I was thinking before yesterday's news that there would be a time to switch from short to long when the stock got to 25 or so. Now -- who knows? The uncertainty caused by the "retirement" of Moreton is certainly chilling. If there is even a whiff of scandal associated with his departure Panera will be lucky to hold above 20 IMO.
The following was just posted by "Dow Jones".
It seems to me that for Mr. Moreton this simply the ability for him to live his dream... Any one who has lived in the high speed world of turnarounds and high growth public companies knows that it can take it's toll. I imagine that over the next few months the numbers and reporting will confirm that their is in fact nothing going on at Panera but high quality operations and HUGE customer demand.
DES MOINES, Iowa (Dow Jones)--Panera Bread Co.'s departing Chief Financial Officer William W. Moreton said Thursday he is leaving to spend more time with his family after "putting in a lot of work and long hours" at what he called "one of the best restaurant companies in the country."
Moreton, 43 years old, said there are no hidden issues with Panera, one of the country's hottest casual-dining chains. "I am very happy with the company and have no hesitation in signing off on all the financials," he told Dow Jones Newswires.
The CFO said he won't leave until March 31, after Panera wraps up work on its 2002 books.
Panera shares fell in after-hours trading Wednesday on news of Moreton's departure intentions. They were trading recently on the Nasdaq Stock Market at $ 30.21, down $1.55, or 4.9%.
"I'm at a place in life where I have two young kids, folks a little bit older, and I'm trying to balance that with a high-growth company where there's a lot of work," Moreton said.
He plans to "take a fair bit of time off and not do anything" for perhaps a year or so.
Moreton noted that he had done well financially, not only at Panera but previously, as a turnaround specialist at Quality Dining Inc. (NasdaqNM:QDIN - News) and Houlihan's Restaurants Inc. Moreton came to Panera, St. Louis, in 1998.
At his hiring, Moreton was promised 150,000 stock options vesting over five years. Moreton said he has sold those shares as they vested. Panera's most recent proxy statement showed that Moreton was paid $297,220 in salary plus a $ 108,034 bonus in 2001.
Panera's announcement said it had launched a search for Moreton's replacement. Chief Executive Ronald Shaich was quoted in the announcement as saying he was " saddened from a personal and a professional perspective that Bill will be leaving us."
-By Richard Gibson, Dow Jones Newswires; 515-282-6830; firstname.lastname@example.org
>>At his hiring, Moreton was promised 150,000 stock options vesting over five years. Moreton said he has sold those shares as they vested. <<
Could it be that the 5 years are up, he's cashed in all his options, and has decided to go look for a better deal? If he stays, he'll be working for salary and bonus, which are OK, but they hardly compare to the $4+ million he made on the options. Since he hasn't taken another job, PNRA could always woo him back with another signing bonus in the form of more options.
Fresh, you've become a permabear on Pnra. I know that you did very well with it until a couple of years ago and sold out much too early. Reminds me of Valuemonster/Jurel. I guess it's understandable when you don't get a further big gain that you adopt a large bias against the longs. That said, your prediction of 20 is absurd. I, myself, predicted the decline to the low 30s several weeks ago. (I say this only so that it's clear that I'm not a cheerleader at any price) Now,I think the stock is presently fairly valued until earnings. Ron will explain the Moreton departure satisfactorily on the conference call. Until then, those looking to get into the stock will likely have a buying opportunity as the rumor mongerers do their thing. The growth story will remain impressive for at least 2-3 years.
permabear nothing. Fresh actually saw the light, exercised some DISCIPLINE, and you want to skewer him. "Selling out much too early," is an extremely nice 20/20 HINDSIGHT comment. Even I have been amazed that the mighty mo' momentum idiots could have taken it this far. I know of one fund in L.A. (saw the mgr on TV)who made this stock their soup de jour and loaded up --- and has the outstanding numbers to show for it. Unfortunately those numbers are heading in the opposite direction, and all I can say is it's about time! With the limited float this stock has been a dream for those who buy high, and sell higher (I however, like to buy low and sell high -- the sky-high part is the one thing I missed). However, never underestimate the power of going 'non-long.' I have kept my sanity (a key part of investing) and more than held my own. Looking forward to more of a return to true value.....Good luck to all.....
A permabear? That's a new one for me. As you know, I made a small fortune going long in Panera stock, I got in years ago when it was Au Bon Pain for prices as low as $6 per share (pre split) and sold all my holdings with the last bit going at $33 late last year. Nevertheless, unlike you, I am not blind to the great danger for this company on the down side. No matter what gets posted which is negative about the company (assuming it is rational) you have always responded with some lame defense. That, of course, was until recently when we learned that the earnings really arose from the deaths of the employees.
I can only say this. I know that you have followed this stock as long as I have. Why would you care what Ron Schaich says on the conference call about Moreton? Would you believe him? Do you remember his statements at the last shareholders meeting before Au Bon Pain was sold off? If he is as straightforward now as he was then, I suggest you sell off all of your holdings immediately. Remember, Panera is just a company, it is not a member of your family. You really need to move beyond the emotion and see this company for what it is -- a major growth story whose growth is slowing and slowing and slowing. If the story is also phony due to earnings from insurance proceeds or other games, the market will exact swift and terrible punishment. It's your money and you have been warned. Now you will need to try to behave rationally and not emotionally.
PS -- I would call you a permabull, but I think that bull better describes what you write about Panera.