Andrew Mason was recently fired as CEO of Groupon (GRPN). His final act was to write a goodbye to his former coworkers in which he joked around. Suggesting that he was headed to a fat farm and comparing the job of CEO to a video game was probably not what investors wanted to hear.
The question in my head was what should investors do now?
I decided to take a look back at CEOs that were fired or pushed out or quit and see how the stock acted. Does the change at the top warrant a short term trading buy or maybe even a long term investment?
First To Mind
The first CEO that came to mind was Vikram Pandit of Citigroup (C) who was pushed out on October 16 when the stock was $39 and change. At the time, the move was quite shocking, and investors did not rush to buy the stock. Instead the stock sold off for several weeks and bottomed out at $34.39 in the first week of December. From that point on, though, the stock has not really looked back and was as high as $44.50 back on February 19.
Investors decided that the company was in good hands with the new CEO. And by good hands I mean all six of them. Three guys are in to do the work of one, but the measure that trumps all measures is share performance, and it has been good since early December.
Has been in the news for all sorts of reasons lately. The founder was looking to take the whole company private and management recently took big steps to no longer be a showroom for online retailers.
But if you rewind the story by to April 1, 2012 you get some insight into how the snowball started rolling. The CEO at the time was Brian Dunn and he quit amid a personal scandal. The company moved to bring in some fresh blood and they went all the way to France to pick up Hubert Joly. Since Dunn left, all the issues have been just too much for investors to stomach and Best Buy (BBY) is down around 20%.
Best Buy and Citigroup are two stocks that are not likely going to tell us too much about how Groupon might behave following a CEO change. For the next two, I will focus in on tech stocks. Both have had a relatively poor history of late when it comes to leadership, and both think they have found the answer with who is in place now.
Competition and a Scandal
Mark Hurd left the CEO office in August 2010 following a scandal, the board huddled together to find a replacement that would help address the needs of the company. Competition was coming from Dell (DELL) and Apple (AAPL) and a vision was needed to guide the company. Leo Apotheker took over but held the position for about a year before he too was removed and replaced by Meg Whitman.
Meg Whitman joined eBay (EBAY) in March 1998 and helped grow the company to a multi-billion dollar enterprise. She left the company in November 2007, just months after a shoving incident with a subordinate. A few years later Meg reportedly spent $144 million of her own money on a failed run for governor of California. She quickly rebounded and was added to the board of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).
During her tenure of about a year and a half, the stock started out looking like it was the right move. After the February 16 2012, high of $29.89, the stock plunged to a November 21 low of $11.94, a drop of 60%. But that low point was the time to buy as the stock has since rebounded 68.7% to $20.15.
Fifth CEO in Three Years
Yahoo (YHOO) has had a difficult past few years. Co-Founder Jerry Yang was replaced by Carol Bartz, who was replaced by Tim Morse, who was replaced by Scott Thompson, who was replaced by Ross Levinson. The merry go round came to a halt on July 16, 2012 when Marissa Mayer was named CEO.
Investors have really given a full vote of confidence. The stock is up roughly 40% since the Wausau, Wisconsin native took charge of the chronically troubled internet company.
Mayer has several hurdles in front of her, such as loss of search share and a poorly performing agreement with Microsoft (MSFT). One positive she has going for her is that the road to monetization of the Alibaba asset has been mostly cleared. As long as the M&A team doesn't work from home, they should be ok.
Groupon lost its only CEO, and is now in a state of flux. Co- Founder and board chairman Eric Lefkosfsky is sharing CEO duties with Ted Leonsis, in a move that resembles the Citigroup shift. Will these two stay on in this role or will they look for someone else? No matter what happens next, we will be watching and in the end, we will root for everyone to succeed. I will especially root for Mr. Mason in his effort to restore his health and move forward.
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