DealZone

The Value of Experience

BRITAIN/(Corrected – Bank of America did not purchase Countrywide early this decade)

Now that the nation’s top public servant is wielding The Donald-like powers over chief executives of bailed-out companies, expectations are high that more heads will roll, and Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis is looking like the next contestant on a new economic prime-time drama: The Executive.

Rick Wagoner, ousted as General Motors CEO, had spent more than three decades in the company and had been in the driver’s seat for most of the last one. He also presided over the era of the energy-unfriendly Sport Utility Vehicle and is criticized for sticking with trucks far longer than he should have.

Lewis has been Bank of America CEO for about eight years. He bought CountryWide, the biggest lender after the market went crazy for real estate and was ultimately forced to buy Merrill Lynch as the salad days of Wall Street wilted.

By contrast, Citigroup’s Vikram Pandit has been running things for just about long enough to endure the worst of the crisis, and AIG’s Edward Liddy was installed by the government. Perhaps it’s the longevity of characters like Wagoner and Lewis that make them seem so deserving of a presidential pink slip.

Fiat a compli

GENERAL-MOTORS/In retrospect, GM CEO Rick Wagoner’s demise was perhaps the most inevitable twist in the autos overhaul saga to date. The chance that he would present a radical plan to Obama this week, one dramatic enough to save his job, was slim at best. A more shocking result, one clearly less viable for Obama, would have been to make a few more threatening noises and hand out the cash that the company so desperately needs without demanding a very public pound of flesh – a head, in this case.

With only another 60 days to effect a U-turn in defiance of a skidding market, former GM COO Fritz Henderson doesn’t have a lot of room to maneuver. It’s hardly enough time for Washington to have installed a new crash-test chief executive.

The Chrysler bailout story is more intriguing. The private-equity owned car maker has been given 30 days to do a deal with Fiat, which has in deal talks to date pledged somewhere around zero in financial support. If that price was too much for the Italian auto maker, they may think that the ticking of the clock could give them some leverage to squeeze a few billion out of either Chrysler’s private-equity owners or U.S. taxpayers.

West Coast Care

CVS CaremarkCVS Caremark Corp is bolstering its position on the West Coast with its acquisition of rival Longs Drugs Stores Corp. The deal, announced on Tuesday, is worth $2.54 billion and will allow CVS to expand in states like California and broaden the reach of its prescription services. The acquisition of Longs’ 521 stores will also give CVS a leading position in Hawaii, where it doesn’t operate. CVS will pay $71.50 per share for Longs, including its Rx America subsidiary, a prescription benefits management services company with over 8 million members. Longs shares closed at $54.04 before the news on Tuesday, but surged nearly 30 percent in extended trading on the deal. Shares in CVS fell nearly 7 percent on the news.
GM chief Rick Wagoner says there’s significant interest in the auto maker’s planned sale of up to $4 billion of assets as it battles record losses and falling sales, but no deals are expected soon. General Motors Corp is struggling against an accelerating downturn in its home market and high oil prices that have hammered sales of its trucks and SUVs, triggering a $15.5 billion quarterly loss, the third-largest in its 100-year history. Earlier this month, sources told Reuters GM was in talks with India’s Mahindra & Mahindara Ltd and automakers in Russia and China about selling its Hummer brand.

A consortium led by Goldman Sachs Group Inc has agreed to pay about $1.5 billion for a number of ABN AMRO’s private equity assets, the Wall Street Journal said Wednesday. On Monday, Belgian-Dutch financial services group Fortis said that together with Britain’s Royal Bank of Scotland Group and Spain’s Banco Santander, it had sold a number of ABN AMRO private equity assets to a Goldman Sachs-led consortium. The Journal said Goldman’s investment comprised 32 European companies as well as roughly $450 million in capital to be invested in future deals.
Other deals of the day:

* Australia’s CSL Ltd, the world’s top maker of blood plasma products, is buying smaller U.S. rival Talecris Biotherapeutics Holdings Corp for $3.1 billion, to boost its presence in the fast-growing biopharmaceutical industry.