Winners and Losers: Coasters Went Up, a Golden Parachute May Go Down

Roller coaster ride at Cedar Point Amusement Park Sandusky Ohio

Sometime, companies can make brilliant moves; other times, things don’t work out quite as planned. From an airline overpaying its departing CEO to a new way to eat a waffle in the morning, here’s a rundown of this week’s best and worst results from the business world.

Cedar Fair (FUN) — Winner

There were plenty of reasons to expect amusement park operator Cedar Fair to post lower revenue than it did a year earlier. The crowd-drawing Easter holiday slipped into the first quarter this year. Cedar Fair sold ones of its parks. There was one week less in the second quarter than during last year’s period. More importantly, rival Six Flags (SIX) posted a 3 percent decline in revenue during the same period a few days ago.

However, the parent company of Cedar Point and Knott’s Berry Farm came through with a 1 percent uptick in revenue as guest spending was more than enough to offset the slowing turnstile clicks. This may be a small step, but it’s welcome at a time when it faced the same fierce headwinds that many of its coaster rides do.

J.C. Penney (JCP) — Loser

Activist investor Bill Ackman is raising a stink at J.C. Penney. Has he forgotten what happened the last time? Ackman is frustrated that the chain has stuck to former CEO Mike Ullman as its interim helmsman for too long. He wants the stumbling retailer to rush the process and bring another former J.C. Penney CEO to step in as chairman of the board.

The problem here is that it was Ackman that pushed for J.C. Penney to bring on Apple Store mastermind Ron Johnson to rescue the chain two years ago. The makeover went terribly, and sales fell sharply as Johnson’s moves alienated loyal shoppers without wooing new customers. Ackman is an accomplished investor, but it’s hard to take him seriously here.

Yum! Brands (YUM) — Winner

The parent company behind Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut made the cut in this weekly column last week after introducing a fast casual concept called KFC eleven that upgrades the menu currently being offered at thousands of KFC chicken joints around the country.

This week, it’s Taco Bell making waves. The fast food chain is expanding its test of waffles wrapped around scrambled eggs and a sausage patty. The Waffle Taco only sets the hungry back 89 cents, but more importantly, it can draw more patrons to the restaurant during the quiet breakfast hours.

Don’t run off to your Taco Bell just yet. The test merely went from three stores in Southern California to 100 stores in Omaha, Chattanooga, and Fresno. However, it’s another smart move for the chain that saw sales spike last year after introducing tacos with Doritos-flavored shells.

American Airlines (AAMRQ) — Loser

American Airlines is having a hard time getting folks to swallow the $19.9 million severance package that it’s paying CEO Tom Horton, who will leave the company after the air carrier completes its merger with US Airways (LCC).

AMR made its case in a court filing on Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Yes, American Airlines parent AMR is in bankruptcy as it softens creditors up ahead of its combination with US Air’s parent.

It’s hard to justify a $19.9 million golden parachute when creditors are being squeezed in bankruptcy proceedings. It also may apparently be against a law that requires severance payments be no more than 10 times larger than the mean package offered to employees during a bankruptcy proceeding.

Spoiler alert: AMR’s mean severance package for displaced employees isn’t $1.99 million.

Michael Kors (KORS) — Winner

Shoppers aren’t balking at the high prices of Michael Kors handbags and accessories. The fast-growing darling in luxury retail saw revenue soar 55 percent in its latest quarter, highlighted by a 25 percent surge in North American same-store sales. It is during this same period that larger rival Coach (COH) saw its comps in North America decline by nearly 2 percent.

Yes, Kors is likely growing at Coach’s expense.

Kors is also making the most of things with profitability shooting 82 percent higher during the same period. That’s the kind of growth that one can take to the bank, or at the very least stash away in a pricey Kors satchel.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Coach. The Motley Fool owns shares of Coach and Microsoft.

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