I fully expect the Mad Hatter to be mentioned as a possible bidder for a major media property soon. The sector clearly is beginning to resemble Alice in Wonderland.
Last week's batch of intrigue involved the likelihood, or lack thereof, of former American International Group Chairman Maurice "Hank" Greenberg launching a bid for Motley Fool Income Investor selection New York Times
But whatever his intentions, Greenberg is the latest in a growing flock of billionaires circling the media space. Jack Welch, formerly the CEO of GE
But Greenberg, or anyone else, probably couldn't mount a successful bid for the company against the wishes of the controlling Sulzberger family. The Sulzbergers benefit mightily from a dual-class stock structure that, for their relatively small percentage of Times' shares, grants them control of nine of its 13 company board seats.
It's interesting to consider that all of these machinations have created something of a dual class of participants in the exploding phenomenon of private equity buyouts. On the one hand, there are the traditional firms that have been established for the express purpose of acquiring public companies, refurbishing them as needed, and eventually taking them public again. These firms include the likes of Carlisle and Blackstone.
But on the other hand, Messrs. Welch, Greenberg, Broad, etc. essentially constitute yet another class of private equity firms, ad hoc entities created for the express purpose of acquiring newspaper properties. All of these individuals have made tons of money in previous endeavors -- typically as CEOs of other companies -- and now apparently are seeking the additional prominence, ego-massaging, and potentially increased civic involvement that would accrue to them from newspaper ownership. Interestingly, and for probably obvious reasons, this phenomenon has only surfaced with newspapers.
We'll all continue to watch the game. But despite the mini-surge that occurred in Times stock when it appeared that Mr. Greenberg's appetite might involve the entire company, I'd urge Foolish investors to remain on the sidelines. We may all be mad here, but that doesn't mean we're crazy.
Fool investor David Lee Smith does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your comments and questions.