It’s Not Our Fault

There is a trend occurring that I find troubling to say the least. It is the inability of people in power – essentially those in control of a given situation – to take ownership of a failure. Gone are the days of Harry Truman who popularized the concept of accepting personal responsibility rather than assessing blame with his famous desktop sign stating, The Buck Stops Here. We accept the fact that in politics the notion of assigning fault to a predecessor is commonplace, although not necessarily right. It is what it is. To that end, I feel this is but one reason the majority of citizens have a significant disdain for politicians.

Recently I’ve noticed an increasing number of people in business who appear to subscribe to this political theory.  Forget about asking forgiveness of their customers and outlining remedial actions to remedy the problem. In my book, corporate officers who make the choice to deflect blame rather than accepting responsibility should be replaced as this easily could be a sign of more significant problems simmering beneath the surface.

The first resident of my Wall Of Shame is Reggie Fils-Aimé, president of Nintendo of America. In an interview discussing delays on the Switch, said, “We don’t want to have a consumer disappointed by not being able to get one for the holiday season. But managing that complex supply chain is a challenge.” and “… what I don’t know is what the demand is going to be. And there is a potential that demand is going to outstrip supply.”

Regarding the SNES Classic, he blamed problems “outside our control” at retailers. Looks like they could use a new forecasting methodology, less complex supply chain and greater control over the retail channel? Perhaps even communicate with buyers.  Maybe the answer is much simpler – as in reshuffling maybe the C-Suite?
The second entrant is Rick Smith of Equifax which fessed up to a massive data breach on September 7th. The hack was discovered July 29th (and began in May) and about August 2nd and 3rd, three executives (reportedly in a planned 10b5-1 sale) sold about a combined $1.8m. While the optics don’t look good on this event, it only gets better.

They then blamed a flaw in the open-source software created by the Apache Foundation (STRUTS) without disclosing whether the patches released by Apache since March were properly applied. In a response September 14th, Apache said they weren’t. Also September 14th, CNBC reports that ‘admin’ was used as the database password in Argentina.

The wisdom of using open-source versus proprietary software should be questioned as well as the sheer stupidity exhibited by their administrators.  Then in an attempt to limit liability, their “free” credit monitoring had a provision limiting the legal actions affected consumers could use.  This was subsequently updated with a statement saying, “enrolling in the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection products that we are offering as part of this cybersecurity incident does not prohibit consumers from taking legal action.” At week’s end, two exeutives “retired” effective immediately.  But not the CEO.

The Fool highlights some other examples but none are nearly as brazen as these two.  I do not own Nintendo (NTDOY) but have them on my watch list.  Perhaps their actions are little more than a misguided marketing ploy to stimulate sales.

I do own a small slice of Equifax (EFX) which is now under water.  As this space is controlled by the tri-opoly of Equifax, Trans Union (TRU) and Experian (EXPGY) there is not significant competition.  In fact, most US mortgages are scored using a merged report of these three bureaus.  So my game plan is to ignore TRU (no dividend), wait to add to my EFX position (so as not to catch a falling knife) and look closely at initiating a position in Experian.  There are rumors that EFX may now be a takeover target as well.

Update 26 Sep 2017 – Rick Smith CEO of EFX has retired effective immediately

So any thoughts on the data breach or other blame games?

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The ‘Ole Ball Game

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Jack Norworth – 1908

As a result of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission decision to classify broadband as “a basic telecommunications service for all Canadians” I figured an update was in order for Part 3 of Methods to My Madness  post of last year.  Previously I had postulated that the Carriers were a viable segment in order to capitalize on Cord Cutting.   This segment over the past year proven to be more a commodity with streaming essentially the same regardless of carrier.  With limited pricing power, I now feel  this segment is more likely an indirect beneficiary rather than a driving force of Cord Cutting and am dropping this segment as a viable candidate going forward.

The other two segments, Creators and Providers, in my initial thesis remain intact.  In fact, AT&T’s (T) overtures with Time Warner (TWX) enhance the argument.  Casting about for a replacement segment, I ran across Mr Free At 33‘s post on “Experiencism”.  Although I can quibble with his choice of wording (I think the word he was looking for is Experientialism), the heart of his message is sound being a cautionary tale on falling under the spell of excess.

While I doubt many have the will, means or gumption to head to Thailand on a whim, many are seeking  “Experiencism” locally or with family and friends – and there lies my replacement!   I’ve written before on my interest in business interrelationships.  Localized Experientialism melds nicely into this strategy.  A family visit to the circus or an outing to a sports event are just a couple of examples.

Assume you experience a Flyers game in Philadelphia.  The Wells Fargo Center and Flyers are owned by Comcast (CMCSA), Spectracor (also CMCSA) manages it, Aramark (ARMK) has the food service contract and Comcast SportsNet (CMCSA yet again) the broadcast rights.  So the primary lines of business are the Content Owners/Creators (Teams/Studios), Aggregators and the Experience.  In sports, this model is pretty much followed across all leagues with only the companies involved changing.  In this definition, The Experience includes the cleaners, concessionaires and venue managers.

Many of these companies and teams are privately held with associated interrelationships managed or owned by an entity controlled by the owner .  Others, while public, pay a minimal – if any – dividend.  But there are a few that do pay a healthy – and growing – dividend.  Generally, to invest in this manner requires patience and a willingness to await a change in control of the team while being satisfied with bragging rights of ownership.  In fact, I have to agree with Christopher Lackey in his assessment: “The sports properties, which include the suddenly not laughable Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Blue Jays, are doing well and increasing in value, but investing on this basis alone is not sound because if the teams achieve success they require significant reinvestment to sustain it.

During the past year, Comcast (CMCSA) became sole owner of the Philadelphia Flyers and Liberty Media created a tracking stock (BATRA) based on the financials of the Atlanta Braves, new ballpark and nearby real estate.  I also uncovered two additional teams that have – at least in part – public ownership, the Chicago Cubs (TRNC which I believe retained ownership with the Tribune changes) and Seattle Mariners (NTDOY).

With content being the driving force in landing eyeballs – which in turn lands revenue, providers and the groups providing the eperience are the more direct beneficiaries.  Point in fact is Dustin Blitchok‘s article, “Which Streaming Providers Are Winning The Content War?”  This was also confirmed in series of interviews by AT&T employees aired on CNBC last week.  The following table presents my current take on this strategy which, as always, is subject to change.

OWNERS/CREATORS

COMPANY YIELD SEGMENT
Disney/DIS 1.41% C,E
Comcast/CMCSA 1.57% C,A,E,O – Philadelphia Flyers
Time Warner/TWX 1.67% C,A
Fox/FOXA 1.19% C,A
BCE/BCE 4.96% O,A,E,C – Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Montreal Canadians
Rogers Comm./RCI 3.42% O,E,A – Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Blue Jays
Madison Sq Gdn/MSG n/a O/E – New York Knicks, New York Rangers
Netflix/NFLX n/a C,A
Amazon/AMZN n/a C,A
Liberty Media/BATRA n/a O/E – Atlanta Braves
Nintendo/NTDOY 0.42% O – Seattle Mariners
Tribune Co./TRNC (susp) O – Chicago Cubs
NOTE: Nintendo also includes the Pokémon GO experience

AGGREGATORS

COMPANY YIELD SEGMENT
AMC Networks/AMCX n/a A
Discovery Communications/DISCA n/a A
Cox/(pvt) n/a A
MSG Network/MSGN n/a A
Charter/CHTR n/a A

THE EXPERIENCE

COMPANY YIELD SEGMENT
Aramark/ARMK 1.16% E
ABM/ABM 1.69% E
Compass Group/CMPGY 2.05% E
Sodexo/SDXAY 2.31% E
SMG/* n/a E
NOTE: SMG was an ACAS portfolio company as of June 3, 2014. ARCC does not include in their portfolio a/o 3 Jan 2017 merger. Both Bloomberg and Wikipedia classifies them as a private company.
NOTES: C-Creator, O – Owner, A – Aggregator, E – Experience.
Yields as of 14 Feb 2017.

Pokémon Investors’ Pokédex

My past blog post was my most popular by far.  Now that’s not saying much since mine is not one that is read by the masses.  In fact, one could surmise that a little bit of my meanderings go a long way.  So thanks to all the visitors and commenters.

Since then the awareness has become more mainstream and positions being taken on all sides of this craze.  As most of my readers are aware, I prefer a slightly eclectic view of events.  As a consensus forms I tend to migrate to the next concept.  Before doing that I wanted to bring some closure to my views on this topic.

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Summer Days

Oh the joys of summer and relearning the teenage life through the eyes of my grand daughter.  An introduction to the world of Rattatas and Pinsirs as a player for Team Mystic.  Unless you’ve had your head in the sand, these are characters in the latest craze (fad) to rule the planet.  In case you’ve missed it, the newest ‘hot thing’ is none other than Pokémon Go.

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