Captain's Blog, Stardate: 11/30/07
Containing the subprime mess, feeling bearish on buffalo, and a burning Peanuts question, all from Fortune's Andy Serwer.
(Fortune) -- MARKETS: Deep Blue says: "The subprime problem we were told would not spread to other markets. It would be 'contained'. And it has, according to Jim Grant. Contained on planet Earth." (Ha Ha!) This is a Jim Grant kind of time now, right?....And indeed the subprime melt really has spread everywhere: From NYC, to E*Trade (Charts), to Northern Rock, to Norwegian and German banks, to the state of Florida. Like a dadgone nasty virus!......As for the fallout on Wall Street, when you take a step back, all of this is according to form if you ask me. Which institutions were said to be the worst run on Wall Street? Certainly Merrill (Charts, Fortune 500) and Citi (Charts, Fortune 500) were among them. Check. Which is said to be the best run? Goldman (Charts, Fortune 500), Lehman, and now Jaimie Dimon's J.P. Morgan. Check. Bear Stearns was an old boys club run by a few really rich guys who didn't give a rat's petunia about anyone else. Check. And so on....
PEOPLE I HAVE RUN INTO WHILE YACHTING: Just sat down for a chat with Anne Wojcicki, who heads up biotech company 23andMe, and who of course is married to Google's (Charts, Fortune 500) Sergey Brin. Anne is into some pretty fascinating stuff. Company helps you get a hold of your own genetic information. After that you might self-aggregate with other folks who have a parent with Parkinson's, or who are of Albanian ancestry, or who bat lefty (Strike one!). Just a ton of amazing places this company can go. Databases of genetic information offer up all kinds of potential commercial and public service applications - think CSI here - but also there are privacy issues. Look for this type of work to explode in importance over the coming years....A few days ago Fred Krupp and David Yarnold of Environmental Defense, soon to be renamed EDF, came by. These guys have a whole lot going on, too. They explained to me how they are the leading environmental NGO when it comes to economics and markets, while the NRDC does more in terms of lawyers and the legal process. Cool beans. ....Finally was at the Modern (restaurant) the other day and saw Marie Jose (as in, Kravis....do I really have to spell everything out for you?) Nice Chanel jacket! I always run into her, don't I?
TED TURNER AND THE BUFFALO: I have a lot of respect for Ted. Started CNN when everyone said it wouldn't work. Built it into a huge business and revolutionized TV. And the Goodwill Games. And World Peace. The whole deal. But Ted, I have to tell you that your restaurants, Ted's Montana Grill - or at least the one in our building here in NYC - aren't working for me. There are now some 50 of these eateries scattered around the country, which specialize in buffalo burgers. Of course Ted is the largest buffalo rancher in the U.S., so he has created himself a ready end-market. (Ted partnered here with George McKerrow Jr., the dude who founded Lone Star Steak.) Fair enuff, people do that all the time in this great country of ours. And in fact the buffalo burger itself is fine; the rest of the fare, however, is waaaay subprime. Bad drinks (how can you wreck soda!), bad onion rings, bad salads. All of it! (Again, maybe the grub in the other 49 restaurants in fine.) I know what you're thinking here. Serwer is a food snob. Not true. I eat everything - as long as it's good. And I just find this place coming in below Applebees, Chili's, Perkins, Cracker Barrel, your average brew pub, all of 'em. And there's no excuse for that....
LOOSE CHANGE: Yes, we have redesigned Fortune! We think it looks: elegant, cool, and powerful? Do you like it?.....Are you drinking wine tonight? I am. (Love that Tee Hee!) How about this: a 2005 Turley Howell Mountain Petite Syrah Rattlesnake Ridge, and a 2005 Martinelli Russian River Valley Zinfandel Jackass Hill. And then there are the whites....Brad M asks: "Does Procter & Gamble realize that MetLife is and has been using Linus and Lucy", aka The Linus and Lucy Rag, a popular jazz piano piece written by Vince Guaraldi for many years? Listen carefully to the current Metlife ads on TV and you'll hear it. P& G uses it for Tide Pure Essentials." Good question Brad. I say Vince Guaraldi is a minor genius. Part of the California cool sound of jazz, along with Dave Brubeck, as well as Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan. You must buy Vince's "A Charlie Brown Christmas.".........Did you see that offer to rate President Bush and maybe win a $500 Olive Garden gift card? Gee! What's second prize?!?!?....Scott told me that he was in front of a judge in Jersey the other day (don't ask) and he saw people disputing parking tickets by showing hizzhonor pictures of their cars NOT parked illegally on their cell phones. Judge takes a look and waves off the fine!.......Friend of mine who's a radiologist told me that her business is going offshore. They can read X-rays/film/scans anywhere - this whole piece of the profession is digital. Interesting because radiology used to be one of the great gigs in all of medicine, no fuss no muss, no patients. Now it's going to India......Deep Blue finds this offensive. So do I: .....Hey do you know these guys?