Today’s Rumor: Bear Goes Belly Up (Who’s next?)

A few years ago — around 2001-02 — I had strongly recommended Bear Stearns (BSC).

They had a great franchise, they had lagged the rest of the banking sector for no apparent reason, and overall, the quality of management under Ace Greenberg seemed to be terrific. The stock was $54-57.

Subsequently, Bear ran to $170+. I have long since been gone from the stock.

Today, we witnessed it complete the round trip as it careened through that $54-57 range. At one point, today, Bear was down $10, on a rumor that they were going to go belly up.

I have no opinion or special insight as to the truth of that . . . Hey, it could happen, it really wouldn’t surprise me, but I don’t know, and we have no position in BSC.

But that rumor raises a more interesting question: What companies could take the long dirt nap? Who out there is ripe to be absorbed, merged, taken over (hostile or not). There has to be a long list of mortally wounded firms out there that simply haven’t keeled over yet. What CEOs are dead men walking?  What stocks are waiting to be euthanasized?


What say ye?

(I want names and stock symbols!)



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. njdoc commented on Mar 13

    Chrysler. No Lee Iacoca. Nobody cares about manufacturing. No government sponsored K-car purchases. Too much money spent bailing out Wall Street.

  2. David commented on Mar 13

    Barry, Great Blog.

    I think the Fed will rescue Bear Stearns and Bear Stearns will think it rescue the Fed. LOL

    “They laugh that win.”
    William Shakespeare

  3. Winston Munn commented on Mar 13

    Heely’s (HLYS)

    The wheeled-shoe, one-trick pony won’t survive the slowdown in discretionary spending.

    (Better to have shorted it 9 months ago, though, at $35.)

    No position in above stock.

  4. Scott commented on Mar 13

    I doubt the BAC/Countrywide deal goes thru — that leaves Countrywide (CFC) on life support . . .

  5. shrek commented on Mar 13

    Thats the strangest thing about the markets since last february. No bankruptcies. LEN, BSC, XL, CTX, BSC

  6. Adil commented on Mar 13

    CFC (Countrywide)- FBI gives cover for BAC to walk away. Wonder who called the FBI in?

    ABK, MBI (Ambac/MBIA)- obvious

    WM- Washington Mutual

    BSC (Bear Stearns)- covered above

    FRE, FNM (Freddie/Fannie)- Government bailout?

    F- beginning to look like a penny stock

  7. Xennady commented on Mar 13

    Sears/K-Mart. I’m surprised they have lasted this long.

  8. russell120 commented on Mar 13

    The old Pump-n-Dump. Gotaloveit! Did you run into the guy at Wellspring when you were hanging out on the stock message boards?

  9. Don commented on Mar 13

    Can I vote for the US dollar? On life support now and future is cloudy…

  10. Benner29 commented on Mar 13

    WM, CFC, DSL, IMB, and a lot other poorly capitalized and under reserved banks. The S&L meltdown was the pre-game (batting practice, infield, etc) for the big game. Play ball.

  11. Rich Shinnick commented on Mar 13

    SPF Standard Pacific
    WM Washington Mutual
    CFC Countrywide
    WCI WCI Communities
    DSL Downey Financial
    IMB Indymac
    267 Small banks as yet to be named
    ETFC E*Trade (don’t hate me)
    CC Circuit City
    Fox Business News Channel
    Hillary Clinton
    Dennis Kneale (he gets his own network)

  12. Chief Tomahawk commented on Mar 13

    Sadly, I have to 2nd the greenback.

    The Bush tax cuts in an extremely loose lending environment just added fuel to the credit balloon. Letting the Wall St. alchemists get creative and out-of-control [CDO squared sounds like a sick joke…] is always a bad idea with a very bad ending. [Maybe Spitzer was smart to get his ying-yanged to get out before the sh*t really hits the fan…] Trade imbalance, massive spending (Iraq War, senior drug program, bridge to nowhere, etc.) How does the greenback survive?

    Going forwards, it seems things will be more about asset deflation interrupted by short squeezes than peace & prosperity spurring steady growth.

    Buffett was sure smart when he bought the Brazilian Real a few years ago.

  13. SIV commented on Mar 13

    I assumed you were asking about financial stocks which I know nothing about. In retail, I’d be shocked if Circuit City lasts the year.
    As you know the recording industry business model is dead meat in the mid/long term.

    I found this blog about a year ago when I was trying to figure out why the Gov and media kept reporting there was no or low inflation. I find it entertaining and informative. I can’t “invest” in stocks as I can never get beyond “past performance is no guarantee of future results” and the whole “five to ten year horizon” thing so I’ve always been all in cash and gov bonds.

    Thanks Barry, I always enjoy it.

  14. E commented on Mar 13

    Airlines are not a happy fun place right now. Pick any two.

  15. Stuart commented on Mar 13

    Slam dunk.



  16. rightline commented on Mar 13

    CIT – cost of capital way up, loads of debt, bad mortgages still to be written down, bad student loans, lends to companies at high risk during the recession.

    PNC – to a lesser degree – more exposure to cmbs than acknowledged

    HIG- ALOT of toxic paper in their general account, is a UBS main customer for bad paper.

    LAMAR- seems to be on a death spiral.

    Looking at PSA – very high pe. huge long term head and sholders, should see declining business, overcapacity in storage…opinions?

    Barry thanks for all you do. This is an absolute top rate blog. I continue to learn, enjoy, and profit….

  17. Random commented on Mar 13

    Don’t forget Citi. Heavily exposed in every problematic sector, e.g., largest single creditor to Carlyle.

  18. Movie Guy commented on Mar 13


    I wouldn’t want to start a run on the stocks.

    Oops, that’s already underway…

  19. TheGuru commented on Mar 13


    Is HIG The Hartford? If so, I could only dream they go belly up.

  20. la grande poussée commented on Mar 13

    OK – for you guys who look out 2,3,4 years

    Dell Computer – will not make it by 2011
    They made the mistake of Gateway – screwed up customer service as well as putting out bad product in the since about 2002. Computers will be sold by Chinese companies. – Once you try a Lenova – why would you buy a DELL.

    I know you will not believe this, But
    Best Buy is not a best buy they are the 21st century Crazy Eddie. Their costs are not reliable nor are they competitive – in the small stuff and addon’s. Sure you’ll get a Sony Big Screen for a good price –
    but you will not be a repeat customer for your daily needs.

    Bankers are in many ways like Morticians, in personality, etc. Except Morticians are better business people. Once a Banker has to take back Real Estate (anything other than money) they get Diarrhea until they can dispose of the property at any cost.

    We all will be doing Banking differently
    by 2010 including Banks with names we are not familiar with.

  21. mhm commented on Mar 14

    LEH, to either merge or be taken over. Just a hunch.

    GM, F. The whole “car” concept/experience must be rethought. (And I don’t know what the Unions are thinking…)

    “The true man wants two things: danger and play. For that reason he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything.” Nietzsche

    This Market has been one wild woman…

  22. billz commented on Mar 14

    gee no body picked gld or slv what happens when they go to zero is the gold still there

  23. Pat G. commented on Mar 14

    “What CEOs are dead men walking? What stocks are waiting to be euthanasized?”

    That’s still the crux of the problem isn’t it? No one knows, not even the FED. And if they don’t know the extent of the problem how can they attempt to fix it. In essence they’re just throwing money at it and hoping it will go away. That’s what the government does. They need to demand that all those who are affected come clean, right now! Until they do, it will be like the blind leading the blind.

  24. SINGER commented on Mar 14


  25. Jim D commented on Mar 14

    Isn’t the problem with the whole credit market that you have to ask? Shouldn’t the existing laws kinda make that a mandatory disclosure that you should make or risk facing JAIL TIME?

    The fact that noone knows is why noone wants to lend any damn money. Too bad the folks who should be stopping this (FED, SEC) are in on the game.

    Long Gold and QID, not that I’d recommend it – I’m amateur night compared to most of you guys.

  26. Laffin Lenny commented on Mar 14

    The State of California. OK, So Cal.
    AS just cut $4B from education today,
    20,000 teachers get their pink slips.
    What’s BSC, WMU or CCC-AEX to that??

  27. Jay commented on Mar 14

    Wild guess–

    J.P. Morgan Chase seems to have been a prime motivator in the margin calls on both Carlyle and Thornburg. Could they be in a position to take what’s left of C?

  28. rollsroys commented on Mar 14

    some companies going belly up – maybe

    one of the big brokers/banks being bought ?? by whom?
    certainly not by other banks/brokers since they just do not have the liquidity to do so in the current environment of mistrust and risk averse behavior…

  29. American ZIRP commented on Mar 14

    Re the JPM comment.

    Jamie Dimon is playing hardball huh? He’s out there twisting arms, trying to save his own balance sheet? This is who we need out there, someone willing to lose friends by calling in the ious. Might start the ball rolling…faster.

  30. Blin commented on Mar 14

    As much as I appreciate all the advice on this blog, a word of caution goes out to those who are short bank stocks.

    The BKX – Bank Index, is being held at 75. Technically a textbook double bottom is forming. It seems that if this level holds, a medium term rally of at least a few weeks will take most bank stocks higher. I don’t think that BSC is a part of this index.

    There may be much better short opportunities at much higher prices in a few weeks… if at that time you are still bearish.

  31. Barry Ritholtz commented on Mar 14

    When it comes to shorting, investors would be well advised to never forget Keynes: “The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.”

  32. SRQ commented on Mar 14

    BZH – Beazer Homes. Too much debt. Still needs to restate earnings for last several years. Under federal investigation and open to lawsuits. Housing is not going to pick up anytime soon.

  33. Cornea Implants commented on Mar 14


    God bless you and everybody that writes into your blog-we have a smart group of people out there- I am serious and I love your blog.

    I would short CNBC, Larry K and Fast Money (when Joe Terranova gets invited onto the Fast Money panel BELIEVE ME, the end is near)

    Thank you for all.

  34. logan commented on Mar 14

    FNM, C – no explanation needed
    NTAP – storage provider heavily dependent on deep wall street pockets to buy its overpriced machines – in the last recession this stock went to low single digits. Current P/E is still high.
    DSL – So Cal mortgage bank, heavily loaded with zero interest subprimes.
    QQQQ – always goes down in a recession
    Most emerging market indexes – still tied to S&P index in short term.

  35. RD commented on Mar 14

    California ground zero option arm alt-A, no doc specialists…. DSL and FED

    The weakest of the builders, WCI and SPF.

    Its been easy money. Thank you sheeple.

  36. DonKei commented on Mar 14

    Jefferson County, Alabama. But can you short a county?

  37. The Big Picture commented on Mar 14

    Bear Stearns Gets Emergency Funding From NY Fed, JP Morgan

    As we discussed last night, liquidity concerns about Bear Stearns (BSC) have been validated. The NY Federal Reserve Bank, and JP Morgan (JPM) have agreed to provide secured funding to Bear and an initial period of up to 28 days. JPM is working with Bea…

  38. The Big Picture commented on Mar 14

    Bear Stearns Gets Emergency Funding From NY Fed, JP Morgan

    As we discussed last night, liquidity concerns about Bear Stearns (BSC) have been validated. The NY Federal Reserve Bank, and JP Morgan (JPM) have agreed to provide secured funding to Bear and an initial period of up to 28 days. JPM is working with Bea…

  39. C commented on Mar 14

    It really can’t come as a surprise to anyone that a major financial institution (like Bear) would come under enough pressure to go “belly up”.

    What is even more surprising is that a) it took this long for serious rumors of a bank to reach this level; and b) that it is still only one!

    There is no way, none, that Bear is the only one in this position. Their portfolios are way too similar at the DNA-level to not see this as an indictment of the entire sector.

  40. MitchN commented on Mar 14

    Citi. And if Bob Rubin is the smartest guy in the world, we’re all in a heap ‘o trouble.

  41. k2163 commented on Mar 14


    Bad home loans, bad home equity loans, bad auto loans, bad credit card debt.

  42. Paul commented on Mar 15

    A comment posted on Oz’s blog at 11 pm Thursday night:

    OK guys, have a good night

    Tomorrow, BSC is going down

    NExt week its LEH..

    watch out folks;
    Written by Martin on 2008-03-13 23:05:14

    It’ll now cost you almost $10 to speculate on Oct08 $40 puts.

  43. Brad commented on Mar 15

    Can’t believe no one mentioned MER… much hedge/derivative “value” is on their books?

Read this next.

Posted Under