When a technology area is hot, companies are sometimes bought not because they're accretive to earnings but simply to take them out of the hands of some rival. This is how Mark Cuban became a billionaire, back in the day. I was reporting on Internet commerce then and remember it well.
During the height of the dot-com bubble Cuban started something called Broadcast.com, which would stream sports events for which he hadn't paid rights on the new thing called the Internet. Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) paid big for it to keep it out of the hands of rivals, Cuban sold his Yahoo stock and voila. Broadcast.com disappeared pretty quickly because (as previously noted) it wasn't in the rights business, but the hype business.
Buddy Media's primary product may be a white paper that offers strategies for companies who want to post to social media walls. Its software lets you do the scheduling. Is this worth $689 million?
Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) thinks so. And if the aim is to keep Buddy Media out of the hands of Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) or (gasp) Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), it makes some kind of sense. But here's what I'd do if I were a member of the Buddy Media team. Cash out, and then run like you stole something.
This looks to me like a classic "great game" acquisition. On the surface, it integrates Customer Relationship Management - the CRM in Salesforce.com's stock symbol - with social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD). It's strategic. But such strategies are always a moving target. Once strategies are widely adopted, they usually lose their effectiveness. Customers become inured to the game, as they have become inured to, say, Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN).
The best way to do customer relationship management is the old-fashioned way, namely to develop a relationship with your customers. Reward the best ones, move them up the permission stack from transaction to something more stable. Do right by customers and provide real value-for-money. Oh, and if you need a friend, buy a dog.
Of course, that would be hard. It would be work. It is not sexy. Thus shortcuts like this will always be in demand. And folks like those at Buddy Media will be lighting cigars with $100 bills while shareholders are left holding an asset whose value is rotting like fresh fruit on a wharf.
But there are some great sports franchises for sale. Check the heads of the Buddy Media team for ball caps as they walk out the door.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.