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More on Morgan Keegan

As soon as Stifel Financial CEO Ron Kruszewski finished his presentation Wednesday morning at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods’ 2011 Securities Brokerage and Market Structure Conference and opened the floor to questions, the first one out of the gate concerned Morgan Keegan, the Memphis-based investment bank Stifel is rumored to be thinking about buying.

I should say, was rumored to be thinking about buying. The latest word from inside sources is that a potential Stifel purchase of Morgan Keegan is now all but dead.

Needless to say, Stifel’s CEO dispatched the question quickly.

“I just have to say I’m not in a position to talk about market speculation, other than to say as always we evaluate any opportunities that could be there,” Kruszewski said. “But I’m really not in a position to talk about that.”

And that was that.

If a Stifel deal is indeed not happening, that would be the second time the St. Louis-based company sat down at the negotiating table – and walked away.

It’s a complete reversal of what sources with knowledge of the talks were saying as recently as before the Thanksgiving holiday – namely, that a Stifel deal appeared to be a sure thing. Heck, that a new name for the combined firm was even being discussed.

It’s unclear where the bid process for Morgan Keegan goes from here. Before Stifel, teams of private equity bidders appeared to be in prime position, then dropped their bids by a few hundred million once MF Global collapsed. That’s when Stifel, possibly sensing an opening, returned to the negotiating table.

More on School Board Meetings

 

A follow up to our Tuesday, Nov. 29, story on school board culture and how the new countywide school board is dealing with remnants of the old MCS and SCS boards way of doing things.

The countywide school board added another feature from MCS school board meetings with Tuesday’s addition of “recognitions” to the agenda.

The recognitions are performances by students groups and presenting certificates to other groups of students. There were seven in all including the Cordova High School Wolfpack Playhouse, the Arlington Strings of Arlington High School, an MCS “custodial award” and the Georgian Hills Middle School state football champions.

Even with the addition, the new school board made better time than it has since its inception in October.

The business of the board was wrapped up after three hours. There was another half hour of comments from citizens who signed up for several minutes of time to speak on any topic. Meeting over at 9 p.m., an hour and a half earlier that the week before.

It is politically difficult to complain about honoring the students whose art work was selected for the annual school year calendar. Nevertheless, the recognition also comes with an underlying message to the public from the school system about the job it is doing.

The old county school board had such recognitions occasionally but not nearly as often as the old city school board.

The city school board had a moment of silence at the start of its meetings. The county school board had a moment of silence after a prayer outside the county school board auditorium that was optional for board members and anyone in the audience.

So far, the new countywide school board has a moment of silence at the start of the meeting.

It is a very interesting time for the new board and meeting culture is more important than some of the above indicators might lead you to believe.

Of all of the elected bodies that meet in Shelby County, the meetings of the Memphis City School Board had long been considered among the most onerous to cover among reporters who arguably have the best part of the bargain since we were paid to be there.

Perhaps it is because a system of educators has a tendency to not completely trust that even adults will go over the written material on their own time without need of a review and a plentiful amount of reading out loud at the meeting.

That tendency moved with the school system into the age of Power Point where the graphics would too often be read in their entirety and then elaborated on even further.

The argument on the other side of this is that this is the public’s business and the details are important.

And there is no dispute that school board politics is different and distinct from the dynamics of other legislative bodies like the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission. But a half hour to set an agenda?

The board should be as concerned about conducting the public’s business in as efficient a manner as possible as it is about having an informed discussion leading to a well thought out decision.

The length of a meeting doesn’t translate to the depth of commitment to the cause of education.

A meeting that covers the same ground covered in two to three previous meetings and in a 473 page agenda available to anyone on the county school system’s website at some point serves to repel a level of public interest if it goes on long enough.

And you have to question at times whether that has been intentional.

The countywide board is still feeling its way around some very different totems of the two former school boards. Some from each school system will probably survive and some new ones will emerge. And the merit of some will be a close call.

Board member Martavius Jones wants to expand the “self evaluation” the old MCS board had to the new countywide board. That would be a different evaluation than the one voters would conduct every two years when they vote on half of the seven seats that are to emerge in Sept. 2013 as the permanent representative body of the merged school system.

For now these discussions are a luxury the board can afford as it governs two separate school systems on their way to consolidation in less than two years.

But if the new board doesn’t figure out something more efficient, the sheer size of the board will quickly magnify problems with meeting culture that were excessive even when the school boards were much smaller.

 

 

Breaking news: economy’s not looking good

Earlier this week, the principals of Memphis-based IronHorse Capital Management sent out their third quarter letter to shareholders.

It’s not pretty. The IronHorse folks think the economy is in a dangerous phase at the moment.

“Daily volatility in 2011, while harrowing, is running about half the level observed in 2008 and is now roughly in between the levels observed in 2007 and 2009, the bookends of the 2008 phase of the secular bear market that’s been in place for a decade,” they wrote. “In other words, as bad as things have seemed since the dog days of summer, we may not even be to the crazy part.

“The ride can get bumpier. This type of market action has often been a precursor to bigger events … Events take a long time to develop. The backdrop becomes more and more confusing as policy makers and market participants propose and rush solutions out the door each week. We outlined our position on global markets and economies in the last letter, namely that this follow‐on phase of this crisis resembled the ’37‐’38 follow‐on phase during the depression years. In short, we view this as a potentially dangerous economic and market environment.”

Meanwhile, right on cue the Federal Reserve has released its so-called Beige Book, which depicts economic conditions in Fed districts around the country.

The Fed survey shows conditions improving in every Fed district – except the St. Louis district, which encompasses Memphis.

From the Beige Book:

“The economy of the Eighth District has slowed since our previous report. Manufacturing activity has declined, while reports of activity in the services sector have continued to be mixed. Retail sales in September and October declined slightly over year-earlier levels, and auto sales increased over the same period. Residential real estate market activity has continued to decline, while commercial real estate market conditions have been mixed. Overall lending at a sample of large District banks was unchanged during the three-month period ending in October.”

The MemphisWeather Guy

I’ve got a story in Tuesday’s (11/29) edition of The Daily News that’s about MemphisWeather.Net and Erik Proseus, the guy behind it all.

Here’s a video of Erik explaining what he does:

Shelby County jobless rate drops in October

Shelby County’s unemployment rate fell a little less than a percentage point from September to October, according to an announcement today from the state department of labor and workforce development.

Shelby’s rate for October was 10.1 percent, down from 10.8 percent in September.

The figures released today also show that non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates dropped in 92 Tennessee counties in October. The rate increased in one county, and two counties remained the same.

 

Dansette

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