Friday, February 16, 2007

I was watching a show I recorded (I love my ReplayTV) called "Really Really Big Things" and they were back stage at Cirque Du Soleil's "KA". Among other things they had introduced the host to working on the vertical wall. You don't realize how good the artists are until you see someone who is not. Take a look:

Can you say "abs of steel"?

Acing a job interview

So two weeks ago I had a job interview with a software company here in town. This was not the one I had the little rant about ("Great job interview - lousy wait) previously. When their recruiter called early in that week to setup the interview, I was surprised to hear back from him as I had met with him very briefly at a local job fair and he didn't seem very interested in talking to me. So I went in to a 3 on one interview, with two managers and one director, and thought I did very well. Apparently I did, because Monday I received a job offer and today I signed the written one. I haven't said a thing to anyone about this nor posted anything as I didn't want to jinx it, because I really want to work there. The company is a well established specialized software firm with over 400 clients in a business area that is in a steady growth phase. I haven't stated their name or particulars and I wont due to the confidentiality agreement I have signed with them. Best of all, because of the position I will be in, for the first time in 20 years I will not be on-call for support. Of all the things I am looking forward to that is the biggest. I have been paged in every conceivable circumstance (for those of you whose mind is in the gutter, yes even while doing it.) So yea for me! And we got a West Wing Fantasy 8 episode this week so it was a winner all the way around!

Oh for those of you who are starting a job search, try reading "The Ultimate Job Search" by Richard H Beatty. It helped in focusing my efforts and I ended up doing 5 interviews in the last 4 weeks, mostly because of the book. Now I'm a programmer, so its techniques worked for me but may not for you. I also had my resume reviewed by a number of different technical recruiters to get it formatted with the information they want to see readily available. The interviewing chapters of the book also definitely worked for me, and I always left them feeling that I had put my best foot forward. If you read it and don't think it is appropriate for your job search, read different job search book(s) until you find one that works for you.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Is AMS worth only $76 million?

So what is B&T up to with their offer? Well from my reading of the offer, it is more important what they are walking away from, the leases for the Dallas TX DC, Baltimore MD DC, Indianapolis IN DC, and San Diego CA corporate offices. (BTW any AMS employee reading this take note, you will not have an office to work in once this deal closes. If you get a written offer to move to North Carolina, good for you. For the rest, oh well it was fun while it lasted.) They are retaining the rights to the Sacramento CA DC, Indianapolis IN returns center, Ashland OR office, and the Bentonville AK office. Beyond that they are asking for their choice of APG inventory at 75 cents on the dollar, the A/R at 77.5 cents on the dollar, and everything not bolted down (and a lot of things that are) in all facilities they are abandoning, and everything in those they want to keep. To me this feels more like a first stab at a liquidation offer more than anything else. Keeping only the Sacramento DC is an expansion move by them (they have no DC west of the rockies, only one in Reno NV) to service CostCo. The Bentonville office is for local Sam's/Walmart represenatives, but I have no idea what the Ashland office is for. The Indy returns center has a brand new processing machine for stripping book covers and pulping books, so they could turn that into a central processing center for hurt books (it makes no sense to ship good books there only to ship them back to a DC.) The rest of it is simply them acquiring assets. Is all of it worth only $76 million? To B&T it is a good starting point for an offer. Either they think it is high enough to discourage other offers, or low enough to encourage one allowing them to collect their $2.4 million "Stalking Horse" protections and walk away from their work with something.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I had a plan . . .

You know I had a nice Sunday planned. I got up, posted my thing on AMS, made it to the gym, came back and took a shower. I turned off the water and heard this faint spraying sound. The bad news is I had a water leak from a bad solder joint in the wall. It took the entire day to fix (open wall behind shower, blow out the pipe, cut-out/de-solder the bad joint, solder in a replacement) and left me with the requisite scraped knuckles. Today, of course, I had a job interview for a mid-level programmers position today. Of course the interviewer noticed my knuckles and commented on them. When I told him what happened, he commented that he would never "do it himself". For some reason, the rest of the interview didn't go very well, with him attacking everything I said. Not a lot of fun. Oh well, I probably wouldn't have liked working for him anyway.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Day before decision day

Ok, I woke up this morning at 6 AM and starting thinking about job hunting, Putin's comments on US foreign policy, and what is going to happen to Advanced Marketing Services (AMS) and Publishers Group West (PGW) tomorrow.

For AMS & PGW, tomorrow may be a historic day. At this point it is best to consider the options for both companies separately. I'll do the hard one first.


1) Judge Sontchi could simply delay making any rulings. He could consider the NBN offer for PGW too recent to make a decision. This would depend on how many publishers have signed the NBN letter.
2) He could agree to the NBN buyout. Again depends on the number of signers.
3) He could agree to the Perseus buyout. Ditto.
4) He could throw PGW into chapter 7. This is extremely unlikely with 2 companies putting forward offers.

As part of the PGW resolution, one thing he could also do would be to order that PGW's inventory be physically separated out from AMS' in the Indy DC. Now the huge hitch in this would be be the secured loan agreement. I am not a lawyer, but my reading of it leads me to believe that both AMS' and PGW's inventory is being used to secure the loan. Remember, this is "Senior" loan, so the lender is first in line for all assets. At least there are parties actively interested in taking over PGW. Not so much (so far) with AMS.


1) Someone could step up tomorrow and formally put an offer in for AMS. My feeling is this would be the VERY last day to do this.
2) Judge Sontchi could throw AMS into chapter 7.
3) He could throw AMS into chapter 7 pending resolution of the PGW sale.
4) He could simply delay a decision to throw AMS into chapter 7 until PGW's assets (its inventory) is physically separated out from the Indy DC.

Obviously I am not hopeful for AMS. The reasons for this are pretty simple. I have not seen one document in the various filings that state, here is how we can make AMS start making money. Remember, AMS' March 20th '06 press release was very coy about it, but they stated they lost money operationally (before legal and accounting costs) of about 1% on net sales in FY '05 and would lose between .5% and .8% in FY '06. In other words, they are not making money shipping books. This, more than any other reason, is why the creditors are pushing for liquidation. They recognize that AMS has no visible means to dig itself out of the hole it is in.

Ok, I'm off to the gym. I'll pontificate on the rest of my laundry list later.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Great job interview - lousy wait

So I had this fantastic job interview yesterday. I'd be a good fit for the position, they are making money, have a large customer base, and all 3 of the people who interviewed me had over 15 years at the company. One problem, this is the first day the requisition is open, and they haven't done their internal interviews yet. It will be 2 weeks before I hear anything, and going by what I was told they like to fill internally first. So I really have to ask (out hear in cyberspace), "WHY ARE YOU WASTING MY TIME INTERVIEWING ME FIRST IF YOU PREFER TO FILL INTERNALLY!!!" Ah, I fell much better now. Back to the job hunt.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Was that really the plan?

Ok, when I first read Radio Free PGW's Slime of it all post, my first thought was no way would someone pre-plan a bankruptcy for Advanced Marketing Services. It would chew up any remaining good will the retailers and publishers might have towards them. Well, then I saw this Publishers Weely article. Check the last sentence quoting Well Fargo Foothill, "Indeed, prior to the filing, Foothill expected that a sale motion would be filed simultaneously with the [Chapter 11] petitions." Well, um, ok, um, yea. Don't know what else to do with that, but you know, there it is.

Oh, and poking around the Smith Declaration, I came across this tidbit. On July 31st, 2006 AMS defaulted on its line of credit with Wells Fargo due to not filing audited financial reports. So this was an absolute drop-dead deadline for filing those reports. Remember, on November 8th 2005, AMS released updated financial results for FY '00 through '03. The release makes it sound like they knew what the audited results were going to be, so why didn't they have Deloitte & Touche finish the audit? Well on March 20th 2006 AMS released revised updated financial results. The '06 update revised downward the results for '00, '01, and '03. It also included results for '04, and estimates for '05 and '06. The '06 update also states that "the Company believes [the audit] is nearing completion." So what happened in the following 4 months that caused them to not complete auditing the results? Of course Bruce Myers departed on May 6, 2006, but Curt Smith continued on as CFO. Or was it all a smoke screen? As stated in the Smith Declaration, the company had "been seeking to recapitalize their through a strategic transaction ... for eighteen months prior to the Petition Date" of December 29 2006. In other words since July or August 2005, they had been looking for either an investor or purchaser for the company. I can't imagine that went very well, a company with former executives pleading guilty to fraud, unable to produce revised audited financial reports for the prior 4 to 5 years, and wanting a cash infusion in the tens of millions of dollars. The DIP financing is for $75 million, so you have to figure that is in the neighborhood of the amount AMS was seeking. I have worked at companies going through an acquisition. The thing the executives on both sides of the transaction were always trying to confirm with their due diligence was that the financial reports were a true reflection of reality. This is an even better reasons for completing the audit. So again, why didn't it happen? What was the plan?