William H. Gates has come a long way from the young man who left Harvard over two decades ago to found a software company in New Mexico.
William H. Gates has come a long way from the young man who left
Harvard over two decades ago to found a software company in New
A decade later and now based in Washington, that company began drawing
the attention of US antitrust authorities. When Gates arrived in the
other Washington - after federal judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s ruling
that Microsoft had violated US antitrust laws - Gates found a city
divided, with the judicial branch condemning him and the legislative
branch welcoming him with open arms.
CARMA’s analysis of ensuing media coverage after Judge Jackson’s ruling
found the media focusing significant attention on Bill Gates as a
philanthropist and as someone who had successfully changed congressional
lawmakers’ opinion of him for the better. The Washington Post (April 6)
noted of Gates’ visit, ’With lawmakers swarming him for autographs and
schoolchildren snapping pictures, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates swept
through Capitol Hill ... yesterday with a fanfare worthy of a
superstar.’ Articles also noted that enthusiasm was bipartisan.
Coverage also frequently focused on the uncertainty surrounding
Microsoft’s stock price as the federal case continued. USA Today quoted
CIBC analyst Melissa Eisenstat as saying, ’If you have patience long
term, it’s a great company’ (April 5). Another analyst quoted in the
same article, Donald Selkin of Joseph Gunnar, said, ’It’s basically dead
money ... it’ll just drift.’
Media coverage also highlighted the potential for private class action
lawsuits stemming from the judge’s ruling. The Los Angeles Times (April
6) noted that more than 100 consumer class action suits are pending, and
’for those suits and new ones, Jackson’s ruling has tremendous legal
significance.’ There was also a notable amount of media attention that
focused on technology that would make the decision irrelevant. ’The
technological change that displaces or devalues Windows could be a shift
to Web-based software that runs on any computer,’ noted the Los Angeles
Times (April 5).
There was even coverage that addressed the potential benefits to
Microsoft if George W. Bush were to win the US presidential election
’The company may also benefit from a change in the White House since
Governor George W. Bush ... has suggested that antitrust enforcement
should be confined mainly to price-fixing cases,’ said The New York
Times (April 4).
Some coverage speculated on what legal remedy Judge Jackson is likely to
impose on Microsoft. His two main options are to impose structural
changes on the company or to break it up into distinct entities that the
media likes to call ’Baby Bills.’ The latter move is considered the most
drastic. The Wall Street Journal pointed out, however, ’We may see a
proposal to break up Microsoft, but the Justice Department did not
discuss this possibility (with the company)’ (April 5).
It remains to be seen whether congressional lawmakers’ warm reception of
Gates will impact the legal battle his company is losing in the federal
- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be
found at www.carma.com.