Stupidity is contagious. It gets us all from time to time. Even respectable companies can catch it. As I do every week, let's take a look at five dumb financial events this week that may make your head spin.
1. Dunn and dumber
Best Buy's (NYSE: BBY ) a mess these days.
The company announced on Tuesday morning that CEO Brian Dunn was leaving the company. The rudderless retailer later admitted that a personal matter was the reason for the split.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune -- the company's home paper -- did a little digging a day later. Dunn "used company resources to carry out an inappropriate relationship with a female employee" a source told the newspaper.
Let's leave the soap opera revelations to the investigative journalists. We can still take the board to task for not giving shareholders the complete story from the beginning. The original announcement of a mutual parting made sense given Best Buy's recent poor performance.
This is Wall Street. We're all grown-ups here. There's no reason to be vague or cryptic.
2. KFC = Killer Facebook Conundrum
What's a week without a good corporate social networking blunder?
Yum Brands' (NYSE: YUM ) KFC stumbled in Thailand, posting an insensitive status update on Facebook after a significant earthquake rocked the region.
"Let's hurry home and follow the earthquake news," read the official post on the Facebook Thailand fan page. "And don't forget to order your favorite KFC menu."
Earthquakes and the brutal tsunamis that often follow are no laughing matter. In Asia, a whopping 230,000 lives were lost during the 2004 tsunami, including thousands in Thailand. This week's earthquake off the coast of Indonesia thankfully did not result in killer tsunami waves. However, it's still woefully insensitive for KFC Thailand to make light of a natural disaster for its promotional means.
KFC Thailand eventually took down the status update, following it up with an apology.
3. A cry for Yelp
Underwriters play a silly game with the companies that they help take public. They wait a few weeks until they are allowed to initiate coverage, heaping bullish praise on the debutantes.
If that's what Yelp (NYSE: YELP ) thought it would be getting, the fast-growing restaurant reviews website misread the dessert menu.
All four of its IPO underwriters that issue stock ratings initiated coverage this week, and none of them put out a buy rating on the stock.
In fairness to the underwriters, the stock has already soared roughly 70% since going public. It's not as if they are underselling a stock that they just handed to their prized brokerage accounts at higher price points a month earlier. Arguing that the stock was still a good deal would be a confession that they underpriced the March IPO.
However, the stock still took a dip on the neutral ratings. With underwriters like these, who needs enemies?
4. Gannett cans it
Gannett (NYSE: GCI ) fired a new reporter at its News Journal newspaper in Delaware before he even had a chance to start.
The publisher of USA Today and several local newspapers dismissed Kristopher Brooks after the NYU grad student reported the News Journal hiring in his Tumblr blog. Was his slightly amusing press-release-style post appropriate? Maybe not. Was it cool for him to use the paper's masthead and quote snippets of his acceptance letter? Probably not.
However, the reason that the paper unearthed the release was because the original announcement was going viral after being covered by other parties. In other words, News Journal is firing an ambitious reporter who gets noticed.
Gee, and you wonder why print journalism is dying.
5. Playing Twister with Comcast
"Now is the time for Sony to change," recently christened Sony (NYSE: SNE ) CEO Kaz Hirai said yesterday, introducing the "One Sony" initiative to get the beleaguered consumer electronics giant back on track.
Hirai's a bold thinker, and exactly what the sleeping giant needs if it wants to return to its winning ways. The focus on three distinct areas for growth -- mobile devices, gaming, and cameras -- is a risky approach, but Sony's bulkier gadgetry has been a financial drain in recent years.
Sony simply makes the cut by rolling with the "One Sony" moniker at a time when it's also laying off 10,000 employees. Does the company really want to associate with the lowest number possible when it's in the process of whittling down its workforce?