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Prizeworthy advertisement of activist fund

 

The activist letter reported in the Bloomberg article below was similarly reported in December 3 articles by Financial Times and The New York Times as well as by specialized investment publishers such as Business Insider and Seeking Alpha, and even by broader audience publishers such as The New York Post.

For a framable copy of the letter, click here.

 

Source: Bloomberg, December 3, 2014 article

Bloomberg.com   Businessweek.com


Bloomberg

Sell TheStreet or Quit CNBC, Mad Investor Tells Cramer

By Sonali Basak | Dec 3, 2014 11:20 PM

Jim Cramer has made a career out of doling out advice to investors and companies. Now, a hedge-fund manager is turning the tables on the TV personality.

At issue is TheStreet Inc., the financial news company that Cramer co-founded in 1996. With a market value of about $83 million, TheStreet is worth just a fraction of what it was worth during the dot-com bubble and -- more recently -- just before the financial crisis struck.

J. Carlo Cannell, whose hedge fund is the second-largest shareholder in TheStreet, thinks he knows why: Cramer is spending too much time at his other job on CNBC, the business news network where he hosts “Mad Money.”

“You are simultaneously an employee of CNBC and a director, major shareholder and employee of TST,” Cannell wrote in a letter to Cramer yesterday, referring to TheStreet by its stock ticker. “To which entity do you ascribe your greater allegiance?”

To resolve this conflict, Cannell is urging Cramer to do one of two things, either pursue a sale of TheStreet or quit CNBC. The missive was disclosed in an SEC filing yesterday by Cannell Capital LLC.

The letter is as provocative as Cramer can be on TV.

“Resign from CNBC and align your considerable energy and talents to helping your fellow shareholders crawl back from Hades,” Cannell wrote.

 

Photographer: Scott Gries/Getty Images

Jim Cramer, who co-founded TheStreet.com in 1996 and still writes and appears in videos for the site, is the company’s largest shareholder with a 10 percent stake.

Cramer didn’t immediately reply to telephone and e-mail messages seeking a response.

Mad Money

On “Mad Money” the 59-year-old Cramer bombastically flogs his investment ideas -- accompanied by sound effects of roaring bears, snorting pigs, and dump-trucks full of cash -- to a following that is large enough to move shares of his picks and pans.

In a now-famous tirade on the show in 2007, he screamed that then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke “has no idea how bad it is out there” and “we have Armageddon” in the fixed-income markets. “The Fed is asleep!” he shrieked.

Cannell owns nearly 9 percent of TheStreet, which runs a news and commentary website and sells subscriptions to newsletters. Cramer still writes and appears in videos for the website, is one of its directors and is the company’s largest shareholder with a 10 percent stake.

The hedge-fund manager also suggests Cramer take a pay cut as part of a full-time return to TheStreet, complaining that his compensation is almost 5 percent of the company’s market value.

“Why in the very worst years for TST shareholders must you pay yourself more than $3.5 million per year?” Cannell asked. “How will you reflect upon on your legacy?”

DeMarse Fan

Company filings show that Cramer is guaranteed at least $2.5 million a year in royalties, another $300,000 in licensing, as well as stock awards.

“We’re proud to have TheStreet’s founder, Jim Cramer, under contract,” Elisabeth DeMarse, chief executive officer of TheStreet, said in an e-mailed statement. TheStreet competes with Bloomberg News.

Cannell acknowledged that DeMarse, who took her position in 2012, has been improving results at the company by cutting expenses and with acquisitions including a purchase of The Deal LLC, which covers mergers and acquisitions news.

In 2013, the company’s net loss was $3.8 million, compared with an almost $13 million loss the prior year, and revenue increased by more than 7 percent. Still, sales in the year through September -- of about $59 million -- are well short of their peak in 2008 of $71 million.

This isn’t the first time a shareholder has called for a sale of TheStreet. Last July, Spear Point LLC urged the company to hire a bank to consider strategic alternatives, in a letter filed to the SEC. Spear Point, which no longer holds its stake according to Bloomberg data, said it was concerned that the company was undervalued.

Corruption, Vice

Cannell Capital was founded in 1992 by J. Carlo Cannell with $600,000. It has grown to manage $890 million in assets, according to its website. The firm buys securities that mostly aren’t followed by Wall Street analysts.

The colorful language has always been part of the fund manager’s style. In a 2005 letter sent to directors of BKF Capital Group Inc. (BKFG), an investment adviser, Cannell invoked vice and corruption in ancient Rome.

“In 63 B.C., did Marcus Tullius Cicero expose corruption and vice in the Roman Senate in his First Oration Against Lucius Catilina,” Cannell wrote then. “His words are relevant today.”

He exhorts Cramer to “now suffer my opinions and recommendations” after referring to Cramer’s “considerable non-pecuniary compensation” and “barren cranium.”

Cannell ends the letter on a softer note:

“This communication may be received with some frustration and perhaps a little embarrassment. Please rest assured that my intent is merely and solely to help all shareholders.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Sonali Basak in New York at sbasak7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mohammed Hadi at mhadi1@bloomberg.net Elizabeth Wollman

 


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