Mirror, mirror, on the Wall (Street), who's the most Foolish of them all? We want you to tell us.
Before we meet our candidates for the "Most Overall Foolish" company, let's consider what it means to be Foolish -- to educate, enrich, and amuse, as our motto states. Which of the following companies:
- Does the best job of teaching you to be a better investor?
- Does it with style?
- And of course, gives you the best chance to retire wealthy?
Here are our five nominees:
Buffalo Wild Wings
High-flying restaurateur Buffalo Wild Wings has doubled its sales since we highlighted it in the July 2004 issue of Motley Fool Hidden Gems. Without taking on a penny of new debt, and limiting share dilution to 4.1% during its three years in our portfolio, its shares have more than doubled in value as well. Buffalo Wild has certainly done its part to enrich Foolish investors, but what about the other two parts of our three-part test?
Well, CEO Sally Smith has taken the time to speak directly to our members at Hidden Gems not once, but twice (find the interviews here). Smith has educated us on everything from price trends in chicken wings, to the economics of franchising, to whether Buffalo Wild's executives have their own private elevator -- amusing in itself.
It's hard to recall, but just a few years ago, Apple stock could be had for little more than the company's cash in the bank, and the iPod potentate was earning less than a dime a share. Today -- well, you know the story. This stock has turned into a near six-bagger in three years.
As for educating and amusing, Steve Jobs has unfortunately done his part to educate us about backdating stock options. But on the plus side, it's hard to think of a company more synonymous with amusement. Between iMacs that perfectly balance form and function, iPods that are transforming the way we listen to music and watch TV, and the iPhone that became this year's "it" item, Apple is no longer just Apple Computer.
After stumbling through back-to-back gaffes out of the gate, Google quickly found its footing -- and it's been off to the races ever since. In fact, this stock has outperformed even Apple, expanding its stock price sevenfold since the IPO.
And that's just for appetizers. The meat of this business is education, with a garnish of amusement on the side. With products ranging from the world's most elegant search engine to "Google Earth," Google is quite simply the greatest information-distributor in human history. And it does this in ways so amusing, we wish we had thought of them ourselves. (Turkey icons on Thanksgiving Day? April Fool's Day pranks? Hey, we did think of these ourselves!) And for dessert, Google makes "don't be evil" its mantra. How Foolish is that?
If we had our druthers, and the Pope's ear, Warren Buffett would have been long since canonized (dead or alive). Wit and wisdom, wealth-building, and Foolanthropy -- this guy's got it all. And when it comes to teaching Fools how to invest, the Chairman gives shareholders and lookie-loos alike a free, annual M.B.A. course-by-mail.
Oh, and the stock has appreciated something like 200,000% over the last four decades, so you can check the "enrich" box on your list as well.
Here's a lesson in investing for you. When Starbucks first went public, the idea of hawking java for $5 a cup wasn't just amusing, it was out of this world. Fifteen years and 3,300% in stock appreciation later, Starbucks has become so endemic, it's beginning to threaten your retirement.
Starbucks hasn't been averse to giving one-on-one tutorials in investing, either. Like Buffalo Wild's Smith, Starbucks' execs have sat down to chat with the Fool from time to time, describing everything from the competitive landscape here at home to the firm's long-term growth plans in the Far East.
Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. Buffalo Wild Wings is a Hidden Gems recommendation. Starbucks and Berkshire Hathaway are Stock Advisor recommendations. Berkshire Hathaway is also an Inside Value recommendation. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire and Buffalo Wild Wings -- and our disclosure policy makes sure we tell you so.