Monthly Archives: June 2009

John Gapper

I went to Bernie Madoff’s sentencing today and wrote this FT piece:

It was, taken literally, an absurd jail sentence: one of more than life, one reaching well into the grave. Yet Judge Denny Chin on Monday ignored the plea of Bernard Madoff’s lawyer to give him a shorter term on the grounds that, at 71, his life expectancy is about a dozen years and instead threw the sentencing book at him. Read more

John Gapper

I cannot help thinking that the decision to expand the number of nominees for the best film Oscar is an ominous error. It smacks of being one of those decisions made in the producer interests that is dressed up as being for the benefit of consumers.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences firmly denies that the move, unveiled to surprise in Hollywood on Wednesday, was a result of pressure from studios unhappy at the way big box office films have been shut out of nominations in recent years. Read more

John Gapper

My column in the FT this week is on what Steve Jobs can teach US companies: Read more

John Gapper

Add one more item to the advantages of owning a private jet, or having access to one. The New York Times points out that Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple, could have registered on several waiting lists for liver transplants around the US because he was able to fly on short notice to any city.

In practice, we do not know why Mr Jobs ended up having a liver transplant in Tennessee – or indeed why he had one at all, although it presumably relates to the bout of pancreatic cancer for which he had surgery in 2004. Nor do we know how he got to Tennessee from California. Read more

John Gapper

This is sad news. Eastman Kodak is ending production of Kodachrome, its colour film brand, because we have all gone digital. This recalls, of course, the Paul Simon song of the same name:

Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colours
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, Oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away Read more

John Gapper

I have a written a column for the FT this weekend on Twitter and Iran:

Technology gets a bad rap in the old media. In books and films, it is often the machinery used by governments to crush individuality. Read more

John Gapper

My column in the FT this week is on drugs and the developing world: Read more

John Gapper

The American consumer should be paying $10 per gallon for petrol, instead of the current average of $2.62. So says Elon Musk, the chairman and chief executive of Tesla Motors, the Silicon Valley company that makes the Roadster electric car.

Mr Musk reckons that is the price that would compensate for all the externalities of burning fossil fuel, polluting the atmosphere, warming the oceans etc. He made his calculation this morning at the Wired magazine business conference in New York, which I attended. Read more

John Gapper

Further to my column of last week, the noises coming out of Washington about Barack Obama’s attempt to remake financial regulation are not encouraging. It is looking increasingly likely that the administration and Congress will fail to address the proliferation of overlapping regulatory bodies.

As the Wall Street Journal this morning notes, the Office of Thrift Supervision, which has been redundant since the Savings and Loans crisis of the early 1990s, may finally get absorbed into the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. But a new body would be created to oversee mortgages and consumer products. Read more

John Gapper

My column in the FT this week is on regulatory reform: Read more

John Gapper

Oh dear, oh dear. The outraged splash headline on the Huffington Post at the moment (“aggregated” from an original news source, as is its wont) is: “New GM Chairman: I don’t know anything about cars”. Inside, the site huffs and puffs about how extraordinary this statement supposedly is:

No experience is necessary to take the top spot at the bankrupt icon of Detroit’s automobile industry. Read more

John Gapper

As someone who generally believes in the separation of the chairman and chief executive roles at the top of big companies, I am encouraged by the emergence of Ed Whitacre, the former chairman and chief executive of AT&T, as chairman of the new General Motors.

The New GM board clearly needs to do a better job of management oversight than the old one did, since it took the US government to force GM into the kind of restructuring and slimming-down it had long needed to undertake. The old board was a very poor guardian of shareholders’ interests. Read more

John Gapper

Tony Jackson makes an interesting, and a bit scary, point about New General Motors, the part of the company that is supposed to spring out of Chapter 11 with its liabilities trimmed, ready to take on competitors in the auto industry.

Although New GM will have dealt with its healthcare liabilities, it will have the GM pension fund attached. He posits that this was because transferring it to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation would have been too bitter a political pill. Read more

John Gapper

There has been a lot of discussion about the degree to which the new Palm Pre, which is launched tomorrow in the US, is a make-or-break-device for Palm. But it is also vital for Sprint, the much-derided network that will sell the Pre exclusively at least until the end of the year.

I went along to a Sprint Nextel event in Manhattan this morning to hear Dan Hesse, its chief executive, describe the Pre launch as its “coming out party”. Read more

John Gapper

Is Angelo Mozilo the Bernie Ebbers of the 2008 credit crisis? Mr Mozilo, the former chairman and chief executive of Countrywide, faces civil fraud charges and not criminal ones of the kind that led to Mr Ebbers, the former chief executive of WorldCom, being sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2005.

But the civil suit brought against Mr Mozilo by the Securities and Exchange Commission is a vivid portrait of alleged wrongdoing in Countrywide and of executives who are accused of knowing their lending practices at the height of the housing bubble were unsound. Read more