My pen hovers — but refuses to touch the postal ballot paper. I pour a drink (I won’t say whether claret, schnapps or English ale) and break off to watch Versailles, with its parade of lecherous continental backstabbers. The blood stirs, but still I cannot choose. So I defer the moment of decision, Remain or Leave, until after a short trip to France…
Meanwhile, business as usual. Microsoft is spending $26 billion to acquire LinkedIn, the social network for job-seekers. That looks a crazy price for a venture which lost $166 million last year on revenues of $2.9 billion and has never been regarded as cool. But what Microsoft is really buying, at $60 per head, is access for cross-selling to LinkedIn’s 430 million users in the hope of boosting its own flagging growth. Both brands feel middle–aged these days, so maybe they’re well matched. Microsoft boss Satya Nadella is also betting LinkedIn will endure, unlike networks such as Bebo and MySpace, which were bought by giants before shrinking to nothing. Frankly, who knows: I’ve never bothered to join LinkedIn myself, partly because requests to connect are invariably from total strangers. But I’ll bet LinkedIn will have faded in five years’ time, and the deal will be seen as a point of decline for once-invincible Microsoft.
Speaking of overpriced deals, who knew Guy Hands was still suing Citigroup over his 2007 acquisition of EMI? In brief, Hands’s private equity firm Terra Nova bought the music group for £4.2 billion, funded by Citi. But EMI’s business model was already failing and huge losses followed. Citi’s loan covenants were triggered; the bank took over EMI and sold it to Universal and Sony, while Hands claimed Citi had given him fraudulent advice and Citi claimed Hands was suffering from ‘buyer’s remorse’.