The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street: July 23

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RadioShack Smackdown

Forgive us mall rats, but it's time we took a whack at RadioShack (Stock Quote: RSH) and the buyout rumors surrounding it.

Shares of RadioShack got smacked Tuesday, losing more than 7% after reports surfaced that at least two highfalutin' private-equity shops are no longer interested in purchasing the low-end consumer electronics seller. Takeover rumors have been circling around RadioShack for months, sending the stock seesawing and creating false hopes for long-suffering investors. Reuters reported on Tuesday that Blackstone Group and TPG Capital are unlikely to pursue a potential bid for the retailer, citing sources familiar with the matter. Previously, Reuters said that Bain Capital also pulled out of the auction.

It was also rumored that rival Best Buy expressed interest, although we here at The Five Dumbest Lab never understood why it would buy RadioShack other than to put down its mangy old competitor for the same reasons that Travis shot Old Yeller.

Look, we love "The Shack," as the company laughably now wants to be called. That said, we also loved buying albums at Record World and playing Punch-Out in the mall game room many moons ago. Sadly, we don't do those things anymore. Like the private-equity firms -- which most likely would have leveraged the company to death anyway -- we've moved on.

And we hope RadioShack moves on too because its batteries are clearly running out.

 

Dumb-o-meter score: 75 -- The Shack needs to get on track, and private-equity debt would only derail it.

 

 

McDonald's Smoothie Misfire

For a company that prides itself on serving billions and billions of burgers, McDonald's (Stock Quote: MCD) sure looks silly canceling this week's fruit smoothie promotion due to unprecedented demand.

What's the matter, guys? McChicken?

The frightened fast-food franchiser rolled out the beverages on July 13 and had initially planned a nationwide giveaway to promote the item. Nevertheless, after launching the product, Mickey D's discovered that its restaurant owners would likely run out of smoothie ingredients if the marketing event went as planned.

What a catastrophe! A predicament like that would cause even Grimace to grimace.

"The McCafe Real Fruit Smoothies are an absolute hit with our customers, and we're experiencing unprecedented demand for this delicious new choice on our menu," said Neil Golden, chief marketing officer for McDonald's USA, in a statement.

We say if Golden really wants to help the Golden Arches, he should stop yapping and solve this Smoothie crisis -- because so far McDonald's has looked anything but smooth.

 

 

Dumb-o-meter score: 80 -- Who needs smoothies anyway? We want Shamrock Shakes available all year long!

 

 

Icahn's Ire

Bless you and your moxie, Carl Icahn. We can always count on you to spice up a slow Dumbest week.

Activist investor Carl Icahn on Tuesday renewed his hostile takeover bid for Lions Gate Entertainment (Stock Quote: LGF), terminating a 10-day truce in his continuing war for the Hollywood studio. The cagey billionaire, who raised his stake to 37.9% of the company, is raising the fight to the next level by lowering his offer to $6.50 a share, down from his previous tender offer of $7. Shares of the studio behind Mad Men and Saw popped more than 8% on the news.

Sure, Icahn is lowering his cost basis on the stock with his lower offer, but what he really wants -- well, aside from sticking it to Lions Gate's current management -- is to launch a proxy battle for control of Lions Gate's board. Icahn has mercilessly and publicly derided Lions Gate's brass for its poor cost-control and its attempt to merge with MGM's film studio.

"While certain discussions regarding acquisition opportunities might continue in the future, the Icahn Group determined that there were no immediate opportunities that would merit extension of the 10-day standstill period," Icahn said in a statement.

Lions Gate confirmed Icahn's new cash offer and promised to review it before offering an opinion to shareholders. Of course, we don't expect the company to embrace Icahn's latest bid after it recently enacted a poison-pill defense to dilute his ownership and push the buyout barbarian further beyond its gate.

We say Lions Gate should stop acting silly and make nice with Icahn. From our vantage point, his roars are the only thing moving Lions Gate's stock higher.

 

 

Dumb-o-meter score: 85 -- Maybe Lions Gate should offer Carl a role on Mad Men. He is undoubtedly one mad man!

 

 

Jobs vs. James

Just as Lebron James is considered the king of the NBA, Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs is the reigning monarch of the technology world. Unlike the basketball superstar, however, Jobs prefers to strangle his competitors as opposed to joining them in a group hug.

In a much anticipated media event, Jobs held court July 16 to finally offer answers and his version of an apology for the new iPhone 4's antenna problems. After admitting that even Apple is "not perfect," Jobs veered from humble to hubristic when he singled out his rivals' smartphones as having the same signal-reception issues as his latest, greatest toy.

In response to Jobs' pot shots at their products, his counterparts have been striking back at Steve and his iPhone. HTC said on Monday that its phone model blasted by Jobs received 35 times fewer complaints than the iPhone 4. Samsung emailed a statement to Bloomberg saying its mobile phones "employ an internal antenna design technology that optimizes reception quality for any type of hand-grip use."

Even Motorola Co-CEO Sanjay Jha got into the act -- and his company's devices were not on Steve's hit list!

"It is disingenuous to suggest that all phones perform equally," Jha told Bloomberg. "In our own testing we have found that Droid X performs much better than iPhone 4 when held by consumers."

Look, we know Apple is the team to beat in the technology space. Our jaws dropped at Tuesday's phenomenal quarterly profit, up 77%, and they dropped even further when we learned the company sold 3.47 million Macs in the quarter, 8.4 million iPhones and 9.41 million iPods.

Still, like James' theatrics during his jump to Miami, Jobs came off looking small by engaging in a series of fights he didn't need to pick. And Jobs should know better than anybody that a single slam-dunk product is all it takes to jump from worst to first.

Dumb-o-meter score: 90 -- Steve's rant, like Lebron's "decision," was an airball.

 

 

Obama's Guest List

It's your party, President Obama, so you can invite who you want to. But we still think it was less than hospitable to leave JPMorgan Chase (Stock Quote: JPM) boss Jamie Dimon off your guest list.

The CEO of the nation's second-biggest bank was one of the few major bank heads not to be invited to Wednesday's signing of the U.S. financial reform bill. Dimon was best buddies with the president before he became an outspoken critic of the financial overhaul, which limits Wall Street risk-taking and beefs up consumer protections.

Other bank bigwigs who did receive tickets to Obama's shindig included Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) CEO Brian Moynihan, Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit and Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman. (The other high-profile-yet-less-surprising snub was Goldman Sachs (Stock Quote: GS) CEO Lloyd Blankfein. While not present, Goldman Sachs could figuratively have catered the affair by paying the government $550 million to settle a fraud lawsuit last week.)

Maybe we should check our copies of Andrew Ross Sorkin's bankus opus Too Big To Fail, but we could swear that Dimon was one of the good guys during the banking collapse, or at least one of the better actors in the dismal drama that unfolded. Dimon didn't need TARP funds, yet he took them at the government's insistence. Similarly, he did Uncle Sam a solid when he bought Bear Stearns when it was in free fall.

Hey, even Barclays (Stock Quote: BAC) President Robert Diamond got an invite, according to White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage! And Barclays wouldn't step up to buy Lehman Brothers even when it meant saving the global economy.

Sure, Dimon's Eagle Scout attitude helped boost JPMorgan's performance when his competitors were reeling. Nevertheless, to freeze the guy out now seems ungrateful given the amount of praise heaped on him barely a year ago. And it's hard for us to buy the White House's excuse that there was not enough room in the building for Dimon when the government desperately needed him at a much smaller bargaining table back then.

Prior to signing the bill, the president said, "we had to overcome the furious lobbying of an array of powerful interest groups and a partisan minority determined to block change."

Who's acting partisan now, Mr. President?

Dumb-o-meter score: 95 -- We could understand such silly, spiteful behavior from a bunch of Syracuse students. But the White House? Come on!

 

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