The news at a glance
Television: Struggles at Oprah’s network; CEOs: Yahoo’s chief under assault; Companies: Exxon tops Fortune 500; Tech: Facebook prepares for IPO; Bailout: Treasury sells part of AIG stake
Television: Struggles at Oprah’s networkOprah Winfrey’s OWN cable channel has too much debt and too few viewers, said Edmund Lee and Andy Fixmer in Bloomberg Businessweek. Co-owner Discovery Communications has poured at least $585 million into OWN, including more than $300 million in loans, and “so far it hasn’t been a winning investment.” Ratings have been “surprisingly lackluster,” averaging 326,000 prime-time viewers per day, compared with competitor Bravo’s 961,000. Winfrey has lately realized that her legacy as the queen of talk-show television is on the line. “I am in the climb of my life,” Winfrey told advertisers in New York last month.
Winfrey is now “on the offensive,” said Christopher S. Stewart in The Wall Street Journal. She admits she should have pulled the plug on her popular talk show before she launched OWN, in January 2011, so she could concentrate on the network from the start. Not until last summer did she take over as CEO to push for more consistent programming, make layoffs, and meet personally with advertisers. Ratings are slowly ticking up, and her new talk show, Oprah’s Next Chapter, is beginning to catch on. But Winfrey says it could be late next year before the network finally finds its footing.
CEOs: Yahoo’s chief under assaultRevelations that Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson overstated his academic credentials have some shareholders questioning whether he is “fit to lead” the struggling technology company, said Michael J. de la Merced in The New York Times. Thompson, who took over Yahoo in January, claimed in his company biography to have degrees in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College, when “in reality he held only the former.” The claim, which Yahoo called an “inadvertent error,” was brought to light by the hedge fund Third Point, which owns a 5.8 stake in Yahoo; it seeks Thompson’s ouster and more seats on the board.
Companies: Exxon tops Fortune 500 ExxonMobil has reclaimed the title of America’s biggest corporate revenue-maker, said Shawn Tully in Fortune. The energy company’s $453 billion in 2011 revenues, a 28 percent increase over 2010, narrowly edged out the previous year’s No. 1, Walmart, for the top spot on the Fortune 500. Overall, U.S. corporations are defying the economy’s “sluggish recovery.” The combined profits of the 500 biggest U.S. corporations jumped 16 percent to a record $825 billion in 2011. Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and General Motors rounded out the top five.
Tech: Facebook prepares for IPO Facebook is on track to launch the biggest initial public offering for an Internet firm on record, said Hayley Tsukayama in The Washington Post. The social network filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week, setting its IPO price between $28 and $35 per share. When those shares begin trading, likely on May 18, Facebook is expected to raise more than $5 billion, setting its overall value between $77 billion and $96 billion. CEO Mark Zuckerberg will retain control of 57.3 percent of the company.
Bailout: Treasury sells part of AIG stake The U.S. Treasury is recouping about $6 billion of the bailout money it provided to AIG thanks to a stock sale this week, said Noah Buhayar in Bloomberg.com. The government sold 188.5 million shares of the insurance giant for $30.50 each, reducing its stake in the company from 70 to 61 percent. It’s the third time the Treasury has sold some of its AIG shares. Two earlier sales garnered $29 a share; the government needs to average $28.72 to break even on its investment in the company.