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Monday, March 6

Diary of a day: Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross on anchoring a personal home page, choosing stories, columns and photos of the day.

9am:

When she was a child, my daughter visited our office once and described it as a ‘zoo on fire’. The FT newsroom is a bit like that, but calmer… perhaps a ‘smouldering zoo’.

Two stories stood out at me from editorial conference: AT&T and NYSE. Both are interesting, but everyone will be chasing AT&T. I think there is more original stuff to say about the NYSE.

Just based on my own experience, I also think it’s worth following up the BlackBerry settlement story and seeing if it will encourage more users to upgrade now the fear of a shutdown has gone. I know I was holding off on buying a new BlackBerry myself while the company was in court.

Blackstone’s deal to buy a Real Estate Investment Trust is worth flagging up. REITs are typically quite passive investments and this is not normally the sort of deal you associate with private equity. Coming on the same day as another private equity firm is moving into education – another unusual sector for them – it may fuel the debate about whether there is too much private equity capital chasing too few deals. It would be good to follow this up and ask people if they think it is all just driven by cheap money.

The John Dizard column on shareholder activists sounds interesting. I’ll take a look at that.

10am:

The National Association of Realtors releases data showing sales of US homes fell for a fifth straight month in January as higher prices and mortgage rates discouraged buyers. I think we should have something on this even if it’s not the official data. There is a lot of interest in the direction of the housing market right now, so any data like this is extremely timely. To make room, let’s drop the story about the Harvard investigation into fraud allegations – it’s coincidental to the whole Larry Summers thing [Housing in turn was later dropped to make room for something else]

We should reinstate the story about Warren Buffett’s letter to shareholders from the weekend. Everything Buffett says is interesting. It’s a good thing we spotted an editing error that had left only one ‘t’ in Buffett.

I also like the column on economic protectionism from this morning’s newspaper by Dominique Moisi, a senior adviser at France’s Institute for International Relations. His line: ‘Could Europe’s ideal suffer the same fate as communist ideology in the Soviet Union, moving from faith to dogma to irrelevance?’ really summarises what’s at stake. Would it be overkill to flag up the Lex comment on protectionism too?

We should also promote Martin Wolf’s online debate with economists on risks to the world economy. Martin is excellent.

11am:

More live Lex comments come in on today’s stories, including Softbank/Vodafone, HSBC, BOC/Linde and Generali. I think we should highlight the Softbank note. Its stock was up sharply on the news – this is a big story in Japan. It complements the AT&T coverage and Lex is negative on the deal too, which is all the more interesting. Let’s move the Lex note on AT&T to make room.

President Bush says he will ask Congress for authority to reject individual provisions in legislation to bring spending and the deficit under control. This is going to be a big battle. If it goes through, it will change the whole relationship with Congress at a time when his popularity in the polls is low. Let’s run it instead of GM’s Suzuki deal.

To view all four online diaries, click here

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