Does Philip Morris (MO) - Get Altria Group Inc. Report think we are all idiots? Does it really think we can't figure out its game? Oh, you know what I am talking about: the rehabilitation and resurrection of the Kraft name.
It started subtly, with a bunch of soft ads about how much Kraft does in charity, food banks and the like. Great, we keep 'em healthy enough to kill 'em with butts! Very smart. Very cynical. I figured everybody would see through this one.
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Message Boards. Then we started reading about how a whole new Kraft was getting energized. Kraft was making acquisitions. Kraft was getting active in Europe. Kraft? This is Philip Morris, not Kraft. Kraft is just a division. Will anybody really buy into this ruse? If it succeeds, are we going to have to start hearing about
again? Or will that be too confusing?
But sure enough, there in this weekend's
was the sign that once again, the press, which prides itself on its cynicism which, of course, it calls skepticism, has bought the new Philip Morris act hook, line and sinker: "Kraft stocks up its pantry with health foods." On the front page. What a headline.
It gets worse: We didn't discover that Philip Morris owned Kraft until the fourth paragraph. The fourth paragraph. Almost on the jump page!!!
The Lean Mean Killing Machine with the big cash flow has pulled it off. It has made the press its unwitting buddy in the obvious attempt to make Kraft the focus here for an eventual spinoff or separation from Philip Morris. Or maybe the Buttsters will now deep-six the name Philip Morris and switch it to Kraft. Very smart.
Soon you will be reading about how Kraft is worth twice the 22 stock price of Morris. All the reporters will buy it. They haven't had anything interesting to write about from this beat anyway except litigation. It is a nice change of pace.
Forgive me for being revolted. I think they should have to put a skull and crossbones next to the symbol MO. Or Kraft. Or whatever. Then maybe the press won't be fooled.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at