CNBC's Schacknow: Booking the 'Holy Grail' of CEO Guests

Saved By Merger Monday

Producing a morning show on a Monday is always a tricky bit of business, but what’s often saved the day for the “Squawk Box” staff is a plethora of merger and acquisition deals struck over the weekend.

But when the “Squawk” staff arrived for work early this morning, the well was empty. No “Merger Monday” deals, and the pain of a Monday was going to be exacerbated by a lack of news.

Except -- it wasn’t.

At precisely 6am, just as “Squawk Box” was beginning, private equity struck again: Cerberus announced a deal to buy United Rentals for $4 billion, excluding debt.

And as it turned out, the spigot was just beginning to open.


Before the morning was out:

  • Transocean and GlobalSanteFe announced a $15 billion dollar merger.
  • Teleflex bought Arrow International for $2 billion.
  • Hewlett-Packard bought Opsware and Neoware for a combined $1.9 billion.
  • And American Standard sold its kitchen and bath business to Bain Capital for about $1.75 billion.

News comes to those who wait. And clearly, if the private equity boom is on the verge of waning, as many have predicted, it hasn’t happened yet.

Deconstructing Mel

Sirius Satellite Radio Chief Executive Mel Karmazin is, to me, one of the most fascinating people in the corporate world.

He appeared on "Street Signs" this afternoon to talk about the proposed merger between Sirius and rival XM Satellite Radio, and the steps that would be taken to answer the concerns of federal regulators.

Mr. Karmazin is one of those “Holy Grail” CEOs: he’s a great interview, and you can chase him for days, hours, or even years, but if he doesn’t want to be caught, you won’t catch him.

I speak from personal experience. I’ve been at investor meetings where I chased him around the room with other reporters hoping to get a comment, and was brushed off with a brusque comment and a withering stare.

I’ve also been at news conferences where he was a featured guest (such as when Mel’s Infinity Broadcasting became part of CBS) where he answered questions in a polite, informed, and entertaining fashion.

You have to be fascinated by a guy who’s made his life in media, but doesn’t, at certain times, like the people in the media very much.

Nonetheless, despite the brush-offs, occasional impolite comments, and fruitless chases, I remain a fan. Having grown up in radio, I appreciate anyone who still looks at radio as a viable business. And I love the fact that when you do catch him, the interview can’t help but be fascinating.

And next time he’s unavailable, at least you’ll be able to come back to the Web site and see what he had to say to us this time. But I have a feeling, as the XM/Sirius matter comes close to resolution, Mel will be much more willing to be caught.