1. Hobbit Your Way
We at the Five Dumbest Things Research Lab recognize the constitutional right of publicly traded companies to send nutty emails. But we draw the line at corporate poetry.
So imagine our outrage this week when data storage company
sent us a rhyming message.
Perhaps our mistake was to read beyond the salutation: "Greetings Data Earth, from the Lord of the Enterprise," read the email.
But, having nothing better to do, we read on.
In the land of the enterprise, where storage continues to evolve.
One unified storage platform to rule them all,
One unified storage platform for enterprise customer needs,
One unified storage platform to bring power to all,
And simplicity to data deeds.
In the land of the enterprise, where storage continues to evolve.
Catchy, huh? And rhythmic, too!
Anyway, depending on how much time you spent reading about Frodo Baggins, the Orcs and other denizens of Middle-earth, you may recognize that NetApp's poetry is a takeoff on a prominent bit of verse in J.R.R. Tolkien's
Lord of the Rings
trilogy. (Note to future English majors: "One ring" rolls off the tongue more easily than "One unified storage platform.")
Net Poets' Society
Indeed, it turns out that NetApp was trumpeting its affiliation with
The Two Towers
, the Tolkien trilogy-based movie that debuted on Wednesday. NetApp supplied storage systems used in designing and editing the movie, says NetApp spokesman Eric Brown, who conceived and wrote not only the poetry, but also
a section of NetApp's Web site that fancifully describes how Middle-earth's inhabitants employ NetApp's "solutions."
Thus, should you so wish, you can learn important stuff, such as how "NetApp¿ NearStore systems keep the industrious Dwarves up and running, even in times of crisis or disaster. Mining plans, defense plans, and gold and ruby asset management systems destroyed by dragon fire or the most sinister of evil magics can be recovered in minutes."
Brown -- who says NetApp was targeting investors and reporters with the poetry, the Web site, and other PR materials and events -- is pretty happy with the wordplay he conceived.
Which reminds us. He didn't exactly say he "conceived" the Web site. Rather, he said he "concepted" it, using a verb not often heard east of Silicon Valley.
Concepted, indeed. Tolkien, a philologist who worked on the epic
Oxford English Dictionary
, is probably concepting in his grave as we speak.
2. Letter Rip
Most of the time, a Schedule 13D -- a form that shareholders must file with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
once they own more than 5% of a company's stock -- is pretty dull reading. But not when Robert L. Chapman Jr. mails one in.
Chapman, managing member of Chapman Capital, is an investor of the scorched-earth variety. If he assembles a big stake in a company, it's usually because he thinks management should scram and/or sell off whatever they're managing. And when he wants management to know this, he doesn't mince words.
The latest target of his wrath is
, owner of a health-care services company. As
contributor Mark Haefele pointed out this week, Chapman wrote quite a missive last week to NWH chief Terrence Cassidy, a copy of which he helpfully included in
the 13D filing he made last Friday.
The substance of the letter? Well, it's not the type of stuff you'd read about in a Harvard Business School case study, unless the study is of Jack Welch's marital difficulties. There's little in the letter about the business operations of the medical business, and not much more than that about Chapman's assessment that NWH is undervalued.
Instead, Chapman spends most of the letter raking CEO Cassidy over the coals. There's the coarse language, putting it politely, which Chapman alleges Cassidy used in an October telephone conversation between the two men.
There's Cassidy's alleged involvement with a 1985 insurance company leveraged buyout that ended disastrously. Not to mention some information Chapman says he found about a divorce proceeding in which Cassidy fought for custody of a Yorkshire terrier.
NWH general counsel James Kardon declined to comment on the substance of the letter. "We try to run the company responsibly," Kardon says. "The letter is a little bit of a puzzle because it's a personal attack."
Chapman won't say what he's up to next with NWH, which paid a $1.30 dividend in 1997 and is trading pretty much where it was in 1996. Whatever he does, says Chapman, "Terry Cassidy cannot complain that we didn't give him notice."
To read Mr. Chapman's response, click here.
3. Library Honoree Gets Booked
Another day, another person with his name on a building at New Jersey's Seton Hall University gets into trouble.
Seton Hall of Shame
Only last Thursday, the Board of Regents of Seton Hall decided to remove the name of convicted money-lending felon Robert E. Brennan from its recreation center.
Then this Tuesday, Frank Walsh -- who had been one of those regents up until this week -- pleaded guilty to securities fraud in connection with his former role as a director of
Walsh's name is on Seton Hall's library, by the way. And former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski's name is on a building housing Seton Hall's business school.
Seton Hall didn't call us back to say what would happen to the Walsh Library following Walsh's plea.
Not Very NYSE
4. I See a Vacation Day and I Want to Paint It Black
Speaking of unsolicited advice, here's some for the
New York Stock Exchange
: If you don't want people to be taking off early Dec. 24, just say so. Certain executive orders such as these should be done face-to-face, not via a poorly art-directed schedule of holidays on your Web site.
5. El Condor Pasa
The Research Lab now brings to your attention the latest craze sweeping the nation: memorably awkward statements made during retirement ceremony tribute speeches.
Yes, you probably were thinking of Trent Lott's "senior moment" at Strom Thurmond's goodbye party. But don't overlook comments made this week by William Wise, chief executive of
In a statement marking the retirement of one Joel Richards III, executive vice president of administration, Wise said, "Joel Richards played a crucial role in developing the highly disciplined corporate culture that defines El Paso's workforce."
Highly disciplined corporate culture, huh? Well, we're sure Joel Richards is a good guy and he has nothing to do with any of this, but "highly disciplined" isn't the first thing we think of these days when we get around to thinking of El Paso's workforce.
El Paso's a Gas
No, we think about the recent news that a former El Paso employee was charged with submitting inaccurate data to a trade publication, affecting the price of natural gas. And we think about an administrative law judge's finding that El Paso withheld capacity from the California market during its time of crisis, a finding that El Paso disputes.
Or maybe we misunderstood what Wise was saying. Innocent until proven guilty and all, but maybe when he said "highly disciplined" he was referring to things like potential fines and jail sentences.