Tag Archive: Steve Ballmer


“I can understand wanting to have millions of dollars, there’s a certain freedom, meaningful freedom that comes with that. But once you get much beyond that, I have to tell you, it’s the same hamburger.” – Bill Gates speaking to university students

There are 25.7 million Google results of an image of a middle-aged dude standing all alone with his hands in his pockets.

He is patiently waiting in line for his cheeseburger, fries and a coke.

The maroon pullover guy is patronizing the original Dick’s (1954), which unofficially serves as a gateway to the upper class Wallingford neighborhood in Seattle.

Is the pale dude (gasp) … privileged?

What gave him the right to buy a “Deluxe,” fries and a coke in Wallingford?

Did his parents dote on him? Where did he go to school? Where did he go to college?

Did he ever invent anything of value to society? Did ever provide a living to people?

Did he ever give back to make our world a better place?

And if the answers to these questions do not meet communal approval – Privilege? Family? College? Inventions? Philanthropy? – should we as a collective society even the score in the name of social justice?

It may seem silly to some to have this public good discussion, and yet 25.7 million Google results are triggered in 0.28 of one second, when one inquires about the guy in the sweater standing all alone in line at Dick’s.

Our Obsession With Wealth?

How many billionaires — members of the three comma club — would stand-in line all alone for a burger and fries?

And yet there was Microsoft founder Bill Gates, 63, waiting in line at Dick’s on Sunday evening, January 13.

In our always-on digital imaging world, it did not take long for the celebrity dude doing normal things to go viral, generating stories and impressions about Gates and his love of hamburgers.

The latest estimates place his net worth at $96.5 billion. Couldn’t Gates simply buy Dick’s as opposed to standing in line for a burger? Where was his entourage? Couldn’t he feed the homeless with Dick’s burgers?

And how did he make that money? Did he take full advantage of his privilege? Did he inherit the money?

As many Almost DailyBrett readers know, Gates and the recently departed Paul Allen founded Microsoft in 1975. Their entrepreneurial spirit and those that followed (i.e., Steve Ballmer and Satya Nadella)  resulted in the ubiquitous Windows operating system, X-Box gaming console, Microsoft Surface PC, Microsoft Cloud and so much more.

Microsoft is one of the three largest competing companies in market capitalization (share price x number of shares) at $814.5 billion, generating $96.5 billion in total revenues and employing 134,944 around the world.

After departing the daily operations of Microsoft, the guy in the maroon sweater with his spouse established The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The charitable organization bearing their names has given a reported $36 billion to date to alleviate third world poverty and suffering. They are without any doubt the most generous philanthropists in America.

And yet …

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” – Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

In her quest to become the 46th President of the United States, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has proposed a 2 percent surcharge on net assets – not annual income – exceeding $50 million, and another 1 percent on billionaires.  Is Warren’s  “wealth tax” really confiscation in disguise?

There are questions about whether a confiscatory surcharge of assets – not an income tax – is permissible under the U.S. Constitution. This legal question is above the pay grade of Almost DailyBrett.

Having said that, your author must ask: Why do so many Washington elites want to punish achievement, service and philanthropy?

Some rationalize this obsession with wealth as a quest to reach some far-reaching social justice nirvana when the solution is the same-old tired remedy: wealth redistribution targeting those who provide great products, create jobs and give back to the less fortunate.

The answer always comes down to new and more burdensome taxes, but in Senator Warren’s case she calls for outright confiscation of assets. One thing is certain is the redistribution does not stop there. There will also be increases in tax rates, most of all the top rate from 39.6 percent, hiking it to 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent or beyond.

Once you have raised taxes and confiscated assets is that the end … or worse … is that just the beginning?

What’s next? Fees on stock and mutual fund transactions? Surcharges on bank accounts? Is the sky the limit?

How about a wealth tax/surcharge on Bill Gates’ hamburger?

https://www.geekwire.com/2019/billions-served-bill-gates-photographed-standing-line-burger-dicks-drive-seattle/

https://www.ddir.com/

https://www.seattlepi.com/seattlenews/article/Billions-served-Bill-Gates-photographed-standing-13539669.php

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/01/24/senator-warrens-plan-tax-ultrawealthy-is-smart-idea-whose-time-has-come/?utm_term=.251e17e49629

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Investor/earnings/FY-2018-Q4/press-release-webcast

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/three-comma-club/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/taxing-uncle-phil-to-death/

https://www.businessinsider.com/biggest-projects-of-generous-philanthropists-bill-and-melinda-gates-2018-8

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/138248-the-problem-with-socialism-is-that-you-eventually-run-out

 

Five years ago Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPE) was kicked off the Dow Jones Industrial Average, replaced by Visa.

Three years ago, AT&T (a.k.a., The Phone Company) was ingloriously removed from the index of 30 share prices, substituted by Apple.

And just last month, General Electric (NYSE: GE) was unceremoniously ushered off the exchange for Walgreen Boots.

Will Itty Bitty Machines (NYSE: IBM) be the next Dinosaur Tech heading for Dow Jones extinction?

Flintstones vs Jetsons

Under legendary CEO Jack Welch, GE was the most valuable (market capitalization) American company in 2000. The company was one of the founding companies of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1896. General Electric was a consistent standard on the exchange since 1907, 111 years.

What have you done for us lately, Fred and Wilma Flintstone? GE was replaced on the Dow Jones two weeks ago by a drug store company? How embarrassing.

Almost DailyBrett earlier wrote about companies that are absolutely rocking (i.e.,  Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Google, Salesforce.com), metaphorically packing stadiums as opposed to those reduced to playing “greatest hits” at county fairs and desert casinos (i.e., Intel, Cisco, Dell).

These latter companies were/are directly tied to the mature PC market and thus became fairly valued with limited prospects for investor growth unless and until they credibly changed their story with compelling new information (e.g., Apple from Amelio to Jobs2 to Cook) & (e.g., Microsoft from Gates to Ballmer to Nadella).

Apple was on the precipice of bankruptcy in 1997; now the company is the world’s most valuable at $912 billion. The Wunder corporation may be first to ever to achieve a $1 trillion market cap (share price x the number of shares).

Microsoft has cleverly reinvented itself as the market leader in the cloud, even though the PC software company was late to the party. Macht nichts. MSFT has a $762 billion market cap.

Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix and Salesforce.com constitute the 21st Century version of the Jetsons.

Conversely, AT&T, GE, Hewlett-Packard and IBM are the Flintstones.

What Are Their Winning Narratives?

Having worked in corporate Silicon Valley public relations for more than a decade, Almost DailyBrett understands the virtue of championing a winning narrative.

What is your company’s raison d’etre?

How does it make the legal tender?

How is the company positioned in the marketplace against ferocious competitors?

What is its competitive advantage?

What is its legacy of results?

What are the prospects for reasonable and achievable expectations for shareholder joy?

For the record, Almost DailyBrett owns shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM).

Both companies have delivered. Both are leaders in their respective fields. Most of all, your author understands their business strategies – lead in consumer innovation and services; provide selected software via the cloud to business customers).

Investing or Gambling?

When you understand how and why a company makes money then markets are investing, not gambling.

What is the winning narrative for GE? The company is restructuring yet again. Give it up J.C. Penney. Forget it, GE.

Tell me more about the business strategy for AT&T. How will it beat Verizon? Your author doesn’t know either.

Your author loves his Lenovo Ideapad. Who commercialized the PC? IBM in 1981. Reagan was president. “Watson,” can you help?

HPites love the 1937 story of HP founders William Hewlett and David Packard and the Palo Alto garage.

If the two gents could see their creation in the post-Carly Fiorina era, they would most likely would be turning over in their respective graves.

When contemplating these four Dinosaur Techs – AT&T, GE, HP, IBM — in a Jurassic Park era, the hardest questions are also the most basic: How do these companies make money? What product defines their respective businesses?

In stunning contrast, Apple is the #1 company in the world, defined by game changing innovation (e.g., iPhone X) and services (e.g., Apple Music).

Amazon is the #1 digital-retailer in the world with 100 million Prime memberships.

Facebook is the world champion social media company with 2.19 billion subscribers.

Google is the #1 search engine and developed the smart phone Android OS.

Netflix is the #1 digital-streaming-video company (at least for now) with 125 million subscribers.

Salesforce.com pioneered SaaS (Software as a Service) and is a leading-business-software-via-the-cloud provider.

Quick: Can you name a signature product/service directly associated with AT&T, GE, HP or IBM?

Being a jack of all trades, master of none leaves investors will absolutely … nothing.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/19/walgreens-replacing-ge-on-the-dow.html

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

 

 

“The president of the United States tweeting negative things about your brand (e.g., ESPN) in an environment where you’re already at risk and you’re already on a downward trend, it’s just not what you want to see happening.” – Stephen Beck, cable TV consultant

“ESPN is about sports … not a political organization.” – ESPN President John Skipper

ESPN proclaims itself as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

If that is true then why are so many labeling the troubled network: MSESPN?

Why is an ESPN anchor (e.g., Jamele Hill) taking to Twitter to call the president of the United States as a “White Supremacist” and a “Bigot”? Sounds like politics, not sports.

With the likes of Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow and Bill Maher filling up TV screens at other networks, does the avid sports fan tune into ESPN for affirmational political commentary?

Do you think more than a few of ESPN’s remaining viewers may not necessarily agree? More to the point, don’t they just want to watch their game of choice, and check out the highlights on “Sports Center”?

Predictably, Trump replied via his own customary tweet, reminding the world that ESPN is losing subscribers in a fast-and-furious way (e.g., 100 million in 2011 to 87 million now).

Time to sell the stock, Disney shares in particular?

Almost DailyBrett needs to ask a basic question: Why is the so-called “Worldwide Leader in Sports” becoming embroiled in politics when the nation is the most divided since the days of the Civil War?

Does the Bristol, Ct., network appreciate that contrary opinions may actually exist west of the Hudson? See 2016 Electoral College map for details.

Some have questioned why the network presented the Arthur Ashe Award to Caitlyn Jenner, provided sympathetic coverage of Colin Kaepernick not standing for the national anthem, moved Asian announcer Robert Lee out of the broadcast booth, fired conservative two-time World Series winner Curt Schilling, while not terminating Jamele Hill for her presidential broadsides?.

This commentary is not to suggest that ESPN should not cover provocative sports issues (e.g., O.J. Simpson parole hearing), but one cannot fathom the arbitrary direct shots by a sports network anchor at the commander-in-chief.

Analysts have stated that ESPN’s well-documented troubles are a product of market factors including widespread chord-cutting and the growing acceptance of streaming video. Okay. Then why potentially exacerbate the loss of 13 million viewers by angering millions of viewers, who may just happen to be conservative?

There is a reason why Fox News is the consistent ratings leader in cable news, easily beating MSNBC and CNN in the Nielsen Ratings. Why tick off huge swaths of the public?

“Ballmer and Butthead”

Almost DailyBrett earlier questioned Sun Microsystems founder and chief Scott McNealy’s obsession with Microsoft, who he saw as technology’s evil empire.

Thinking he was so friggin’ clever, McNealy drew laughter when he labeled Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates as “Ballmer and Butthead.”

He also raised eyebrows for making these brash comments while his failing company harbored a $3 per share price. Alas after 28 years, Sun Microsystems went into oblivion having been absorbed by Oracle in 2010.

The connection with ESPN is that a company needs to appreciate its raison d’ etre. What are a corporation’s bread and butter? What is a firm’s brand? What are the meanings of the logo, signage, colors, fonts and style?

Southwest Airlines is “The Low-Fare Airline”; Nike is “Just Do It”; Apple is mainly the iPhone as reaffirmed last week. Sun Microsystems was Java script and servers, but the brand sadly degenerated into becoming synonymous with McNealy’s sophomoric punch lines.

ESPN is the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.” Does it want to be the worldwide leader in left-of-center sports commentary? If so, the network will become a niche player instead of the market-share leader in sports programming.

The adults at Fox Sports will then take over that leadership position, leaving MSESPN to cater to its chosen core of left-of-center “sports” fans.

http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/15/media/trump-espn/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/15/politics/jemele-hill-espn/

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/15/trump-kicks-espn-where-it-hurts-242785

http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2013/09/tech-ceos-talking-shit-about-their-rivals/mcnealy-shots-on-gates-and-ballmer

https://www.recode.net/2016/5/4/11634208/scott-mcnealy-is-stepping-down-from-the-ceo-job-you-didnt-know-he-had

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/08/12/%E2%80%9Cballmer-and-butthead%E2%80%9D/

http://insider.foxnews.com/2017/09/12/espn-jemele-hill-calls-donald-trump-white-supremacist-kid-rock-pandering-racists

 

 

 

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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