Technology Investor 

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8:30 AM Wednesday, June 8, 2005: Patience. Cash is king. Every one of my bird-doggers -- real estate, stocks, private equity, venture capital, LBO -- are seeking, but not finding. Everything is overpriced. Go play tennis. Smell the roses.

This is called a tuberose. Do yourself the biggest favor. Go smell one today.

Fred Hickey's latest buys: He recently bought some longer-term put options on Toll Brothers, Countrywise Finance, Capital One, Research in Motion, Dell and Best Buy. He's long in AMD, Novell, Lawson Software, Borland Software and 3COM. Fred, as you know, writes the monthly newsletter, The High-Tech Strategist, which is usually bearish. Much of his money is in short-term US treasuries. Much of mine is in triple tax-free ultra-short term floaters, which are now yielding basically what 10-year bonds are yielding. The yield curve -- showing short and long-term rates -- is remarkably flat.

How do bubbles end? Usually with a wimper and no triggering event. That's what bothers me about the housing bubble. Housing has been such an integral part of our economy's recovery in the last three years. Of late, it has become far too frenetic.

Carl Icahn is a raider and a mensch.

From Sunday's New York Times Magazine, a wonderful interview with Deborak Solomon:
Q: As a financier whose worth has been estimated at nearly $8 billion, why did you bother to mount a proxy fight with Blockbuster this year?

There's something salutary about a proxy fight, and I think a lot more proxy fights should be done. If we can shake up management, we're going to be more productive in this country. Our companies, by and large, are run abysmally. And the earnings of C.E.O.'s are outrageous. They're getting 400 to 500 times what the average worker gets.

Are you surprised by the amount of corporate malfeasance out there?

I am surprised that there hasn't been more of it. Shareholders don't stand up for their rights for reasons that are hard to explain. What is a C.E.O.? Too many of them are just guys who buy private jets without using their own money. They're using our money, the shareholders' money, and they don't even let you ride on the plane.

You make yourself sound like a do-gooder, but you became well known in the 80's as a corporate raider who bought up stock in undervalued companies like Texaco and Marshall Field's in the hope of making a quick killing.

People throw all these pejoratives at you. They say, ''Oh, he's a raider; he just wants to make money.'' But so what? I do not deny that I take risks to make money. But shareholders have benefited from my involvement.

Are you concerned that so many of the deals you're involved in just move money around and don't build value?

That's the P.R., but it isn't true. I'm not closing the company down. I am making it more productive. I am not taking money out, but bringing money in by buying stock. I don't own a private jet bought with the company's money. I don't play golf.

What do you have against golf?

I think it's a waste of time. I work a lot. I work hard. I like to work. Maybe I like it too much.

What do you do when you want to relax?

I work!

What's the point of having so much money if you can't enjoy it?

I'm sort of an obsessive person. I think you have to be obsessive to be successful. You've got to be willing to work hard. My father was never that much of a worker. I don't know why.

What did your dad do for a living?

He was a lawyer, but he didn't practice. He only cared about music. He liked to sing. He never got into the Metropolitan Opera, but he became a cantor at a conservative synagogue not far from our home in Queens.

You describe him as an underachiever, but I would imagine that being a cantor is very rewarding work.

You don't understand. He wasn't religious. He was an atheist. It was strange.

How did you end up studying at Princeton University?

My mother always told me that I was smart. In college I majored in philosophy. I wrote a thesis called ''Explication of the Imperious Criterion of Meaning.'' Now when I try to read it, I don't understand it.

Didn't you recently give $10 million to have a stadium named after you and your wife, Gail, on Randalls Island, off Manhattan?

I was approached to do it. It helps the kids in the inner cities. The young kids deserve a real chance in our society. We're losing them.

Indeed, we're losing them to Blockbuster videos!

You think so? It's possible. But if it's true, I hope that it's to Blockbuster and not Netflix.

I hear that the company is now adding online rentals so it can compete with Netflix.

I think they should have gotten into the online business sooner. They'll build that up. They came in late.

What else can be done to turn a company around?

What I am thinking of doing is setting up the shareholders' answer to the business round table. You could have shareholders meet regularly to air their views and report company abuses. You call it the shareholders' ''square table.''

Why square?

Just maybe shareholders will get a square deal.

Will this ever end? Four times since Pakistan allied itself with the United States campaign against terrorism, a KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) outlet in Pakistan has been attacked. Each time, the owner, Rafiq Rangoonwala, dutifully cleaned up and reopened for business. This time, with six of his employees dead, he's not so sure, reports The New York Times. A mob, believed to be led by outraged Shiites, stormed Mr. Rangoonwala's KFC outlet, dousing its floors with gasoline, setting it ablaze and then blocking the entry of rescue workers. Six hours later, the six bodies were hauled out. Four had been burned. Two had frozen to death in the walk-in freezer; their bodies were found only after a mobile phone belonging to one of the men rang. The dead had all worked at the KFC. They were all local men in their mid-20's.

Mid-life crisis is coming late for my 60+ friends. My friend is buying a Ferrari F430. Others are loading up on Porsches, BMWs and Mercedes. This Ferrari will do 0-62 in four seconds, sports 490 hp and a top speed of over 196 mph. The idea is to take your Ferrari to a local track and race it. The problem is that recently two of my Ferrari's friends were killed on the track. "At some point, your reactions are no longer there," he mourns. He won't be racing his new Ferrari. Still, it is a pretty car, has lots of leg room and costs only $200,000 -- less than half a Mercedes-Benz SLC McLaren (see yesterday).

I hate PayPal: But there's no other effective way of paying for eBay junk. EBay overpaid more than $1 billion to buy PayPal. In its desperate search to recoup its overpayment, eBay makes PayPal hold your money for a week or so before it transfers it to the seller you bought your latest junk from. This week allows PayPal to earn interest on your money. You can link PayPal to your bank account or your credit card. It doesn't make any difference in time. That's been my experience. God fobid you'd want your item more quickly.

Anne Bancroft, 73, dies:
She played Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate and achieved immortality in my brain. Many remember the movie for the older woman/younger man plot. I remember it because Dustin, the graduate, was pointed to plastics for his future. The year was 1967. Long before PCs, VCRs, cell phones, the Internet, dot-coms, biotech and a zillion other places a young graduate could have found riches. As the ultimate irony, employment in the plastics industry is down by 40%. Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson.

Bancroft's leg in "The Graduate," as she slowly peeled off a nylon stocking under the glazed gaze of Dustin Hoffman. The scene became a classic. "Mrs. Robinson, you are trying to seduce me," said a wide-eyed Hoffman. The movie had wonderful music by Simon and Garfunkel. Boy, am I dating myself.

GM plans to cut 25,000 jobs -- 23% of its U.S. work force. It will do this through 2008. It will also shut several North American factories. GM has been seriously mismanaged for longer than I've been driving cars -- over 45 years. In all those years, I've never owned a GM. All the fun, expensive cars I've been writing about in recent days -- Mercedes, BMW and Ferrari -- have all been foreign. So sad. How could management have had so little imagination for so long. How could they have allowed the unions to hold them up for so long?

The union and the brothel:
A dedicated Teamsters worker was attending a convention in Las Vegas and decided to check out the local brothels. When he got to the first one, he asked the Madam, "Is this a union house?"

"No," she replied, "I'm sorry it isn't." "Well, if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?" "The house gets $80 and the girls get $20," she answered.

Mightily offended at such unfair dealings, the union man stomped off down the street in search of a more equitable, hopefully unionized shop. His search continued until finally he reached a brothel where the Madam responded, "Why yes sir, this is a union house. We observe all union rules."

The man asked, "And if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?"

"The girls get $80 and the house gets $20."

"That's more like it!" the union man said He handed the Madam $100.00, looked around the room and pointed to a stunningly attractive blonde."I'd like her!" he said.

"I'm sure you would, sir," said the Madam. Then she gestured to a 92-year old woman in the corner, "but Ethel here has 67 years seniority and she's next."

Harry Newton

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. That money will help pay Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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