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The Worst-Run Companies of 2009

Janus Capital (JNS - Get Report): Once an investment management maverick in the 1990s, Janus is now an also-ran to the likes of Blackrock (BLK - Get Report), Franklin Resources (BEN - Get Report) and T. Rowe Price (TROW - Get Report).

Pier One (PIR - Get Report): Pier One has not generated positive earnings in years. When the whole world was trading down during a recession, everyone seemed to miss Pier One along the highways. What is saving this company is a lack of any significant amount of debt.

Sharper Image: Filed for bankruptcy.

2007 Inductees

Palm (PALM): Palm has had its up and downs. Right now it's on a roll, thanks to the smartphone boom -- that is to say, relative to itself. Compared with Apple (AAPL - Get Report) and Research In Motion (RIMM), Palm is rather insignificant. Time will be the true test for the company, but for now it has a reprieve.

Circuit City: Filed for bankruptcy.

Charter Communications: Filed for bankruptcy.

Six Flags: Filed for bankruptcy.

Washington Mutual: Declared insolvent and seized by the FDIC, Washington Mutual is now a part of JPMorgan's (JPM - Get Report) retail banking unit.

2008 Inductees

Macy's (M - Get Report): Of all the companies on my list, Macy's is the most likely to turn itself around. After biting off too much in acquisitions and expanding too much, the retailer is carrying a significant amount of debt. Macy's is caught in the squeeze between the discount retailers such as Wal-Mart (WMT - Get Report) and the luxury retailers such as Nordstrom (JWN - Get Report). Macy's is still a poorly managed company, but I see some glimmers of hope.

General Motors: Filed for bankruptcy.

Time Warner (TWX - Get Report): The publishing business stinks, AOL was the worst acquisition of all time, and the balance sheet is a horror. While Time Warner has been able to pare back debt, goodwill is still sitting on the balance sheet like a festering sore. The latest installment of the Harry Potter series was a disappointment compared with its predecessors. Management still has its hands full, and I am still not sure that it's the right management to lead Time Warner out of the wilderness. Now, on to this year's list.

My Criteria

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