Bloomberg has a great report on Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, No. 14 on Forbes list of the richest people in the world, screwing over the kids to save a few bucks.
Seems Ellison paid $200 million to build a house south of Frisco in the manner of a “16th-century Japanese emperor’s country house” and screamed because the county assessed its value at $166 million. Get this: he argues that it shouldn’t be assessed that high because “the property was so elaborate that no one else would pay that much for it.”
Two years later, Ellison wins his appeal, lowers his future tax bills, and gets $3 million in taxes back. That will shave 3 percent off the Portola Valley School District’s annual $10 million budget, which will have to cut six jobs. The Bloomberg report doesn’t quite spell it out, but it appears that the ruling dropped the value of the $200 million house to $66 million.
Ellison has a net worth of $25 billion. Dude has a 450-foot yacht.
The Journal writes on C2 that the $2.5 trillion asset-backed securities markets are showing “tentative signs of life.”
There is investor demand for new deals and supply has picked up. Last week alone, $4.6 billion in new offerings were sold, mainly offerings backed by credit cards and auto loans.
But the market still has a long way to go before a full recovery can be declared. Issuance has plummeted in the latest quarter and prices remain soft, as investors have turned selective, even on deals with top-notch credit rankings amid worries about the state of the consumer…
Asset-backed securities bundle consumer debt—such as car, home and student loans—into new securities with different risks and returns and then sell them to investors. In the first quarter of this year, securitization of such loans totaled $43 billion, a 75% drop from the year-earlier quarter, according to J.P. Morgan research.
If it’s not a false dawn, this would be big news— a sign that the financial crisis is finally easing somewhat.
John Reed’s regret
Contrition on Wall Street? John Reed, who along with Sandy Weill created the behemoth “financial services supermarket” Citigroup in 1998, now tells the Financial Times that deal was a mistake.
In a rare interview, Mr Reed said it was unclear whether the company’s model or its management deserved the greater share of blame for its problems. But he said Citigroup turned out to be a “sad story”.
“The specific merger transaction clearly has to be seen to have been a mistake,” Mr Reed said.
“The stockholders have not benefited, the employees certainly have not benefited and I don’t think the customers have benefited because our franchises are weaker than they have been.”
And the former president of UBS, which has been hammered by two write-downs of at least $18 billion apiece, is now calling—in a shareholder-activist campaign—for the Swiss banking giant to be broken up. Come on, guy. That’s not very sporting for a former exec. Aren’t these things best handled behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms? The WSJ’s C1 Heard on the Street column:
For British investor Luqman Arnold, the fight will mark a rematch with the bank that forced him out in 2001 after a dispute over governance and how much power he would have. Among Mr. Arnold’s proposals: UBS should legally separate its investment bank from its private-client bank and consider selling the investment bank; sell its asset-management business to raise money; and remove the chairman it named just Tuesday, according to a letter Mr. Arnold sent to UBS Thursday night.
The surprise attack from Mr. Arnold, chairman of London investment firm Olivant Advisers Ltd., promises to increase acrimony inside UBS, which has gutted its leadership since becoming one of the hardest-hit banks in the credit crisis.
The WSJ gets our Quote of the Day for this gem, pointing out what seems obvious when you point it out:
“It’s hard to make a case to someone wealthy that you can manage their money well when you’ve just lost $37 billion yourself,” said Dirk Hoffmann-Becking, an analyst at Bernstein Research in London.
Consumer woes mount
In economic news, tapped-out consumers are having more and more trouble paying their bills. The NYT puts on C2 a Reuters report that the percentage of delinquent consumer loans rose to a sixteen-year high in the fourth quarter.