Gosh, we were wrong last week. Spectacularly so. Yes, it was just seven days ago we predicted months or years of litigation between EchoStar Communications ( DISH) and Hughes Electronics ( GMH) following the inevitable death of their star-crossed merger deal. Well, we at the Five Dumbest Things Research Lab were a little off -- maybe a few months or a few years off. Only two business days later, you see, the two companies officially terminated the merger, announcing that EchoStar would pay Hughes a $600 million breakup fee. A clean break. A clean break, yes. But we doubt the separation was exactly amicable. See, we couldn't help noticing the press release the companies put out to tell the world they were going their separate ways. The two press releases, to be precise. The two announcements, released seven minutes apart on Tuesday morning, said nearly the same thing. But what they said was in different order. The first bulletin, headlined "Hughes and EchoStar Terminate Proposed Merger Agreement," led with Hughes throughout. In other words, Hughes and EchoStar reached a settlement to end their merger. A quote from Hughes CEO Jack Shaw preceded a quote from EchoStar CEO Charlie Ergen. A boilerplate description of Hughes preceded a boilerplate description of EchoStar. The phone number for a Hughes spokesman preceded that of EchoStar's. The second release, headlined "EchoStar and Hughes Terminate Proposed Merger Agreement," was a modified mirror image of the first. EchoStar and Hughes settled the merger deal. EchoStar's Ergen preceded Hughes' Shaw. EchoStar's description preceded Hughes'. Ditto for the phone numbers. In other words, you have two companies here that can hammer out a 100,000-word merger agreement and come to terms on a $600 million breakup fee. But when it comes to writing a simple 500-word announcement, they can't even decide who should get top billing? All we can think is that everyone at DirecTV who still has a job next year should be thankful that the merger didn't go through. We always suspected that Ergen would take a scythe to the Hughes staff once he got control. Now we're sure.
2. Sick Transit, Inglorious Monday
This week, the auto industry was celebrating the imminent death of the automobile luxury tax. But forgive us for not dancing the victory jig. See, those of us who work in lower Manhattan are wondering if we'll be able to make it to work at all next week, let alone travel in the lap of luxury automobiles. In one of those lovable New York moments that make this place the Greatest City in the Free World, city transit workers have threatened to go on strike Monday. The subways won't be running. The buses will be idled. And no one will be driving into Manhattan in a private car carrying fewer than four people.