Editor's note: To access some of these stories, registration or a subscription may be required. Please check the individual links for the site's policy.
So what happens when a fancypants foreign boy takes over a troubled company in a country known for treating its small, insular circle of business leaders with a comparatively gentle hand?
Well, if the first wire reports about
annual meeting last night are to be believed, Sir Howard Stringer, from Wales by way of CBS, got his clock cleaned. Maybe it wasn't that bad, but I can be forgiven a bit of hyperbole here, because Sony's results have been that bad. To paraphrase Led Zeppelin, does anybody remember the Walkman?
Sony, victim of
iPod and increasingly inexpensive Asian competition, lost close to $600 million in its March quarter, and hope seems fleeting, despite Stringer theatrically bringing Steven Spielberg on stage during a recent meeting of Sony managers.
Seven thousand shareholders came to the annual meeting,
, with some spoiling for a fight -- despite local tradition and Stringer's assurances that a recovery in the core electronic business was a-comin' -- quicker than the delayed PlayStation 3, one would hope. "I bought shares in mighty Sony," said one hapless shareholder, who apparently drew laughs. "What are you going to do about this?"
Color me a bit skeptical on the Sony front, but in a curtain-opener for the annual meeting,
The Financial Times
flashes back to that goofball stunt at the recent manager's meeting in this morning's paper and sees great significance. "The coup de theatre" was "classic Stinger," opined the
, which added that "the charismatic Welsh-American built his career in show business, bringing David Letterman's irreverent late-night talk show to CBS television."
How did that thing do in the ratings, anyhow? The breathlessness does not cease, as great significance is found in the fact that after Spielberg exited stage right, Stringer shook hands with middle managers who, with a finger poked in the eye of Japanese tradition, were sitting front and center instead of in the SRO section. The article goes on to catalogue some of the challenges Sir Showy faces, but in cases like this it takes the spoof site
to put things in proper perspective.
"reported" that Stringer unveiled something new at last night's stockholders meeting: "The highly anticipated line of ideal electronics customer ... a 34-year-old financial analyst" who "is smaller, lighter and swifter than last year's beta-model consumer, Larry."
A Retail Caning
Speaking of CEOs living on Outcast Lane,
The Wall Street Journal's
Heard on the Street column
reports that at today's annual meeting,
Pier 1 Imports'
currently unpopular leader Marvin Girouard might be hit over the head with a rattan chair. (Just kidding about the rattan chair. It could very well be wicker or bamboo.) The larger point is that Girouard, a three-decade veteran of Pier 1, is in trouble because the company just can't get a footing.
Filling the Breach
While we are on the subject of a retailer trying to save its bacon, let's talk about the
. Once the guiding light of retailers, the company's long stall and dreary looking stores have actually turned it into a cautionary tale. Our very own
reports that while the company is claiming a quick and deft fashion fix could make customers get jiggy again, larger forces are at play.
The company rolled out too many stores, losing the coolness factor. Who wants to shop where everyone else, including parents and grandparents, do? The upshot is the point of the story: Retailers are trying to move the needle on earnings not by duplicating the same old store but by opening up exciting new chains. This might mean some exciting new opportunities in retail, but is also good cause for caution. It's easier to multiply a working concept than start news ones from scratch.
Humanity and Inhumanity
It seemed that
was on the lip of a cliff under former CEO Carly Fiorina, but things have been looking better of late. Now come comments last night on
that, despite recent concerns, notebook sales look good.
: An overview of four promising diabetes drugs. For those who care about humanity and profits, there may be no better area of drug development to monitor, considering the scale of the diabetes problem.
And getting away from humanity, the FCC has taken up the issue of media ownership limits again, and most publications are uncertain what the regulators are going to do, or when or why.
The Globe and Mail
reports something from the realm of that-wouldn't-work-too-well. A government committee suggested that Canadian media companies should regularly state who their shareholders are, during broadcasts or in print. For media shareholders, hold your hats. Whatever ultimately happens, we're off on a bumpy ride in the short term, with ideas like this floating around. As
puts it about the cumbersome, messy process of rewriting the rules (which is seen by those in the industry as something akin to a blood ritual): "High on the list of complaints is that the public can suggest revisions to the current rules but won't be allowed to comment on any specific changes proposed by the regulatory agency."
And don't take advice on how to win over the tenured masses from Lawrence H. Summers, who was picked up by the scruff of the neck and seat of the pants and thrown out of the president's office at Harvard. But in today's
, the former Treasury Department head had a word to the wise on bonds. He is apparently telling anyone who will listen that central banks of foreign countries should not invest in U.S. Treasuries, as they often do. Stocks, he said, are the way to go. (He did not recommend Sony or the Gap.)