? News today is that Disney has purchased the Muppets from the Jim Henson Company for what was almost certainly a low-low price.
By way of background, back in 2000 media company EM.TV bought the Muppets for a staggering $680-million, which prompty drove that company into financial distress. The Muppets ended up back on the market shortly thereafter, with Jim Henson’s family re-purchasing the whole lot in 2003 for a “mere” $84-million. And now we have them turning around Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the Bear in the Big Blue House at a bargain price.