NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There have been many wrong calls made by CEOs, analysts and investors over the past 20 years. But the three I remember as the absolute worst calls were the boom in Intel (INTC) in the mid-1990s, the America Online (AOL) purchase of Time Warner (TWX) in January 2000, and, most recently, the $1,000 price target for Apple (AAPL) in 2012 as the stock approached $700 a share.
As the new millennium began and the tech bubble was inflating, both Intel and AOL were considered by many to be "key to the market" stocks.
Intel Kicked Outside
Intel really took off beginning in 1991, with the "Intel inside" campaign. Nearly 200 other equipment manufacturers engraved or stamped that emblem on the devices they made with Intel microprocessors inside.
As the Intel hype evolved and the stock traded higher, this advertising campaign implied that consumers should only buy devices with "Intel inside" logo as a seal of approval. As Intel became a household name, the stock was selected to be a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Nov. 1, 1999. I remember how I concluded that Intel was the key to the market, with the stock already in the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq.
The Intel bubble popped from above $75 a share in the second half of 2000. Since then it has been trading back and forth around its 200-week simple moving average, now at $22.83.
I had been a subscriber to America Online way before the company's stunning announcement that it would buy Time Warner back on Jan. 10, 2000. Analysts called this merger the most significant development in the emerging world of the Internet. Wrong call!
During the 12 months before this deal, AOL stock traded as high as $95.81. But that isn't the same AOL stock of today. The merger was such a bad call that the AOL Time Warner board of directors removed AOL from the company name in September 2003, and also changed its symbol back to the old Time Warner symbol, TWX.
Although it was so popular before the merger, AOL became the unwanted brand. The two companies split again in the fourth quarter of 2009. Eventually AOL began a turnaround in the third quarter of 2011. I still use AOL today and believe that their products, services and content are superb.