With the economic news mixed and the markets taking a breather, it's time we break a pair of unwritten rules. With a single stroke, we will expose our local bias and our fascination -- in this case, morbid -- with all things sports. Turns out, Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier quit today, walked away from millions, and found out about it all from a Washington Post reporter.

Hilarious. Funny as the Spurrier experiment proved to be, there is a lesson for investors. Poor leadership can rattle a franchise -- no matter how storied the history, wonderful the brand, or loyal the customers. In the end, you simply can't overstate the importance of sound management.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

FedEx Wraps Up Kinko's

Though the holidays and their emphasis on packages are almost behind us, FedEx(NYSE: FDX) is still in a buying mood. Today, the company announced that it is shelling out $2.4 billion in cash to buy privately held business services provider Kinko's. The deal is set to close in the first quarter of 2004.

Soon, FedEx will offer its shipping options in 1,200 Kinko's stores (it currently has outlets in 134 Kinko's stores through a pre-existing agreement). The acquisition will help FedEx grab shipping business from the small- and medium-sized business market as well as from consumers who have fulfilled their other document needs in the stores.

Kinko's has been branching out from its humble beginnings as a copy center. It's no longer just about producing brochures, manuals, and business cards. Now, it offers its business customers some pretty fancy solutions in many of its locations, including Wi-Fi Internet hot spots and videoconferencing. For 2003, Kinko's expects to report $2 billion in revenues (though the acquisition won't add to FedEx's earnings until fiscal 2005).

With the high price tag comes the expanded retail presence and high-profile name brand that seems sure to usher in some built-in customers for FedEx. Over the last several years, the delivery company has suffered from a sluggish shipping business as the economy took a nosedive, and from heated competition from rival UPS(NYSE: UPS) and even the U.S. Postal Service.

Earlier this month, Fool LouAnn Lofton reported on FedEx's lackluster second quarter. A higher-than-expected number of employees jumped at the chance to take FedEx up on its early retirement package, resulting in a charge.

While the Kinko's acquisition might be a good idea, it's not original. In 2001, UPS bought Mail Boxes Etc. for about $185 million, a franchise that currently has 4,000 locations. With the possibility that UPS is indeed winning the market-share battle, one might wonder what took FedEx so long to tap into this market. However, by capitalizing on Kinko's well-known brand and non-franchise stores, the deal could deliver some excitement to FedEx shareholders.

Discussion Board of the Day: Index Funds

So, did you have a Nasdaq 2,000 party last night? Everybody loves a round number, but do milestones like this one really matter? Want to learn more about how to invest in the different market indexes? All this and more -- in the Index Funds discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Boeing Lands Navy Contracts

A month after the scandal-induced removal of Chief Financial Officer Mike Sears and the subsequent resignation of Chief Executive Officer Phil Condit, it's business as usual at Boeing(NYSE: BA). Yesterday afternoon, the company announced that it had received an $8.6 billion multiyear contract from the Navy to produce 210 F/A-18 Super Hornets, and another $1 billion contract for system design and development (SDD) of the EA-18G airborne electronic attack aircraft.

In what is the second multiyear contract for the Super Hornet program, the Navy will purchase 42 aircraft in each of the fiscal years 2005 through 2009, with the option to increase the order by up to six aircraft per year. Boeing has already produced 170 Super Hornets under the first deal, which calls for the delivery of 222 aircraft and ends in 2004.

The five-year SDD program for the EA-18G runs from fiscal year 2004 through 2009. According to Boeing, the new aircraft will carry jamming equipment and self-defense missiles. Upon introduction, the EA-18G will be "capable of self-protection, freeing up dedicated escort aircraft for strike and other missions." It will also be able to rapidly locate and destroy surface-to-air missiles.

The $9.6 billion in contracts are a nice score for Boeing, even if somewhat expected. Business as usual is far more preferable than the recent alternatives.

A number of other companies benefit from the deals as well. Northrop Grumman(NYSE: NOC) provides the center and aft fuselage for the Super Hornet, as well as the electronic combat system for the EA-18G. General Electric(NYSE: GE) makes the aircraft's engines, while Raytheon(NYSE: RTN) supplies the radar. Boeing builds the forward fuselage and wings, and is responsible for final assembly.

Quote of Note

"Labor conquers all things." -- Homer

M&A As Strong Medicine

If you can say one thing about management at Invitrogen(Nasdaq: IVGN), it's that they're industrious. On the day before Christmas, when most of us were thinking about holiday cheer, Invitrogen announced a deal to purchase competitor BioReliance(Nasdaq: BREL) for $500 million.

Invitrogen, which develops kits that facilitate biotech and life sciences research, is known for being busy. In the past two years alone, it has acquired nine separate companies. Just about every major lab across the world uses Invitrogen's technologies.

BioReliance, meanwhile, is a leading provider of specialized contract services to biotech and big pharma. Companies ranging from startups to Amgen(Nasdaq: AMGN) and Pfizer(NYSE: PFE) contract the company to help test, develop, and manufacture their biologic-based drugs.

Invitrogen's CEO Gregory Lucier, who oversaw 16 acquisitions as chief of General Electric's(NYSE: GE) Medical Systems Information Technologies unit, regards M&A in terms of buying a "platform for growth."

At Invitrogen, Lucier is looking to develop what will be essentially an operating system for drug development -- from discovery through development to production. This can be accomplished organically, but is much easier through M&A.

By extending Invitrogen's reach in drug testing, development, and manufacturing, BioReliance fits this strategy nicely. Moreover, the deal will be highly accretive. Free cash flow will double next year and projected earnings per share is expected to increase by $0.19.

M&A is a drug that can promote health -- but can be toxic if used in excess. So far, Invitrogen appears to be taking the right dosage.

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More Fool News

For all of today's stories, see Today's Headlines.

And Finally...

Last week, David Forrest implored that you approach buying a stock as if you were buying the whole company. Today, in Dodging the Overpriced Bullet, he's got a stock he wouldn't buy in a million years, plus an approach to finding others just like it. If you have an old company -- or most anything else -- you don't have use for anymore, consider donating it. Give a qualifying charity and your donation may be deductible. Selena Maranjian has the lowdown in On Deducting Donations. Finally, Dayana Yochim has XM on Trial.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Sam Edwards, Paul Elliott, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Jeff Hwang, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Alyce Lomax, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Dave Marino-Nachison, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Reggie Santiago, Tom Taulli, Dayana Yochim