Tag Archive: Larry Ellison


Mark Parker of Nike is also one of my mutual fund advisors.

Ditto for Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com

Let’s not forget of Dennis Muilenburg of Boeing.

Can’t tell you how many times Almost DailyBrett has been told to invest anything and everything into mutual funds.

For the record 70 percent of your author’s Charles Schwab portfolio is held in mutual funds, the largest amount managed by William Danoff of the Fidelity Contrafund.

Having made this point, let’s take a contrarian stand.

Why can’t investors create their own mutual fund comprised of individual and diversified stocks within their own portfolios?

Whoa … aren’t you the investor taking on too much … risk? Shouldn’t you diversify?

The humble answers are “not necessarily” and “yes.”

As legendary investor Peter Lynch once said: “Know what you own, and know why you own it.”

When it comes to investing and in the spirit of Lynch’s axiom, Almost DailyBrett follows these self-formulated rules:

  • Never invest in a stock in which you personally detest/loathe the lead executive (e.g., Oracle’s Larry Ellison)
  • Buy shares in firms you personally use or have a 100 percent understanding of how the company makes money (e.g., Apple).

For example, ever cutesy Scott McNealy of extinct Sun Microsystems once labeled Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates as Ballmer and Butthead. McNealy would have been funny, if his company stock wasn’t trading at the very same time at $3 per share.

Whatever happened to Scott McNealy? His company was devoured by Oracle.

Another example: your author won’t touch Bitcoin because even though it is the choice of money launderers around the world, the crypto currency is not associated with any country and there is zero logical explanation of how it makes money.

Isn’t Tim Cook A CEO?

Why is Tim Cook my mutual fund portfolio manager?

Doesn’t Cook run the largest capitalized – $1 trillion-plus – publicly traded company in the world? Absolutely.

Almost DailyBrett clearly understands that Apple is not a mutual fund, but still it offers the complexity, confidence and diversity of a mutual fund.

Apple plays in the hardware (i.e., smart phones, tablets, wearables, PCs) space. Ditto for software (e.g., iOS) and services (e.g., iTunes). Think of it this way, Apple has as many if more investors as any mutual fund … including mutual funds themselves – both buy side and sell side institutional investors – and 75 million shares recently bought by Warren Buffett too.

And who runs this diversified enterprise with the expectation of $60 billion to $62 billion on the top line in the next (fourth) quarter? Revenues grew 17 percent year-over-year. Gross margin remained steady at 38 percent. EPS jumped year-over-year from $1.67 to $2.34 and dividends grew from $0.63 to $0.73.

The dilemma for every Apple investor, particularly today, is when is it time to ring the register at least for a portion of the shares? Almost DailyBrett does not hear very many bells clanging.

There is little doubt that Apple is tearing the cover off the ball. Apple has proven it is not necessarily the number of smart phones sold – even though these mobile devices are an absolute must for our lives – in many ways it is the average sales price, climbing closer to four figures for every unit.

Back to Danoff and Fidelity Contrafund. Today it has a reported $130 billion in assets under management. Cook counters with $1 trillion in investor confidence in Apple’s shares.

Which “mutual fund” manager would you choose, if you could only select, one?

And for diversification, you package Apple with Boeing (U.S. commercial airliner and defense aircraft innovator and manufacturer) …

And Nike, the #1 athletic apparel manufacturer in die Welt.

Finally, Almost DailyBrett has bought Salesforce.com nine times and sold eight times for a profit. To describe Salesforce.com as business software company seriously understates its business strategy.

With all due respect to Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Salesforce.com is THE Cloud pioneer selling software as a service (SaaS) to enterprises around the world.

Let’s see: Apple, Boeing, Nike and Salesforce.com in the Almost DailyBrett mutual fund.

Is your author right? Only time will tell. Will this “mutual fund” adjust and change its holdings? No doubt.

Here’s the point: As Ken Fisher of Fisher Investments would say, it’s time to “graduate” from pure mutual funds.

There is risk associated with selecting stocks for your portfolio, but isn’t that also the case for mutual funds? Some think that mutual funds are no brainers. Not true, and let’s not forget the fees.

When it comes to my “mutual fund” portfolio — AAPL, BA, NKE, CRM — the only fees yours truly pays are $4.95 per trade.

Not bad, not bad at all.

https://fundresearch.fidelity.com/mutual-funds/summary/316071109

https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2018/07/apple-reports-third-quarter-results/

“Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.” – CNBC Mad Money host Jim Cramercramerpigs

Which decision requires more mental gymnastics?

When to buy?

When to sell?

The author of Almost DailyBrett humbly opines that when to sell is the tougher call.

Why?

There are two kinds of remorse: ‘Darn it the stock kept going up after I sold’; and the worse one, ‘I could have sold when the stock was up, but I was a pig … and oh fiddlesticks, now I am selling when the stock is down.’

Yep, there are a lot of potential could-of, would-of, should-of when it comes to selling.

So what should you do in the view of this humble retail investor (read: Charles Schwab account)?

Don’t Fall in Love

“…Sometimes the most obvious question really is the question. In Enron’s case: How do you make money? – Bethany McLean, Fortune Magazine

Preparing to teach Corporate Public Relations/Investor Relations to Central Washington University seniors and a few juniors starting this coming Wednesday, yours truly will pose the same simple question that Fortune’s McLean posed to Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling: “How do you (Enron) make money?”

Communicators need to have elevator pitches at their ready when asked this very same straightforward question about their own employer. The same is true for investors: How does a company make money? If the answer is clear; you like the company; you understand the business strategy; you have done your homework including consulting with your financial advisor, then it may be time to purchase shares of the company stock.bullandbear

This particular company’s stock is now part of your diversified portfolio, which in turn represents a portion of your retirement savings, a child’s college education, that dream vacation etc.

All is good, but when does it make sense to sell?

Buy and hold is a sure loser. Why? At some point, stocks will stop growing. Your invested company certainly will change, and not necessarily for the better. Circumstances may shift and a wave of caca may hit a company or an industry.

Remember the Internet bubble two decades ago? It burst.

Remember the housing bubble a decade ago. It burst.

Don’t fall in love with your securities. Follow your instinct and your plan. When it is time to pull the trigger and unload the stock, then sell the shares.

Have a Plan

“I love the company. I hate the stock.” – Jim Cramer on Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA)

Okay, it’s time to confess: I fell in love with the Elon Musk Ion-Lithium Battery/Electric Car story at Tesla. Yes, I bought the stock and road it up and down (pardon the pun) and eventually got tired of the downward roller coaster.muskcar

Before I weighed selling, I considered at what average price point did I buy the stock and how low would it have to go before I would sell the stock? It hit that point, and it was time to sell.

Maybe at some future time, it will be low enough to once again purchase the stock, but only when one is convinced the company has a realistic plan for long-term profitability.

The same is true when selling a stock that is going up. Social media stock LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD) recorded a blow-out quarter and the stock exceeded my prearranged sell price point. As Joseph Kennedy reportedly said: “Never apologize when taking a profit.”

And we should never worry about paying taxes on our profits; profits are taxable.

The point here is to follow your game plan and sell when it’s time. That’s a good thing, really.

What are some other signs that it is time to sell a stock?

  • The Music Stopped: Once upon a time, Intel (e.g., microprocessors), Microsoft (e.g., software operating systems) and Cisco (e.g., Internet routers and switches) were literally rocking and rolling. We couldn’t get enough of these stocks until … the music stopped. The PC is yesterday’s news. The 1990s came and went. It became time to sell and move on.
  • Commoditization: Just like Intel’s microprocessors became a commodity to serve as the brains of social, mobile and cloud, the same is true for all other semiconductors and those that build semiconductor manufacturing equipment and electronic design automation (EDA) software. Intel’s rumored takeover of Altera, similar to Avago’s absorption of LSI Corporation, are more signs of industry consolidation. If you have not sold already, it’s past time.
  • High Volatility: Sometimes an investor can benefit from a highly volatile stock. A perfect example is Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM). Lost track of how many times, yours truly has bought, sold, bought, sold, bought … this stock. As long as the trend line is consistently up, it’s okay to let go of the shares now and then, only to become reacquainted at a later date.
  • New Management: Tim Cook is proving that there is life at Apple following the ultimate demise of Steve Jobs, but that is the exception not the rule. Companies change. Business plans shift. Circumstances change. Markets explode or implode. Almost DailyBrett has always followed the mantra that if the old boss or new boss is a bosshole, it’s time to pass on the stock or sell the stock. Translated: Stay away from Larry Ellison and Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL)
  • No Balance Between Fiduciary and Corporate Social Responsibility: The best run publicly traded companies do NOT see “doing well” and “doing good” as being mutually exclusive. Publicly traded companies with their brands under a digital 21st. Century microscope must appreciate their respective brands are trading in the cloud 24/7/365. Worshipping exclusively at the altar of fiduciary responsibility will no longer cut it. If so, it’s time to sell.
  • Caca Happens: Planes land at the wrong airports (e.g., Southwest). Companies name shoes (e.g., Umbro) after the cyanide gas used in Nazi concentration camps. The CEO falls dead in the backseat of a car (e.g., Texas Instruments). Oil wells explode and gush on global video for three months (e.g., BP). Guano hits the fan. This is precisely the reason not to fall in love with any stock.

Sometimes, it is time to say goodbye.

Breaking up is hard to do.

http://www.thestreet.com/story/10292084/1/bulls-bears-make-money-pigs-get-slaughtered.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_P._Kennedy,_Sr.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/what-happens-when-the-music-stops/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/how-does-a-company-make-money-2/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/donate-to-united-way-or-invest-in-tesla/

http://finance.yahoo.com/video/cramers-stop-trading-tesla-motors-135400997.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/farewell-lsi-logic/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/fiduciary-responsibility-vs-corporate-social-responsibility/

 

 

 

 

 

 

mayer

According to CNBC.com, the unscientific polling of online respondents runs 60-40 percent in favor of Marissa Ann Mayer’s horizontal glamour photo in the latest edition of Vogue.

Keep in mind that result still represents a healthy percentage, who question the decision of the telegenic blonde ex-Google executive, now President and CEO of the Sunnyvale-based web-portal, search-engine provider, Yahoo!

No one would deny that Mayer, 38, has the discretion to make herself available for the photographers and writers of the renowned fashion magazine Vogue. The questions that come to mind concern the timing and the impact on the Mayer and Yahoo! brands.

Taking a gander at Mayer’s feet slightly above her head Vogue photo spread, one may be reminded of Bill Clinton’s eye-brow raising, open-legs 2000 cover shot for Esquire, rekindling memories of Bill, Monica and Kenneth Starr.

How many other publicly traded company CEOs would be invited by Vogue to pose in a horizontal fashion? What subliminal messages are being sent, particularly in a predominant Silicon Valley engineering culture? Talk about tongues wagging at the water cooler and the inevitable social media chat.

Maybe that is what this gambit is all about?

Let’s face it: The music had stopped playing for Yahoo! Even though Mayer has been able to raise Yahoo’s share price by 74 percent to $27.35, drive market capitalization and acquire Tumblr, the world does not speak of Mayer’s company in the same fashion as it does for Apple, Salesforce, Amazon, LinkedIn, Netflix, Facebook and of course her biggest rival, Google.

Having said that, there is no doubt the tech community is talking about Mayer. For Vogue, the editors are following the tried-and-true axiom: Sex sells. Is Yahoo! about sex or about technology?

And what is the paramount brand: Yahoo! or Mayer?

There is always a danger that is associated with the imperial CEO and the company becoming an interchangeable brand…or worse, the CEO is the brand. Oracle is Larry Ellison. Sun Microsystems was Scott McNealy. Apple was Steve Jobs. Hewlett-Packard for six years became Carly Fiorina.

There was Carly, Carly and still more Carly.

Has $117 million (over five years) Marissa become a more beautiful-and-fashionable version of Carly? Carly and HP became synonymous in that order with disastrous results. To this day, Hewlett-Packard has never recovered from the Carly era complete with the ill-advised and divisive acquisition of Compaq Computer as the PC market was maturing and stalling.

What happens to Yahoo! if something (heaven forbid) happens to Marissa? Do we lose interest in Yahoo!? Who else matters at Yahoo!? Is Marissa grooming a successor and a deep bench? Will she also be invited to pose horizontally in a Michael Kors dress?

In public relations, timing is everything.

Mayer has been on the job for only 13 months. She already delivered her new son, Macallister. She took off two weeks for maternity leave, built a nursery right next to her office and earned the rhetorical slings and arrows treatment usually reserved for Republicans from the always kind-and-considerate, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times.

She is just now getting into her groove. Shouldn’t she spend more time driving revenues and promoting profitability at the also-ran, search-engine provider, Yahoo!, before venturing off into the high-fashion world of Vogue? Her main competition is her former employer, Google. What’s worse is Google has become of the few companies that is actually a verb as in “Google this!” or “Google that!”

She is described by CNBC as “successful, strong and beautiful.” Still one must ask: Has she done enough for Yahoo!? Is her star rising faster and higher than Yahoo!? Is there a danger here?

One thing is certain when it comes to the media; the beast is the direct opposite of the U.S. Marine Corps. The folks at Camp Pendleton are renowned for breaking you down and then building you back up. The media specializes in building you up and then quickly bringing you down to earth in an unceremonious fashion.

Carly has first-hand experience when it comes to a Silicon Valley CEO ascending into the stratosphere and then crashing in the desert.

There are many, who will not celebrate Mayer’s celebrity. They will engage in Schadenfreude, when the inevitable bumps in the road ensue for Mayer and her company.

Maybe her company still matters.

And hopefully she didn’t peak to early.

Did the blood rush to her head when she posed with her heels elevated above her?

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100968027

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/what-happens-when-the-music-stops/

http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/15083.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marissa_Mayer

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/08/16/marissa-mayer-yahoo-ceo-vogue-magazine-profile/2647691/

http://www.yahoo.com/

http://pressroom.yahoo.net/pr/ycorp/marissa-mayer.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carly_Fiorina

http://guestofaguest.com/things-we-love/our-favorite-retro-remakes-6-iconic-photo-recreations&slide=5

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/opinion/dowd-get-off-your-cloud.html?_r=0

http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/20/living/marissa-mayers-vogue-photo-women/

“The older you get the more risk you should take. If I were to die tomorrow, I have no complaints. I’ve experienced more than anybody should have expected in a lifetime,” Micron CEO Steve Appleton to a reporter after escaping death in a 2004 plane crash.

He was not so lucky in 2012.

appleton

I first met Steve Appleton in the middle of the night, trying to combat jet lag after a nearly 10-hour flight from San Francisco to Tokyo in 1994. The venue? The hotel bar? Nope, the fitness room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Tokyo. He couldn’t sleep either. Time to hit the weights.

Steve was the president of Micron Technology, the leading US producer of memory chips known as DRAMs (pronounced: dee-rams) or Dynamic Random Access Memory. I was the humble director of communications for the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). We were trying to open up the Japan market to foreign chips.

Steve was five years younger than me, and was a classic overachiever. He was also a genuine good guy, who never talked down to anyone and treated me and everybody else with respect. He was a great success story, starting on the Micron factory floor in 1983 and rising to the rank of company chairman 14 years later. Steve was also known for taking risks.

Attending an SIA meeting 10 years later, I went down to the weight room and Steve was not there. I saw him later and joshed him about missing a workout. He made some reference about recovering from an “accident.” That particular accident was an experimental plane crash east of Boise that almost took his life. He suffered a punctured lung, head injuries, a ruptured disk and broken bones. You would think that would be the end of his stunt plane flying. Knowing Steve, that was not the case.

Steve also took his hand (or life in his hands) at skydiving, triathlons and off-road vehicle racing, such as the 1.047 Baja Challenge. Asked about he said in typical Appleton style:

“I don’t know what would be worse than being in the memory business for risk taking. If we were in some stable, monopolistic business, I’d probably get objections from my executive staff about doing this, but they’re all dying to go.”

It was Steve, who died.

Last Friday, Steve took off in a Lancair from the Boise Airport and soon after takeoff, he tried to turn back, the plane stalled, plunged to the ground, and he was dead. There is no doubt that Steve died taking a risk, something he always enjoyed. However, corporate governance experts are starting to wonder out loud whether chief executive officers and other C-level corporate execs should be restricted from yacht racing (e.g. Oracle head Larry Ellison), running with the bulls at Pamplona (US Airways CEO Doug Parker), balloon racing around the world (Virgin founder Richard Branson) and other dangerous activities.

Being an entrepreneur is about risk taking and the rewards (and failures) that come from taking chances. It is one thing to bet it all with shareholder and/or venture capital funding; it is something else to bet your own life thrill seeking.

Reportedly, there have been no securities lawsuits against corporations not reporting dare-devil CEO activities as “material” events under the provisions of the SEC’s Regulation FD or Fair Disclosure. One must wonder how long it will be before securities litigation firms start launching lawsuits for non-disclosure of CEO daredeveil activities as a new way of dipping into corporate deep pockets.

According to the Villanova School of Law, all four professional sports leagues (i.e. MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL) have “other activities” clauses written into player contracts. For example, MLB strictly prohibits players from engaging in boxing or wrestling. Players must receive written consent from teams before going skiing, car or motorcycle riding.

Of course, weird things do occur. Detroit Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya missed an appearance in the 2006 American League Championship Series as a result of an injury incurred playing “Guitar Hero” on Sony’s PlayStation 2…go figure. Maybe he was practicing a Pete Townshend pin wheel swoop at his Gibson Les Paul or Fender Stratocaster?

Should Micron have grounded Steve Appleton after he endured his severe injuries in 2004 upon the crash of his stunt plane? In hindsight, the answer is obvious. However, even without knowing Steve’s ultimate fate, the 2004 accident should have prompted the board to act decisively to prevent these activities.

That doesn’t mean he couldn’t continue to be a risk taker in the production, sale and marketing of DRAMs against entrenched competition, mainly from Asia. That’s what the board was paying him to do, take calculated (business) risks. Dodging death once in the wake of a stunt plane crash, and then doing it again would not be regarded as “calculated” by most observers.

If the Micron board had acted then and there, Steve would still be with us…Maybe he could have played “Guitar Hero” for thrills instead.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/micron-says-ceo-steve-appleton-has-died-in-a-boise-plane-crash/2012/02/03/gIQA5LCKnQ_story.html

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/are-daredevil-ceos-worth-risk-micron-thought-so-2012-02-07

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/07/insurance-ceo-risk-idUSL2E8D6HDM20120207

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/story/2012-02-03/micron-ceo-plane-crash/52949164/1

Whatever happened to Scott McNealy?

We know what happened to his company; Sun Microsystems was swallowed up by Oracle.

And Steve Ballmer? Well, he is the chief executive officer of Softwaremeister Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) with a market capitalization in excess of $200 billion.

And what about “Butthead?” Not MTV’s Beavis and Butthead, but the object of McNealy’s snide quip…His name is Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet and a philanthropist. You may have heard of him.

ballmergates

Sometimes reporters, editors, bloggers, analysts, investors bestow rock-star status on C-level executives. And in return, some of these very same executives earn their stripes in part by resorting to let’s say “provocative” activities or tactics. Are these antics, including old-fashioned name calling, in the best interest of shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers and partners…the very same people for whom they have taken a vow of fiduciary responsibility?

“Ballmer and Butthead” is like catnip to the Fourth Estate Crowd, but is it really that funny when the company’s stock is in single digits and heading further south? How about concentrating on your business…a business that is now a part of Silicon Valley’s history.

Why even bring this matter up when Nasdaq: SUNW does not even exist anymore? That’s just the point. As difficult as it may be, C-level executives should be discouraged from engaging in sophomoric behavior and statements by their public relations counsel. The very people who you are denigrating today, you may be facing across a negotiating table tomorrow. Sun ultimately accepted $2 billion from Microsoft to end the protracted litigation between the companies. And Sun was desperate for the cash.

Certainly Scott is not the only former or present executive guilty of bombastic rhetoric, but boardroom deportment is even more important in these days in which literally trillions of dollars of aggregate personal wealth is being erased in just a matter of days, if not hours.

Personally, I would never offer investment advice to anyone and you would wise to not accept Wall Street counsel from me, except for one point: I never invest in companies in which I do not condone the behavior of the CEO. I am also very wary of companies in which the CEO and the company are synonymous terms…Hello Steve Jobs. What’s your blood pressure today?

There is no denying that McNealy is super bright with an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a MBA from Stanford…after all, Sun stands for Stanford University Network. Having said that, there is a difference between bright and smart: “Ballmer and Butthead” in hindsight was barely clever and not smart.

mcnealy

I stayed away from investing in Hewlett-Packard during the imperial reign of Carly Fiorina. Her efforts to bludgeon the HP culture into acquiring Compaq left permanent scars. Her fights with the media, particularly the San Jose Mercury News, were undertaken without the prospect of an upside. She was forced to resign three years later as HP’s CEO. Last year, she ran and lost in her attempt to wrest a Senate seat away from Barbara Boxer in California. And today… (she just won’t simply go away), she is working with the GOP Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Another stock that had the effect of a crucifix to a vampire for me was Advanced Micro Devices or AMD under the notorious direction of Jerry Sanders. Brash and colorful, Jerry was the ultimate loose cannon beyond any kind of reasonable control by his PR handlers (probably too strong of a word). Jerry was going to say what Jerry was going to say.

There was the night that he concluded an annual Semiconductor Industry Association dinner with “We have come a long way since the days we were fighting the Japs (over trade access).” He is (mis)credited for inventing the term that “Real men have fabs,” prompting semiconductor makers without their own factories…or fabs…to establish their own trade association, the Fabless Semiconductor Association, now the Global Semiconductor Alliance.

And of course my all time favorite from Jerry: “Money is life’s report card.” Guess that means Mother Teresa really sucked at life.

When it comes to corporate excess, no one does it better than Larry Ellison of Oracle…The planes, the yachts, the mansions, the divorces…And how many people are unemployed in this country? How many are underwater on their mortgages? How many are afraid to open up their investment portfolios? Larry doesn’t need my money, but I have made a vow to never invest in Oracle regardless of the company’s financial results as long as Larry is in charge.

The bottom line is that C-Level behavior does matter. Some are willing to look the other way just as long as the company is doing well. And what happens when the sun starts sinking against the horizon and the stock heads south? The “Ballmer and Butthead” quotes aren’t so funny. As John Madden once said: “When you are winning no one can hurt you; when you are losing, no one can help you.”

http://www.edn.com/article/479110-Ballmer_Butthead_and_McNealy.php

http://www.cbronline.com/blogs/technology/best_mcnealy_qu

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_McNealy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Microsystems

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2011/07/carly-fiorina-senate-republican-campaign-committee-nrsc/1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Sanders_(businessman)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Ellison

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAAirNeKWxQ

http://www.motherteresa.org/

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