Outing the Perpetual Losers -- Part I

 | Sep 08, 2013 | 7:00 AM EDT
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Enough. Let's just call 'em out already. I'm talking about the serial disappointers, the companies that just can't seem to deliver no matter what happens. I think we just need to out them right here. I am taking this Open House weekend to do what I have wanted to do for months now -- just vent my spleen on these underperformers that have hurt so many portfolios, and whose management teams seem to have no knowledge of how poorly run their enterprises really are.

Here are 10 companies run by people who actually think they are doing a good job. They aren't, of course, and they need to be put on notice that they are just members of a gang that couldn't shoot straight. I am putting them in alphabetical order because they've all been, at one time or another, super discouraging stocks to own. We all know that about these companies.

This is a list of losers that, in sports, would be considered a no-brainer to assemble. They're just a bunch of crummy teams that never seem to deliver, filled with players you would never draft if there were a corporate fantasy league. In sports, these guys would be called out so often that they would be human highlight films for disappointment.

In our business, though, the teams compensate their managers outrageously, and no one ever says boo about them. Maybe everyone just belongs to the same club and they don't want to be uncomfortable when they drink their gin and tonics with this mob? Or maybe people just don't care.

I do.

Here are the first five.

1. How does Mike Jeffries still have a job? How in heaven's name, after that quarter from hell, does Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) continue to let this guy (how close did I come to writing "clown!") keep running the place? Does it have to be run into the ground before the board figures out how horrendous this man is at his job? Is he just such a nice guy at home that people feel bad for him and they don't want to hurt his feelings? Do they think there's nothing unusual with a company that misses its projections by 50%? Do they like the pornographic advertisements he's come up with and are they afraid that they will lose the "edge" if he goes? Do they have to pay him a fortune contractually if they fire him? If I were Mikey, I would quit to do charity work and penance for what I'd done. Then I would give him an attaboy.

2. ADT (ADT) -- How do you have a play on housing and security that's down 14% for the year? How can you have a company that's totally in denial about how poorly its business is really performing? Does the company have a handle at all on how to grow its business beyond its practice of overpaying for acquisitions? How could it disappoint for so many quarters? Does it even have a chief financial officer? Sure, I am mad at myself that my Action Alerts PLUS charitable trust got beat by this one, but ADT did appear to know what it was doing, and management put on a good show. Plus, this is a company that bought high in one of those ridiculous accelerated-stock-purchase plans that ill-informed managements are talked into by the brokers, followed by a slashed credit rating as the stock gets hammered. Watch ADT have to issue equity now. I think AT&T (T) is eating this company's lunch. Management should put the "for sale" sign up and move on.

3. Avon (AVP) -- I am so glad that Andrea Jung is still serving as a senior adviser to Avon's board. I guess that way she can continue to detract value even though she is no longer CEO. Here's a direct-selling company that seems to be incapable of turning itself around, even as I think that Sheri McCoy, late of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), should be able to do something to save it. Maybe Bill Ackman has to get short Avon in order to get the darned thing moving? Seriously, why would anyone want to buy this company's stock as long as it's still paying Jung?

4. Blackberry (BBRY) -- How in heck can you possibly have the hottest product in the world, with 80 million subscribers, and not see that you had to open your architecture and come up with alternatives that might also be loved using your identical keyboard? This is a company that was up by nine games with 10 games to play, and has lost every single round to Apple (AAPL) and to Samsung. The company now says it's for sale. Terrific. They've been for sale for ages. They are very nice, though.

5. Broadcom (BRCM) -- Here's one of those companies that seem to have had it all -- the best chips, the best customers, the best 4G and 5G solutions. What happens? After reporting what had looked to be a smashing quarter, management guides well below the Street's estimates but really gives no reason for it. Here's my question: How could this company have so much business with Apple and Samsung, and yet have a stock that's unchanged for the last five years? How is that possible? What is Broadcom doing with the money? Burning it? Management could just say, "Hey, people are beating us to the punch, using other guys. We screwed up. We are sorry." Why not just come out and say that? Instead they just talk about how great they are. I think greatness is in your record, and these guys are third-division players.

That's it for the first half of my list. Stay tuned later on today for the remaining five disappointers.


I'm excited about TheStreet's Open House this weekend and want to hear your feedback and ideas for more articles. Please email me at jjcramerco2@aol.com, and I will respond to you. Booyah!

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