Up Front: SLUGFESTS
CHRYSLER'S TRAVELS IRK KIRK
CHRYSLER EXECS are looking for a foreign partner, which Kirk Kerkorian worries is a ploy to block him. Chrysler sources say the company has a secret team, headed by quality chief James Holden, to forge global alliances. The group has visited Tokyo (Honda's home) and Stuttgart (Daimler Benz's HQ), but it's not certain talks were held. One source says the effort has "nothing to do with Kerkorian."
Yet Kerkorian aide Jerome York fears an overseas deal would dilute Kirk's 14% Chrysler stake, perhaps by giving a partner preferred stock with special voting rights. The partner could then thwart Kerkorian's bid to tap Chrysler's $6.4 billion cash stash for stock buybacks and higher dividends.
Chrysler denies a special stock plan is in the works, and won't comment on the Holden team. Chairman Robert Eaton has said he wants to expand overseas, which could dig into cash. Kerkorian unveiled his own Chrysler wish list in an Oct. 25 SEC filing. One item: Board seats for York and two other outsiders.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT, WITH OLUWABUNMI SHABI Bill Vlasic