Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Circuit City: So Toxic that Nobody Wants It

Is there such a thing as a bride so ugly that no one will marry her? Apparently there is such a thing as a business so toxic that everyone steps away from buying it.

One of the great fears of any party seeking to close a deal to purchase Circuit City (CC) is that the due diligence would reveal information so negative that potential acquirers would drop their bids. Apparently this scenario is playing out.

Blockbuster (BBI) dropping its bid may be due to other bidders pushing up the price; more likely it is that further disclosure revealed that Circuit City is already deeply entangled in its death throes. Blockbuster's Chief Executive Jim Keyes cited "market conditions" as a reason for withdrawing its offer, valued at up to $1.3 billion, and said the deal was not in the best interests of its shareholders.

Circuit City dropped over 16% on the open on Wednesday after this news. Blockbuster climbed over 12%, the shareholders gleeful that this proposed merger has been dropped. It is interesting to note that Blockbuster had offered at lest $6 per share for Circuit City. CC stock now sits at $2.19; effectively the proposed deal was at triple the price of Circuit City stock. The failure of Circuit City management to grease the skids on this deal will probably go down in financial history as one of the worst executive decisions ever; unless some other suitor actively closes on a transaction.

Philip J. Schoonover, the CEO of Circuit City, kept hope alive for a deal by commenting, "Our exploration of strategic alternatives is intended to serve the interests of our shareholders by considering every possible alternative to enhance shareholder value. The board's review was not dependent on Blockbuster's (BBI) participation. We are diligently working with the parties involved in the process, and intend to continue our thorough approach until such point as the board determines upon a particular strategic course of action. The board has not established a deadline for completing the review."

Loosely translated this means, “We are trying to find a deal that will leave the existing management team employed with large compensation packages despite our ruinous track record. The board is hoping some magical deal materializes shortly with a private equity fund. If something does not pop up soon; the company will be dead as we complete the review of the bankruptcy paperwork.”

The only constant is that the long suffering Circuit City stockholders will continue to be disappointed.