NEW YORK – The state of corporate mergers and acquisitions is so bad it's a joke.
Although the hard times that have befallen Wall Street are no laughing matter to the thousands of investment bankers without jobs or clients, punsters and humorists have offered up an array of wacky deals to lighten the mood.
The famed Sunday New York Times Magazine crossword puzzle recently wondered what 16-letter product DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler arm and Krazy Glue would make if they joined forces. "Convertible bonds" apparently.
And the result of a union between mattress giant Serta with luxury luggage maker Louis Vuitton ?
And photocopy machine manufacturer Canon and instrument seller Wurlitzer together would make "reproductive organs," according to 50-across in the puzzle entitled "Merger Mania."
But the fun doesn't stop there.
Counterculture magazine Mother Jones printed a series of colorful cartoons by David Fullarton in its May/June issue that suggested Pfizer Inc. and McDonald's Corp. merge and serve up a "happy meal" of McProzac burgers, and that Microsoft Corp. and Gap Inc. team up to "produce a line of T-shirts and jeans that are incompatible with other clothing brands."
Elizabeth Gorski, who constructed the merger crossword for the Times, said the idea stemmed from a "government takeovers" puzzle she sold to another newspaper. In that one, a Department of Defense usurpation of Rogaine yielded "hairy arms."
"I think as we're all suffering and seeing our portfolios shrink, you might as well make fun of it," Gorski said. "I think puzzles have always poked fun at various area of society, and business is always a good place because it has so much pun potential."
Old e-mail witticisms of unknown origin have begun to resurface, with punny suggestions that 3M Co. and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. merge and call themselves "mmmGood"; Netscape and Yahoo! Inc. unite as "Net-'n'-Yahoo"; and package specialists FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. join as "FedUp."
Mimi Sheraton, in a column in The New York Times, while mocking the strange fusion trends in food, suggested two weeks ago that Prada and Ronzoni combine to make all-black pasta in fashionable shapes like navels and abs.
Sheraton also comically opined that bankrupt energy trader Enron Corp. re-emerge in the world of frozen meals, where it could sell "gourmet diet foods with labels that under-report calories and overestimate nutrients."
NO M&A? TRY MOWING THE LAWN
While many lament that humorists have more deals on their minds than bankers, some in the business have found plenty of reasons to smile.
"It's not such a bad thing to see your wife and kids on the weekend and to have that annoying list of things that never get done actually get shorter," said George Sard, whose public relations firm Citigate Sard Verbinnen advises companies on mergers and acquisitions.
Plus, dealmakers have had some fun of their own, proving they have a sense of humor to go with their business smarts.
Merger mavens were giddy over last year's peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich -- when Procter & Gamble's Jif merged with J.M. Smucker Co. -- that garnered "Deal of the Year" award from market research firm Thomson Financial.
So could it be that merger strategists see real possibilities in the seemingly comedic suggestions?
"That would not only surprise me," said Will Shortz, the Times' crossword editor, "but it would scare me if bankers got ideas from the puzzle."