|From: StockDung||12/21/2008 10:24:49 AM|
|The word on TheStreet.com|
December 18th, 2008 by Judd Bagley
One of the central theses of The Story of Deep Capture, Mark Mitchell’s epic work of media criticism, is that the staff of TheStreet.com is overwhelmingly beholden to the interests of a few criminal, short-selling hedge funds.
Herb Greenberg, Dan Calorusso, Dave Kansas, Jesse Eisenger: all launched their careers at TheStreet.com.
Such an ignominious list of alumni is matched only by the institution’s co-founder: Jim Cramer, and early investor: David Rocker (founder of Rocker Partners hedge fund).
There’s little doubt that TheStreet.com has been home to more than its fair share of captured journalists. What’s less clear is the matter of cause and effect: does the organization excel at breeding, or merely attracting such people?
Based on the example of former TheStreet.com writer Peter Eavis — contrasting what can be learned about him in the many documents recently made public in the lawsuit pitting Fairfax Financial against SAC Capital and several other hedge funds, with what he’s accomplished since — I’m inclined to believe that the dysfunction at TheStreet.com is a product of the toxic culture of the place, and that well-intended writers with talent who leave early enough have the capacity to redeem themselves.
Peter Eavis features prominently in several documents acquired through discovery in the Fairfax case. The earliest mention of him appears in an email dated July 10, 2002, in which John Hempton told Rocker employee Monty Montgomery “I have Peter interested” in his belief that Fairfax Financial was a fraud.
Later, short selling hedge fund manager Jim Chanos refers to Eavis as John Hempton’s “guy”.
On January 15, 2003, Eavis published his first column on Fairfax: Unsure times for insurer Fairfax Financial, making a special effort to attack the integrity and business acumen of Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa.
While the tone of that piece implies plenty about Eavis’s state of mind when he wrote it, somewhat more telling is the comment he uses to preface the article when sending it, just 20 minutes after publication, to Rocker hedge fund employees Marc Cohodes and Monty Montgomery:
“Watsa good old Canadian insurer to do?”
One month later, Eavis publishes Fairfax Tirade Can’t Obscure Sea of Red, comparing Prem Watsa to, among other things, a wounded animal.
Less than 20 minutes later, Eavis sends the column to Montgomery and Cohodes, prefaced by:
“Prem gets nasty.”
Exactly one month later, it was Eavis again, with Fairfax’s Buffett Pose Falls Short, which he again promptly sent to Montgomery and Cohodes, this time commenting:
“Imitation gives way to evisceration.”
On April 3, 2003, Eavis is back on the attack, with Fairfax Walks the High Wire on Rates, which he also wastes no time in sending Montgomery and Cohodes, noting:
“Prem in the bunker.”
One month and two days later, Eavis writes Fairfax Fog Only Thickens, calling the company “beleaguered” despite its having just announced first quarter earnings of $10.60 per share. Eavis claims he offered Fairfax an opportunity to respond, but that the company “didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.”
The lack of a prompt return call might have been a result of the fact that Eavis filed his column at 7:10am EDT.
While Fairfax employees likely were not in the office at that early hour, we know Eavis was, as he emailed the column to Montgomery and Cohodes within six minutes, prefaced by:
“More on the anti-Buffett.”
Finally, on May 15, 2003, we see the most telling email exchange of all, this time following Eavis’s column Fairfax Is Banking on the Luck of the Irish.
In stark contrast with the victorious tone of the emails alerting Montgomery and Cohodes to his four earlier columns, Eavis is sheepish when announcing this latest, saying:
“Two numerical errors in the first version, so I’m re-sending this. The mistakes made Fairfax look better than it should. A link to the corrections can be found at the bottom of the piece. Apologies.”
Hey, Peter…even the best reporters make mistakes. That’s why pencils have erasers, as they say, and why publications have “Corrections and Clarifications” sections. If you owe anybody an apology, it’s your readers, which was taken care of in the body of the correction itself.
And yet, Eavis apparently felt apologies were also due Rocker Partners hedge fund, where an anticipated payday depended upon Fairfax looking as bad as possible.
Why on earth would Eavis feel such a debt to Rocker?
A little less than an hour later, Monty Montgomery replied, writing:
“…….boy, hard to believe, but i think it’s very true…..this ends up with Hempton summoned to toronto to tell the authorities/regulators how he figured it out when no one else could……toronto’s just across the lake from the farm, that will be a good excuse for us all to get together there and throw back a couple of cold beers…….”
To which Eavis responded:
“sounds very tempting — both the farm and the ringside seat for watsa’s comeuppance.”
I’d be hard pressed to list all the standards of ethical journalism Peter Eavis violated in just his first five months of covering Fairfax Financial.
But if I were to try, I’d start by pointing out the deep conflict of interest inherent to obviously using his column as a tool to make David Rocker, one of his employer’s largest investors, rich.
Interestingly, in the months to follow, Eavis seemed to lose interest in Fairfax, his frequency of coverage plummeting from over one column a month to less than one per quarter. About that time, he also seems to have quit seeking the approval of anybody at Rocker Partners.
Then, in 2006, Eavis left TheStreet.com for the Wall Street Journal, where he has evolved into a quite prolific and skilled contributor, whose broad body of work appears not to include anything relating to Fairfax.
Is Peter Eavis corrupt? I’d have to say that no, I don’t think so. At least not corrupt after the tradition of Bethany McLean.
Instead, I suspect the culture at TheStreet.com to be very corrupting, though the condition does not have to be a terminal one.
Finally, I wish to point out that in seeking his comment, I did establish contact with Peter Eavis, and at his request provided copies of the above-referenced emails. I was disappointed when he failed to offer a response two days ago, as promised. Should Peter change his mind at any time, I will gladly append his comments below.
Posted in 9) The Deep Capture Campaign | 29 Comments »
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|From: StockDung||2/10/2009 8:35:20 PM|
|Cramer's Star Outshines His Stock Picks |
By BILL ALPERT
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2009
Cramer's Star Outshines His Stock Picks
By BILL ALPERT online.barrons.com
Stock picks featured on Mad Money don't live up to the host's hype.
JIM CRAMER'S CELEBRITY IS BIGGER THAN EVER. As financial markets came apart in October, more than 600,000 viewers turned to his Mad Money show -- the biggest crowd since the Nielsen Company started tracking the CNBC series. He is giving advice to huge audiences on NBC's Today Show and getting awestruck coverage in Esquire magazine.
And why not? An earthquake has hit Wall Street, and the 53-year old broadcaster has spent more time there than most any TV journalist. The guy is a hardworking genius with a word of advice for everyone...many words of advice, actually. He dispenses thousands of Buy/Sell recommendations a year and has declared that those stock picks will help you get rich.
Brad Trent for Barron's
In 2007, when we questioned Cramer's performance, he told viewers we were know-nothings and assured them his Mad Money picks had "killed" the S&P 500.
The only regrettable thing about any of this is that CNBC and Cramer won't meaningfully discuss how his advice pans out.
Cramer's recommendations underperform the market by most measures. From May to December of last year, for example, the market lost about 30%. Heeding Cramer's Buys and Sells would have added another five percentage points to that loss, according to our latest tally.
To his credit, Cramer's Sells "made money" by outperforming the market on the downside by as much as five percentage points (depending on the holding period and benchmark). His Buys, however, lost up to 10 percentage points more than the market.
These batting averages represent his stock-picking over a stretch of time, but Cramer is wildly inconsistent, and the performance of individual picks varies widely. So widely, in fact, that it is impossible to know with confidence that any sample of Cramer's recommendations will enable you to outperform the market.
These facts don't mean that viewers should avoid his informative and entertaining show -- they should just be wary of his stock picks.
OTHER CAREFUL, HONEST EXAMINATIONS of the CNBC star showed the same underperformance -- including several independent studies by finance researchers, and a 2007 review by Barron's that found the only way to reliably profit from Cramer's stock picks was to short them (see "Shorting Cramer," Aug. 20, 2007).
That seems to be what smart traders have done, from the evidence of options-market activity examined by a finance professor, who found that betting against Mad Money's Buy recommendations can yield 25% in a month.
The recent performance of Mad Money's stocks resembles past periods in another striking way. Our research reveals that the stocks Cramer picks as Buys have been rising versus the market for several days in advance of his show, while his Sells have been falling. This doesn't prove there is a leak in the tight security surrounding CNBC's show. It could merely mean that Cramer and his staff are heavy-footed in their research. Or it could mean that his stocks are primarily momentum plays. That is the network's explanation. "Jim likes to recommend 'what is working'," said CNBC communications vice president Brian Steel in a written response Friday. "So it is no surprise there would be movement in these stocks prior to Jim mentioning them."
In any event, these pre-show moves are the probable cause of Cramer's underperformance. As the stocks revert to the market's trend in the weeks after the show, Cramer's followers get hurt [See chart below]. Like any active-investing strategy, Cramer's advice must always be measured against the market return that his viewers could get in an index fund.
IT IS RARE THAT ANYONE BEATS the market over time, so there is no disgrace in the underperformance of Mad Money's stocks. The stocks featured in Barron's bullish stories did even worse than the market last year. ("Oops! We Missed the Mark in '08," Jan. 19)
Yet the last time Barron's inquired about Cramer's stock-picking, CNBC responded with cherry-picked success stories; lawyers; calls to Dow Jones executives; and an end to Barron's regular presence on CNBC. Cramer shouted to his viewers that we were know-nothings and assured them that his Mad Money picks had "killed" the Standard & Poor's 500 index. This time around, CNBC wouldn't let us near their headliner and said our questions were aimed at helping CNBC's less-watched rival, Fox Business News (owned by News Corp. , as is Barron's).
"You wrote a premeditated hatchet job to curry favor with your new bosses at News Corp.," said CNBC's Steel on Friday. "[Cramer] doesn't consider you a journalist."
The pre-show moves made by Mad Money stocks relative to the market were first observed by doctoral students at Northwestern's Kellogg School in a 2006 working paper. After hearing from an indignant CNBC, co-author Joseph Engelberg stopped labeling the moves "information leakage." When Barron's asked in 2007 about the pre-show moves we had found in Mad Money stocks, CNBC scrambled $100,000 worth of lawyers and sternly explained the broadcast lockdown procedures at the Mad Money set.
In the recent seven-month period, the pre-show runs are still the most dramatic thing about Cramer's stocks. We found that his bullish picks had risen 4% against the S&P in the two weeks ahead of his recommendation, while his bearish selections had dropped more than 7%. This action looks all the more interesting when compared with the pre-show activity in stocks that Cramer considers only when asked by a caller during the show's "Lightning Round." As the chart below shows, there are almost no market-excess moves before he tells a Lightning Round caller to Buy, while the Lightning Round Sells make but a fraction of the pre-show moves of previously prepared Sells.
MEASURING SUCH MOVES was easy, thanks to the tools available at EventVestor.com, a startup created by Wharton Business School and Merrill Lynch alumnus Anju Marempudi, with the advice of finance professors. Hedge funds and investor-relations firms are using EventVestor to study the returns of stocks around events like dividend cuts and earnings preannouncements.
So we got a record of the Mad Money recommendations from a source that Cramer endorses as the definitive way to track his performance. It is a trailing six-month database updated daily at TheStreet.com, the Website that Cramer brought public in the dot-com boom (see it yourself at MadMoney.TheStreet.com).
We then poured Cramer's data into EventVestor. Event-study tools like EventVestor aren't hard to understand. They simply track the performance of stocks over identical periods; for example, 10 trading days before through 45 trading days after each Mad Money show (as illustrated in the chart). You can leave out the impromptu advice he gives callers during the Lightning Round -- which Cramer has said shouldn't count toward his performance, even though the next-day stock moves show that Lightning Round watchers take him at his word when he tells them to Buy.
Looking at just the 650-odd recommendations Cramer prepared for the show's Discussion or Feature blocks between June and December, his bullish picks underperformed the S&P by about 3.5 percentage points over the 45 trading days after each show. His bear calls turned a slim profit of one point versus the market -- with all of the profit coming the day after broadcast, so viewers would do well to ignore Cramer's occasional urging that they wait five days before following his calls. You can even isolate the stocks of companies whose executives Cramer interviews and usually endorses -- those endorsed stocks dropped six points versus the S&P in the 45 days following the interviews. Considered separately, Cramer's Lightning Round Sell recommendations did better than those he prepared, while his Lightning Buys did even worse than those he prepped. [For charts of these results, and others, see Barrons.com.] It is reasonable to measure Cramer's stocks over such a relatively brief interval because -- as CNBC points out -- he isn't running a fund in which he reviews each position daily.
But the network and Cramer have alternatively argued that his picks are meant as long-term investments, so we also measured their performance from each show date through the end of the year. On that basis, Cramer's Buys finished five percentage points behind the Nasdaq and 10 points behind the Dow, while his Sells were one point less profitable than the Nasdaq but five points more profitable than the Dow.
Cramer bashers and acolytes typically argue in anecdotes. His critics remind you that he scolded a caller "No! No! No! Bear Stearns is fine! Do not take your money out!" just days before the firm collapsed in March. But boosters brag of his Oct. 6 market call on the Today Show, when he said: "Whatever money you may need for the next five years, please take it out of the stock market. Right now!"
That Oct. 6 advice saved investors "millions," said CNBC's Steel, by allowing folks to escape the market's 15% plunge through December. In fact, says Steel, that single piece of advice means Cramer beat the market, if you credit the 15% to his performance through Oct. 6. Of course, Cramer went on to make 800 more recommendations through December -- most of them Buys. Cramer would have saved investors even more, said Steel, had they put 20% of their assets in cash on Sept. 19, as he suggested. "Jim made two of the greatest prepared bearish calls of all time," crowed Steel.
We gamely worked through the details of CNBC's argument: Ending the measurements on Oct. 6 makes Cramer look worse, with his recommendations losing eight percentage points against the S&P. If you then spot him the Today Show 15%, as Steel insists, Cramer would finish the year seven points ahead of the market.
If readers don't buy CNBC's complicated argument, it has others. "Jim's advice is nuanced, complex and often qualified on either a future price or a specific market event," said Steel, who says that even Cramer's official Mad Money database misses nuances. It is kind of bizarre to hear the network impugn the Website that carries Cramer's endorsement as the record of "exactly what I say, when I said it, and how I feel about each stock now." He urges -- "passionately" -- that his show's performance be measured with those data.
When Barron's asked CNBC for their own preferred database of Mad Money recommendations, we heard something equally strange: The investment news channel keeps no track record of its stockpicker's Buys and Sells. "The show as it is currently produced," said Steel, "isn't set up to track every stock Jim mentions every day as if it was a fund."
Instead, Steel demanded that Barron's join him in watching six months of recorded shows so that he could decide whether Cramer really meant that viewers should buy or sell a stock. He said Cramer's Website had misinterpreted recommendations on four dates- for example, putting down a Buy recommendation when Cramer meant it sarcastically.
The Bottom Line
By most measures, Jim Cramer did worse than the market, but CNBC and the TV journalist have taken few steps to clarify his exact performance for his show's growing audience.In other words, CNBC wanted to debate its horse bets after knowing how the races ended. There is no way such a post hoc selection could be as credible as the record made at the time of each show (and before the recommendation's outcome is known) by Cramer's official Website. That would also be the time for Cramer to correct confusion in the record he tells viewers to rely on. Still, we recalculated Mad Money's returns without the four dates that Steel says had errors: Cramer's performance was precisely as bad without them.
The finding that Mad Money lags the market has been replicated using other records of Cramer's picks, too. University of Dayton finance professor Carl Chen used the third-party Website called MadMoneyRecap.com to study options-market trading in stocks that Cramer recommended. Chen found signs that the smart money bets against Cramer's Buy recommendations by using short-term in-the-money puts. Those bets could earn over 25% in a month, Chen concludes, at the expense of Cramer's fans.
CNBC's evasiveness about Mad Money's performance can't be attributed to Cramer, since the network wouldn't let us talk to the star. We were scolded that we didn't understand the mind of a genius. "Barron's and News Corp.'s repeated attempts to take Jim down have been a complete and utter failure," said spokesman Steel.
E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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|From: Bryan Saulamanca||6/12/2019 9:09:39 PM|
|TheStreet Agrees to Approximately $34 Million Takeover Deal |
Company plans to sell itself to TheMaven for $6.19 to $6.47 per share in cash.
Updated Jun 12, 2019 4:51 PM EDT
TheStreet Inc. ( TST) announced an agreement Wednesday to be acquired by a subsidiary of TheMaven ( MVEN) for $16.5 million in cash. Combined with some other considerations, the purchase values the company at $33 million to $34.5 million.
"This is a good outcome for TheStreet's shareholders," Eric Lundberg, TheStreet's chief executive officer and chief financial officer, said in announcing the deal. "After taking into account the ongoing development needs and operating costs of the remaining consumer business as a stand-alone public company, we believe this agreement represents the best way to maximize value to TheStreet shareholders."
Under terms of the agreement, investors will receive cash from Maven, and also a special distribution equal to the cash held by TheStreet immediately prior to the deal's closing (less any excluded liabilities agreed to between the parties). Additionally, stockholders will receive a special "contingent value right," or "CVR." This will entitle them to a pro-rata portion of funds held in escrow from TheStreet's previous sale of its RateWatch and BoardEx/TheDeal businesses.
All told, investors can expect a total cash consideration of $33 million to $34.5 million, or $6.19 to $6.47 per share. That represents a 7.8% to 12.6% premium over TheStreet's seven-day weighed average price of $5.74 as of Tuesday, the day before the deal's announcement.
The news sent TST shares up 6.6% to $6.06 a share, although MVEN ended unchanged at 42 cents a share.
Founded by James Cramer in 1996, TheStreet provides financial news and information through its flagship site TheStreet.com and several subscription-based premium products.
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