Shares of daily deal site Groupon ( GRPN) spiked 12% on the news of CEO Andrew Mason's expulsion last Friday. They added another 6% on Monday this week and 5% on Tuesday for good measure. Based on the stock's reaction, the market clearly sees Mason's departure as a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, we here at the Dumbest Lab take the opposite view of Mason's ouster. His shareholders may be psyched to see him go after seeing Groupon's stock drop over 70% since the company's November 2011 IPO. Nevertheless, we remain saddened by his termination, even if it was widely anticipated. Let's face it. He was totally crappy for them, but great copy for us. We'll miss Mason's infantile management approach, like the time last year when he was caught addressing his troops under the influence of alcohol. At one juncture in the town-hall style meeting, Mason was forced to stop and apologize, saying, "Sorry, too much beer." Actually, if we remember correctly, Andy's beer-swilling shenanigan was the final straw which led Starbucks ( SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz to bolt Groupon's board. Boy, he must be glad he woke up and smelled the coffee before it was too late! We also recall fondly Mason's other miscues, like his idiotic Super Bowl commercial that poked fun at the Free Tibet movement, the ridiculous poetry on his blog, the multiple accounting restatements and the silly stir he caused at the Securities and Exchange Commission which endangered the company's IPO. Perhaps above all, we'll never forget -- as much as we'd like to -- that weird YouTube video he posted of himself doing yoga in his underwear. Well, maybe that yoga self-exploitation wasn't his biggest screw-up. Ask a Groupon shareholder right now and he or she will probably tell you Mason's decision to spurn Google's ( GOOG) $6 billion offer for the company was his most memorable goof. At last check Groupon's market cap was just over half of that sum, and most analysts predict a whole lot of retrenchment ahead for the company featuring across the board firings, especially overseas. "After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding -- I was fired today," wrote Mason in his farewell letter to his troops. Ah, what a trooper! Tongue in cheek 'til the bitter end. Of course, unlike many Groupon employees waiting on their pink slips and meager severance packages, Mason can afford to be cheeky. He owns roughly 46 million shares, or 7% of the company, at last check. In other words, Mason's firing has been substantially profitable for him. Even if it is a major loss for us.
4.) Tuesday Mourning
Tuesday's ( TUES) CEO is gone with the wind and for the sake of Lynyrd Skynyrd, we have no idea why. Dallas-based discount retailer Tuesday Morning saw its stock sink over 13% to $7.80 Monday after it unexpectedly announced the resignation of Brady Churches from the company's top job. Tuesday Morning said Michael Rouleau would serve as its interim CEO, overseeing the chain's 830 stores while it searches for a permanent replacement. Churches assumed the CEO position merely six months ago when the company's stock was trading just under $6. The shares had risen under his leadership almost 60% to more than $9 prior to Monday's collapse. Net sales at the company were also heading in the right direction with Churches at the helm, rising 4.5% to $285.3 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2012. "After recent discussions, the Board and I have determined that this transition is in the Company's best interest. I am proud of the team's progress, particularly with respect to merchandising and new initiatives aimed at improving the overall guest experience," stated Churches in the press release. He added that he plans to remain with the company as a consultant. Well Brady, it's good to know you and the board had "discussions" before your big decision. Glad you guys were able to get together for a nice little chat. Warms our heart it does. But do you really think this sudden announcement was the best way to let your shareholders in on your special conversation? After all that happened with the company's previous CEO Kathleen Mason, did you and your board buddies ever consider a reasonable power transfer as opposed to dropping a bomb on your shareholders? Mason, in case you missed it, was fired by the board last June after her 12-year run at the company ended with a string of disappointing earnings reports and a depressed stock price. She later sued Tuesday Morning, saying that she was discriminated against after she disclosed her breast cancer. The company maintains that her case has no merit and her firing was lawful. Yes, it's been a turbulent time in the corner office at Tuesday Morning. But still -- to borrow again from the great Ronnie VanZant -- the train rolls on. We just recommend staying away until Tuesday Morning's brass comes clean about Churches' disquieting departure. Far, far away.
3.) Impax Ineptitude
Come on, Impax ( IPXL). Clean up your act already! The generic drug maker revealed this week that the Food and Drug Administration found 12 so-called "observations" -- three of which were repeat problems -- at its U.S. manufacturing plant in Hayward, Calif. The news sent the company's shares tumbling over 26% Tuesday. "We have committed significant resources in our efforts to meet FDA requirements and are clearly disappointed by this news," said Impax Chief Executive Officer Larry Hsu in a statement. "Resolving the FDA concerns remains a top priority and we intend to complete this work as quickly as possible." The company said it will respond to the FDA within 15 business days, as required by law. Sorry Hsu, but that's just silly. How can you fail a plant inspection for a second time? Did you not pay attention to the quality problems that undid former Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) CEO Bill Weldon? Heck, most teenagers are smart enough to straighten up their rooms immediately after their parents threaten to take away the car keys! How lazy can you be? Meanwhile, Hsu's slip-up is all the more serious because the approval of its Parkinson's drug Rytary is at stake. The FDA mandated a re-inspection of the Hayward plant after it rejected Rytary in January. If the drug is approved, Impax will sell Rytary in the U.S. and Taiwan while GlaxoSmithKline ( GSK) will hawk it throughout the rest of the world. That said, all hope is not lost, says Piper Jaffray analyst David Amsellem. Despite the stock's shellacking to $15 a share, he is keeping his "Overwright" rating based on the belief that battered Impax is now take-out bait. "We would caution against an overreaction given our view that a possible sale of the company is a realistic alternative toward unlocking the considerable value of the generics pipeline and Rytary. Given the strong cash position (near $9 per share by late 2014) and a restive shareholder base, we believe an evaluation of strategic alternatives is a real possibility," opines Amsellem. We're not so sure Dave. Those "restive" shareholders probably unloaded their shares in this latest selloff, putting your $27 price target well out of reach even if there is a buyout offer. And as for the possibility of such a "strategic" alternative even taking place, considering the current status of the Hayward facility, well, we have a better alternative for Hsu if he survives this embarrassing episode: Fix your damn plant!
2.) Sohu's Sugar High
Seriously Sohu ( SOHU). You really should have played along with the whole leveraged buyout blather instead of being a buzzkill and squashing it. The Chinese Internet portal repudiated a report in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday that said the company is talking to investment banks and private equity players about privatization. Sohu stock spiked 12% Tuesday on the buyout report, briefly exciting investors in Chinese stocks that had otherwise been having a particularly rough time of it. Shares of the company gave up nearly all those gains Wednesday once a company spokesperson flat-out denied the article. "No such discussions are in progress or currently contemplated," confirmed Carol Yu, co-president and chief financial officer of Sohu. Hey Yu! Who cares if the report was true or not? It doesn't matter. After all those ridiculous Chinese reverse merger scams nobody believes what they hear about Chinese stocks unless it comes from Carson "Muddy Waters" Block anyway. So why not let Sohu's investors have some fun, at least for a little while? Honestly, it's not that we care so much about Sohu in particular. Heck, that stock is way too wild for us. A glance at the chart alone is enough to send a value investor into cardiac arrest. Nevertheless, it's hard not to feel some sympathy for China investors after the battering they took from all sides last week. It started last Friday on the Mainland when the government raised restrictions on homebuyers to prevent a housing bubble. And the bad news continued in America on Sunday night when 60 Minutes did a segment on ghost cities in China, suggesting the Chinese authorities may be too late. As a result of all this China news the U.S.-listed shares of companies like Xinyuan Real Estate ( XIN) and China HGS Real Estate ( HGSH) tumbled 11% and 9.3% respectively Monday. Do us a solid, Sohu. The next time your name gets bandied about as a buyout candidate just go with the flow. So what's it to Yu if the stock gets goosed a bit?
1.) Vornado's JCP Tornado
Look, Dumbest Fans, as we've said numerous times since he started demolishing J.C. Penney ( JCP) less than two years ago, we are tired of writing about Ron Johnson. We're not sure what happened, but somewhere along the line, the superstar CEO turned Penney's pillager hijacked our column. Give us some slack though. What else can we do? The guy is like Wall Street's version of Gilligan -- every week he's an island of stupidity unto himself. With that in mind, we're taking a different approach to Ron's ridiculousness this week. We won't focus on his embarrassing testimony last Friday at the Martha Stewart trial. (Or should we say, The Martha Stewart Trial Part II: Macy's Revenge.) For example, we won't highlight Ron's laughable assertion that he did not mean for Martha to "break" her Macy's contract, despite his saying in an internal e-mail that "We need to find a way to break the renewal right." Nor will we highlight former Penney's CEO Allen Questrom's rant on CNBC Wednesday about Ron not being "a reliable source". "You can't say you're going to make your numbers for the year and then drop a billion dollars and four billion dollars later in sales. So if they think it's going to all of a sudden turn around, there's no way they can have any reliable information because Ron is not a source for that," vented Questrom while calling for Johnson's ouster. Nope. As much as we enjoyed Allen's outburst, that's all we'll say on that subject. The episode we think best sums-up Johnson's hijinks this week was Penney's board member Steven Roth's decision to puke up 10 million shares of the retailer held by Vornado Realty Trust ( VNO) on Tuesday for $16.03 apiece. Penney shares plunged 10.6% on news of Roth's repudiation of Johnson's strategy, sending the stock below $15 to lows last seen four years ago. And as far as we know, Johnson-backer Bill Ackman didn't scoop up any of Roth's outpouring. We are also unaware of any plans for the Pershing Square billionaire to buy the other 13.4 million shares Vornado still owns when it can start selling again on March 11th. That said, we highly doubt Bill is in the market for any more Penney's stock considering he's got 39 million shares of the dreck at last check. So all in all, we don't know how Ackman will react to Roth's rash act. (We also hope Johnson and Ackman remain buddies if, in fact, Penney's board finally decides to fire Ron. Judging from the Vanity Fair article about Ackman's Herbalife escapades, Bill needs all the friends he can get. Heck, even Dick Fuld is more popular than Ackman and he hasn't been seen in years.) We do, however, know how Fitch reacted to Vornado's block sale. The ratings agency cheered Roth's maneuver, calling it a "credit positive" for the REIT. "We believe the willingness to dispose of the shares and crystalize a sizable loss is more meaningful than the impact on metrics itself; it is indicative of a true commitment to strategy simplification," lauded Fitch. Wait a second. That gives us an idea. Maybe if we stop writing about Ron Johnson then Fitch will give the Five Dumbest Lab an upgrade too. Of course, if only he would let us. Follow @5gsonthestreet-- Written by Gregg Greenberg in New York City