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The Worst-Run Companies of 2009

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

Pier One (PIR): 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) 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) retail banking unit.

2008 Inductees

Macy's (M): 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) and the luxury retailers such as Nordstrom (JWN). Macy's is still a poorly managed company, but I see some glimmers of hope.

General Motors: Filed for bankruptcy.

Time Warner (TWX): 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.

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