A low-key IPO staged for our time

By all accounts, General Motors' return to the public markets this week will be a remarkable success. By drawing investors worldwide, it could be one for the record books. But don't expect to see a lot of champagne corks flying.

GM's top executives are in Europe this week to woo investors in London, Milan and Frankfurt for a final pitch. The offering price is expected to be set later today, and shares will begin trading Thursday.

GM plans to mark the occasion with a "low-key" employee celebration in Detroit and an appearance by CEO Dan Akerson to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, The Wall Street Journal reported.

GM wants to highlight its return to the stock exchange after a 16-month absence -- a huge milestone for the automaker -- and create more momentum for its recovery, but it is also mindful of its unpopular government rescue.

The restrained initial public offering comes in sharp contrast to the splashy launch of DaimlerChrysler shares on the New York Stock Exchange in November 1998. Journalists flew in from all over the globe to cover the event, which was staged like Super Bowl media week.

Employees worldwide watched live as DaimlerChrysler co-chiefs Juergen Schrempp and Bob Eaton, looking like the best of friends, rang the opening bell.

The street in front of the exchange was a rolling showcase of Jeeps, helicopters, minivans, Mercedes sedans and big rigs built by the newly minted transportation giant.

Profits flowed for a while, and DaimlerChrysler shares soared above $100 — briefly.

We all know how that trumped-up marriage ended.

IPO investors generally like to throw a party, but with millions of Americans out of work and Uncle Sam still acting as overseer, there's little appetite for fireworks this time around, even if a record or two falls.