4. Phony Sony
What on earth happened to Dan Loeb? Did alien invaders swoop down and body-snatch the hedge fund manager?
Loeb, who demonstrated the power to demolish a CEO with the stroke of his pen last year at Yahoo! (YHOO), set his sights on struggling Sony this week. Loeb wants to restructure the once-iconic Japanese conglomerate by spinning off 15% to 20% of its entertainment division in an IPO, which he would then backstop with $1.5 billion to $2 billion of Third Point's money. Loeb reportedly owns 64 million Sony shares, or approximately 6.5% of the company. Shares of Sony popped 10% Tuesday on Loeb's play to unlock value at the PlayStation-maker."So while Third Point supports your agenda for change, we also believe that to succeed, Sony must focus," Loeb told Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai in an overly polite letter published in Tuesday's New York Times. Loeb also travelled to Tokyo this week to exchange pleasantries with Japanese officials and Sony executives.
Good lord, Loeb! Talk about namby pamby! That's not the Dan Loeb who strikes fear into the hearts of CEOs with padded resumes, or the one who gave his nemesis Bill Ackman an Herbalife (HLF) wedgie for the spite of it. Somebody, anybody please bring back the fire-breathing hedge fund manager that corporate boards used to know and loathe! This fake Dan Loeb is killing us with his charm offensive! More than that, it's also not doing him any good with the brass at Sony, who rejected his overtures with typical Japanese courteousness. "As President and CEO Kazuo Hirai has said repeatedly, the entertainment businesses are important contributors to Sony's growth and are not for sale," Sony said. "We look forward to continuing constructive dialogue with our shareholders as we pursue our strategy." Look, Dan. As you pointed out in your sickeningly sweet letter, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is turning Japan upside down. While many others have failed, Abe has been able to smash the yen into submission and he intends to keep smashing. Moribund Japanese companies are finally getting competitive again and their stocks are flying. So if it's a brand new day in the land of the rising sun, why not take your usual take-no-prisoners approach and apply it to Sony? Forget all that stuff you heard about Japanese corporate civility. They don't need any more civility. They need hostility, and nobody does that better than you. Sony has never been able to enjoy the synergies from owning both electronics and entertainment, so it's a perfect candidate to be broken up. And you are just the corporate monster to stomp up and down until it cracks into two profitable parts. Or at least you were before some imposter stole your identity.