First, the basic facts: a corporation is only as good as the people who own it. Amazingly, some very large corporations have managed to succeed despite not screwing over their customers, behaving badly, or committing egregious ethical violations. Not every company can be Mother Teresa all the time, but therein lies the rub: what if Mother Teresa ran Sony? Let's look a bit closer at the implications.
If a group of interested and invested people owned a majority share (50.1%) of Sony, perhaps they could invest in a less conservative method of distributing and producing content. A technologically enlightened "ownership society" could find ways to make content cheaper and more available; could spread technology all over the world, subsidized by those who could afford it; could advance research, productivity, science, and humanity itself to the very edge of progress.
Such is the prosaic pipe dream, and we'll leave it as such. We're not going to try to become the Messiah; we're just going to try to become one of those formidable "power players" we hear so much about. Tired of being The Little Guy amongst large concerns? Now's our chance to fight back. The rabble will become the robber baron. The masses will become the master. And this is how it's done.
Sony has approximately 1 billion outstanding shares valued at approximately $43 as of July 11. Over the past 52 weeks, this number has been as low as $32 and as high as $52, but our goal is simple: acquire a 50% stake in Sony.
Oh yeah. Plus one.
That means we have to come up with at least $16 billion worth of capital, and possibly as much as $25 billion in capital. We'll need accountants, lawyers, secretaries, advertising, marketing, office space, paperwork, commission fees, and more.
On top of that, we don't want to give anyone the impression that anyone is going to get super rich off of this for their measly $25 contribution. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme; this is a we-the-people scheme. Solidarity means sacrifice. So we need to generate a system that, once Sony is bought, we can more or less continue to operate our ownership stake (under our collective manifesto philosophy) without having to get into the daily grind of operations.
But in short, we'll need a bit of an insurance policy for the whole operation. Let's just round up, round it all up, to a squaresies $30 billion.
$30 billion. That's Sony's price. Now on to producing it.
In America, most states have a lottery. From Oregon to New York, Texas to Wisconsin, the state collects revenue at the expense of often its poorest people - the classic "tax on the mathematically challenged." In Texas alone last year, the lottery generated nearly $4.5 billion in sales (and $1.3 billion in revenue for the state.) In Michigan, there were over $3 billion in sales; in Oregon, nearly $1 billion. 34 more states use a lottery to generate revenue, but this only raises the question: why voluntarily pay the state when you can pay yourself instead?
The lottery sales totals from Michigan, California, New York, Texas, and Florida alone totals nearly $20 billion - every year. Even if the other 32 states only provided $500 million in sales each - low numbers, by all accounts - that's an additional $16 billion. In one year, Americans spend enough money on lottery tickets alone to buy Sony. (This doesn't include, of course, money spent on any other gambling ventures, profitable or otherwise, such as horse racing, slot machines, and betting parlors.)
If we could convince Americans to pool their lotto money into buying Sony, we could own it within the year.
In 2005, Sony released the following movies: Hitch, Guess Who, XXX: State of the Union, Capote, Zathura, The Fog, Stealth, Rent, The Legend of Zorro, Boogeyman, Memoirs of a Geisha, Are We There Yet?, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and Fun with Dick and Jane. Oh yeah, and their subsidiary MGM released Beauty Shop, The Amityville Horror, and Be Cool.
Total box office revenue? $1 billion. (Note this doesn't include their 2004 release of Spiderman 2, which made $373 million all by itself, or the fact that 2005 was considered a down year for the movie industry.)
Music sales from Sony BMG and its subsidaries was nearly $1.5 billion. Sales of Sony Playstation products was over $3 billion. And Sony TVs, computers, cameras, and other electronics was nearly $10 billion. Total sales? $15 billion, and all you got was a PSP, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, and a Jessica Simpson album (rootkit included free of charge!)
In two years, you've got yourself a Sony.
One Less Potato
Do you eat fast food? Wanna own Sony? Here's your chance to eat just a little healthier and become an investor in a major multinational corporation.
The solution? Hold the fries.
And not every time either! If Americans held the fries (or whatever side came with the meal) every 3rd time they ate fast food, at 99 cents a pack of fries, they would save - wait for it - $15 billion a year. Hold it 2 out of 3 times, and you've got yourself a Sony.
And a new notch in your belt. Win-win.
Sales of the 6 major American tabloids (People, Star, The National Enquirer, US Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, In Touch Weekly) were $1.2 billion.
Number of pennies in circulation? 140 billion ($1.4 billion.)
Greeting card sales? $7 billion.
Ringtones? $4 billion.
Can you think of any more? Let's put it in another perspective: if every working American (about 140 million) saved $5 a month to buy Sony, we would own it in 3 years. If every time an American looked at a new Sony TV box set like King of Queens, they went home instead and put $20 in a jar, we could buy Sony in 6 years.
Or, you know, we could ask Asians and Europeans to help. Last year combined they spent over $40 billion on Sony music alone. They could almost buy the company in full!
This isn't an impossible task, people; we can do this.
The Bottom Line
Look, the United States government has been bought and sold so many times, it's hard to know what to think about them any more. Every day, someone is complaining to me about the RIAA, the MPAA, their ISP, the big telcos, Big Brother, lobbyists, the little guy, the behemoth corporations, the greed, the DRM, the rootkits, the complete lack of creativity, the treating your customers like thieves, the insecurity, the instability, the arrogance, the menace, the monster within.
So let's start embracing the market, instead of letting it embrace us. Let's buy ourselves a Sony, and change it into a Sony we can be proud of, so that some day you can drive up to the Sony in your Sony and buy a Sony and drive off happy and encouraged by your decision. Let's get greedy together. We can make Sony the world's largest co-op.
Let's buy Sony, and let's take back our world.
And then it's on to Ford ...