If you're a music historian and have $25 million lying around, you might want to take a shot and bid for what's left of Napster. The file-swapping company, which the major record labels drove into bankruptcy earlier this year, once boasted 60 million users. Now, its assets are up for auction and will be sold off on Aug. 27.
The minimum bid is $25 million. German publishing giant Bertelsmann, which has already loaned Napster $85 million, has pledged over $100 million, but word on the street is that the courts may disallow much of that, so you've still got a chance to get Napster cheap.
Once upon a time, Napster may have represented all that was best or worst -- depending on your perspective -- about the Internet. Millions of users were brought together by a new technology, yet the company wasn't able to develop a business model before its enemies squashed it.
It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and when you go up against the likes of the recording industry, not to mention Metallica (which was vehemently outspoken against Napster), you'd better be ready for battle.
The Motley Fool 50 doesn't pump iron, but it still thinks it can take Lars Ulrich, Metallica's 130-pound weakling drummer. The index fell about half a percent today.
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- US Airways Bankrupt
- Quote of Note
- Saving on Autopilot
- Shameless Plug: Find Small-Cap Stocks
- Hollywood Sells Out
- Discussion Board of the Day: Great Movies
- Quick Takes: Wal-Mart, Berkshire Hathaway, Walt Disney Co., more
- And Finally...
US Airways Bankrupt
The US Airways filing came despite votes last week by its pilots and flight attendants to ratify the company's restructuring plan. Apparently, management felt other labor unions and vendors would not fall in line, and the relief provided by Chapter 11 proved too tempting. The nation's sixth-largest airline -- which was hurt badly by the delayed reopening of Washington's Reagan National airport following the attacks -- says it will continue service to all 200 communities in its network while it restructures. The stock is down about 80% today.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post calls United Airlines' application for a $1.8 billion government loan guarantee "a giant game of chicken." The question, it seems, is whether the feds, competitors, and unions believe it's more beneficial for the company to receive the loan bailout... or file for bankruptcy.
According to the Post, some unions are refusing pay cuts because they feel they'd come out just about as well if United does have to file Chapter 11. Other airlines are in a quandary because, if United does receive the loan bailout, it would obviously gain an advantage. If, on the other hand, it files for Chapter 11, "it could emerge as a more formidable competitor, with significantly lower debt service and labor costs."
Anybody got a coin?
Quote of Note
"One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries." -- A. A. Milne, 1882-1956, author of Winnie-the-Pooh
Saving on Autopilot
In two days, almost 1,000 CEOs and CFOs will be required by the SEC to put their John Hancocks on their books. Will all of them be able to personally certify their companies' financial statements? Heck, can you certify your own?
You're closer than ever to getting a handle on your personal financial statements, if you've been keeping up on your Fool reading. In the past few days, like the head honchos of corporate America, we've done some heavy lifting. We reviewed our balance sheets, monitored our spending, and questioned whether our cash flow is consistent with our goals. These important exercises enable you to see what you've done with your money in the past.
Today, however, we're going to look to the future -- what you can do now to improve your situation and attain your goals years down the road.
Here's a simple solution: Make savings mindless. That's right. Take the guesswork and busywork out of budgeting by putting your savings plan on autopilot.
If you're contributing to your retirement plan at work via withdrawals from your paycheck, congratulations -- you already have an automatic savings plan! You are regularly socking away money for an important goal. Since the money is transferred to your plan automatically, you don't have to worry about forgetting or accidentally spending your retirement plan contribution. It's such a no-brainer, and it makes great financial sense.
But such a smart plan is not limited to saving for retirement. Many banks, brokerages, dividend reinvestment plans, and mutual fund companies will automatically transfer money from your checking account to the investment of your choice.
Will you need the down payment for a house in three years? Have $100 to $500 sent to a money market account every month. Want to send your kids to college? Sign up for a 529 plan and make hassle-free contributions over the years. Don't have a particular goal in mind, but you want to increase your net worth? Figure out how much you can save, and have it automatically invested. Over the years, it'll really pay off.
Tomorrow in our self-audit series, we'll plug up the cash flow leaks that can threaten your financial empire.
Shameless Plug: Find Small-Cap Stocks
Over time, adding a small-cap stock or two to your portfolio could improve your performance. But how do you start searching for the best small-caps? Our Small-Cap Foolish 8 Spreadsheet can help. Among other things, it screens for companies with sales growth of 25% or more, net profit margins of at least 7%, and positive cash flow from operations. Use our Foolish 8 spreadsheet to save time and effort as you begin to uncover some small-cap gems.
Hollywood Sells Out
It's getting to be a bit much, isn't it -- these product placements in the movies? From McDonald's
While these deals are usually struck on a film-by-film basis, Disney's
Is it worth it to subsidize rising movie-production costs with practices that might risk the film's integrity? For the sponsor, it seems like a sound strategy. From the theatrical releases to the televised broadcasts and retail video sales that follow, the company is assured of perpetual advertising.
While you can use TiVo
But what about the moviemakers? If the sell-out approach disappoints film critics, and that trips up the box office, did Hollywood sell more than it bargained for? Stay tuned.
Discussion Board of the Day: Great Movies
Where do you stand on product placements? Did you catch a movie recently where the sponsorship was too much of a distraction? All this and more -- in the Great Movies Discussion Board. Only on Fool.com.
There's mixed news from retailers. Wal-Mart
Insurance-and-much-more conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway
Ford Motor Co.
Erstwhile, ImClone Systems
Oops. Today, The Wall Street Journal (subscription required, free trial available to Fools) reported that Walt Disney Co.
Insurance giant American International Group
Today on Fool.com: Matt Richey unveils a small-cap stock that's selling for pennies on the dollar.... Rick Munarriz shares the rest of his tips for how to save Disney.... Look before you give, in Fool's School.
Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Jeff Hwang, Tom Jacobs, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim