Activist Targets IBM: “Bring Out the Belgian Waffle!” (reprint from 2014)


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Editor’s Note: 
In light of the recent KHC disclosure that the geniuses at 3G have been underinvesting in brands, over-stating earnings, and milking their businesses for short-term earnings at the expense of long-term results—everything Warren Buffett professes to despisewe thought it worth reprinting this commentary on the 3G methodology from 2014JLM


IBM trades to highs on activist related speculation  (161.85 +0.95)
—Briefing.com, November 23, 2014
  IBM Chief Counsel: “Ginni?  Fred here.” 
  IBM CEO Ginni Rometty:  “What’s wrong?”
  Chief Counsel: “Activists are circling.”
  Rometty: “Oh geez.”
  Chief Counsel: “Yeah.  I’ve got the biggest shark of all on hold.  He wants to talk.”
  Rometty: “Carl Icahn??”
  Chief Counsel:  “No.   Icahn watches Netflix and uses an iPhone.  He thinks we’re ‘old economy.’ Continue reading “Activist Targets IBM: “Bring Out the Belgian Waffle!” (reprint from 2014)”

Shazam! From the Boss to the King to How John & Paul & George & Ringo Desegregated the Gator Bowl in 1964, and Now the Esher Demos!


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2018 Editor’s Note:
      “I’m not a great one for thatyou know, ‘Maybe it was too many  [songs]…’  What do you mean?  It was great!   It sold!  It’s the bloody Beatles White Album.”—Paul McCartney.
      This is going to be brief because your editor is writing a book and has gone off the grid…but he has not gone too far off the grid to miss the best new music in years, brought to you bywho else?the Beatles.
      Specifically, this is a shout-out for the Esher Demos, so-called because when the Beatles returned to England from Rishikesh, India, they gathered at George Harrison’s bungalow in Esher and played each other (while recording on a portable tape machine) some 27 songs they’d written while off-drugs and eating “lousy vegetarian food,” as John Lennon put it, in Continue reading “Shazam! From the Boss to the King to How John & Paul & George & Ringo Desegregated the Gator Bowl in 1964, and Now the Esher Demos!”

Shazam! From the Boss to the King to How John & Paul & George & Ringo Desegregated the Gator Bowl in 1964


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2017 Editor’s Note:
“I still remember that moment the first time Ringo played with us, ‘BANG!’ he kicks in, it was an ‘Oh my God’ moment.  I remember we’re all looking at each other, like ‘Yeah this is it!’  Phew, I’m gettin’ very emotional…”—Paul McCartney in ‘The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years.’
There is, or was, back in the day, an argument among amateur drummers that went like this:
“Ringo sucked!”
“Are you kidding?  Ringo was great!”
The drummers who dismissed Ringo were, by our experience, younger, jazz-oriented drummers who were technically brilliant and could not fathom why such a technically-limited drummer like Ringo had become rich and famous while they were stuck playing “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” at weddings to pay the rent.  They honestly didn’t get it.

The Gig Short


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            A friend of mine did something recently that he’d never done before: he used Lyft instead of Uber on a business trip.
            He did this because he needed a ride, and the Lyft driver was going to get to him faster than Uber.  While he had never actually used Lyft before, he had downloaded the app and figured why not?  After all, the Ubers that he (and everyone else we know) has ridden lately have been not-much-better than a cab, which is quite a come-down from the early days of Uber, when the driver had a bottle of water ready for you and the car smelled like a car, instead of a dorm room, and the worst you could say was that the drivers were too reliant on Waze to get around.
In brief, Uber has become what the haters always sniffed:

Continue reading “The Gig Short”

Chipotle (pronounced chi-POAT-lay): “It’s Not Me, It’s You”


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Chipotle (pronounced chi-POAT-lay) reports second quarter earnings this week, and far more interesting than the earnings themselves—quarterly reports are, after all, backward-looking—will be whatever management chooses to divulge about the impact of last week’s norovirus outbreak at the Sterling, Virginia Chipotle (pronounced chi-POAT-lay), not to mention the mouse video taken at a Dallas Chipotle (pronounced chi-POAT-lay) that went viral at about the same time as the Sterling headlines were peaking.
We’ll dispense with the pronunciation of Chipotle (pronounced chi-POAT-lay) from now on—we only included it because the company does so on its Investor Relations web site, apparently on the presumption that potential investors in CMG stock are morons who don’t know how to pronounce that word.  That presumption stems, we think, from the world view of Steve Ells, the self-described “classically-trained chef” who created the first Chipotle, saw its potential and, to his everlasting credit, ran with it, and

Continue reading “Chipotle (pronounced chi-POAT-lay): “It’s Not Me, It’s You””

Watson Takes Wimbledon


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The Wimbledon tennis tournament, which starts Monday, will use IBM’s artificial intelligence agent Watson to help direct fans to the most exciting matches, automatically generate video highlight reels and guide guests through the grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
A voice-activated digital assistant called “Fred,” named after British tennis great Fred Perry, will help those attending Wimbledon find their way around. Visitors can ask Fred for directions to the nearest strawberry stand, how to buy a Wimbledon towel or who is playing right now on Centre Court. Fred will also help visitors find other activities — such as the children’s play area — they might want to check out while at the Club. The assistant is powered by Watson’s natural language processing ability.
—Bloomberg, June 17
“Fred!  What’s the weather going to be like tomorrow afternoon?”
“Greetings!  Fred is a British interface to IBM’s massively Continue reading “Watson Takes Wimbledon”

If Donald Trump Ran a Publicly Traded Restaurant Chain The CEO Might Sound Like This


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  You’d be forgiven if, after hearing the CEO of Chipotle describe its first ShopHouse Asian Kitchen restaurant concept that was opened in DuPont Circle a few years ago, you agreed with the cohort of Wall Street’s finest that declared ShopHouse might become the next leg of growth for the then-plenty-fast-growing-already purveyor of burritos and tacos “With Integrity.”
  You’d be forgiven because the CEO of Chipotle repeatedly—and by that, we mean more than a dozen times over the next few years—promoted the concept and often compared that first ShopHouse restaurant with the early days of Chipotle itself.
   In fact, so forcefully and frequently did the CEO push the ShopHouse-as-the-Next-Chipotle theme over the years, the more cynical among our readers would be forgiven for reading the following time-line of quotes from the Chipotle CEO and asking themselves, “Wait a minute, does Donald Trump run Chipotle on the side? Continue reading “If Donald Trump Ran a Publicly Traded Restaurant Chain The CEO Might Sound Like This”

Shazam! From The Boss to The King to John & Paul (but not George or Ringo), Not to Mention Jessica & Nick


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2016 Editor’s Note:
  The switch to all-holiday music has started, and while we have not heard much new, it has, so far, been mercifully light on the Michael Bublé and heavy on the Chrissie Hynde and Bing Crosby, although with no sign of The Boss, yet.
  Our beef this year is not with the current roll of holiday songs, or with any of the rock biographies weve been reading (Dee-Dee Ramone“Lobotomy: Surviving of the Ramones, is even more hair-raising than Chrissie Hyndes book that we called out last year, and that takes some doing); our beef is with the SongFacts web site, which, as readers of this virtual column might imagine, ranks right up there with Bloomberg, FactSet and the Wall Street Journal as tools of our trade.
  Specifically, how does SongFacts not know that at 4 minutes 51 seconds Continue reading “Shazam! From The Boss to The King to John & Paul (but not George or Ringo), Not to Mention Jessica & Nick”

Shazam! From The Boss to The King to John & Paul (but not George or Ringo), Not to Mention Jessica & Nick


This post is by from Jeff Matthews Is Not Making This Up


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




2016 Editor’s Note:
  The switch to all-holiday music has started, and while we have not heard much new, it has, so far, been mercifully light on the Michael Bublé and wonderfully heavy on the Chrissie Hynde and Bing Crosby, although with no sign of The Boss, yet.
  Our beef this year is not with the current roll of holiday songs, or with any of the rock biographies weve been reading (Dee-Dee Ramone“Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones, is even more hair-raising than Chrissie Hyndes book that we called out last year, and that takes some doing); our beef is with the SongFacts web site, which, as readers of this virtual column might imagine, ranks right up there with Bloomberg, FactSet and the Wall Street Journal as tools of our trade.
  Specifically, how does SongFacts not know that at 4 minutes 51 seconds Continue reading “Shazam! From The Boss to The King to John & Paul (but not George or Ringo), Not to Mention Jessica & Nick”

So Is Chipotle “Buzz-worthy” or “Meh”? The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Says “Meh.”


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 Chipotle reports next week and we’ll finally get to see how the company’s “buzz-worthy” (their word, not ours) marketing efforts (like the online game “Friend or Faux,” the “Chiptopia” rewards program, and the online animated movie “A Love Story”) have been working to bring customers back after last year’s food-borne illness outbreaks linked to various Chipotle restaurants caused comp-store sales to tank, spurred a CDC investigation and forced the self-styled “Food with Integrity” chain to spend a lot of money upgrading the integrity of its food-handling procedures.
 Wall Street, for the most part, seems convinced the storm will blow over—if a 100-times next-year EPS multiple is any indication.
 Large shareholders have commissioned reports on the company’s turnaround efforts, interviewing food safety experts and “industry veterans” on the “timeline for Chipotle’s recovery,” as one wrote, and the consensus seems to be management will eventually convince the American public that

Continue reading “So Is Chipotle “Buzz-worthy” or “Meh”? The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Says “Meh.””

Well That Was a Shack-ingly Brief Run


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  In the world of Shake-Shack, everything is about “The Shack.”  
 Where most restaurants report “same-store sales” and “store-level operating margins” and “store economics,” SHAK reports “same-shack” sales and “shack-level operating margins” and “shack-onomics.”
 It’s a cute, quirky culture the company has built from modest roots—the now-famous hot-dog stand in Madison Square Park—into an international phenomenon, in 12 short years.
 Of course, 12 years in today’s world is actually a long time, but things didn’t get serious until 2004 when the first Shake Shack restaurant opened, starting the launching pad that would shoot the rocket ship into orbit following the wildly hyped IPO just 16 months ago to the point where, by the end of the first quarter, there would be 88 such “Shacks,” with an inordinately large number—36 to be exact—licensed to other operators outside the U.S., mainly in the Middle Continue reading “Well That Was a Shack-ingly Brief Run”

When Analysts Surrender


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 It’s bad enough when analysts thank CEOs for letting them ask a question on an company earnings call, at least when they do it in a way that goes beyond a simple act of politeness and more towards a cringe-making act of fawning, which too many analysts have a way of doing these days.
 This is, after all, a business: it’s an analyst’s job to ask questions; it’s a CEO’s job to answer them.   Get on with it.
 What’s worse, however—much worse—is when an analyst who asks a good question gets schmoozed by the CEO, and instead of following up and getting an answer, surrenders.
 It happened tonight on the Apple call.
 After thanking the company for “fitting me in” (really?) the analyst asked Tim Cook—all quotes are from the indispensable Seeking Alpha—a very reasonable question about the “top two or three things” Continue reading “When Analysts Surrender”

Berkshire Hathaway: Bad Deals All Over


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 In case you thought Berkshire Hathaway was involved in only one bad deal—the $36 billion all-cash takeover of cyclical, airline-supplying Precision Castparts for 20-times what may (or may not) turn out to be peak-cycle earnings—well, there’s another deal Berkshire is involved in, indirectly, that is not looking great for the acquiring company and its shareholders: M&T Bank’s $5.4 billion all-stock acquisition of Hudson City Bancorp.
 Berkshire Hathaway has owned shares of M&T for years, maybe decades, and for good reason: run by down-to-earth Bob Wilmers, whose annual shareholder letter is required reading for anyone in this business, M&T is one of the few banks with $50 billion or more in assets that made it through the financial crisis without losing a dime, or needing a bailout, or both, thanks entirely due to the sober culture of the place.
 And while your editor owns M&T shares for exactly Continue reading “Berkshire Hathaway: Bad Deals All Over”

Fact-Checking William D. Cohan; Or, Paul Is Not Dead


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 TV personality, author and commentator William D. Cohan is grumpy about a lot of things.
 There’s the Duke lacrosse scandal, for one, about which he’s just publish a “shocking, thought-provoking new book”—according to the description on his own web page.
 And for another there’s Wall Street, from whence he came, and about which he’s written plenty of grumpy, conspiracy-minded books.
 Hence it’s no surprise to find Cohan invited to speak at the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference, whose attendees tend to be wealthy, Wall Street-leery arts supporters from L.A.
 It’s even less surprising that one of the talks he gave to those same attendees was entitled “Who Has the Real Power Now on Wall Street?”—actually, less of a talk and more of a very grumpy, very conspiratorial dish about what he perceives to be the current state of Wall Street—and that the audience was

Continue reading “Fact-Checking William D. Cohan; Or, Paul Is Not Dead”