Grapevine Vibrates With Merger Buzz

Spencer felt like Columbo piecing together a mystery as he chatted with a former MarchFirst employee recently.

Spencer felt like Columbo piecing together a mystery as he chatted with a former MarchFirst employee recently. Last fall, as boutique competitors were dealing with the downturn in demand for Web consulting services, MarchFirst was still actively hiring, apparently oblivious to market realities. The Tabby tattler told His Hirsuteness that "HR was still hiring like crazy, and yet you couldnt find a seat in the office because so many people were on the bench." The Katt crony said he even advised friends inside the company not to go rabidly after stock options.

Now they probably wish theyd listened. "The company was spending money like water, and management was in complete denial over the business realities. The branding people were burning bushels of money," the tipster said.

According to the tipster, the financial systems between Whittman-Hart and USWeb/CKS were not yet connected. More than that, he said, "The merging of the two companies was a disaster from Day 1 at the street level."

Tom Hogan, president and chief operating officer of Vignette, might soon be calling Tom Siebel boss again. Hogan recently left a top sales position at Siebel Systems to join Vignette. Speculation was that Hogan saw a clearer path up the corporate ladder at Vignette.

But the Furball hears through the grapevine that Siebel, seeking to strengthen its positioning in Web content management and personalization, might buy Vignette. According to a friend of the Furry One, Hogans presence at Vignette could actually be a catalyst for the acquisition. The Tawny Titan also heard murmurs that point to Siebels possibly making a push for Vignette rivals BroadVision and Art Technology Group if the rumored Vignette acquisition falls through.

A smooth operator tells the Kitty that BellSouth is hoping to acquire long-distance certification in nine states before the end of the year. The current buzz in the phone biz is that once local exchange carriers can leverage long-distance services in their own markets, there will likely be a flurry of mergers between them and the big long- distance carriers. "Then mergers between companies like BellSouth and Sprint wouldnt be inconceivable down the line," said the Furballs phone friend.

El Gato has also heard talk that large telecom end users may organize under some sort of D.C. umbrella to fight efforts by carriers, rural companies and other interests to increase the Federal Universal Service fund. The fund subsidizes phone rates in high-cost areas and for low-income users. The end users already spend 9 percent to 12 percent of their phone bills every month contributing to the fund, and many are starting to realize they could eventually pay even more.

While Palm passed out pink slips last week and was reportedly expecting additional cuts after the completion of its acquisition of Extended Systems in June, the Gossipy Grimalkin heard rumors that Palm itself could be acquired. The rumor mill pointed to Sony as a probable suitor for the handheld maker. Some speculated that Sony might possibly be willing to pay more than double Palms share price. "Hey, maybe that merger would create a robotic dog that doubles as an address book," laughed the Loopy Lynx.

Spencer F. Katt

Spencer F. Katt

Spencer F. Katt, the Whiskered Wonder, has been the mascot and tipster extraordinaire for eWEEK and its predecessor print publication PC Week since 1984. The Gadabout Gatto makes the rounds of...