RadioShack: Bet on leadership

Buy RadioShack stock. Now. It closed at $3.25 last Thursday, deadline for this column. By close of business on Monday, my wife and I will own 1,000 shares. We’ll pay for our 12- year-old’s college education with the gain I expect to make. The horse I am betting on is slightly old and tired but I love the jockey – Joe Magnacca. I’ve had lots of suggestions for RadioShack over the past couple of months, all intended to give one person’s opinion of how to resurrect one of our local business jewels in Fort Worth. Nothing I have written in recent months has drawn more response than the RadioShack columns. The reaction tells me one thing: local people care about RadioShack. They either love it or they want to love it again. They want it to succeed globally and they want it to be the corporate citizen it once was where the leaders were not only running the company but helping shape the destiny of Fort Worth. The problem with regaining the company’s leadership role in the community, which translates into spending money on local causes and the arts and other institutions, is this: a business has to do well before it can do good. Former Capital Cities/ABC Chairman Tom Murphy taught me that when that company owned the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fortunately, we were able to do both in those heady days. RadioShack has been hemorrhaging money for several quarters and it has to reverse this trend. That will take time. But in times such as this you have to bet on the leadership and I am placing early money on the new CEO Magnacca. Why? His resume indicates impressive success in Canada in the retail business and at Duane Reede, which was purchased by Walgreens. He helped with the integration of the drug store giants after the acquisition and went on to be a principal leader at Walgreens. He’s been recognized by his peers with awards for leadership and for his marketing and business acumen. None of those things really matter in my assessment. I like his manners and his graciousness, his promptness, and what appears to be a sense of humor. He is self-effacing, signing emails “J.” Besides all that he was just hired a couple of months ago and he’s already moved his family here. The now replaced Ron Johnson of Penney’s in Plano never moved from the Silicon Valley where he was a retailing and marketing star at Apple to Texas. He commuted by private jet and was by many accounts only in the office here on average three days a week. He should have taken a page from Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer who has now forbad working from home and telecommuting. It’s one of the big lies of the 21st century in business: You can work from anywhere these days. Nope. I hope to interview “J” some day in person but I am not bothering a guy who has more than 7,000 locations here and in Mexico and a workforce of more than 35,000. He has some heavy lifting to do. Magnacca sent me an email last week to tell me that Non-Executive Chairman of RadioShack Dan Feehan had sent him my columns. First thing I did was sign him up for his own subscription. I am sure you understand. He thanked me for writing about his company and he said he hoped we could meet in person sometime soon. In one column I had suggested he move here fast. He told me had already moved into a Fort Worth neighborhood with his family. Kindly, he did not ask me where I live. There’s that old pot and the black kettle thing, you know. We own a house in Fort Worth but as I told him most nights my head rests on a pillow in Maine. Fort Worth is home to me and my family, though. Sometimes an itinerant newspaperman has to plow the ground at his latest media farm. I was traveling on business when he wrote but asked him some questions. He responded to me late on a Friday night. This week I emailed him again. He responded immediately, said he was traveling out of the country but suggested we talk at week’s end. That’s the kind of personal attention to detail from an executive that makes a difference in operating a business. He did not tell me to contact an assistant or pass the ball to one of his subordinates. That’s enough for me at present. I’m buying stock but first I have to hire a broker. I’ve bought stock in local companies before. After 9/11, even though we were starting a new business and not awash in cash, I bought stock in American Airlines and I believe Pier 1 and RadioShack although I do not recall for certain. The amount of stock was small and the purchase meant only to be symbolic. The only significant stock I have ever owned was in the publicly-held company where I worked for a long time. I’ve always tried to limit these investments to segments I either believe I understand or those I have a hand in running. But, now I am backing Joe. You should, too.   Contact Connor at