CCU: $94 a share to $37

The holy grail on Wall Street is "shareholder value". How many times has Mel Karmazin said it? How many times has Clear Channel said it. Here's a quote from Clear Channel's own "Investor Q&A" for shareholders issued when yesterday's sale was announced: "The board of directors has continually evaluated ways to maximize value for shareholders. After conducting a thorough and careful review of strategic alternatives, the board concluded that this transaction is fair and in the best interests of its shareholders". Hello? Does anyone think the same stock that was worth $94.94 on January 10, 2000 was worth holding until today when a deal is made to liquidate for $37.60 -- ten percent more that it closed Wednesday but a heck of a lot lower than $94. Maybe they're thinking $37.60 is in the shareholders' best interests because the stock price may decline even more in another six or 12 months -- that's one way to look at it. The way I see it, the Clear Channel principals (the three Mays') and their buyers are the only ones who absolutely come out smelling sweet as a rose. Shareholders? Well, you do the math. The employees? What employees? They've laid off people constantly and the ones that remain often have enhanced jobs. More for less -- so to speak. The listeners? How have economies of scale helped them over the past ten years. How does virtual voice tracking make radio local? And we all know that radio is better when it is local. There must be someone else who benefited from the past ten years. How about lawyers? Okay, okay. But that doesn't count. What about the industry -- radio most certainly should be better off, better able to compete with new technologies and continue growing -- after all, the government gave radio consolidators a big advantage when they allowed them to buy up an unprecedented number of stations. No, the industry doesn't seem to be better off. Even the other, smaller consolidators aren't better off. Some want to go private. Some are doing clutch and grab mergers. Some are just holding on and praying that things get better. In the end the way I see it, the company that tried to sell you "less is more" when it comes to cutting commercials on-air has the perfect slogan right there for selling this deal to its shareholders -- less is more. Unless, of course, your last name is Mays. And then you can drop a few words and your new slogan comes down to "More".