1. Passing the Hat
is coming through loud and clear now.
Shares in the Holmdel, N.J., Internet phone company are down 31% since last week's $531 million
initial public offering. Hefty competition from the likes of
Skype has sent investors fleeing. Even Vonage's effort to turn users into owners has boomeranged.
Last month, Vonage, explaining that "much of our success is attributable to our customers," said it would cut the customers in on the IPO. But users
haven't had much success with the Customer Directed Share Program.
One woman says she tried to buy 5,000 shares at the IPO, but was told she got none. She checked back later -- after Vonage had dropped 13% in its first day of trading -- to find she was, in fact, the proud owner of 1,300 shares at the IPO price of $22,100. By the time she knew she owned it, though, her stock was worth just $19,305.
"In my mind, I don't own this stock," the customer, Nina Shreiber, told
Evidently Vonage was of the same mind. In response to complaints, a spokesman told
Tuesday that Vonage would make customers whole on the IPO.
But just a day later, after legal experts
scoffed at the plan, Vonage decided to stick customers with the bill instead.
"To be clear," Vonage said Wednesday night, "we have not offered, and are not offering, to repurchase any of the shares of common stock from our customers."
When it comes to looking out for its customers, Vonage is all talk.
Dumb-o-Meter score: 93. We'll just sit out the Internet-phone revolution, thanks.
To view Colin Barr's video take on Vonage's entry in Five Dumbest this week, click here
2. Sun Isn't Rising
Wall Street still isn't taking a shine to
New chief Jonathan Schwartz made his first big move Wednesday, unveiling as many as
5,000 job cuts at the Santa Clara, Calif., server giant. Sun, which has been losing money for years, said the retrenchment envisions "accelerating Sun's return to consistent profitability."
But as was the case when Schwartz was
appointed CEO in April, investors expressed disappointment at Sun's leisurely pace. Shares sank 4% Thursday.
"At the outset, I know these changes will be tough for many employees," Schwartz said in conference-call remarks posted on his
blog. But he promised Sun will become "leaner and more efficient" and "simpler to understand."
That sounds admirable, though one analyst calls the cutbacks "the bare minimum,"
The Associated Press
reports. The analyst, Brent Bracelin of Pacific Crest, notes that Sun still doesn't see an operating profit till mid-2007.
Sun also dropped its poison pill. The company -- whose stock market value exceeds $15 billion despite a 90%-plus drop in its share price since 2000 -- had adopted the shareholder rights plan back when Scott McNealy was CEO.
Toward the end of his reign, McNealy was criticized for taking home ample pay, despite the stock's plunge. But Schwartz says dropping the poison pill is "indicative of Sun's reinvigorated commitment to maximizing shareholder value and enhancing the company's already stellar reputation for tight corporate governance protocols."
Stellar reputation? Way to reach for the stars, Jonathan.
Dumb-o-Meter score: 90. McNealy last month named his 10 favorite things about no longer being CEO, the
San Jose Mercury News
reports. No. 9? "No longer on the most overpaid CEO list."
3. Subtracting Value
investors are already feeling buyer's remorse.
The Minneapolis-based networking company said Wednesday it would buy wireless rival
in a stock swap initially valued at $2.04 billion.
Some observers questioned the logic of the deal, noting intense competition in the telecom-equipment business and the expanding might of customers like
. But ADC and Westchester, Ill.-based Andrew see big opportunity.
"The strategic, operational and financial synergies of our two strong companies create a significant opportunity to grow value for our customers, shareholders and employees," said ADC chief Robert E. Switz.
Unfortunately, the deal has done anything but grow value for shareholders so far. The merger terms gave Andrew investors a 30% premium based on Tuesday's closing stock price. But ADC shares promptly plunged 20% Wednesday and 3% Thursday, wiping out the upside and knocking the deal's value down to $1.58 billion. Andrew shares sagged back to Tuesday's levels.
"With accelerating globalization and consolidation among telecommunications-service providers and communications-equipment suppliers," Andrew chief Ralph Faison said in Wednesday's press release, "now is the right time for ADC and Andrew to join forces and grow value as a world leader in network-infrastructure solutions."
We shudder to think how the market might have reacted at the wrong time.
Dumb-o-Meter score: 88. This is no way to grow value.
4. Revolving Door
There's never a dull moment at
The business software company formerly known as Computer Associates rolled out its
latest accounting mishap this week, saying it would miss fiscal fourth-quarter targets and restate third-quarter earnings.
The news comes as top execs continue to flee the company's home base of Islandia, N.Y., in droves. Just two weeks ago, CA said CFO Robert Davis would leave "under mutual agreement."
"When we began the task of transforming CA," CEO John Swainson said May 15 in announcing the Davis move, "we knew that we would encounter many challenges and understood that in an undertaking of this scale and scope, changes were to be expected."
That's for sure. Davis' departure came a week after chief technology officer Mark Barrenechea departed for a venture-capital company, and a month after operating chief Jeff Clarke took off for
And while Swainson seems to indicate that nonstop managerial shuffling is a necessary evil, the CA statement accompanying his Feb. 9, 2005, hiring claims otherwise. "CA Names Swainson Chief Executive Officer," reads the headline. "Management Transition Completed."
Not by a longshot.
Dumb-o-Meter score: 85. "They ought to be able to add the numbers properly," one investor told
5. Very Sirius Settlement
chief Les Moonves knows how to drive a hard bargain.
The exec won a
smashing victory in his legal battle with shock jock Howard Stern and his current employer,
CBS made a big splash this past winter by
suing Stern, who had agreed in October 2004 to join Sirius for $500 million.
CBS' suit accused Stern of "pocketing over $200 million for his personal benefit" by illicitly promoting Sirius while he was still at CBS.
But not just that. "To this day," CBS added in a Feb. 28 press release outlining its claims, "Stern continues to breach his contract by refusing to return property that belongs to CBS Radio -- the recordings of his CBS radio program that, under his Agreement with CBS Radio, belong to the company."
Imagine. And if the stakes were high then, Stern promptly raised them by appearing in March on CBS'
Late Night With David Letterman
clad in an "I Hate Les Moonves" T-shirt.
Despite the bluster, though, this clash of legal titans never got to court. Last Friday, the sides issued a joint statement saying they had come to terms.
"As part of the settlement, CBS Radio will receive payments relating to the conveyance of its rights in the recordings of 'The Howard Stern Show,'" the statement read, according to media reports. "Sirius, for its part, will make a total payment of $2 million related to this conveyance."
So CBS gets a little money and Stern keeps the recordings. No word on who ends up with the T-shirt.
Dumb-o-Meter score: 79. Don't expect to see Stern in a "Property of CBS" shirt anytime soon, either.
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