This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Media Unspun email newsletter and is Copyright 2002 by Keith Dawson.
M E D I A   U N S P U N
Hewlett's Dream Gets a Little More Impossible

The moment we've all been waiting for: the results of an independent audit of the votes cast for and against the Hewlett-Packard/Compaq merger. But is it over? Sit back, relax -- the fat lady hasn't even entered the theater yet.

Everybody had the story this morning that IVS Associates, whom InternetNews called the "independent inspectors of election in Delaware," had released results that CNET called a "formal tally" that was "complete, but preliminary." Merger supporters came out ahead by 2.8 percent -- a margin greater than the number of disputed Deutsche Bank votes.

Several outlets recited what happens next: Everyone's favorite dissident shareholder Walter Hewlett can demand a recount, and if he does, then both parties will review the proxies for maybe a week. After that, a challenge process could take another one to two days before IVS issues its "certified" result. And then there is the wild card of Hewlett's lawsuit. Few reporters found anyone who thought that the anti-merger forces would prevail. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer summed it up in a quote from a Gartner research director: "The merger's going to happen."

Little of the coverage went much beyond HP's press release and a letter to employees released by CEO Carly Fiorina. The Wall Street Journal was thoughtful enough to run these documents in full. Wired and the Washington Post used an AP story, which reported that the preliminary tally by IVS was disclosed to HP and Hewlett but was not announced publicly, and that the upcoming challenge process is known as "the snake pit."

Both H-P and Compaq stock rose in the general tech rally yesterday, and the shares climbed some more in after-hours trading, according to the AP. Maybe traders are as weary of the soap opera as the rest of us are. And as for the fat lady, some say she was sighted near her dressing room, while others claim she's still in her suite at the Plaza. - Keith Dawson

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