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Springtime Questions Abound

April 2003
By Erik Cagle

What I don't understand could fill a book. Or at least a column. For our intent, a column will suffice.

The following subjects continue to confound and amaze me. Well...they don't, really, but it helps to make the prose airtight and concise. Who needs a crock of rambling, waffling and fence walking that does nothing but take up space and make the reader yearn for Beetle Bailey and the funny pages? Not me, and certainly not you, gentle reader. Without further delay, a couple of issues affecting the industry and housing availability in the Philadelphia region.

BARBARIANS AT THE C DRIVE: Can someone tell me what the heck happened during the last week of February? You know, the whole blowup involving software concerns Creo, Printcafe and EFI?

Creo had been longing for Printcafe; the two had been good friends and nothing had evolved past the casual dating phase, despite some heavy investments Creo made with 'Cafe. But when Creo was ready for a long-term commitment, along comes Electronics for Imaging, waving $2.60 per share under 'Cafe's nose. That began the first of several stages that characterize a messy breakup:

1. Denial. Creo CEO Amos Michelson pens a well-worded letter to 'Cafe CEO Marc Olin, expressing deep disappointment at the latter's adoption of a poison pill, as well as 'Cafe's decision to only court EFI after telling Creo that it would evaluate all offers for the Pittsburgh-based company.

2. Rejection. Creo brings the matter to the Chancery Court in Delaware, charging that these actions prevent 'Cafe's shareholders from realizing the greatest share value. The court refuses to grant a temporary injunction.

3. Bargaining. Shortly after the court refused to act, Creo upped its bid to $3 per share.

4. Acceptance. Creo withdraws its bid, 'Cafe takes EFI's offer of $2.60 per share.

It may be Springtime, but love is not always in the air.

BEING BOB BURTON: For a long time, ever since he took the reins at Moore Corp. and whipped it into shape, I'd relished the thought of interviewing Robert Burton, he of World Color fame and known throughout the industry for making chicken salad out of chicken crap.

In fact, it was a done deal. Burton and Moore Corp. would grace the cover of our February issue. A personal rep for Burton took the train to Philly for a lunch overview with myself and Editor-in-Chief Mark Michelson. This was exciting; Burton had a reputation of being a hardscrabble manager; a badass who unflinchingly made the tough calls when it came time to cut away gristle from the tenderloin. We would ask him some tough questions and pull no punches when it comes to asking him how many eggs he breaks while making his omelet.

While people mostly only want to see the baby, I was willing to learn about the labor pains. That's far more interesting than reading bland forward-looking statements.

And then, Burton was gone.

Burton abruptly exited Moore Corp., where he was quickly replaced by Mark Angelson. It was rumored that Burton would resurface with Quebecor World. Alas, it was not to be.

I felt like Captain Ahab. The big one had eluded me. No colorful stories about cracking skulls from the former college football player (on the field or in the conference room). No secrets behind his success in tripling Moore's stock value in two years. No chance to learn whether the tales were true or only part of his lore.

One thing's for sure—he'll be back.

BEING SUZANNE WHANG: The aforementioned hosts the cable television show "House Hunters" on the Home & Garden Television (HGTV) channel. It is an entertaining and interesting journey in the quest to find, and successfully bid on, a new home.

Whang introduces viewers to an individual or couple, and gives a quick synopsis on the hows and whys behind their entering the housing market. Most half-hour episodes see a couple tour two houses that are inadequate for various reasons, before finding a third property that is "the home of their dreams."

If only real-life housing quests could be solved in 22 minutes.

My wife Cheryl and I put our house on the market November 1, 2001. A clear-cut omen came earlier in the day when a woman ran a red light and wrecked our car.

Through all of 2002, our house was the one prospective buyers found inadequate. It was infuriating to see equal and lesser dwellings come on the market and get snapped up in record time. We were really starting to get a Ziggy complex about the situation.

Fifteen months and two withdrawn bids later, we had our buyer. And like a scene straight out of "House Hunters," we had found a perfect abode to call our own only two days earlier. It was roughly the 36th home we had toured.

As the sports adage goes, I'd rather be lucky than good.

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