Minimal Disclosure: Merger Closure, Buggy Whips, Etc.

Following a barrage of market pessimism in all media venues at the beginning of the week, the Dow rallied for a couple of days straight. At the moment stocks are said to be “moving sideways,” a phenomenon so boring that I’m going to wrap this up and go to Jazz Fest. So here’s what else has been happening.

It’s Over: The vote count is official, and Walter Hewlett has conceded defeat in his efforts to derail the Hewlett-Packard/Compaq merger. The new firm’s official “launch” date is May 7.

It’s Not Over: The Wall Street Journal says that Enron plans to reorganize as a “small integrated energy company” and put itself up for auction. It’ll also get a new name. Interim CEO Stephen Cooper figures the bankruptcy process will last “a number of years.” Meanwhile, efforts to settle civil litigation against Enron and its auditor, Arthur Andersen, have crumbled. “The mediation is terminated,” says the guy appointed by the relevant court to oversee the talks.

Bernie Time: Bernard J. Ebbers, departed CEO of WorldCom, has five years to repay the $366 million he owes the firm, according to a brief in today’s New York Times.

Out of Sun’s Orbit: What’s going on at Sun Microsystems? Chief operating officer Ed Zander is retiring, joining chief financial officer Mike Lehman and two other high-level executives who have recently announced plans to leave the firm. Zander says: “If I was going to experience something else in life, whatever it is, I had to move on.” Ah.

E*Payday: E*Trade chief Christos Cotsakos may have been the highest-paid CEO of 2001, according a Wall Street Journal story that valued his compensation package for the year at $80 million. “Look where he has taken this company in just five short years,” a spokesperson commented. OK

Driving Business: “Unlike many cliches, ‘gone the way of the buggy whip’ is just plain wrong,” says a column on the Wall Street Journal’s Leisure and Arts page today. Makers of buggy whips “are thriving.” Collectors are buying whips, and buggy-driving has become a “a form of weekend recreation” for some. Will this revelation kill off the cliché? I hope not. Most people who use the expression do so in a way that implies the entire U.S. economy was once whip-based, and I like that idea. But I’m sure that even if the cliché is endangered, a dedicated handful will cling to it, form associations, and continue to use the phrase as a weekend diversion. In fact, I predict that a hundred years from now the cliché will be thriving. I’ll provide an update at that time, so check back in 2102.

Creepy Guy Update: Regarding this week’s Ad Report Card, reader Bill Watts comments: “I always gave the Doritos ads a little more credit just for the fact that I was under the impression, which could certainly be misplaced, that Creepy Guy was meant as an homage to the late, great British comic actor Terry-Thomas.”

Highly Recommended: I’m usually a week or more behind on Harry Shearer’s Le Show, because it’s not broadcast in New Orleans; I have to wait for it to appear on the Web, then find a time when I’m willing to sit near my computer listening for an hour. Anyway, the April 21 edition of the radio program featured a fantastic set of excerpts of Charlie Rose emceeing Coke’s annual shareholders meeting, and you have never heard America’s favorite pseudo-intellectual sound more pathetic. (Which is saying something.) A brief snippet of his kiss-ass interview with Coke’s CEO, for instance, includes Rose breathily observing, “Innovation is almost a mindset, the way quality is.” Rose further informs us that, “Few companies are able to connect with consumers as completely as Coca-Cola,” and tells us how Coke builds “lifelong value by making a commitment to improving people’s lives.” Also included: A mind-blowing musical number in which the virtues of Coke are extolled in ways that defy parody (“Coca-Cola is expanding in the many ways it touches our lives,” bellows one presumably struggling performer. “How? Through innovation!” You’ll also hear how Coke is meeting “the demand for so many different beverages,” and, in the course of a sort of medley of desire, someone chirping, “I want a Fanta!”). To hear the segment, go here and click on “Found Object Dept.: Charlie Rose hosts the Coca-Cola stockholders’ meeting.” It’s a RealAudio link and it lasts almost 15 minutes, so don’t do it at work unless you have headphones or an understanding boss. Rose, by the way, says there’s no problem with his Coke role and asserts that he was paid a “minimal” sum. If that’s true, it makes Rose not just pathetic but a fool, to boot. Everyone involved should be ashamed. Except Shearer. Check out his show.

Also recommended: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, teamed with DJ Logic, in late-night shows at the Mermaid Lounge in New Orleans through May 3. The Blind Boys of Alabama, performing today in the Rhodes Gospel Tent at Jazz Fest at 5:05 p.m. I’ll look for you.