The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week: Aug. 9

5. Dell's Straw Poll

What the Dell ( DELL) is going on down there in Round Rock, Texas? Don't these folks understand that elections this interminable and inane are expressly reserved for the Presidency of the United States and not struggling PC-makers?

Fine. Maybe the Mayor of New York City as well. But still, enough is enough!

Barely a week after making the latest in his string of "last and final" offers, Michael Dell sweetened his buyout bid last Friday by adding a special 13 cent dividend on top of his of $13.75 a share proposal. By plucking this cherry straight from his own pocket and placing it atop his prior proposal, Michael Dell and his private equity partner Silver Lake convinced the company's special committee to amend the voting rules so that abstentions no longer count as opposing votes. The switch will likely win them the company in their battle against activist investor Carl Icahn, who sued the tech company in a Delaware court to block the changes.

"We are pleased today to have won yet another battle, but the war regarding Dell is far from over," said Icahn said about the increased proposal in a statement. "We are not satisfied. We believe that an increase of a mere 13 cents is an insult to shareholders." Icahn added 4 million shares of Dell to his holdings last week, bringing his total to 9% of the company.

Sorry Carl, Geddy Lee and all you Rush fans, there will be no Freewill here. If you choose not to decide in this election, you have not made a choice.

And Lord knows, we all just wish they would make a decision already. This new Dell deal delays the third -- and hopefully final -- attempt at a shareholder vote until Sept. 12. For those that may have elected to forget, this process publicly started back in early February when Michael announced he was shopping the struggling company.

This circus actually started for Michael Dell over a year ago in July 2012 when somebody from Silver Lake persuaded him to take his foundering PC company private by whispering sweet billions into his ear.

Something tells us he regrets that conversation more than anybody right now, considering how long and drawn out this affair has become. And Wall Street analysts say Icahn's complaint will prolong the battle even after Iowa Republicans cast their ballots next month.

Sorry, we meant Dell shareholders, not Iowa Republicans. Their 2016 Presidential straw poll isn't slated for another two years according to our calendar.

Although at this juncture we wouldn't be surprised if the G.O.P. picks its winner before Dell does.

4. Not-So-Golden Grahams

Hey, has anybody heard from the Bancrofts lately? You know, that family that sold Dow Jones to the evil Rupert Murdoch for $5 billion a few years ago? The Bancrofts that made him pledge to uphold the "journalistic integrity" of the Wall Street Journal before News Corp. ( NWSA) took control?

Yeah, we haven't heard from them either. Such a shame. Today's newspaper trust fund children just don't seem to give a darn. Hopefully the Graham kids will do better at staying in touch.

Yeah right.

In what was a wild week for the generally staid newspaper industry, The Washington Post ( WPO) announced Monday that ( AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos is purchasing the company's money-losing publishing business for $250 million. The ecommerce tycoon took the once-powerful daily off the hands of the once-influential Graham family despite the fact that it lost $54 million last year and has seen its circulation drop almost 40% in the past decade to below 500,000. The Grahams, in turn, will now be free to concentrate on managing the company's other businesses like its Kaplan for-profit education company, which have been supporting the money-bleeding newspaper as it shrank from Watergate-breaker to Northern Virginia Pennysaver.

Washington Post Chairman and CEO Donald Graham maintained that Jeff Bezos' digital and business skills, as well as his "personal decency," made him an ideal new owner for his family newspaper. Bezos returned the compliment and reassured Graham that "the values of the Post do not need changing."

We say that all this trite talk is making us nauseous. This sale is about value, not values, as in squeezing out the last smidgen of value from a poorly run, dwindling family business so future generations of Grahams can live off the interest and not the principle.

Let's be honest with ourselves folks, even if Don Graham won't be. Like the Bancrofts and the Sulzberger clan behind the New York Times ( NYT), who coincidentally sold the similarly downtrodden Boston Globe Saturday to financier John Henry for a $70 million pittance, the Grahams were happy to take Bezos' cash so they could stop worrying about the family fortune before it was reduced to bupkus.

Bezos may be a genial guy, but his disruptive technologies have made him a huge job killer and wage reducer. He may have not closed down the local unionized steel mill and moved it to China, or something else that the Post's Op/Ed page might find abhorrent, nevertheless, Bezos has decimated industries from publishing to retail to music. Graham's editorial committee may like the fact that Bezos wants to save the Amazon rainforest, but his has chopped down as many local stores as anybody out there.

Maybe even more than big bad Wal-Mart ( WMT).

No fooling. Look at his track record. This guy is as rapacious a capitalist as, heaven forbid, a Koch brother. Or a money-man like John Henry for that matter. (Funny how "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr. slams those voracious Wall Streeters in public editorials, but sells out to them privately in a pinch. Isn't it? And Lord we can only imagine the holier-than-thou wailing had the Kochs set their sights on Graham's Post instead of the Tribune Company which allegedly interest them.)

And no matter how Graham tries to sell Bezos to his readers, or himself, we all know that he is going to upend the place once the door hits Don in the ass. It's his nature. We don't know his ultimate goal for the Post, and perhaps neither does he, but we can safely assume the internet-obsessed Bezos won't be keeping around the Post's print version too much longer.

Sulzberger sent out a statement Thursday saying his family no plans to sell the Times, stressing the paper's digital growth. Unlike the Grahams, whose online plan was to simply get out of the way of Politico, Drudge and The HuffPo, Pinch seems willing to go down with the ship for the time being.

Rupert Murdoch, for the record, purchased the Wall Street Journal six years ago this month and he continues to publish a print version of the paper. He also doubled down on the news business with the purchase of Dow Jones, even while the so-called stewards of journalism like the Grahams have chosen to get out.

Fine. We know Rupert has his faults and we know he's had his share of negative press including from us.

But at least he's still a member of the press. Not in the SAT preparation business prattling on about values and decency.

3. Penney's Hard Knocks

Poor J.C. Penney ( JCP) couldn't climb out from the bottom of the pile, so Bill Ackman is throwing a Hail Mary.

Shares of the once-iconic retailer got sacked early this week, sinking below $13 after Wall Street analysts raised concerns about the company's cash position and rumors swirled about the exit of its CFO. The stock rebounded on Thursday, however, following activist investor Bill Ackman's decision to potentially bring back former CEO Allen Questrom as chairman and kick CEO Mike Ullman to the curb while the company searches for a new, long-term CEO.

Oh, man! And the New York Jets thought they were having a pre-season quarterback controversy with Mark Sanchez fighting Geno Smith to call the plays! Penney is doing the equivalent of bringing Joe Namath back into the mix considering Questrom's experience, reputation and time away from the organization.

Questrom's return to the team unquestionably overshadows the news that the company's CFO is staying -- at least until the start of football season.

J.C. Penney told Fox Business Wednesday that the speculation that Ken Hannah is stepping down as chief financial officer is "completely false", adding that "the company has a highly experienced and focused leadership team in place as we head into the fall season."

We don't know much about Ken Hannah, but it's sure good to know he's on the squad and fired up for the "fall season." Prior to this latest shake-up, CEO Mike Ullman, who came back to the company following Ron Johnson's disastrous exit as head coach four months ago, was calling Penney's management players his "go-forward leadership team."

Now, it looks like Ken won't be going forward with Ullman at all. Unless, of course, Ackman changes his mind again and brings Mike back to the huddle in a few months. One never knows. At this juncture, Ackman's execution is making Mark Sanchez's buttfumble look sublime.

Of course, the big question surrounding Penney is not who is calling the plays, but how far forward the money-losing company can travel on the $1.5 billion it had left in the bank at the end of July.

Not even a week after Penney refuted the validity of reports that CIT was halting financing for its vendors, Morgan Stanley analyst Kimberly Greenberger said in a note this week she expected the company to have $1.9 billion in cash on its books, which means the department-store chain is burning through its reserves much faster than expected. She now expects Penney to post a second quarter loss as deep as $1.34 per share, far wider than her previous estimate of $1.

J.P. Morgan analyst Matthew Boss displayed similar concerns about Penney's cash position, as did Citigroup's Deborah L Weinswig who told investors that "JCP has ample liquidity for 2013, but 2014 is still in question, and JCP could face a cash crunch in 2015."

Thanks Deborah. As dire as the situation sounds due to all the gossip about executive departures and uncertain lenders, it's good to know that J.C. Penney will still be standing at the end of the 2013 season.

If only we could say the same for the New York Jets.

First Solar Dims

Damn! We should have second-guessed First Solar ( FSLR) the first time!

It was lights out for First Solar's stock Wednesday after the green energy solutions provider totally whiffed on Wall Street's second-quarter earnings estimates. Excluding all sorts of wacky items, the company earned 39 cents a share, well below analysts' average estimate of 52 cents. Revenue fell 46% to $520 million while analysts had forecast $721.08 million for the quarter. Shares of the company sank over 13% to $41 on the unexpectedly uninspiring news.

The shortfall was due to construction delays at the 230-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One project in California, which it says it now expects to complete in the fourth quarter. Also not helping the company's quarterly performance was its decision to hold off on selling two other projects until they are completed, a move that will improve the projects' profitability but delay revenue recognition.

Nevertheless, it wasn't First Solar's sloppy second-quarter which drew analyst and investor ire. No, it was its lowered full year guidance that really got Wall Street's fuming, especially since the solar sector has burned them so many times before.

First Solar guided the Street -- back in April at its analyst day mind you -- to net sales of $3.8 to $4.0 billion for 2013, and full year earnings ranging from of $4.00 to $4.50 a share.

On Wednesday, however, the Tempe, Arizona company slashed its 2013 sales outlook to between $3.6 billion and $3.8 billion. Its earnings per share forecast for the year, taking into account the issuance of shares to GE ( GE) for a thin-film technology it's trading for a stake in the company, was lowered to between $3.50 and $4.00.

Come on, guys. That's a mighty tall shortfall in a mere four months. And while it may seem like nothing compared to the 85% drop in the stock over the past 5 years, it does remind us why it's less than bright to trust any information transmitted by a solar company.

1. Loeb Lays Down

Dan Loeb must have lost his superpowers because Batman beat his ass down.

The Third Point hedge fund manager, famous for his spiteful, yet highly profitable takedowns of Yahoo! ( YHOO) CEO Scott Thompson and Herbalife ( HLF) antagonist Bill Ackman, toned down his attack on Sony ( SNE) management this week, even after CEO Kazuo Hirai summarily dismissed his proposal to spin off up to 20% of the company's entertainment assets. Shares of Sony fell 9% this week following Hirai's rejection of Loeb's plan.

Loeb lit into Sony's CEO last week after Hirai sloughed off Sony's big budget bombs After Earth and White House Down. Loeb, who reportedly owns 7% of the company, referred to the films as "2013's versions of Waterworld and Ishtar" and called it "perplexing" that Hirai gave "free passes" to the Sony executives responsible for the box office flops.

This week, however, the usually acid-tongued Loeb offered a bit of honey instead, saying in a Variety interview, "It is probably unfair to focus on one or two bad movies, just in the way that Third Point from time to time can have one or two bad months or a bad year. What is important is the overall profitability and margins over a period of time."

What the heck, Dan? Why did you go soft on Sony all of a sudden? You went from flamethrower to flaccid. That's not like you at all.

Be honest. Did George Clooney's defense of the company get to you? When George said last week that you know "nothing about our business," did it faze you? Because from our perspective it looked the Batman & Robin star put kryptonite in one of your 10Qs.

"Notwithstanding the fact that the media likes to create a stir, I admire Mr. Clooney's passion for Sony and his loyalty to Sony and his friends there," said Loeb, replying to George's jabs. "We are all for intelligent investment in creative content. I believe our interests are aligned in a way he probably doesn't realize." Clooney, for the record, is directing and starring in the World War II-era thriller The Monuments Men, which Sony is co-financing with Fox.

What a load of crap Dan. Wall Street masters of the universe should not be backing down from Hollywood pretty boys, so man up and go kick Clooney's ass! If you ask us, he deserves it for dumping Stacy Keibler anyway.

-- Written by Gregg Greenberg in New York

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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