Cuckoo for co-co
1. Freston and Moonves Get Co-OptedViacom ( VIAB) promoted two top executives to the posts of co-president and co-chief operating officer on Tuesday.
The appointments, says Viacom, are part of "the orderly transition to the next generation of senior management for Viacom."
There you have it, folks. Proof that Viacom's brain trust has collectively gone nuts.
See, there is no better way to create a disorderly transition than to tell two executives to share the job of co-chief-something-or-other. There's no better way to speed up an executive's departure than to go the co-route. And though it's traditional for the co-whatevers to profess their abiding friendship and respect for each other on the way in -- as did Viacom's Tom Freston and Les Moonves on Tuesday -- these vows of collegiality on the way in serve only to heighten the snickering on the way out. Yeah, remember back in the days when Time Warner ( TWX) was known as AOL Time Warner? Co-chief operating officers Dick Parsons and Bob Pittman
2. Say the Secret Word and You Win $2.7 BillionKudos to HealthSouth for spotlighting an important but too-often-overlooked ingredient of any successful accounting fraud: the code word.
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Royal pain in the glass
3. Anheuser-Busch's SABMiller StoryWe're often amused by lawsuits in which Company A complains about Company B's advertising. But even we have our limits.
Today's example: the recent court battle between Anheuser-Busch ( BUD) and SABMiller over advertising and promotional materials. In a lawsuit filed last month, Wisconsin-based Miller Brewing said the Budweiser brewer was being "false and misleading" by dubbing Miller Lite the "Queen of Carbs," and by stating that Miller was "Owned by South African Breweries" or "South African owned." South African Brewers purchased Miller in 2002; Miller is now a subsidiary of London-based SABMiller.
The funny part: In a preliminary injunction May 28, a judge ruled that Anheuser-Busch no longer could say Miller or its beers are "owned by South African Breweries." But, says Anheuser-Busch, it's still free to say "Miller was purchased by South African Breweries" and "Miller is South African owned." That's a classic, finely tuned legal distinction that is subtle enough to be completely meaningless in practice. The less funny part: The xenophobia underlying the whole debate. This is not a dry truth-in-advertising debate here -- it's two companies fighting over the right to say, "I'm more American than you." Miller has already played the patriotism card itself, calling Miller the "President of Beers" -- in contrast to Budweiser's portrayal of itself as King -- and calling Anheuser-Busch un-American for not debating them. Meanwhile, just this week, these companies were fighting for control of Harbin, China's fourth-largest brewer. Anheuser-Busch beat out SABMiller, which will be selling the 29% stake it had already held in the company. The ironies are delicious -- as tasty as a cool, frosty one on a hot summer day in Beijing. This wrapping-yourself-in-the-flag tactic can cut both ways, if you're a brewer with worldwide holdings. When Chinese patriots stop drinking Harbin's beer because it's made by a bunch of foreigners -- and when some Russian brewery takes aim at SABMiller's Zolotay Bochka for not really being Russian -- don't come whining to us.
4. Bonus MaybesThose 2003 bonuses at Nortel Networks ( NT) are getting more and more tenuous. As ace telecom reporter Scott Moritz