Obviously the news of the hour is that J.P. Morgan is buying Bear Stearns for $236mm, or just $2 a share, meaning the firm is worth only a fifth of the value of its own midtown headquarters. The Yankees paid more for their third baseman.
More gravely, despite the WSJ headline, there is no "rescue" here. Bear has a book value of $84; the $2 price appears to be more of a formality than anything else. JPM is opportunistically buying the profitable prime brokerage business for a fraction of what its worth; getting the rest of the company is a bonus. Maybe the Bear Stearns brand will live on in some way (shades of Dillon Read), but it looks like the PB and anything else of value will be integrated with JPM as quickly as possible. And so the same firm which first alerted the public to the financial crisis when two hedge funds failed last summer is now that crisis' first major casualty (ex hedge funds).
I wouldn't want to be Joseph Lewis right now... the $1.1 billion he invested in Bear last fall is now worth about 98% less, or just $20 million. Talk about a writedown.