Earlier this week, the Securities and Exchange Commission suspended trading in shares of George Foreman Enterprises. It was the final knockout for a company that went public (through a reverse merger) in August 2005 “to leverage the assets of one of the most powerful celebrity athlete brands of all time.”
The company never owned the rights of the most famous product associated with the boxing legend, the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine — its full name. That was made by Salton Inc., which licensed the right to Foreman’s name. In 2003, Seymour Holtzman, the head of a big-and-tall clothing chain that Foreman was endorsing, came up with the idea of creating a company that would try to repeat the grill’s success. Holtzman was chairman. Foreman got 35% of the new company.
And with that, a terrible idea for a stock was born. Foreman put his name on a line of poultry — Foreman’s Lean Mean Grillers. There was also the George Foreman Knockout Cleaning System. Do you need to know more?
By 2007, the company had $200,000 in sales and about $3 million in losses. The stock started trading at around $20 and has been falling ever since.
Last year, its auditors quit, and George Foreman Enterprises has essentially been defunct since.
So, is it always silly to invest in a company named for a personality? The evidence is mixed. Martha Stewart Omnimedia MSO started trading back in late 1999 at $36.88. Its stock price is now just over $5. Shares of Ralph Lauren rl went public at $26, and are now $159. But I would bet (full disclosure: I have not done this study) that, on average, your investing portfolio will do better by avoiding shares of companies named after star founders or, for that matter, football players.
Stock prices are supposed to reflect all the earnings a company will generate over its lifetime. And a company whose identity is so closely wrapped up with its founding personality will have a tough time achieving longevity.
Still, George Foreman Enterprises is a particularly bad case to extrapolate from. The company had no actual business, just a personality. Nonetheless, that was enough, it seems, to separate some people from their money.