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By Jason Stipp and Jeremy Glaser | 08-15-2013 02:00 PM

The Friday Five

Five stats from the market and the stories behind them. This week: a shakeup in J.C. Penney's board, the DOJ seeks to ground a major airline merger, and BlackBerry mulls a sale.

Jason Stipp: I’m Jason Stipp for Morningstar and welcome to the Friday Five; five stats from the market and the stories behind them. Joining us, as always, with the Friday Five is Morningstar markets editor, Jeremy Glaser.

Jeremy, thanks for being here.

Jeremy Glaser: Thanks, Jason.

Stipp: What do you have for the Friday Five this week?

Glaser: Well, the numbers we’re going to look at are $700 million, 80%, 5.7%, $6.8 billion, and 3%.

Stipp: $700 million is the amount that activist investor Bill Ackman has lost in J.C. Penney so far. He’s having a rough go of it.

Glaser: Yes, that’s his potential loss there based on how the shares have fallen since he took his big stake in J.C. Penney, joined the Board, and really tried to shake things up. The problems with bringing in Ron Johnson, who was the former Apple Store CEO, to J.C. Penney are well-documented across a lot of different places. He tried to transform the business and tried to change kind of the customer base and the merchandizing. That just didn't go very well, and he was forced out fairly quickly. They brought back in the old CEO, Myron Ullman, and Ackman was not very happy about that. He was publicly feuding with the board and trying to get a new CEO in again, hoping that that would really turn the retailer around. And the Board disagreed. In that public disagreement, he decided to step down. He’s still, for now, holding on to those shares but could potentially sell those in the future.

I think more broadly, this kind of shows how difficult it is to really make bets on activist investors, that for the individual who might be looking at these different stocks, hearing the news of "this hedge fund is doing this; this hedge fund is doing that," it’s difficult to handicap if those activist investors, who may have a pretty good track record, are going to be able to turn around businesses that maybe need to be shaken up a little bit and unlock that value, to use that hedge fund term. Those are difficult assessments to make, and it shows how important it is to really focus on the fundamentals versus getting caught up in some of these soap operas with what's going on with the boards or with the manager du jour.

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