Private equity kingpin and walking manifestation of bad PR for the top 1% Stephen Schwarzman had a great, great year this year. This rich, selfish bastard—who compared a plan to raise taxes on private equity firms to Hitler invading Poland, and who stated that his number one New Year's wish, in the midst of the worst recession in a century, was to create a "tax-free zone" for wealthy foreign nationals in New York—had an outstanding 2011, compensation-wise.
For at least several months now, convenient caffeinated masturbatorium Starbucks has been quietly waging war against the laptop hobos who fill its seats all day to "work on that screenplay" (browse Craigslist sex ads) while nursing a single drink. Now, the evidence is in: busting laptop hobo riff-raff= big buck$$$!
Steve Jobs may claim that the humanities are important for colleges, but Apple's not hiring philosophers to build iPhones. A new report from Georgetown University confirms much of what we already knew about the financial payoff of college majors: Hard-scientists swim in a Scrooge McDuck-size vault of gold, while literature majors panhandle with multi-syllabic signs. The report further confirms many of the unfortunate stereotypes of poor minorities and female caregivers that progressive Americans would sooner forget.
The good news: the New York Times Co. made nearly $13 million in net income in the first quarter. Quite a turnaround from last year, when the company lost $74 million in the quarter! The bad news: Total revenues were down more than 3%. And while digital ad revenues were up 18% (the About.com group was up 30%, so don't get too excited, newspaper people!), that, of course, paled in comparison to the money lost in print advertising, which was down 12%.
Sirius XM Radio's third quarter results are in: a stupefying $4.88 billion loss. The biggest chunk of that is an impairment charge due to a drop in stock price. Slow auto sales have reduced the number of new customers. This is worse news for me than AAPL taking a dive — I'm not a shareholder, but XM Highway 16 is one of Valleywag's raw ingredients. If satellite radio dies, it'll be like those dark years when the government barred Detroit from building convertibles.
Sprint Nextel reported yet another quarterly loss, its fourth in the row. The wireless carrier was $326 million in the red, and also lost 1.1 million subscribers. CEO Dan Hesse said he wants the company to focus on customer service. Dan, how about spending less time filiming commercials and more time answering calls? [Reuters]
Time Warner has reported its third-quarter results, including AOL's numbers, and they are dismal. Internet-access revenues were down 26 percent, a loss everyone more or less expected, since the dial-up business is moribund. But advertising sales were down 6 percent. AOL management can't blame the market meltdown for this one, since that had barely started by the time the quarter ended. October through December, one assumes, will be much, much worse.What's odd is that Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes isn't getting more criticism for AOL's numbers. As the head of HBO, he was one of a handful of Time Warner executives who loudly opposed the AOL deal. But enacting Time Warner's revenge on AOL by driving the business into the ground seems a strange way of making things right with shareholders. Bewkes's hand-picked boss for AOL, former NBC executive Randy Falco, has been a complete disaster — a short-timer waiting for the company to be sold. Bewkes and Yahoo's Jerry Yang have been holding desultory talks on selling AOL to Yahoo. But Bewkes's negotiating position is considerably weakened by these results. Why didn't he sell sooner — and when will he pay the price for mismanaging AOL?
Kara Swisher's new pet media blogger Peter Kafka praises CBS executive Quincy Smith, shown here, for picking up CNET. Revenues were up 6 percent in the most recent quarter, with a 12 percent increase in display advertising. But wait a second: Aren't display ads most of CNET's revenue? The company also makes money through e-commerce referrals and the sale of marketing data — which suggests something went wrong enough in CNET's other businesses to blunt the welcome rise in advertising.
Pundits like to blab that Apple should buy Sony. With quarterly profits down 72 percent, SNE's market value is now a stupefyingly low 58 percent of its book value. Steve must be tempted. Buy Sony. Shut it down.Remember the original Walkman? The first Vaio? These days, Sony products don't threaten Steve Jobs. They irritate him. Even Sony knows their stuff's not cool. Look at the photos on their home page: James Bond. Pink. "Try to solve the mystery of the Passengers ... Save the world from bad music." No product shots except a thumbnail-size Playstation HD shoved in the lower right corner. I'm sure the focus group loved it. But to a gearhead like me it screams, "I'm Sony. Please kill me."
Results for Microsoft's September quarter are in: $15.06 billion in revenues, versus analysts' expectation of $14.8 billion. A unit which includes Microsoft's Xbox game console pulled in $1.8 billion, $350 million more than analysts hoped for. And the company's online division surprised with revenues of $770 million. But what's really surprising? How small that number still is, despite Microsoft's years of investment. [CNBC]
Amazon.com got a big payday when eBay bought Bill Me Later, the payment service, for $945 million earlier this month. So why isn't it admitting it? In an SEC filing, Amazon.com didn't name Bill Me Later as the source of a $150 million cash payment it will receive in return for an investment. But it's obviously Bill Me Later, which Amazon.com invested in last December. Here's the curiously vague wording of Amazon's disclosure to shareholders, and three possible reasons for it.
The last time Apple announced earnings, Steve Jobs's health was a hot topic on CNBC. Why wasn't he on the earnings call? CNBC's Silicon Valley bureau chief Jim Goldman had to slap his fellow pundits down, reminding them that Apple's CEO never, like never participates in the ungodly boring quarterly ritual. Guess what? Steve Jobs is on the Apple earnings call right now. Which means he really, really wants to reassure Wall Street about Apple's prospects, even after the company announced predictably boffo earnings. Strangely, that is not reassuring.