Sirius XM Needs an Entrepreneur at the Helm

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Steve Jobs liked to use the term "bozo explosion." It refers to hiring second-rate executives and managers -- "bozos" -- who then go on to hire more B-players. Before you know it, your organization experiences a bozo explosion.

Jobs claimed he was the only person who could prevent the bozo explosion. That's part of the reason why I am ultimately bearish on Apple ( AAPL) without Steve Jobs at the helm.

It's not that guys like Tim Cook are bozos -- Jobs hired them after all -- but they're certainly closer to bozo status than he was. And they cannot prevent the bozo explosion from taking place.

I've thought a lot about the bozo explosion since I was exposed to the concept. When I consider an executive, I often think of Jobs and ask, "Would he hire this person or would he consider him or her a bozo?" Is this person an A-player?

Would Steve Jobs Hire Mel Karmazin or a SIRI Permabull?

I have little doubt that Jobs would have hired folks like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Westergren. Like Jobs, they're three of our time's greatest visionaries. Each man created and/or disrupted an entire industry or three. And they're not done yet.

And then there are the others who would likely pass muster with Jobs. They're people you've probably never heard of before.

Fast Company recently published a fascinating list titled "The 100 Most Creative People in Business 2012."

It includes everybody from J. C. Penney's ( JCP) Ron Johnson (not sure I agree) to Starbucks' ( SBUX) chief digital officer, Adam Brotman, who came up with the company's mobile payment system, to Sam Mogannam, the owner of a little San Francisco grocery store, Bi-Rite, that I used to frequent.

In the words of Mitch Joel, these people are "entrepreneurs" who are "trying to create the future that doesn't yet exist," not businesspeople who merely look to "mitigate risk and minimize mistakes."

Entrepreneurs are the ones worth your time and attention; businessperson equals bozo. At least that's what Jobs thought. He would give his time to entrepreneurs, but he had no patience for bozos.

Extending that out a bit, companies with an entrepreneurial culture tend not only to thrive, but also to pioneer over the long term. The ones filled with bozos explode, or more appropriately, implode.

When you run in the space(s) Sirius XM ( SIRI) runs in, you need an organization loaded with A-players -- people Steve Jobs would hire -- not folks he would consider bozos. But, most of all, you need a leader who can prevent the bozo explosion.

Mel Karmazin is a businessperson with a CEO profile straight out of the appendix of your stock MBA textbook. He comes in and runs a business well. And there is something to be said for the standard metrics that define a well-run business. Who could possibly scoff at the things Mel boasts about every time he opens a Sirius XM conference call? Exceptional subscriber growth. Cash flow growth. And reduced churn.

These things, along with the ability and intent to return capital to shareholders -- another persistent Karmazin talking point -- are, of course, all excellent attributes. When they come too soon, however, and at the expense of innovation and reinvestment into the business, you sometimes have a situation where a solid bottom line in the near term sacrifices long-term growth and sustainability.

After John Malone and Howard Stern saved satellite radio from extinction, Karmazin became hyperfocused on running the business like a businessperson. That's fine, but when Starbucks looks more like a tech company than Sirius XM does, you've got a long-term problem.

For one reason or another, Sirius XM permabulls can't seem to wrap their heads around this proposition.

At day's end, the companies satellite radio competes with for ears -- from Apple to Pandora ( P) to Spotify to Clear Channel -- look more like tech/Internet/new media companies than Sirius XM does. All of the free cash flow in the world ends up not meaning a darn thing if Sirius does not move to address this reality.

Sirius XM permabulls should hope that Malone's Liberty Media ( LMCA) wrestles control of Sirius XM away from Mel Karmazin's ego.

It's probably safe to say that Malone would immediately replace Karmazin with an A-player ready to compete in a way Mel simply can't.

At the time of publication, Rocco Pendola was long P

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