*Special* Unique Honors Among 1998 Awards

These special awards deserved their own place in our 1998 Awards series.
Publish date:

This is the final installment in


1998 Awards series. For more information, please see our introduction to the series, and be sure to check out the pieces that ran throughout the week.

To conclude our week of awards, we round up with a handful of select honors that stand on their own. Hope you enjoy and have a happy New Year.

"Better Never than Right" Award:

Bill Fleckenstein


The bear in


monthly "Bull vs. Bear" debate, Fleckenstein has been railing about the market's being overvalued, about the

Federal Reserve's

promoting irrational exuberance and speculation and about how the world's financial system is basically a house of cards.

Although his prophecies of doom have (obviously) gone unrealized, "Fleck" is hard to dismiss, since he was out in front predicting Japan's asset bubble would burst in the late 1980s and has outperformed the

S&P 500

this year solely by shorting stocks. Heaven help us if he's right about the big picture.

"Only the Shadow (SEC) Knows" Award:

Manuel Asensio


The "Won't be Seeing You in the Barron's Roundtable This Year" Award:

Michael Schonberg


Noted short-seller Asensio berated the now on-leave


fund manager Schonberg for making allegedly specious investments in companies with whom the manager had uncomfortably close relationships. Still, Asensio's seeming obsession with Schonberg and the relentless press release campaign make us wonder if he needs a hobby.

"Bill Clinton, 'I Like Waffles Award'":

Ralph Acampora


In early August, the

Prudential Securities

chief technical analyst was vilified for predicting a 15% to 20% drop in the


just a day after reiterating his 'Dow 10,000' call on


. But Uncle Ralphie was right on the money with the forecast and again in mid-October when he said it looked like gray skies were gonna clear up.

"Karl Marx, I Don't Like Money" Award:

George Soros


In his recently published tome,

The Crisis of Global Capitalism

, the billionaire hedge-fund manager condemns capitalism as "little different from

Alexander the Great


Attila the Hun

" because of the pain created by its "boom/bust cycles" and for its "imperialistic tendencies." Funny, we don't recall hearing complaints from Soros when he was accumulating his vast fortune. If Soros begins recommending the redistribution of wealth, we're all ears.

"Dennis Rodman/Carmen Electra Dead at the Altar" Award:

American Home Products




(MTC) - Get Report



(CIEN) - Get Report





In a year of more mega-mergers, the failure of these (and other) deals to come to fruition cost investors dearly, especially arbitragers, who try to profit from the spread between a company's existing price and the price another company is willing to pay. Then there's the poor investment bankers who lost out on big commissions. The heart bleeds. Which brings us to the...

"How Do You Spell Chutzpah?" Award:

Salomon Smith Barney


In mid-December, Salomon filed a lawsuit seeking more than $50 million in damages from


(MCK:NYSE) and

HBO & Co.


, which have pledged to merge. Salomon's gripe is that it wasn't compensated for helping the two companies get together.

Problem is, when Salomon was playing lead matchmaker last summer, there was an inadvertent leak from its office about the deal, which was then temporarily scuttled. Good luck to "Rent-A-Yenta" with this suit.

"Mark McGwire 'I'm Not Really a Hero'" Award:

Alan Greenspan

. (Treasury Secretary

Robert Rubin

gets an honorable mention.)

If business really were like sports, investors would be chanting "Alan! Alan! Alan!" right about now. In the depths of the market's third-quarter crises, Greenspan was able to muster the resolve of the Federal Reserve hawks to cut interest rates three times, including the memorable inter-meeting ease on Oct. 15.

The actions helped stabilize and then invigorate market psychology, leading to an astounding rebound in October and November.

"Hillary Rodham Clinton Stand by Your Man (or market call)" Award:

Abby Joseph Cohen


The super-bullish

Goldman Sachs

market strategist was unwavering, unconcerned and unbowed during the market's summer stink-fest. At the depth of the decline, the once-untouchable Cohen was the subject of some snickering and (blasphemous!) even some criticism in the press. But Abby J. was vindicated and her reputation only enhanced by the market's explosive rally off the October lows.

"Harry Houdini" Award:

Netscape Communications'



James Barksdale


James Clark


Marc Andreessen


After pretty much inventing the Internet stock craze in 1995, Netscape fell on harder times in the face of a withering (if legally questionable) competitive challenge from


(MSFT) - Get Report


After bottoming in late January at 14 7/8, the stock wallowed in the high teens and low 20s until June, when Netscape announced the "next phase" of its strategy, a focus on Internet software development and its portal.

That gave the stock a brief burst above 40, but it quickly retreated along with the broader market in late summer. Then, in one of the great escapes since Steve McQueen, Netscape agreed to a $4.2 billion buyout offer from

America Online


, helping to revive the stock and preserving the company's fortunes, not to mention those of its biggest shareholders.

"Vanilla Ice/Milli Vanilli Not What We Seem" Award:

K-Tel International



The once-moribund stock of K-Tel soared in late April and early May on the mere news it would begin selling its compilations of "classic" music via the Internet. But the stock plummeted in November amid news that K-Tel did not meet minimum tangible net asset requirements for listing on the


. Let's say the company was lip-synching its way through its "performance" as major market-moving stock.

"Depends on What Your Definition of Is, Is" Award:

Bill Gates


Regardless of what you think of the government's antitrust case against Microsoft, it's tough to believe that Gates -- the richest man in the world and one of the hardest-working men in (show) business -- could be as lacking in knowledge of the goings-on in his own company as his trial testimony would indicate.

Beyond the


comparison, this behavior reminds us of another president --

Ronald Reagan

and Iran Contra, when the country was left to wonder which was worse: if he knew or if he didn't.