What companies are tomorrow's big winners? In our ongoing series, I'm chatting with Fool analysts and advisors to discover which stocks they're watching, and which catalysts would signal it's time to buy. Today, Motley Fool Special Ops advisor Tom Jacobs shares three down-on-their-luck companies on his watchlist that could be poised for major turnarounds. (For your convenience, you can now create your own version at MyWatchlist.com, your free customized hub to follow the performance and Fool coverage of the companies you care about.)

A misstep for Skechers
When shoemaker Skechers (NYSE: SKX) rolled out its Shape-ups, the company believed it was creating a whole new category of shoes -- toning. Perhaps the shoe-buying public had too clear memories of the Seinfeld episode with Jimmy, whose vertical-leap-enhancing shoes failed to catch the imagination of anyone but George. Despite significant marketing -- and even a Kardashian line! -- Skechers now holds far more than $300 million in inventory, much of that pile in the form of returns of the shoes that are designed to tone muscles, promote healthy weight loss, and make it easy to get in shape.

Predictably, the market shunned shares in the wake of such a massive miscalculation. The stock now trades at less than $23, after hitting a 52-week high of nearly $45 during the summer. While shares offer a very low and intriguing valuation, Tom and his team (including analyst Andy Louis-Charles, who spotted the idea) are waiting for a further decline. If shares hit somewhere in the $16-to-$18 range, investors would be getting the core Skechers business with essentially a free call option on Shape-ups. Any improved performance for the new line would be icing on the cake. Tom knows that shares might not drop down that far, and if inventory is down when the company releases its next quarterly report, investors will jump in enthusiastically. But he's OK if he misses that boat; he's not going to overpay, because there are always other ships on their way.

Out of the real estate ashes
The Special Ops team also is watching two companies that are emerging from bankruptcy, a category of special opportunity that can lead to riches ... or, well, further bankruptcy. General Growth Properties (NYSE: GGP) is the country's second-largest mall owner, and Howard Hughes (NYSE: HHC) was spun off from GGP when the parent emerged from bankruptcy protection last month. Both likely will benefit from the arrival of activist investor Bill Ackman and his Pershing Square Capital Management hedge fund -- it's always good to be on the side of a top jockey, Tom says -- and both sport a host of attractive properties.

With its high-end malls and decreased sales and tenancy during the market downturn, GGP became overleveraged to its creditors. And though there are reasons for optimism, the company still carries the stench of failure. The depressed nature of the stock makes it a watchlist must.

Tom and team are even more keen on Howard Hughes. The company owns the famed South Street Seaport in New York City and the Summerlin community in the Las Vegas suburbs, two valuable properties that -- with renovations and upgrades to the former, and a bit of a rebound in the brutal Vegas economy for the latter -- could turn into massive winners for HHC. But assessing the true value of the real estate is an imposing challenge in this economy, so Tom has put it in his "too hard" pile for now. Shares now trade around $44. A purchase here is a speculation on a return of the housing market. But if the shares were to drop into the $30s, this could well be a special opportunity worth buying.

That's exactly why it pays to watch. You can make smarter investing decisions with your own version of My Watchlist, new and free from the Fool. Click below to start following one of the stocks mentioned above:

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Roger Friedman doesn't own shares of any companies mentioned, but they're all now on his watchlist. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.