There is no doubt about it—2019 was a volatile year for the politically obsessed, with President Trump’s impeachment emerging as a bookend to the drama. The corporate world saw its fair share of high drama as well, complete with boardroom brawls, mega-mergers, business failures and a stock market that just keeps churning upwards. After some brainstorming (and some holiday parties), we at FOX Business thought it would be helpful to devise a list of the good, the bad and the truly ugly of the past year…otherwise known as our annual winners and losers column.
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Long-viewed as an underdog, he won the top spot in the newly merged Redstone media empire. After years of being overshadowed by the likes of Les Moonves, Bakish played his cards right with Shari Redstone, who assumed control of the media conglomerate from her ailing father Sumner, while embarking on a successful turnaround of Viacom. His reward: he now runs ViacomCBS, pulling in $31 million a year, and is counted among the most powerful people in the media world.
The long-time heir apparent to former CBS chief Les Moonves lost to Bakish in his bid to run the new ViacomCBS, but he did manage to prove himself as a savvy CEO after Moonves was ousted amid sexual harassment allegations. Ianniello’s reward: a contract extension to continue running CBS for another 15 months and a massive payout thanks to a contract which entitled him to close to $100 million. Nice work if you can get it.
The Tesla CEO and tech visionary started the year with the ghost of tweets past (“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured”) haunting him, and later an embarrassing window-shattering gaffe drawing attention to his company’s flaw. But Musk and Tesla finished 2019 on a high note with shares rising above that crucial $420 mark and convincing even some Wall Street doubters that his electric car is the real thing.
The Trump Economy and Markets:
|I:DJI||DOW JONES AVERAGES||21052.53||-360.91||-1.69%|
|I:COMP||NASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX||7373.08309||-114.23||-1.53%|
Stocks started the year with major questions (recall the market collapse last Christmas leading to predictions of doom and gloom) only to rebound as unemployment reached record lows of 3.5 percent and indices hit record highs—the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 22 percent this year, the S&P 500 over 28 percent and the Nasdaq Composite an impressive 35 percent as of December 31.
The Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division at the U.S. Department of Justice established himself as a major player in deal making—made especially notable in the rapidly evolving telecom sector for crafting a settlement that allows the $26 billion T-Mobile-Sprint deal to win DOJ approval even as it’s being challenged by 14 state attorneys general. No major merger gets done without Wall Street dealmakers factoring in the “Makan risk.”
The “Q” at the end of a stock symbol is when a company is trading in bankruptcy and that’s exactly where many Tesla shorts expected the electric car maker to be heading in 2019. With that $TSLAQ emerged as online rallying cry for a social media troll community dedicated to highlighting the many flaws of Musk and his electric vehicle venture. Musk certainly gave them ample ammunition over the years including a few missteps in 2019. But the doomsday thesis was whipsawed by improving sales, a surprise third quarter profit and some notable converts on Wall Street to the Tesla cause.
Tesla’s demise will have to wait… maybe forever.
Active money managers:
Stock pickers were significantly under-invested and remained defensive betting wrong that a noxious combination of trade wars, the Fed looking to raise rates and Trump’s overall recklessness will squeeze economic growth and the markets. They failed to see the overall strength in the economy and a bump in corporate earnings thanks to tax cuts, deregulation, and that the Fed (amid pressure from that reckless president) would grow so compliant that stocks would rally beyond any trade fears. With that indices hit new highs wrapping up one of the best decades in history and active managers under performed.
Traditional TV providers:
Cord-cutting continues to accelerate and eat into profits of cable and satellite TV providers like Dish Network and DirecTV with no respite in sight. The cable companies are still profitable but their day of reckoning is coming.
|DISH||DISH NETWORK CORPORATION||18.98||+0.02||+0.11%|
Yes, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg had tough years heading Facebook, but this year they became the face of an industry under unprecedented and existential assault from politicians in both parties looking to reign in their power, growth and ultimately profitability. The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are investigating tech companies including Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple. And 48 state attorneys general have announced they are investigating some of Google’s practices. These companies have been money machines and their stocks Wall Street darlings. What 2019 may have shown is that those days could be over.
The former high flying office share space that was supposed to “change the world,” according to its founder Adam Neumann, but it imploded in spectacular fashion. Neumann was forced out as CEO (with a hefty pay package) and the company pulled its IPO. WeWork survived, barely, thanks to a bailout from its largest investor SoftBank (another strong contender for loser status). The lesson being that hype still works on Wall Street until it doesn’t.