Worst Deal Ever: Why the Hostage Swap Makes AOL-Time Warner Look Brilliant!


As the chief business geek at FOX, allow me to offer a business view of this hostage swap deal.  It’s horrible. It’s a horrible deal. It’s so horrible a deal  that if CEOs were to pull off anything remotely similar, they would be thrown in jail!

This deal makes that AOL-Time Warner deal look positively brilliant by comparison. The worst you can say about that corporate combo from hell is that it put a lot of shareholders at risk, but this prisoner exchange with the Taliban over U.S. Army Sergeant Bow Bergdahl risks putting a lot lives at risk! There is a difference, and its costs are enormous.

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Just remember, that in any corporate deal, each side tries to exact as much from the other as it can, or with which it can “get away.” For the life of me, I see nothing that we are getting out of this one. I’m not talking politically. I’m simply looking at this through the cold and calculated prism of finance – what they got and what we got.

First off, the numbers. Five of their bad guys, for one of our supposedly good guys. I’ll leave out for the moment these charges that Sgt. Bergdahl might not be quite the good guy we thought – that he actually deserted his post five years ago, and might have even sought out the Taliban. That’s one of those variables we can’t yet prove, but that doesn’t make it any less disturbing. Still, pro-Taliban musings from his father, including texts and postings, do little to disavow me of the notion this soldier is far from the hero the administration was first calling him.

No matter, back to the facts we know, that matter. By releasing five of Gitmo’s most notorious detainees, and sending them to terror hotbed Qatar, no less, to “stretch out,” we’ve given the Taliban a reason to cheer, and bad guys everywhere, an opportune moment to think. Look at the celebration these former prisoners got once they arrived there. So enough said about how “we made ‘em pay” here.

Furthermore, by stating, as the President has, that there “absolutely” is a possibility these former detainees could be back on the battlefield, he’s essentially dispensed with the notion these guys aren’t dangerous. They clearly are.

And the whole transaction means we’ve already priced in other deals. Remember, after Time Warner and AOL, a host of other media stocks were quickly in play – many of which similarly made awful sense. But that didn’t matter – the deal sprung lots of crazy deals. My fear with this prisoner exchange is this springs lots of crazy exchanges, and might be used to justify shutting down Guantanamo Bay completely. I can see the administration arguing that since the most dangerous thugs are out of there anyway, what good is it keeping the relatively minor maniacs remaining incarcerated?

Then there’s the issue of “why” this soldier was returned, that the war is over and that’s just what happens when hostilities cease – our men and women come home. Prisoners are exchanged. Everyone packs up and goes. Um, there’s only one problem here: the war is not over, and judging from the number of suicide bombings and increased attacks on American and Western personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, hostilities are far from ceased.

So, to review, the premise for this deal is a lie. What we gained from this deal is a lie. Who benefits from this deal is a lie. And the so-called peaceful implications of this deal are a lie.

That’s a lot of lies. And a lot of false arguments to justify an awful transaction. Just like Time Warner and AOL provided an example of synergies that didn’t make sense, this political transaction makes even less sense.

Only back then, we didn’t know it for sure until later. This one’s already proving a nightmare … now.

What do you think?

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