Rumors just kill me.
They're exciting. Self-serving. Nasty. Impossible. Endless.
Rumors start as a whisper and grow louder and more forceful with their retelling. Sometimes they contain the truth. Just as often, they don't.
We spend much of our time chasing rumors. Maybe ``wasting our time'' is a better description. Still, we have to chase them all ... you never know.
I mean, after Goldsmith's attack on Goodyear, which started for us as a rumor that Goodyear's stock was moving, anything can happen.
Two really juicy rumors are afloat in the rubber industry today: With whom will Gates Rubber partner-up; and what's going to happen to the Witco Corp. and J.M. Huber carbon black operations?
We first heard about the Gates thing last summer. We got a tip that the company would be sold to a publicly held firm, but Gates' management denied the report. Since we couldn't verify the story, we didn't report it. Today, it looks like our tipster knew something after all.
It's our job to report the news, and just who is interested in Gates is one of the biggest stories of the decade. But this has been one tough nut to crack. Of all the secrets we've had whispered to us over the years, this is the most closely held I can remember. The folks at Gates should be running the CIA, they are so tight-lipped. I'm not surprised, considering the sensitive nature of the situation.
But usually somebody somewhere knows something about what's going on in a deal as big as this. If that's true, we haven't found him or her yet, and we've been asking everyone and his brother if they know anything. The best we've been able to do is come up with an analysis of ``potential'' merger partners. The winner in the Gates derby should be among them. And maybe not.
The carbon black divestitures isn't as big a story, but it's just as intriguing.
It's a fact that Witco has placed its Concarb division up for sale, and J.M. Huber has done the same with its black business. Potential buyers? Who knows: It's another ``best kept secret.''
The most interesting rumor we've heard is that Ameripol Synpol is negotiating to buy both operations. We've even got the name of a former Goodyear Chemical exec who supposedly would be running the combined black business.
Is it true? I don't know-we can't even get any of the parties to return our phone calls. Perhaps that means something. Or perhaps, not.
For now, it's just another rumor.
Noga is editor of Rubber & Plastics News.