Grand Theft Out, Oh!
Calling all cops. Be on the lookout for a shifty developer. The suspect is armed with a hit title and is considered dangerous. The suspect goes by the name of Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO).

Take-Two's Grand Theft Auto IV hit stores on Tuesday, backed with universally stellar reviews and equally lofty expectations. My nephew tells me that he was part of a huge crowd on Monday -- a school night! -- to be one of the first to get his hands on the game at its midnight release. A throng of gamers lining up in droves to pay for a game about thievery? Let's marinate in the irony.

You know who didn't get their hands on the game? The executives at Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS). The company has sent three offers Take-Two's way over the past couple of months. EA was hoping to grab the company before Tuesday's release confirmed that Take-Two was holding a monster hand.

EA probably wouldn't have minded picking up on Take-Two's other properties, such as last year's sleeper hit BioShock or the Major League Baseball franchise, which would dovetail nicely within the EA Sports brand.

The deal is unlikely to happen now, given that Grand Theft Auto IV is shattering sales records as far away as the United Kingdom. EA can always bump up its offer, but doing so probably would set a bad precedent for future acquisitions.

Better luck next crime ... er, time.

Quick hits
A few more of the market's stories, in brief:

  • United Online (Nasdaq: UNTD) is acquiring FTD Group (NYSE: FTD) in an $800 million deal. When I'm thinking about discount Internet service providers, I'm not sure the first thing I think of is that I need to send a dozen lilies to my mother next week. Yes, the Web specialist and the floral-delivery service make a strange couple. Then again, United Online needs to diversify, as cable and telco giants are hogging up the Web-access pie. Tulips are better than one.
  • Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) issued another uninspiring quarterly report. This time, AOL dragged things down. I wonder whether we can get the AOL announcer to say "you've got fail" at the company's next conference call.
  • M&M master Mars is acquiring chewing-gum magnate Wrigley (NYSE: WWY) in a $23 billion deal. Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B) will be a minority investor. Mars also makes Snickers ... as in "Wrigley investors are snickering all the way to the bank."

Until next week, I remain,

Rick Munarriz