Dig, if you will, the picture of TheStreet.com's( TSCM) stock rising in large part due to a year's worth of rumors that an incompetent columnist, The Business Press Maven, might very well be fired.
But, in a surprise turn, The Business Press Maven does not get fired. His pay package for the year is announced, and it turns out he is granted a lot of money by the executive-compensation committee -- largely because the stock has gone up.
Dig it? In this dream scenario, I benefit from the widespread hope that I was going to be 86'd in 2006.
It does seem like a dream, or maybe theater of the absurd, huh? Well, it's just another day in the dreary life of
The Wall Street Journal
earns this week's dreaded "Back of the Hand" award. When
covering Citigroup CEO Charles Prince's lush pay package, the
noted that it was partially based on total return to stockholders, which ran at 19.6%. The
did have the decency to note that this was below many of its peers, but it did not note that the stock ran during 2006 primarily on rumors that Prince was a goner.
Speculation was rampant -- from
all the way to
blogs and back again.
In fact, the stock price did most of its move during the last month or so of the year, when talk of firings and company break-ups was red hot. As in,
Once it turned out, around the turn of the year, that all that would happen was a mild executive reshuffling, the stock came back down.
But Prince bagged the princely sum of $26 million during the year in which profits fell double-digits. All because his tenure has been so marked by trouble, from regulatory issues to the Money Honey, that many thought he'd be a goner.
Can you even make this stuff up? It is remarkable. And double remarkable when it is not mentioned by the business media. For shame. Investor money is at stake here. The Business Press Maven is no knee-jerk executive-compensation critic. But money given to CEOs for no good reason is the biggest -- and most easily fixed -- waste of shareholder money known to The Business Press Maven, who only wishes he could profit from his own demise.
Did I mention that Robert E. Rubin, former Treasury secretary and current chairman of Citigroup's executive committee, was given $17.3 million? The article didn't mention this either, but with this stunt, there might emerge rumors that Rubin, once highly respected on Wall Street, will be fired. That should put him in fine position for an $8 million raise -- to Prince's pay grade -- by the time next year rolls around.
Award No. 2
My second dreaded Business Press Maven "Back of the Hand" award goes to the
that was sooooo 1999.
The story notes that shares rose after an analyst upgrade.
And that the analyst was Anthony Noto, from no less than
And that RealNetworks shares have declined 21% since Noto's last downgrade, implying that he must know what he's doing.
And that he does not see downside from here.
And that risks are already priced into the stock.
And that the company is increasingly interested in buying back shares, which could provide support.
But look what they don't note: This little
packet of paper that The Business Press Maven is a-holdin' here between my thumb and forefinger. See, it's an 8-K released the same day. In fact, it hit up on the wire
the story that carried all the glorious details of the Goldman Sachs upgrade.
That 8-K? Well, my goodness, the first thing it says is that RealNetworks CEO and Chairman Robert Glaser had just entered into an agreement to sell up to almost 8 million shares starting this May through a little outfit named -- you guessed it! -- Goldman Sachs.
And on that note, I'm going to end it. I need to go start rumors of my demise so I can get myself a raise.
At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.
A journalist with a background on Wall Street, Marek Fuchs has written the County Lines column for The New York Times for the past five years. He also contributes regular breaking news and feature stories to many of the paper's other sections, including Metro, National and Sports. Fuchs was the editor-in-chief of Fertilemind.net, a financial Web site twice named "Best of the Web" by Forbes Magazine. He was also a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and a money manager. He is currently writing a chapter for a book coming out in early 2007 on a really embarrassing subject. He lives in a loud house with three children. Fuchs appreciates your feedback;
to send him an email.