The merger is so awe-inspiring, it's bringing out concordance in bulls and bears, who, according to the Associated Press, agree on something -- that "investors should expect some volatility during the next few months." So what else is new.
My favorite comment was from analyst Chris Nawn of Technology Crossover Ventures, who recommended AOL on the strength that, "It's game over. They win. Nobody else can ever win. They own the market."
They own the market. And we own them -- at least in part.
Owning the market seems to be mellowing some of these big-time executives. Time Warner Chairman Gerald Levin says, "We've become a company of high-fives and hugs." AOL Chairman Steve Case says, "There's a lot of cooks on stage, but there's a big meal to serve." Hugging, kissing, and big meals? This new company is feeling a lot like being home for the holidays. Let's just hope the gifts they provide to their shareholders are better than the usual pajamas for dad.
Case and Levin met each other last summer during a forum for new business leaders in China. Although I doubt it was love at first site, there was obviously enough equanimity between the two for Case to develop and pursue his visionary dream beginning last October.
(Sidebar: The China connection must be a Rule Breaking signal, as just today Celera Genomics (NYSE: CRA) announced that it has acquired a 47.5% interest in Shanghai GeneCore Bio Technologies Co., Ltd., a genomics service company with expertise in nucleotide synthesis, bioinformatics analysis, and mutation detection. Say that three times fast. The acquisition will help Celera in its global expansion, providing access to new sources of genetic information.)
Now back to our shores. How will the merger affect the individual entities? Combining top management teams and two corporate cultures can be a challenge. Time Warner's President, Richard Parsons, has the confidence to claim that they "are going to surprise people in terms of how well we get through this process and how well we get along, and how nonpolitical it becomes at the end of the day." Wouldn't that be loverly?
And what about that name -- AOL Time Warner? According to the Wall Street Journal, some branding experts are urging this new conglomerate to dump the name as it enforces the concept of a "monster" brand instead of a "fleet-of-foot" new-media and technology concern. One brand consultant suggests "Time AOL," but considering that AOL shareholders are getting the short-term short-end of the deal, I think that's unfair. Name recognition is indeed critical for any company that hopes to sustain market leadership, although in this case, the brand recognition is obviously there.
What's in a name, anyway? Just a bunch of letters, really. Maybe AOL Time Warner should consider rearranging the letters that make up their names. Here are some possible anagrams:
WORM-EATEN LIAR (catchy, but might result in an overworked P.R. Department)
MATERIAL OWNER (low-tech for cyber-venture and possible lawsuit from Madonna)
ELITE ARROW MAN (befitting the Big Chief of the Tomahawk chop)
WE'RE ANIMAL ROT (a tad politically incorrect)
WORN IRATE MALE (think asset/liability John Rocker)
Hmmm.... none of them seem just right for this megacorporation. Therefore, I've come to the conclusion that it's best to have a name that rolls off the tongue, while at the same time suggesting the benefits of the product. I therefore recommend "AOL Time." This way, whenever anyone asks "What time is it?" you can cheerily say AOL Time and immediately leave to turn on your computer. It's catchy, relevant, and will give Miller Time a run for its money.
Foolish Field Study
I received an e-mail from a friend named Bill Burchard, who performed a Foolish experiment in his home laboratory:
"My best investment decision during 1999 was a simple test I performed: I invested $10,000 Wisely, and $10,000 Foolishly.
"In February 1999, I gave my broker $10,000, explained my investment goals, and trusted him to make my investments for me. During the same month, I opened an account at E-Trade, deposited $10,000, and made Foolish investments.
"My broker put my money into five mutual funds. As of the market close yesterday, my brokerage's account value is up 6.5%
"In the meantime (with my E-Trade account), I Foolishly investigated several businesses, chose six in which to invest (Amgen, American Express, Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, and Yahoo!). My E-Trade account, as of the market close yesterday, is up 98.0%.
My best investment decision of 1999, my Foolish test, proved Foolishness works."
Way to go Bill!
P.S. A Foolish understanding of the market involves analyzing negatives as well as positives. Please read our special, Lessons From Lucent, to learn what happened, how one could've seen it coming, and what to do from here.
P.S.S. While you're in the learning mood, stop by our Fool Year Resolutions, where each day in January we provide new tips to help Fools get their finances in order.