One of the untold stories of this era is how the great brand names of the past can't summon any excitement whatsoever on Wall Street. It's like people think these companies have lost all ability to market their stories to Wall Street.
Join the discussion on
Message Boards. Take Sara Lee. Nobody likes Sara Lee. How can that be? It's a pretty good company. But there is no price where people want to own this. (And the analysts who follow these companies must feel like endangered species. They bring in no underwritings and no commissions!)
No matter what it does -- become vertical, make acquisitions, control costs, beat Fruit of the Loom with
, rationalize baking operations -- it just doesn't matter.
What is the future of these great brand names? I have to believe that in the end they all have to be for sale and somebody will consolidate this group and take out headquarters costs. It just has to happen, as to build new brands costs too much.
Yesterday I bought some
. The stock had come down 10 points since when I first wanted to buy it. I figured it was because it must have missed the quarter. But it didn't. It did a good job. It reiterated that it is willing to talk merger. It has great brands.
And all that has happened is that it has gone down some more.
I don't buy stuff because of takeover. You never know when lightning will hit. But some of this stuff is just too darn cheap. I am committing small positions to the brand-name companies that can do the numbers (many of them can't). And I am forgetting them, as everyone else has.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long Bestfoods. 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