Smart talk 

A skittish market

How will the recent credit crunch affect Acxiom and Alltel? Both Little Rock corporations, which are publicly traded, announced within a week of each other earlier this year that they were going private. On May 16, Acxiom agreed to be bought by Silver Lake and ValueAct Capital for $3 billion, a cost that includes $27.10 a share and the assumption of about $756 million in debt. On May 20, Alltel announced it was being acquired by TPG Capital and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners for $71.50 a share.

In theory, the credit crisis that made headlines last week could stop or delay assorted proposed mergers and buyouts if the purchasers — in these cases, investment companies — can't access borrowed money that they were relying on to complete the deals.

The market has been showing some skepticism in prices well below the announced buyout prices. Acxiom, which traded as high as $28.09 after the deal was announced, closed Monday at $23.44. Alltel which rose to $69.60 after the deal was announced, traded at the close Monday at $66.39.

Alltel says its deal is not conditioned on financing and thus the company has no reason to believe the deal won't be completed. Acxiom won't comment, because of a pending proxy statement. An analyst who covers the company, however, tells us he believes the deal is “airtight.” He cautions, though, that no deal is completely certain until money changes hands. Time is on the side of both deals say analysts who believe the credit markets may calm before the deals close.

A new judge

At press time, no announcement had been made, but sources were expecting an announcement soon from the White House that Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge Brian Miller of Helena-West Helena would be the pick to succeed the late federal district Judge George Howard.

Miller was chosen from a field of six names submitted to President Bush by U.S. Rep. John Boozman. Insiders say Miller's race was the determining factor. He is black. But his family is also friendly with U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who, along with Sen. Mark Pryor, had said they favored a black nominee to succeed Howard, the only black on the district court bench in Arkansas. Some Arkansas Republicans are unhappy at the degree of influence the Democratic senators had over the selection process, including a report that U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, reportedly said any but a black candidate would be unacceptable. A racial preference from the Bush administration? That's interesting. It's also interesting that the administration passed over several candidates with strong records as Republican party stalwarts, including former U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks, a candidate for lieutenant governor last year, and Kevin Crass, a Little Rock lawyer who's been Mike Huckabee's private counsel.


With a bankruptcy noose closing around former Congressman Tommy Robinson's agricultural and other interests in East Arkansas, the bumptious former lawman (sheriff, Jacksonville police chief, state trooper, U.S. deputy marshal) apparently is looking for other employment. He's been soliciting local law firms for The Robinson Group LLC, Private Investigation Co. Says his letter: “I will personally participate in the case where I can testify in court, as I am qualified as an expert witness on the federal, state and local levels.” He's spent a lot of time testifying in court, that's for sure. His letter lists offices in Brinkley, Hot Springs, Little Rock, Washington and London, England. Blimey.



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