Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bent or Ambitious?

Another bit of news from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where four local-focused radio stations were recently bought by Clear Channel, "the largest owner of radio stations in the country."

Perhaps the new owners will introduce more local components, provide more jobs, or otherwise positively contribute to the communities on Cape Cod. The president of Quantum Communications, the former owner, put the purchase value in the tens of millions of dollars (Cape Cod Times, 16 May).

But what looks like a white knight could instead be an asset-sucking parasite.

When the big banks & financial groups of the USA were financially rescued with public funds, the bailout fundamentally undermined the US system -- it's now clearly crony capitalism.

The world of big business is often counter-intuitive. Lavishly-paid executives purchase first class services for themselves, but harangue staff members to work with less and for less. Clear Channel may be different, but they may be desperate debtors. The Times quotes Billboard magazine noting Clear Channel is $20.5 billion in debt. Should such a group be lecturing anyone on belt tightening? In their fancy suits they're worse than poor, they are mega destitute. But the American Way is now to look the prospect in the eye, smile and rumble onward. Clear Channel surely keeps a "finger in many pies" around the world, advertising, billboards, entertainment, transmission towers ('vertical real estate'), even bicycle sharing or 'mobile advertising' in nearly a dozen European cities. They're now tightly connected to Mitt Romney's old outfit, Bain Capital, which led them into private ownership in 2008.

Don't imagine the companies or individuals mentioned here are involved in any flim flam. But if they were, we couldn't know. The limited liability shell game relies upon the American s̶u̶c̶k̶e̶r̶s̶ people to fuel their party, too often supported by corrupt politicians. Remember the Enron meltdown? NASDAQ Former Chairman Bernard Madoff's wealth management operations? As with American hero Lance Armstrong, it looks pretty good till it shatters or explodes. Good Grief!