Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I guess this means Pete Ricketts can afford more commercials

by Kyle Michaelis
Here's one that sort of flew under the RADAR during my extended vacation. The Ricketts family of Omaha, who have been plastered all over TV these last few months in their son Pete's attempt to buy a U.S. Senate seat by attempting to connect with common Nebraska voters, are set to make - honestly, no kidding or exaggeration - hundreds of millions of dollars off stock dividends if everything goes according to plan in a corporate buy-out.

The AP reported (on Dec. 14th):
If Ameritrade Holding Corp.'s shareholders approve the company's latest acquisition next month, no one will benefit more than Ameritrade's founder and chairman Joe Ricketts, who'll receive $535.9 million in dividends.

The roughly $2.9 billion deal to acquire TD Waterhouse Group Inc.'s U.S. retail securities brokerage business includes a $6 per share dividend for all Ameritrade stockholders as of Nov. 16.

As the company's biggest stockholder, Ricketts will see the biggest benefit, even though he plans to use part of his dividend check to repay a $65 million loan he and his wife received from TD Waterhouse Group's parent company last month. He'll still end up with $470.9 million.

The company's board of directors and top executives - which includes several other members of Ricketts' family - also stand to receive about $216.7 million in dividends as part of the deal, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That includes about $7.5 million Ricketts' son Pete, who is campaigning for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, will receive for his 1,243,410 shares of stock....

The $65 million loan that Joe Ricketts and his wife received from an affiliate of TD Bank Financial Group is secured by 5,772,134 shares of Ameritrade stock, according to the company's 424-page filing. The money was used to pay for estate planning and to cover margin debt, and Ricketts plans to use part of his dividend check to repay the loan.

[Analyst Matthew] Snowling said he wasn't bothered by the loan because the amount did not seem unreasonable and Ameritrade is an established company. "I don't think we're in a situation like those dot-com companies where executives got loans and then walked away," Snowling said.

Ameritrade expects to take on between $1.6 billion and $2 billion in debt to pay for the dividend and the purchase of TD Waterhouse. A special shareholder meeting will be held on Jan. 4 for the vote on this acquisition, and the deal is expected to close on Jan. 24.

Wow, I can't imagine what kind of "estate planning" forces a family to take on $65 million in loans. But, of course, I wouldn't because this kind of money is simply unfathomable to a country bumpkin like myself. But, I can say right up front that, as a lay person with no particular understanding of the securities game by which fortunes magically appear overnight without an ounce of wealth produced or an hour of work done, this loan doesn't quite pass the smell test no matter how many lawyers cleared it or analysts declared it "reasonable."

Then again, when this many zeroes are in play, it almost seems reasonable that different rules should apply. Just note that I'm not the one one who brought up the legendary corporate plundering and profiteering of the dot-com bubble. Such is the power of suggestion that the comparison stands even in its denial.

But anyway, it sounds like tomorrow (Jan. 4th) could be a very good day for the Ricketts family. I can't imagine what it must be like to include "purchase seat in the United States Senate" on one's list of New Year's resolutions. Hell, with a fortune like this and the family's newfound willingness to use it in the political arena, they might just be able to build their own political dynasty.

If the voters of Nebraska play along, the sky is the limit...and not much of one because Pete's already proven the total broadcast domination his well-funded advertising campaign could provide. Still no real word on whether those commercials clicked with people, but if they failed to daddy now has a couple hundred mil more for Petie to play with.

Sure sounds like Nebraska values to me. I just hope for all Ricketts' obnoxious and rather disgusting abuse of his professed Christianity in his latest million dollar ad buy, that he's at least saved up enough to invest in some high-tech research that will at last discover how they're going to squeeze that proverbial camel through the eye of a needle.

Alas, squeezing another rich man into the U.S. Senate poses no such difficulty.


Anonymous big_dawg@beer.com said...

Ricketts talks about Nebraska values, such as personal responsibility and an ownership society.

These are Republican talking points that really mean we want to roll back the New Deal, which includes getting rid of social security by privatizing it. Who would benefit from more stock market trading?

I guess trying to get into government to steer more money to the family business is a "Nebraska value" to Ricketts.


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