Say what you will, Charlie Bucket belongs in your portfolio. Who? If you ever read Roald Dahl's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or saw the Tim Burton remake that opened over the weekend, you will recall Charlie as the humble pauper who overcomes adversity to inherit the lavish factory.
Now, I'm not suggesting you physically purchase shares in Charlie Bucket PLC. His modest beginnings might not even seem all that inspiring. Cabbage soup. Creaky home. His four grandparents, all kinky references aside, even shared the same bed! That's fine. He still belongs in your portfolio. However, you are getting ahead of yourself. There is so much time and so little to see. Hold it. Strike that. Reverse it.
Let's start by looking at the four other gold-ticket-tour winners, the flawed kids whose imperfections ultimately led to their demise. You may recognize some of their bothersome traits in some of the market's duds. Really.
The not-so-fantastic four
Augustus Gloop falls victim to his gluttony. How many times have you seen companies grow chubby on debt? Air carriers. Grocers. Textiles. Leverage is a lot like chocolate. It's tempting. It's tasty. It gets the endorphins going to the point where you're smitten with the mirage of something that isn't really yours. In the end, you pay for the creditor nibbles. Companies that can dream big through the first 10 chapters of their corporate lives, such as Iridium or Planet Hollywood, are often in for a chilly awakening when the page turns and they are flapping around in the surprisingly thick chocolate river. The tumble clogs operations to the point of fiscal obliteration. It isn't pretty. Borrowed capital, like sweets, is fine when consumed in moderation.
Violet Beauregarde had an unwavering penchant for chewing gum and winning at all costs. The relentless pursuit of bragging rights can prove pretty grim and misguided. How many companies go through life with blinders on, never sensing changes in the marketplace? Violet was proud of chewing the same piece of gum for ages, just like Novell
Veruca Salt wanted it all -- NOW! Later was not an option. You'll find this in companies that cook their books like Enron and WorldCom. They're too busy trying to prop up the shares today to worry about being caught tomorrow. Spoiled. Arrogant. Their comeuppances would be much more enjoyable if there weren't honest investors and hard-working employees below them to break their fall.
Then we have Mike Teavee, addicted to the tube. He lived his life obsessed with glitz, gaming, and glamour, meeting his demise when he was shrunk to the size of a television. Companies that become obsessed with the spotlight to the point of ignoring the mundane, day-to-day operations get sized down, as well. If you see a CEO on CNBC more than once a quarter, sell. If a CEO's hype rivals that of an online chatroom, sell.
All four of those kids failed along the way, but Charlie cleared the hurdles and eventually won the trust of Willy Wonka, as well as ownership of his chocolate factory.
Buckets are better
Yes, Charlie Bucket was a modest person, but that didn't stop him from dreaming big. Against the odds, he believed that he would acquire one of the five golden tickets. Dreamers like Reed Hastings from Netflix
One can argue that there is a little bit of Gloop, Beauregarde, Salt, and Teavee in some of these Rule Breakin' chieftains. If you had to name the Willy Wonka of CEOs right now, I'm guessing that Apple Computer's
Naturally, we don't know the financials of the fictional Wonka company. However, knowing the faithful employee diligence of the Oompa Loompas, and the quality product churned out, it would probably be a worthy investment if it were real. Like many of the stocks that we have recommended as a part of our Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service, it's a company that gets it. CEO Charlie Bucket? Why not?
This is, after all, a Bucket that we're talking about. They catch all. And cash all.
Other buttons to press in the glass elevator:
- Check out which stocks are making the cut these days in our Rule Breakers newsletter.
- Great companies can become great investing ideas.
- My, what tasty candy stocks you will find out there.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz loves Burton at his best, but he thinks that Gene Wilder proved to be a more compelling Wonka than Johnny Depp. He does own shares in Netflix. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.