Icahn Re-ups On Yahoo

Black Friday is usually a day of bargain shopping. The gift giving comes later. This year, for Yahoo shareholders, a small present came a little early.  Friday, in an SEC required “insider” filing, Yahoo director and major shareholder, Carl Icahn, disclosed he’d acquired an additional 6,778,804 shares of Yahoo stock in three transactions between Monday and Wednesday. The news, which many took as a positive forward-looking omen, helped elevate Yahoo’s stock price.

Trying to look behind Icahn’s decision making, some are speculating his timing may indicate a new CEO announcement is on its way sooner than later.  Others have posited different theories. 

Assuredly, one certainty is he’s not trading on actual knowledge of a CEO succession plan. Though he’d be in the know as a board member, trading on that kind of insider advantage is illegal.  

So maybe, this is a sign Icahn believes liquidity will come sooner now that Jerry Yang has lost his grip?  Or perhaps it could be a signal Icahn is hunkering down for the long haul?

Trying to get inside Icahn’s head has never been an easy task.   

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Decisive Moments: Google Gets Life Images


  "When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.  When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence."  ~Ansel Adams  

"Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created.  It is a major force in explaining man to man." 
~Edward Steichen



life coversLife magazine was born of the great depression and through much of the 20th century itserved as a key benefactor to the development of modern photojournalism.  The magazine chronicled the civil rights movement, the lunar landing.  It was in the offices of presidents and the cells of pariahs. It was the stage of actors and activists.   Its pages host to famed writers and legendary photographers – from Ernest Hemingway to Gordon Parks.

Through the years, Life survived some of the world’s most violent upheavals. It soldiered through two world wars, a presidential assassination and a shamed resignation.  What the magazine couldn’t outlive, or keep pace with, was western society’s evolution to a media culture.  First diminished by the image-overload of the television age, then crippled by an influx of competitive image centric and niche-specific magazines, Life Magazine finally succumbed to the Internet Information Age last year. 

On April 20th, 2007, after four years on life support as a newspaper insert, Life Magazine quietly passed.  In the media, we said our goodbyes and delivered our eulogies.

Fortunately, in the information age what’s gone need not be lost or forgotten.  And that is the case with Life’s image library of more than 10 million pictures.

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Soundbytes: Murdoch on Technology, Media and Newspapers

quotesIn every business, there’s a select group of people guaranteed to lure a following when they speak.  Typically war tested and battle scarred, these are people that have been there.  People that, over years and decades, have weathered the battles and cultivated experience.  People that offer the prospect of insight only time can yield.   Rupert Murdoch is one of these people.   

If you’re in the media industry and want a perspective, Rupert’s one of your dream dinner table guests.  He took the helm of his first newspaper at 22 and in a lifetime of deal making he grew it into a global media powerhouse.  With News Corp, his holdings span TV, cable, print, film, internet, satellite and they travel around the globe.  

Unfortunately, Rupert Murdoch isn’t someone you can call up and ask to share a few stories or pointers.  That is out of the question.   Luckily, there’s ample supply of soundbytes, especially this month.

Every year for the past 48, Australia’s ABC Radio National has broadcast a series of lectures from a prominent Australian.    This year’s speaker in the  49th annual Boyer Lecture series is none other than Rupert Murdoch.   Through the span of November and December, he’s delivered a total of four themed talks.  Another two will air through December 7th. 

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Facebook Dodges Registration, Can’t Hook Twitter

fb twitterWhen a company goes public it inherits the responsibility of regularly disclosing its financial performance in SEC mandated filings.  Usually this burden is a willing sacrifice in exchange for new monies or the liquidity of a public trading market.  Every now and again, however, a private company can be forced to register and report even when it’s not in their near-term plans.  Facebook has just managed to avoid stepping into this minefield.

The securities law, specifically Section 12(g) of the Exchange Act, requires companies to register if the number of shareholders or the value of the corporate assets exceed certain thresholds.   Per a rule that went effective December 7, 2007, these thresholds for employee stock plans were set at 500 option holders, or assets in excess of 10 million (SEC Rule: http://www.sec.gov/rules/final/2007/34-56887.pdf).

Facebook’s stock plan was apparently nearing the 500 person boundary. 

Facebook’s attorneys petitioned the SEC for an exemption.  In a letter first reported by BusinessWeek, the SEC agreed to provide it.

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More Cash for Sezmi

sezmi financingRaising money in a tightening venture climate can depend on who you know as much as what you’re company is doing.  Based on these factors, set top box developer Sezmi may be in a pretty good place.    The company aiming to potentially reshape television distribution counts among its board members a past president of the National Venture Capital Association, a prior president of Bell Labs and another executive whose resume credits include roles as CEO of NBC and Sony BMG music.

According to regulatory filings reported at PEHub, since August, the company has drawn $28m out of a possible $50m in Series C financing.  Prior investors including Morgenthaler Ventures and Omni Capital Group both participated.

UPDATE Nov. 25: Sezmi has confirmed the financing and issued a press release. A total of $33m was reported. Click to Read More

Copyright Files: Apple, HDCP and Consumer Confusion

hdcp copyright apple smallIf you want to irritate consumers, one way is to try and interfere heavy handedly with how they can use the product’s they’ve purchased.  An even more surefire way to rankle them and draw their wrath is to fail to disclose your  practices or cover them up.   

Sony BMG found this out the hard way with their now infamous “root kit”  music DRM fiasco in 2005. That violation of consumer trust brought them a tremendous amount of bad PR and plenty of time in front of a judge before the lawsuits were settled.  Electronic Arts currently, though to a lesser degree, is dealing with a similar parade of customer backlash thanks to their own poor disclosure over DRM. EA’s facing down a handful of class action lawsuits.

Now, it seems, Apple and other PC vendors could, if they’re not careful, get a foot partially snagged in a similar but far less toothy version of the same kind of bear trap too.

According to reports from Wired and Ars Technica, new Macbook computers have quietly been gifted a restrictive anti piracy technology called High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) (or a related system called Display Port Content Protection (DPCP)). These technologies are DRM systems that add a layer of encryption to the distribution of some content between its source (your computer) and certain peripherals and displays (your external monitor).

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Sonic Salvages CinemaNow

sonic cinema now qflixChalk up another Web 1.0 movie delivery service to the fire-sale files.  Last year, it was Blockbuster stepping in to salvage Movielink for pennies on the dollar, $6.6m  to be precise.  This year it’s Sonic Solutions sweeping up CinemaNow for even less.

Announced Thursday, the media authoring software company known as a leading maker of DVD and Blu Ray encoding tools is buying the assets and assuming the liabilities of the movie download service for a reported $3m.

Cinema Now was founded in 1999 to offer online movie rentals.  As studios became more accepting of Internet delivery mechanisms, downloadable sales were added to the mix.    CinemaNow was the first website to offer pay-per-view movies from major studios. They were also the first broadband distributor of HD content.

Investors including Menlo Ventures, Cisco, Transcosmos and Lions Gate fueled the company with more than $40m in funding.  A fifth round totaling more than $20m was closed in 2006. 

The investors money helped build both the delivery mechanism and a catalog of TV and film titles more than 6,000 strong but it wasn’t enough to buy a sizable audience.  Consumers never really embraced the service.  Click to Read More

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