Monthly Archives: April 2010

John Gapper

I’ve written a news commentary for Monday’s FT on the Goldman case:

In taking on Goldman Sachs, the most successful and prestigious investment bank on Wall Street, and accusing it of securities fraud, the Securities and Exchange Commission has its work cut out. Read more

John Gapper

With its allegation of securities fraud against Goldman Sachs, the Securities and Exchange Commission has finally taken dead aim at Wall Street’s behaviour in the housing boom.

The controversy over hedge funds shorting synthetic collateralised debt obligations in the late stages of the mania has focussed on Magnetar, the fund I wrote about this week. Read more

John Gapper

Jingle mail – the practice of handing back the keys to a property you have borrowed money to buy when your equity is wiped out by falling prices – is not confined to home owners in California.

Defaulting on mortgages was frowned upon by some when done by homeowners in California – as Felix Salmon once pointed out – but is spreading to commercial real estate funds. Read more

John Gapper

My FT column this week is on Magnetar:

Two years after the subprime mortgage lending bubble started to pop with the collapse of Bear Stearns, politicians still want to know who to blame. They are making slow progress. Read more

John Gapper

Do I detect a dilution of The Guardian’s stance against charging for its digital content?

Well, that’s what I thought I heard from Alan Rusbridger, at a lunch in New York on Tuesday, when he talked about The Guardian’s “mutual” model of journalism and his firm stance against an online paywall of the kind that is soon to be implemented by The Times and The Sunday Times. Read more

John Gapper

Most strategy gurus accept that companies should focus their efforts on core products and not get distracted by peripheral ideas or brand extension. Even Google focuses most of its engineers’ time on its core search technology.

But what if it’s wrong, and companies should focus more on the periphery than the core, putting their most talented people to work on the edge of organisations and giving them the most resources? Read more

John Gapper

The platform wars have returned. The past few days have brought an outbreak of hostilities between Apple and Adobe, and tensions between Twitter and the companies that make software clients that let people tweet.

The facts are different, but the underlying story is the same. Many software and internet companies aspire to be platforms for which others compete to make applications and services. Becoming a platform entrenches  them and (usually) their profitability.

The most famous beneficiary of such a network effect was, of course, Microsoft, which established Windows as the biggest PC operating system, and enjoyed years of growth as a result.

For a few years, the explosive growth of the internet – the ultimate open platform – has put many such rivalries into abeyance. Now, they are rearing up again. Read more

John Gapper

Opinions vary on whether the new Nike advertisement featuring Tiger Woods is tasteless exploitation of his dead father, Earl Woods, or a masterstroke of counter-intuitive marketing.

Personally, I think the television ad, made by Nike’s long-time agency Wieden + Kennedy, it is a clever piece of emotional brand rebuilding.

The ad, which you can view above, has been produced to coincide with the Masters golf tournament and Woods’ carefully orchestrated return to professional golf following his public humiliation as a result of having affairs with women.

It should thus be taken alongside Woods’ penitent press conference earlier this week in which he said he had been in therapy and was trying to become a better person, and the highly critical comments of Billy Payne, chairman of the Augusta National club where the Masters is played. Read more

John Gapper

Watching Chuck Prince and Robert Rubin, the former Citigroup chairmen, giving evidence today on the bank’s losses in “super-senior” sub-prime mortgage securities, was not reassuring for anyone seeking lessons from the 2008 financial crisis.

In summary, they told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in Washington that the risk management and management structures at Citigroup were state-of-the-art, that regulators were keeping a close eye on the business, and that the board was functioning correctly.

The problem was that no-one actually saw a hole looming in the $40bn portfolio of triple-A tranche collateralised debt obligations being held on Citi’s balance sheet. Read more

John Gapper

Further to my column on the iPad, I’ve also been able  to make a comparison between Apple’s device and Amazon’s Kindle. The brief answer is: for periodicals such as digital papers and magazines, the iPod is better; for books, the Kindle still wins.

I’ve written before about the experience of reading papers such as the FT and the Wall Street Journal on a Kindle and have come across devoted readers – mainly senior executives in global companies – who are attached to reading the FT on their Kindles. Read more

John Gapper

My FT column this week is on Apple’s “magical and revolutionary product”:

Last Saturday, a man in brown from UPS came to my door with an Apple iPad. On Sunday, Twitter brought adoring sighs from people who had also bought one. On Monday, the internet delivered a backlash. Read more

John Gapper

Studying the claims made by Goldman Sachs about whether it would have collapsed if the US government had not bailed out the financial system, and invested $10bn in Goldman itself, is like Kremlinology in the days of the Soviet Union – every word counts.

So the use of the term “indispensable” by Lloyd Blankfein and Gary Cohn sent me to my dictionary to check the exact meaning of the word. Both men have previously denied, or at least cast doubt upon, the idea that Goldman needed to be rescued. Read more

John Gapper

This is iPad week, and I hope to have some thoughts about Apple’s new device in my column for the FT this Thursday. But now for something completely different.

Just before I went on leave, I attended a media briefing in Davos at which Eric Schmidt of Google handed out Nexus One phones – the so-called “Google Phone” – to journalists. I have been treating it as a review loan although he didn’t appear to want it back. Read more

John Gapper

Hello again. Having been away nine weeks on writing leave, I hope everyone enjoyed the posts from my FT colleagues in my absence. Hopefully, some of them will drop in again occasionally. Meanwhile, I hope to resume service shortly.