First, let’s just say right up front that Bill Ackman is a genius. That’s how you generally get to be a billionaire, Donald Trump notwithstanding.
But his gambit yesterday—leaking on CNBC a letter to the board of JC Penney, of which his hedge fund is the largest shareholder, that urges pushing out the same CEO he just brought back (Myron Ullman) after pushing him out once before in favor of ex-Apple genius Ron Johnson, who pretty much destroyed the JC Penney as we knew it in favor of a slicker, more upscale thing called ‘JCP’ (the stock ticker, get it?) which JCP’s customers did not get at all, and from which they left in droves—smacks of desperation.
Doubly so because Ackman floated the name Allen Questrom, a true retailing genius (whose name we here at NotMakingThisUp previously floated as the one guy who could have turned around Sears) and whose name was almost certainly calculated to get JCP (the stock ticker) turned up, owing to Questrom’s high standing on Wall Street, after so many days of JCP (the stock ticker) turning down.
So flagrantly desperate does Ackman’s gambit appear that the first thing that came to mind was the scene in Arrested Development where good son Michael Bluth discusses resorting to asset sales to rescue the family business, prompting valley-girl sister Lindsay to protest for all she’s worth (which is not much):
Michael Bluth: “I’m even selling the company jet.”
Lindsay Bluth Fünke: “Great, so now we don't have a car or a jet? Why don’t we just take an ad out in I’m Poor Magazine?”
Seeing Ackman—who has been lashing out like there’s no tomorrow at Herbalife short-squeeze engineer, Carl Icahn and Herbalife short-squeeze pile-onner George Soros—add poor Myron Ullman to his hit list, you wonder, “Why doesn’t he just take an ad out in I’m Desperate Magazine?”
And unfortunately for Ackman, desperation is the last thing any investor wants to advertise.
A far better model from popular culture for investors would be the Godfather:
“Never tell anybody outside the Family what you’re thinking…”
Author “Secrets in Plain Sight: Business and Investing Secrets of Warren Buffett”
(eBooks on Investing, 2013) $4.99 Kindle Version at Amazon.com
© 2013 NotMakingThisUp, LLC
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