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Time Warner To Be Split Into Four Parts? 107

Posted by Zonk
from the baby-warners dept.
Shakrai writes "CNN Money is running a story titled Icahn eyes Time Warner break-up. Carl Icahn is a fairly well known investor who is pushing to break the Time Warner empire into at least four different business units. While his motivation seems to stem from business interests -- he thinks it will work out better for Time Warner in the long run -- I thought it raised an interesting point of discussion. Will the vertically integrated media empires that control content creation, content distribution, internet access and the news media become the Ma Bells of the 21st century? What can be done to protect consumers without stifling the technological innovation that we all know is so important?"
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Time Warner To Be Split Into Four Parts?

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  • Weird (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FST (766202) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:38AM (#14177944) Journal
    Does anyone else find it weird that just a few years ago, big mergers were all the rage and "synergy" was the magic buzzword in corporate America and on Wall Street. So why are so many companies now rushing to get unhitched? Also, is this outbreak of corporate divorces good for shareholders, or should I sell my stocks now?
    • Some of the "baby bells" have done well since the AT&T breakup in the 1980s, but it's important to note that Bell South is the only one that hasn't merged with something else. Bell Atlantic bought NYNEX (two baby bells; NYNEX was created at the breakup as what was formerly known as NY Telephone and NE Telephone) merged to make Bell Atlantic. (NOT Verizon; the name "Verizon" came into use when Bell Atlantic bought GTE, because that made the company exted west.) So perhaps the four parts may merge with ot
      • Considering research, the breakup was no good thing. AT&T research and Bell Labs are a mere shadow of what they've been in the past.
      • A positive merger (Score:4, Informative)

        by lheal (86013) <lheal1999@yahoo . c om> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:13AM (#14178039) Journal
        I'm a former GTE customer. From a customer service and quality standpoint they were the worst company I've ever dealt with. Every time I had to deal with them they botched it.

        Since they merged with Bell Atlantic and became Verizon, I'm fairly happy with them. They adopted the policy (for their customer service reps, anyway) that one way or another they wouldn't stop working until your problem was resolved.

        Their prices are too high, but at least they fix whatever you tell them is wrong.

        But Icahn is just trying to "flip" them, as you would a piece a furniture you got at a garage sale and put on Ebay.
    • Re:Weird (Score:3, Interesting)

      by faqmaster (172770)
      Seems to be a natural cycle - intergrate, disintegrate. At an abstract level (the level that the board members or uber-investors look at) the four areas mentioned in the writeup look like they have a lot in common and would benefit from integration. So someone puts them all together by talking up this thing called synergy. Only then do they see that the specific methods that each of those entities use to implement their functions are very different and in some cases incompatible.

      I mean, if you didn't know a
    • Re:Weird (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dattaway (3088)
      Its called "moving and shaking." Its how you get the senior employees nervous and take pay cuts and severances.
      • Do you mean the other way around? Usually during a merger/acquisition people are let go due to overlapping positions. In a break up, everybody wins since there will now be 4x the need in a 4 way split.

        • Re:Weird (Score:3, Interesting)

          by N3Bruce (154308)
          Spinoffs are a way of forcing the now independent business units to survive on their own merits. Often money losing divisions are spun off and allowed to lapse into bankruptcy or liquidation, rather than continuing to be a drain on the parent company's profits. The first time I remember this, I was a vendor for the former Wal-Mart wannabee Woolco, which was a 300 store chain that was part of F.W. Woolworth into the early '80s. I remember the old timers seeing this as a bad omen when they were spun off from

      • Breakups and mergers cause movements in stock prices. They also create a whirlwind of new options for newly created (or divided) companies.

        Acquisitions are truly about expanding a large company into new areas (or buying out the competition). Mergers and break-ups are all about making the executives richer than they already are.

        Who pays ???? All you saps who will go out and buy AOL-Time-Warner stock.

    • Re:Weird (Score:4, Insightful)

      by alen (225700) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:13AM (#14178038)
      I read One up on Wall Street some years back. It was written by one of the best mutual fund managers in history. It's a natural cycle and the only real winners are the investment banks that get fees in every transaction.
      • That's right: "No matter if the investors make money or lose money, Duke and Duke gets their commission."

        Billy Ray: "You guys are a couple of bookies!"

    • Not so weird (Score:5, Interesting)

      by canuck57 (662392) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:20AM (#14178059)

      Does anyone else find it weird that just a few years ago, big mergers were all the rage and "synergy" was the magic buzzword in corporate America and on Wall Street.

      Not really so weird. Boards and execs have little to do but cook up a buy, merger or divestiture. It is self justification for their existance. But what a waste of money.

      The truth is the rich at the top want to keep one part of the company and cash out another and now realize the merger was stupid. My guess is AOL has been loosing too many customers under the new management and instead of dealing with the synergy and management issues they are going to cut AOL back out on their own.

      It is too bad short term greed and short sightedness were not the only traights you need on a good board of directors, if so America would be rich.

      • The truth is the rich at the top want to keep one part of the company and cash out another and now realize the merger was stupid.

        Gee, I've been saying since, oh I dunno, around 2000 that this was a stupid idea. They claimed they would have "synergy" between divisions (a sure sign of management buzzword cockery) and cross-promotion. All it really meant is that it moved ad dollars from one internal spreadsheet to another internal spreadsheet.

        And yes, I've since made sure to _not_ buy into Time Warner no


      • If there is ANY real business strategy here (beyond just pushing paper and scraping profits while all the books are unsettled), it's to capitalize on AOLs one true asset, ignorance.

        There is an entire legions out there who believe AOL IS the internet. They aren't techno savvy but they've learned how to use AOL's bloated interface.

        Like Mario or Halo, AOL's true value is as an "exclusive". Exclusive to who you say??? Exclusive to the big media conglomerate that will come along and BUY AOL after they have be
    • This is nothing. Multi-billion USD buyouts are becoming more common with the expectation that the controlling company will be able to sell the newly bought company for a profit in five to seven years. What's going to happen when they can't sell at a profit as there are no buyers because everyone else is trying to unload their properties?

      The only people who are making money on this are the ones collecting the banking fees on both ends. Everyone else can go suck a free-market lemon.
    • Mod parent down. Lifted from TFA.
    • Does anyone else find it weird that just a few years ago, big mergers were all the rage and "synergy" was the magic buzzword in corporate America and on Wall Street. So why are so many companies now rushing to get unhitched? Also, is this outbreak of corporate divorces good for shareholders, or should I sell my stocks now?

      This is because many large orginisations assumed that the entire purpose and meaning of the information age was to use inventions like the internet to leverage their copyright holdings


      • So you predict that Sony will sell off it's music and movie studios sometime soon?

        • Actually, that's the best outcome. The worst outcome would be massive political conflicts that internally rip the company to shreds. I wouldn't be supprised if there wasn't massive internal conflict already.

          Sony's hardware division isn't going to appreciate having their revenues being choked off for the sake of it's media division. Eventually, all their competitors are going to be competing to have less and less restrictive content controlls on their hardware.
    • Because there are two opposing tendencies at work. One is that any organization (business, governmental, religious, etc.) tries to expand itself, both within its current domain and by moving into others. The other is that most organizations work best when, in fact, they do one thing well rather than by doing lots of things poorly -- and preferably at a smaller scale than that of the megacorporations, because any organization that big inevitably spends more of its resources on administration than it does o
    • They're just splitting up Time Warner into four new "collectable" pieces[*] to make them more attractive to Google.

      * While supplies last. No purchase necessary. See store for official rules.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What can be done? Break ALL of these companies up, Microsoft included (like it should have been years ago). That's how! Until then, the Bullshit DMCA Takedowns and Frivolous Lawsuits No One Can Afford To Fight will run rampant.
    • Go further. Ban corporations (as a protected entity, at least). Corporations are a means of absolving the rich of the consequences of their actions.

      Note that while YOUR ability to declare bankrupcy has been gutted by the elite (in the US), the corporations are doing it as a matter of course to shed their obligations. What SHOULD happen is management should burn in a corporate bankrupcy (all prior remuneration should be liable for seizure, at a minimum). What really happens, is a company declares bankrup
      • What the management does is irrelevant. The owners of the companies still get screwed when a company goes under. Corporate owners generally are not protected at all. Did you get compensated for any of the dot-bomb stocks you bought? I don't know anybody that did. At least with a personal bankruptcy, you still have a house, and a means to work.
        • the shareholders don't get any compensation but they don't get any liability either.

          whereas if you do buisness without a limited liability company you stand to lose everything except perhaps your house (depending on the local laws).

          the reason corporations have become amoral and dangerous entities is because there is sufficant abstraction between the primary investor (usually through some kind of fund) and the company being invested in that they don't feel resposible for things the company does.
  • by axonis (640949) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:46AM (#14177967)
    I guess if AOL is going to be set free, and probably aquired, Netscape will also suffer its final fait too... i can imagine that it will evntually get killed off , marking the end of a once great Internet company.
    • Netscape still has an after-life in the form of Mozilla, which if above does become true, maybe Mozilla could take a name change and become Netscape once again.

      Still, I am just thinking aloud.
      • Why? The Mozilla name hints back to its Mosaic [wikipedia.org] roots and doesn't come with the vast baggage of the Netscape name.
      • Mozilla could take a name change and become Netscape once again.

        Even if Netscape is its predecessor, Mozilla has stood on its own and has gained worldwide respect without being associated to Netscape. As another reply stated, Netscape has a lot of baggage and people don't react to that old name anymore. Mozilla has existed for a long time, but Mozilla Firefox is a relatively new product, and that helps getting some new users. Mozilla shouldn't change to Netscape because it is not Netscape. It's a whole n

      • After they acquired mozilla.com [mozilla.com]? I mean, sure, `grep -R ns mozilla/' to see how nearly every class and template in the source is prefixed with `ns', so yeah, the Netscape roots still continue to exist.
    • I'm more concerned about winamp. I hope someone trustworthy buys the name. I'm still running the last pre AOL version.
    • As far as I can tell, many of the Netscape people are over at Google now anyway. I happened to be there on the day Firefox 1.5 went gold and saw them whooping it up a bit.

      I presume Google pays them (and lets them use their free cafeteria, etc.), but I dunno who they really work for (report to).
    • Good Lord, why isn't Netscape dead yet? Can't the authorities see that AOLTW is keeping them in constant pain [livejournal.com] and misery [livejournal.com]? I mean, good grief this is awful [jwz.org].

      People whine about corporations having all rights of humans but no responsibilities; I don't want to discuss the ethics of euthanasia what comes to humans, but bloody heck, someone ought to legalize corporate euthanasia.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    They form AOL-Time-Warner-Tron!

    (Ted Turner likes to play the head.)
  • This is just Catching up with the past isn't it? From what I've read the Aol merger never went very well and most folks thought they should have been blocked by the government anyway.
    I've always thought they were putting too many different colored eggs in one basket
  • by hellfire (86129) <deviladv@@@gmail...com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:13AM (#14178037) Homepage
    The larger a company is, the less it competes on quality and innovation, and the more it competes on price and muscle. Smaller companies are more agile and can change more quickly.

    My personal opinion is that Icahn is pushing this for simply financial reasons. Quite simply, Time Warner has money making divisions, and others are dead weight that should jettisoned. By splitting them up, an investor ends up with some kind of stock split amongst the resulting companies. They then sell off the loser stocks and put that money back into the good portions. This would be a great way to kill off AOL once and for all. AOL is the only division I know of that's dead weight, but there could be others. I'm really just guessing here. MY point is that Icahn is doing this for money reasons. It's the only reason why he would, and neither the article nor the submitter make any mention of this, which is extremely short sighted.

    However, regardless of the financial motivations, I completely support a break up of any company as large as this, purely because it benefits consumers with competition. Also, while a merger usually ends up in "eliminating redunancies" in jobs, a break up will usually put those "redundancies" back and open up at least a few new jobs to fill.

    No brainer really... get the sledgehammers out and start breaking!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yet equally large companies have a much greater scope for innovation :

      1). They have much larger turnover, and thus a much larger budget for R&D.
      2). They have a much larger consumer base that already identifies with their products as of quality, and thus the unit cost of the R&D investment is *much* smaller than that of small companies
      3). They have greater incentive to get those last few percentage points of market share that make them a de factor monopoly - as it's easier for them than for a smaller
    • Not to defend AOL or anything but you are wrong that AOL is the only dead weight in Time-Warner. AOL supplies over a billion $ a year in profit back to Time Warner. Not to mention the 11% of Google's business they supply. Certainly, AOL is not the cash machine it once was but they are far from dead. They are now shifting their focus from a member-centric model to an ad supported model. If you don't think that will work out for them then you'd better sell all of your Google and Microsoft stock because that i
      • Not to mention the 11% of Google's business they supply.


        If AOL is spun off and killed, its not like its customers would just drop off the Internet. They would find other ISPs, and therefore Google would still presumably get their business. Its just that you'd see a host of smaller contributors to Google's traffic, rather than a large block coming from AOL.

      • They are now shifting their focus from a member-centric model to an ad supported model. If you don't think that will work out for them then you'd better sell all of your Google and Microsoft stock because that is exactly their plans for the future too.

        I think it will work. I think it's really amazing cool that it will work, also, because it validates some people's foresight [foresight.org] of the future: that money will increasingly become obsolete (not all at once).

        Once we achieve nanotechnology, we'll be able

      • Not to defend AOL or anything but you are wrong that AOL is the only dead weight in Time-Warner.

        I didn't say they AOL was the only dead weight at Time Warner. I said they were the only dead weight I knew of.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "AOL is the only division I know of that's dead weight"

      Make some conservative assumptions:

      10,000,000 members paying $20/month

      Revenue of $200,000,000/month, over $2billion a year. The cost to AOL of one of these accounts is less than $10/month.

      Yeah, $100million free cash flow/month. That's dead weight...sure.

      Time Warner *wants* to ditch AOL because of old wounds, but Time Warner can't afford to....it's too much free money currently, which is used to fund their less-spectacular divisions.
    • In a well-wnitten opinion piece in the July/August 2004 Washington Monthly titled "My Beef With Big Media" [washingtonmonthly.com], Ted Turner argues for the break-up of media conglomerates. He makes the case that they not only stifle innovation, they are also frighteningly bad for democracy. To my mind, Turner's argument is the best so far against these conglomerates. He has also been perhaps the most strident critic of CNN's devolution into an infotainment channel over the past few years, and it's worth noting that he may have a
  • And I'm not talking about the monopoly issue decades ago. A few years ago AT&T split into four companies voluntarily, including AT&T Wireless, Cable, Broadband, and Consumer Services Units. It ended up a bad idea, but then maybe they would have done much worese if they hadn't done the split. I think Wireless at the time was the only profitable one.

    That said, TW hasn't really taken advantage of "synergy" opportunities enough to benefit from having it all in one company. If the problem is that it take
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Pff, technical innovation in media being so important that vertical integration is necessary? Surely not. If you look at real, practical benefits to people large scale engineering has more tangible benefits than innovation in media, and gets a lot less exposure or funding. Media and entertainment is a time sink more than anything, and you could argue that it's effects mean that people now are less developed in the arts than they were 60 years ago. Although admittedly there will be a sliding scale ranging fr
  • It's true! (Score:4, Funny)

    by tehshen (794722) <tehshen@gmail.com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:25AM (#14178071)
    Split into four parts, eh?

    Tim: for people called Tim
    e w: for disgusting things
    arn: the Access Research Network, apparently.
    er: for uncertain things?
  • TimeWarner is in all components of the industry, but you still have a choice;
    Cable or DSL,
    Cable or DSS,
    CNN or Foxnews or MSNBC or the web or all of the above,
    Artists dont HAVE to sign with Warner Music, there are many other lables, or Indy. Same with movies
    As far as online content goes, Apple/Yahoo/Napster/google and others in that ilk are eating AOL/Warners lunch

    The real Ma Bells of our time are the **AAs that really act in abuse of their monopoly.

    • I assume that you're talking about the MPAA (Motion Picture Ass'n of America) and the RIAA (Recording Industry Ass'n of America). They're not monopolies because they don't sell any significant products. The products are made by their member companies, which compete with each other.

      So longs as trade associations are not not used as vehicles to, say, agree on prices or output, they're not anti-competitive at all. It's possible to be evil without being a monopoly.
      • The products are made by their member companies, which compete with each other.

        Records by different songwriters and different artists are not close substitutes. How is this competition?

        So longs as trade associations are not not used as vehicles to, say, agree on prices or output, they're not anti-competitive at all.

        Problem with your reasoning is that many critics of the RIAA and MPAA would allege that the associations are used as vehicles to, say, agree on prices or output. If a record label were

        • As to your first point, copyright is basically a grant of monopoly in that particular work. But, other works, while not identical, are certainly substitutes. If you want to buy some music and like 5 CDs that are out there, but one is priced twice as much as the others, you probably won't buy that one. A Toyota Camry and a Honda Accord are substitutes, even if they are not identical -- if the price of one rises, consumers will switch to the other. The same is true in popular music. Britney charging too
    • Cable or DSL, Cable or DSS

      Not everybody has a choice between cable and DSL, especially given that many local telephone monopolies have been dragging their feet. And because cable Internet is traditionally tied to cable television, you can't choose satellite TV if you want high-speed Internet.

      Artists dont HAVE to sign with Warner Music

      Unless Warner Music is the only label whose A&R department will give them an offer that includes retail distribution in chain stores such as Best Buy and Tower (f

  • by MaestroSartori (146297) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:27AM (#14178078) Homepage
    ...seem to suffer from the same problem - although they run the full range of medial production, none of them seem to be able to effectively merge the different parts of the company to produce any great result.After all, Time Warner have a huge back catalog of music and film sitting there, but they've provided no means for customers of AOL to access any of it. Maybe they're working on that, i dunno, but all these big merged conglomerates like Sony BMG, Time Warner, none of them are visibly making any real efforts to do things involving the full spectrum of business interests they cover.

    I always wonder if it's because despite being "merged" on paper, internally they still run as separate businesses with all the competing and territoriality that implies... :(
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:41AM (#14178112)
    There is no dependent public service on Time Warner. All they things they do, especially in media, can't be considered in the same way that the monopoly of AT&T and their FCC and PUC/state-governed telephony was.

    These two aren't equal; they aren't congruent, they aren't even parallel.

    Time Warner's broadband properties are not a utility, like water, sewer, electricity, or natural gas-- things you can't live without. They don't have the same history, the same economics, the same monopoly control, the same easement and right-of-way capital assets, and so on.

    Therefore, garbage-in, garbage-out. The comparison is null, and it is, unfortunately moot.
    • Time Warner's broadband properties are not a utility, like water, sewer, electricity, or natural gas-- things you can't live without.

      People lived without indoor plumbing and indoor power for nearly six millennia.

      They don't have ... the same easement and right-of-way capital assets

      Really? You try to start a new cable company in your town and see how far you get.

      • Ma Bell, when she was an aggregate whole, had over $4B in assets in 1972 related to ROW, easements, and property that was a sanctioned utiility monopoly.

        Time Warner has assets, that in 2005 dollars, are but a fraction. Indeed most of their distribution infrasturcture rides other utility ROW and easements. They are by no means a monopoly, although they do enjoy franchise status in numerous areas. That franchise can be revoked if the company is re-capitalized. Federal law also supports numerous re-examination
      • You try to start a new cable company in your town and see how far you get.

        Try to start any kind of 21st century publishing company and see how far you get. Cable carries everything that paper and radio waves once did and will soon take the place of public libraries. Can we really afford to give the same kind of control to this new media that we gave to Radio and phone companies based on conditions and limits that no longer exist?

        The last mile barrier must be broken by re allocating existing bandwith. U

  • This does this mean that the new split off and to be aquired AOL divsion and the community will finally stop using the open source AOLserver [aolserver.com] with its embedded TCL support. Its used on a number of core AOL sites and also supported by OpenACS [openacs.org].
  • He said that according to his calculations, he would get AOL for free in a break up.
  • by djupedal (584558) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:45AM (#14178127)
    "What can be done to protect consumers without stifling the technological innovation that we all know is so important?"

    Start by making fewer assumptions...
    Assumption #1: Technological innovation as you perceive it actually happens.
    Assumption #2: Consumers are protectable and/or need to be protected.
    Assumption #3: Consumers want current content.
    Assumption #4: Consumers are the ones being protected.

    TV was called the 'boob' tube, for good reason, long before the phrase 'innovative technology' was coined. You seem to think content mega-control by corporations is new on the scene...it's not.

    Consumers aren't quite the idiots you think they are - by your logic, a small group of people enjoying an ad-hoc musical performance in Central Park are neither consumers, nor are they being exposed to 'content'...wrong. Just one example - there are hundreds more. Point is, consumers can protect themselves, thank you very much.

    As for protecting anyone...the corporations are the ones interested in protection.

    Despite your fantasies, most technological innovation comes from good old fashioned war. Faster information gathering; better medical procedures; increased creature comforts...the biggest upswings in tech advances have always been associated with some type of major military activity.

    Real innovations occur as distanced events in terms of any form of consumerism or content protectionism, and they will never be subject to any threat (first amendement or business model related) that is simply based in the marketplace. Just ain't gonna happen...
  • Microsoft (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by hachete (473378)
    I've always thought that MS was way too diffuse. Just what is it's business? Just what does it want to do? "A PC on Every Desk Top". Is that still its statement? If so, it's looking more out of date by the second.
  • Carl Icahn loves to gut companies and personally profit from the carnage. He took over TWA and drove them into the ground while profiting greatly from the fun. True, they were in trouble when he took it over, but his goal is never to fix a company, but to profit from the chaos. Kind of like a payday loan store, he does offer a service to those desperate for cash, but it's not about helping them rise out of debt. He provided the same "service" to Texaco.

    How do you think he got the handle "Corporate Raide

  • Learn from Sony (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hao Wu (652581)
    Why would you make 'Content creation' and 'Content distribution' two different divisions?

    That's what SONY did, and they are constantly battling each other because their core interests directly conflict.

    • I think you are confusing "content distribution" to mean "consumer electronics", when that's not the case. Distribution means working with shipping, advertizing, and retailers, and works well with the content creators so long as the distributers can't tell the creators what to do.

      Electronics is a whole different ball of wax. That part of Sony wants to sell the most electronic gear, while Sony's content arm wants to cripple the hardware to prevent copying.

      As Time Warner isn't a big manufacturer of consumer
  • What can be done to protect consumers without stifling the technological innovation that we all know is so important?

    Has this Microsoft line become common wisdom now? Assuming that technological innovation is that important, it still does not need huge conglomerates to happen.
  • It's one of those contradictions of our business system- in a capitalist system resources are allocated through the market which kind of aggregates and handles the whims and desires and needs of the consumers and producers involved effectively, but then you have centrally planning as operated in say the Soviet Union where a rigid hierarchy decides how to move resources around, although there are still external market forces from competing capitalist societies, other central planned but independent countries
  • Polypoly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:40PM (#14178577) Homepage Journal
    When the US monopoly decision on Microsoft was official, and the "remedy" phase was at hand, many of us discussed the merits of splitting MS into nonmonopoly units. The MS "vertical" monopoly, its stack of OS/app/dev/content that excluded competitors in fact and overwhelming advantage, was fundamentally anticompetitive. So we talked about the benefits of splitting it into at least those four units, (maybe a fifth for "other", or maybe a sixth for "networks" including Comcast shares and the like). Then requiring they make partnerships on a nonpreferential (to each other) basis. There was consensus that the resulting sum of the divided parts would be worth more in stockmarket capitalization, revenues and penetration of other markets, whicle leaving lots of large niches in which other companies could compete, even a chance for other (or new) companies to seize leadership, or for units to (gasp) go out of business if they couldn't compete on merit.

    Instead, the most popular remedy suggested by the most influential spectators, the Wall Street Journal crowd, was "horizontal" split into smaller microcosms: MS1, MS2, MS3 - just cut them down to size, retaining all the same operations, and fight each other. FWIW, does anyone even know what the MS remedy actually was (is), other than oversight by a nanny judge? And how the new regime compares to the old in specific metrics accepted by the judge who determined MS was a monopoly? In any event, MS is still an anticompetitive juggernaut, as subsequent state monopoly lawsuits demonstrate, as well as the news in any given month, and especially to anyone trying to actually compete with MS even in their areas of vapor competence.

    This is, of course, exactly the same pattern as the paradigmmatic monopoly breakup: AT&T. The "Baby Bells" were little "Ma Bells", regional monopolies which were smaller, but just as anticompetitive. Until cable companies like Time Warner recently started offering phone service, they continued their local service monopolies. Though long distance immediately became competitive - the AT&T monopoly action was brought by MCI, which found it couldn't compete with a monopoly, regardless of its merit. The MS monopoly decision also was the result of a competitor bringing action: Netscape, which claimed (correctly) that MS violation of a prior court consent decree not to bundle IE with Windows illegally interfered with its ability to compete. Netscape, of course, was bought up by AOL by the time of the monopoly decision, as the anticompetition took its toll, while AOL also bought Time Warner, as people believed (among other fantasies) that the AOL combination could compete with MS better than Time Warner could, especially if it was also Time Warner, and once MS was divested of its monopoly advantage. That turned out to be wrong, in several essential ways.

    But recall that the vertical split was believed to offer greater collective return to shareholders. And that it would offer the benefits of competition to consumers, from price to quality, as well as market opportunities for vendors. Icahn apparently believes that is the case. Bill Gates, an even larger holder of MS shares than Icahn is of TW shares, has the benefit of a single manageable empire to compensate for the tradeoff of potentially more $billions in returns on his shares. Is there a good example of a monopoly, especially a tech one, that was split into its vertical components? Bundling is the most powerful competitive tool, short of IP monopoly, in the tech business. It seems clear to many people that vertical splits are the proper remedy to protect the market, and even benefit shareholders at the ego expense of executives. Which ones can we study for actual market results, and compare with these others, which have gone the other way - and usually remain monopolies in different guise?
  • I work in video production for Time Warner Media Sales, which is part of Time Warner Cable... This rumor has been floating around our hallways for years. We all lament the AOL merger, not for their lack of profitability or sheer lameness, but because their corporate culture was sooooo different than ours. For example, AOL doesn't do their own video production, so their IT policies are way out of whack with running a production company... Plus, due to the questionable accounting practices at AOL before the m
  • What can be done to protect consumers without stifling the technological innovation that we all know is so important?

    Technical innovation from a company like Time Warner means DRM, shitty media players that force you to watch commercials and pay for bundled crap, and AOL.

    I'll take my chances with the innovations offered by smaller companies.
  • by putko (753330) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:56PM (#14179339) Homepage Journal
    This is may or may not be good for consumers -- but it will make Mr. Icahn some money. An understanding of who Carl Icahn is, and what he does, may help.

    Carl Icahn is an old guy (born to a middle-class Jewish family in Queens, NY). He makes his money by buying controlling interests in firms and reorganizing them in ways that increase the share price. In this regard, he and other corporate raiders have made American capitalism work more the way it is supposed to (according to the law). Sometimes they've broken the law, and screwed over minority investors; clearly that's awful

    The methods of someone like Carl Icahn produce anger, hatred and even anti-semitism -- even though what he does is consistent with American law.

    The basic idea of "corporate raiding" is to get enough of a controlling interest in a firm that the raider can convince the board to let him break the "unwritten" rules of American capitalism, for the benefit of the shareholders.

    For instance, at big firms, younger employees used to get paid less than at other firms, but had job security. When they got old, they still got paid, even though the company would have been better off without them. Also, often the pension funds for the workers contained more money than they were required to have by law. That money could instead go to shareholders.

    Doing those things rubs a lot of folks the wrong way, but that's usually because they imagine that a company has a duty to its workers -- which, in America, is not the case. The company is only beholden to its owners. Until the law changes and the owning class is disposessed, that's the law (and please remember to call me when the revolution happens, guys). Carl Icahn's brilliant ideas, among others, were to fire the older workers and give the extra pension fund money to the shareholders. Perhaps a little "creative accounting" allowed him to give more and then some. This was great for shareholders.

    The bosses running American companies had always been legally able to act like Carl; they just didn't have the chutzpah to do it. The American system was less meritocratic, chummy and run by whites.

    The corporate raiding could have happened in the 60s or 70s, but banks wouldn't loan money to outsiders like Carl Icahn and his fellow corporate raiders. Without the money, they couldn't buy a controlling interest in a firm and reorganize things.

    The banks didn't loan to folks like Carl partly out of self-preservation: by loaning money to people like Carl Icahn, they'd be alienating the other bosses of the companies they served, and that could result in them getting cut out of routine transactions that were their bread and butter.

    E.g. if a bank helped Icahn to to a takeover, it would lose some business customers, because pissed off company bosses would withold their company's business -- even if the bank had low rates and not using them was bad for the shareholders!

    The reluctance of bankers to loan money to corporate raiders changed in the 80s when Michael Milken, working at Drexel, Burnham and Lambert, appeared on the scene. With high yield bonds, he had the money from investors. Michael and his bank (Drexel, Burnham and Lambert) was willing to loan money to corporate raiders, because the Jewish bank (that's not meant to be "antisemitic" --- but just a statement of who owned, ran and staffed the bank) didn't have much corporate business to lose.

    As documented in the book "Predator's Ball", by the Jewish journalist Connie Bruck, to a man, almost all of the corporate raiders and bankers who provided the money were Jews with roots in Poland or Russia. A number of things came together: they were intelligent, hard working, insensitive to criticism, full of love for money (I don't want to use the word "greedy" in connection with "Jews", lest I be accused of "antisemitism" by the hypersensitive), able to do business with each other (genetic relatedness helps people to establish trust) and uncaring about the needs/feelings o
    • Shorter version: Icahn buys into companies, saddles them with debt, and makes off like a bandit. If Icahn thinks it's a good idea, it's only because it will have maximum benefit for him, and doesn't mean it's good for the health of the company.
  • .. it was called AT&T.. it was broken up and now it seems to be piecing itself back togeather again.

    Problem is that if it gets broken up now, and it is forced to be broken up, it will only try to get back to its original size. It will be good for a few years, and then it will put itself back togeather again. Nice idea though. How does one stop megamonopolies?

  • Omnia AOL in quartuor partes divisa est.
  • One company will still be called Time Warner, the other three are: Wakko Warner Yakko Warner Dot Warner
  • What can be done to protect consumers without stifling the technological innovation that we all know is so important?

    Excuse me? That's stated like they are mutually exclusive goals ... the de facto state of affairs to protect consumers is *not* to stifle innovation! If you had said "big business" instead of "consumers" that would've made a lot more sense...

    Technological innovation *is* good for consumers, but bad for big business, who is used to milking a technological development for as long as they

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