This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Media Unspun email newsletter and is Copyright 2002 by Keith Dawson.
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Compaq Votes for Mixed Blessing
Everyone expected the Compaq shareholder vote on the HP merger to be lopsided in favor, so the 9-to-1 outcome was no surprise. Many outlets took the occasion of the Houston shareholders' meeting to rehash and update the larger merger story: the expected 15,000 layoffs, the 500,000 hours already invested in merger planning.'s Tish Williams nailed the reason for Compaq's lopsided approval: "All Compaq shareholders in favor of a stock price that goes up, say 'aye.'" The BBC pointed out the double-edged nature of such an incentive. "Compaq shareholders have welcomed the deal since HP is considered to be paying an attractive premium. The belief that HP is overpaying for Compaq has added fuel to the argument against the deal," wrote the Beeb.

Compaq's hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle, ran what amounted to an obituary for the company that long held the title of world's largest PC maker, saying the merger "spells the end of Houston's leading high-tech company and one of its largest employers and leading corporate citizens," wrote reporter Bill Murphy. Against character, the home-town paper for the second-largest Compaq town, the Boston Globe, turned in a workmanlike story without a trace of wistfulness for the glory that was Digital (which Compaq acquired in 1998).

The L.A. Times concentrated on the work ahead for a merged HP-Compaq. Reporters Joseph Menn and Alex Pham asserted bluntly, "No merger of large technology companies has lived up to management expectations." They backed it up with a quote from US Bancorp Piper Jaffray analyst Ashok Kumar: "No company has ever bought itself out of mediocrity. These guys are trying to swim against the currents of history."

The San Jose Mercury News offered a number of sidelights on the merger fight, including the Hewlett Foundation's sale over the last six months of 6.3 million shares of HP stock. That represents about two-thirds of the margin by which Walter Hewlett's nemesis, HP CEO Carly Fiorina, is believed to have won the proxy battle. "It is not quite like accidentally scoring a goal in your own net -- but it's close," the Merc wrote. - Keith Dawson

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