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1st-Half Stories Still In Spotlight

Putting aside the general economic downturn/recession that the industry can only deal with, but can’t do anything about, there were several other stories that kept everyone buzzing during the first half.

A couple even came to some resolution as the second half began.

Of course, the biggest story on the list has to be the attempted takeover of Circuit City by movie-rental chain Blockbuster. With a quiet statement last Tuesday evening, Blockbuster backed out of the possible $1 billion deal with nary a word (at least by this writing) from activist Circuit City investor Mark Wattles or Wall Street kingpin and Blockbuster investor Carl Icahn on the result.

Blockbuster said it will continue to examine ways of selling software and CE at its stores.

But the major question for the industry is how Circuit City moves forward. It is still investigating a wide range of options, and there is industry support for the chain, but faced with mounting losses and a tough economic environment, its management faces a daunting task.

Another story that captivated many was the sales of D&M Holdings (also on p. 1.) Just about all the action was in Japan, and it was fascinating for us to get up many mornings and read the frenzy of rumors that were reported overnight as fact by plenty of usually reputable news sources.

The winner was an investment firm the rumor mill missed, Bain Capital, which has ownership in such varied companies as Burger King, Dunkin’ Brands, Toys “R” Us and Warner Music Group.

Even after D&M and Bain made their announcement, the rumor mill continued to churn, saying that Kenwood might get involved after the ink dried on this deal. D&M and Bain issued denials, but who knows if Kenwood made an approach and was rebuffed or if we might hear something in the second half?

Tweeter, which has faced its own struggles in the past year, came up with an internally designed prototype store in Dedham, Mass., that received good reviews by suppliers who visited it last month.

While Tweeter, like Circuit City, has been the subject of criticism during the past year or so, some have wondered if this new format is too little, too late to save the chain.

For his part, Tweeter CEO George Granoff told TWICE that the chain is well positioned to ride out the lousy economy and that owner Schultze Asset Management, an investment firm, is in it for the long haul. Time will tell.

Speaking of time, the clock continues to tick — and tick and tick — on the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to approve or reject the XM/Sirius merger.

As Congress ran back home for its Fourth of July holiday, with legislation still pending on such important issues as house foreclosures and Iraq, a few Senate Democrats weighed in that the compromises proposed by the companies — and seemingly accepted by FCC — to get the deal approved, is not enough.

Who knows if this last-minute congressional second-guessing will cause a further delay?

I kind of remember that a far more important merger in 1999, Exxon and Mobil, was approved by our elected officials in D.C. in far less time.

Let’s hope the FCC comes to some decision by the time they meet later this month.