Motley Fool’s “Best Stock of 2008”

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, January 16, 2008

Ah, I’m back on the horse now after so many days of struggling with boring computer code … and now the Thinkolator can really get a warmup, because we have before us yet another epic tome of teaserdom in the form of a Motley Fool email.

This one’s trying to sell us “the unstoppable ‘multimedia powerhouse’ David Gardner believes can realistically double or triple your investment at least.” Sounds pretty good, no?

And all you have to do to find out the name of this millionaire-maker is pony up $99 for a subscription to Stock Advisor, the Motley Fool’s least expensive stock newsletter — the one that pits David against Tom to see which Gardner can make you richer. Apparently they’re also throwing in a copy of their annual Stocks 2008 review of their best picks, of which this particular one is the headliner.

Or there’s always the other option, of course — you could just keep reading, and the Gumshoe can certainly sleuth this one out for you.

Our clues?

“This business is just now entering a period of ABUNDANCE unlike any in its 71-year history.”

“It’s relatively small — with a total market capitalization of around $2 billion — in an industry where debt-leaden competitors are routinely valued in the tens of billions.”

What other clues does your merry Gumshoe get?

Our writer says that David Gardner tried to turn him on to this stock back in 2002, which he regrets because he missed out on a 730% return. Not bad for five and a half years.

And since the email is roughly 8,000 pages long, plenty more clues are supplied, along with plenty of reminders about the good picks the Gardners have made in the past.

A bit more, in their words:

This is a “tiny ‘multimedia powerhouse’ that’s revolutionizing a century-old industry. You might think ‘tiny’ and ‘powerhouse’ unusual bedfellows. That’s because up until now a lion’s share of the profits earned on this little company’s properties has gone to ‘big money’ backers. But that’s about to change.


“In a recent interview, the co-chairman revealed to us the company’s plans to apply the inside knowledge learned over seven years of making billions for other companies… and take over production. Obviously, this represents an epic shift in the company’s already super-high-margin, cash-generating business model — an extremely PROFITABLE shift!”

And that’s the real kicker of this stock idea: “You see, the company’s 100% success rate over the past five years paved the way for an extremely favorable financing arrangement … the up-front production money won’t have to be repaid unless the projects are a success — not a single penny.”

OK, I’m sold! Where do I buy?

Actually, your friendly neighborhood Gumshoe already owns shares of this stock. So it took only a few moments of warming up the ‘ol Thinkolator 4000 to determine that the Motley Fool’s “Best stock of 2008” is …

Marvel Entertainment (MVL)

Yep, the comic book company. I bought shares years ago partly because they seemed inexpensive and low risk (their business model, aside from the steady comic book publishing business, was built on licensing fees — essentially monetizing their intellectual property without taking any financial risk). To be honest, I also bought out of fond memories of my nights reading X-Men comics as a wee lad.

But I bought more this past fall, and more still early this year, for very similar reasons to those being teased here by the Motley Fool (if you want a taste of their reasoning, there are a few decent articles their reporters have done here in a bull/bear debate … and here when they called it a “screaming buy” … and one even stole David Gardner’s teaser headline by writing his own “best of 2008″ article about the fluorescent unitard set.

And to tell the truth, this is a ridiculously well-covered company, given its small size, so the research is certainly out there if you want to find it. The Fool covers them like a glove, since it has been one of David Gardner’s best picks since he chose it in 2002 as they finally started to come out of the morass that they slogged through when they were bought by Ron Perelman and went through bankruptcy in the mid-1990s. Gardner got it in the low single digits, and has recommended it several times since then, though I think this is the first time he’s recommended it at a price this high — the shares are now right around $24.

The basic bull argument, aside from the continuing success of licensing at Marvel with great Spiderman toy and movie revenues, and an expected good 2009 with the Wolverine licensed movie, is that they’re also taking a step toward self-producing their own movies.

The “no risk” part of this is that instead of mortgaging the house to make the movies, they’re just mortgaging their intellectual property — so if the Iron Man movie they’re making with borrowed money flops and they can’t pay back their creditors, they lose movie rights to Iron Man, not their credit rating. They’re signed up with a huge credit facility ($800 million, if memory serves) to make up to eight movies. One assumes that the fact that banks are falling to their knees all around us won’t have an adverse impact on this credit line, but in the scheme of things this is still small fish stuff.

I won’t bore you with too much of my analysis, since in this case my opinion actually lines up fairly closely with the Marvel boosters at the Motley Fool, and you’d probably be better off listening to a contrarian on this one. So I’ll fake the contrarian bit:

Though I think Marvel has the potential to dramatically expand their earnings since they’ll be pocketing the profits from the movies instead of single-digit percentage royalties, they have to front load their performance: If both of their movies this year are not at least decent box office successes (that’s star-laden Iron Man in a few months, followed very shortly by the Incredible Hulk — a non-artsy version this time, we’re told), they’re in trouble. They need the early films to succeed to help finance the later films, including several that have much less well-known characters set to star: Dr. Strange, Shang Chi, Ant Man, etc. If they don’t see returns roll in from those first movies, it will put much more pressure on the later films and probably lead them to cut corners, hire weaker stars, or do whatever else might sabotage the films.

Remember, though this is the company that owns many of our most iconic superhero characters, it’s also the one that oversaw a quietly awful Nick Fury movie starring David Hasselhof … and the famously bad Howard the Duck movie starring Lea Thompson (so yes, “Caroline in the City” was a step up for her). So it’s entirely possible that they can make mistakes.

And company management might not want to give up their babies — so if the movies stink and they lose a lot of money, which is always possible, they might want to pay back the loans instead of losing the right to make another Hulk movie, or another Iron Man pic. That’s probably quite unlikely, but I have no idea what will happen.

Personally, my best guess is that the shares will ride up considerably on buzz for Iron Man, but be quite volatile as the two films come out this year, and that the real outsize profits will come in 2009 with realized profits from the DVDs, etc., from Iron Man and Hulk hitting the shares. This assumes that the movies are pretty good Summer hits — $100-150 million or so at the box office. If they do spectacularly better than that the shares might really hit some heights, and if they do worse we could certainly see the shares take a bit of a pounding.

I haven’t written much about Marvel lately, but I did write some about my MVL investments on my other site back in early 2006 when I was still just beginning to accumulate shares, and when the news about their Oscar-studded Iron Man lineup came out about a year ago.

And as always, I’d really like to hear more about your opinion on Marvel — and I welcome those that differ from mine, since a post full of boosterism doesn’t do any of us much good. My last purchase of Marvel shares, for what it’s worth, went through a bit over a week ago at prices right around this level.

Happy investing, everyone.

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13 Comments on "Motley Fool’s “Best Stock of 2008”"

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A. Nony Mouse
If you’ve noticed in the past, there’s always a run-up in share prices to co-incide with the movie buzz, then a pull back, beginning a couple weeks after release. That’s not to say it’s not a good long-term investment, I think it is. Marvel is also moving into the on-line, digital age of comics, and the international market, with a local version of Spider-Man now available in India. They will also be releasing a PR comic telling the United Nations story, available world-wide. Full disclosure, I own shares, as well as some vintage Marvels that I sell thru Heritage Auction… Read more »
Gravity Switch

That’s true, there usually is a runup — but I think it might be magnified, both up and down, now that the movie performance has a much bigger impact on Marvel’s bottom line. And it’s true, their core publishing business is actually performing quite well, online and in traditional books, and it often gets overlooked thanks to the sexiness of the movie business and the real cash cow of the toy business.


Selwyn G Geller

Unfortunately, I don’t own MVL. I do own INTC and my equity has gone down thousands of dollars this week. I need some consolation, but haven’t received it.

Alex Safari

Very interesting and, unique approach.
Here is another kicker from some one
who consider himself the “GOLD GURU”!
This one really needs your expertise
and decode/s


[ my newest research report, My #1 China Gold Play ]

[ An Urgent Alert from America’s Leading Gold Guru…
It’s already weaved $10,000 into $23,846.15. But now
that they’re pouring solid bars instead of running tests,
record gold prices above $906 could push this gem from $2.99
to $16.97 ]

[ Greg McCoach ]

Its a sad day for America when the silly Motley Fools can only come up with Marvel (Comics) as the #1 Stock to buy for 2008 (Not to be confused with MRVL, a Semicolon stock). 2008 is the year for comic books? LOL,,, PLEASE! They have recommended this stock over and over for the past two, no! three years! Comedy or Tragedy? A $500 tax rebate from a government that is bankrupt might be a starting point for subject matter for Marvel! Most will be able to find some comic relief in that, all the way to our banks –… Read more »
Peter Mac Isaac
Gravity Switch

Hi Peter — that “next Starbucks” in China company is written up here …

james ginn
Marvel hasnt done a lot in the past three and half years. Most of the run up took place in 2001 to 2003 when it rose 15 times. It could be ready for another run. Its into a good thing with these comic book movies which the young set buys into. And if they can put out a good general audience product they could have huge sucesses. But the bottom line has got to be…a comic book stock is the best that america has to offer for 2008. Its like a parody on the global financial system which itself is… Read more »

I believe the #1 China gold stock that Mccoach is pushing is Jinshan(T.jin on the TSX), but his #1 gold stock overall is Pediment exploration (V.PEZ on the TSX). This one has a lot of coverage and plans for an AMEX listing in the near future.

Peter Mac Isaac
Using a source officially discovered by NASA in 1978, a small California company has perfected a way to harness the “Earth’s Energy Budget,” which NASA has measured at 174 Petawatts per day. 1 Petawatt of energy is enough to supply all of New York City for 10.5 years straight. And this tiny California solar company, recently featured on NBC’s Today Show, just figured out how to harness these Petawatts. In less than a decade, these systems will be on nearly every home and office building in North America. Dear Reader: There’s a fast-growing high-tech company in California that just unlocked… Read more »
Marvel is running Super Bowl commercial tomorrow promoting Iron Man, release date 5/08. Am I correct in assuming that if the movie is a hit the stock will probably go up.(needless to say I’m a newbie). I like the cast Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. Also I remember my mother telling me that during the depression people loved to go the movies, for some cheap diversion from their economic woes. I figure by May we should be knee deep in the recession. With solid promotion this movie should be a block buster and I hope the stock price will… Read more »
james ginn —nice post on 1/20 — glad you agreed with my smart ass satire, posted earlier. Yes, a sad day indeed. However, if history does repeat itself, we should start becoming optimistic. Further, if Orforded is correct on 2/2/08 that Marvel is running a SuperBowl Commercial, then we better buy the stock, MVL! Supposedly, companies that run SuperBowl ads see their stocks run up in the week following. Too bad GoDaddy.Com does not have a stock! lol Pick your favorite ads and buy their stock. See if history repeats itself. If you make a buck, send the Gumshoe two,,,,that… Read more »
Peter Mac Isaac
An Exploration Mutual Fund in a Single Stock I combed through hundreds of companies to find this jewel… a stock that is poised to deliver more than $10 for every $1 you invest today. This company was designed from the ground up by one of the masters of resource exploration. It controls DOZENS of properties in the mineral rich and under explored country of Brazil. Owning this stock is like holding a veritable mutual fund of resource exploration. That is… a mutual fund with a multiple thousand percent upside! The company is extremely well capitalized and the shares are still… Read more »