Flu-bitten cyberrodent dreams of media glory and mergers galore

R. Fink

The Rat awoke on the wrong side of the bed to yammerings of a news radio anchor about the America Online-Time Warner megamerger. The very idea of Dulles, Va., becoming Media Central made him cranky'just what he needed on top of the Y2K flu.

'And after I dumped all that stock in the set-top box company,' he whined, pulling on his bathrobe and sneakers. 'What will Steve Case and Ted Turner do when they join forces'colorize each other?'

The Rat was grumbling in his best Alan Greenspan style about unwarranted exuberance and overvalued Internet companies as he shuffled toward the kitchen for his morning fix. But as he cranked up the coffee grinder, the pungent scent triggered a thought that reversed his mood: 'Wait a minute. I'm an overvalued Internet company myself.'

The Rat's mad moonlighting gig, rMachines Inc., had gone public just one trading day earlier under the watchful eyes of the Langley Investors' Club and several other adventure capitalists. Now it was time to do something with all his newfound market capitalization.


'I need a media empire of my own,' the Rat declared after his third cup of coffee.

His better half sat across from him at the breakfast table, watching the Bloomberg stock ticker. 'That's nice, honey,' she said as she symbol-surfed. 'What do you want to buy, C-SPAN 2?'

'Well, I don't know,' the Rat replied, oblivious to her sarcasm. 'Who could we do a stock swap with that would get us some synergy?'

'Did you say synergy? Your flu must be worse than I thought, or maybe you've got toxic stock syndrome. Why don't you go lie down, and I'll bring you the Washington Post Federal Page and put on 'Capitol Gang' instead of this financial stuff.'

'No, really, I'll be all right. I just have this overwhelming urge to mogul today.'

'Lie down until it passes,' Mrs. Rat said.

As the whiskered one obeyed, his head swam with merger and acquisition ideas that might propel him to the top of the new media heap. Forget Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer and Brad Chase and those other tech weenies'he would be the Rat that Roared if only he could:

' Negotiate a merger of AltaVista,rMachines and Univision TV to create a multilingual media powerhouse: Hasta LaVista.

' Merge with Rupert Murdoch's network to build an interactive television company based on rMachines hardware running over Secure Sockets IP and called Fox in Socks Box.

' Take over Viacom/CBS, give it back to the workers and call it Viacommunism.

' Do the obvious: cut a deal with that other rat and acquire Disney.

The Rat snapped back to reality. Through his flu funk, he called to his wife, 'Check my medication bottle and see if the side effects include megalomania.'

With that, he settled down for a nap to the sound of the policy wonks sparring.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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