As if McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt didn't have enough headaches, manic CNBC stock handicapper Jim Cramer gave him the business on his "Mad Money" show last night, adding him to his "Wall of Shame."
Calling McClatchy Co., which owns the Miami Herald and 29 other newspapers, a "ne'er do well newspaper company," the frothing Cramer proceeded to savage Pruitt, whom he called "Shemp" after the character from The Three Stooges. Here's some of his rant:
This guy is a one-man black hole for shareholder value. ... He has wrecked the company himself. A lot of other newspaper companies like Gannett and New York Times, they're bad, but this guy had a really good franchise, because the Sacramento papers were good.
If you want to know how poor Mclatchy is doing just look at how the stock's done since the catastrophic acquisition of Knight Ridder closed, a deal of course done by Shemp Pruitt.
... [McClatchy] has become worst house in an already really horrible neighborhood. Believe me, print is among the worst neighborhoods around in the stock universe. You wouldn't want your kids going anywhere near there during daylight, let alone at night. and I definitely don't think you want to own anything in that sector. ... McClatchy became the worst when Gary Shemp Pruitt decided to buy Knight Ridder, a company similarly plagued by poor ad sales with the same non-viable strategy.
... What Pruitt basically did was take one sinking ship and tie it to another. He took two companies facing he same problem of ad revenue deterioration and put them together. You can't cost-cut your way out of declining sales. ...
How bad is Pruitt? Let's take the Minneapolis Star deal. In 1998 McClatchy bought it for $1.2 billion. Last December Shemp Pruitt sold it for $530 million. That's a $670 million loss for Shemp and the gang. I think these numbers for themslevs and Shemp Pruitt is a true genius for buying high and selling low. You want more? [McClatchy] had to take a massive $1.47 billion charge in the fouth quarter reflecting the reduced value of the MNI stock that was issued in the Knight Ridder deal ... this right on the heels of a $1.37 billion charge taken in the third quarter.
Shemp is steering this company straight into oblivion. And if Gary Shemp Pruitt had been the captain of the Titanic that would not have been an accident hitting that iceberg. And yet the board just issued a vote of confience for the guy, right?
.. How much do you think he's given back. Do you think he's cut his salary? Maybe he like work for a dollar, right? ... Low and behold, they paid him $5.6 million in 2006. i bet that's better than how you do for the rest of your life! ... This guy Gary Pruitt is a total disgrace.
After calling for Pruitt's firing, Cramer grabbed some eggs sitting nearby in a carton in the studio, started screaming the names of the Stooges, and smashed eggs all over Pruitt's photograph.
On the bright side for Pruitt, Cramer gets calls wrong all the time and basically missed the recession and the ensuing bear market badly, likely costing his most loyal viewers many small fortunes. Much the same way Pruitt missed the fact that the newspaper industry was headed for a cataclysmic downturn at the time he bought Knight Ridder.
McClatchy's stock, at the time of this posting, was down 27 cents at $8.80 -- at a market capitalization of a under $725 million.