Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bear Stearns' Massive Capital Loss Fund

About a year ago, in late March 2007, Tony Novelly -- a director at Bear Stearns -- was described as extremely bullish on the investment banking firm's prospects.

Tony Novelly, chief executive and majority owner of Apex Oil Co. in Clayton, is placing increasingly larger bets -- $7.42 million last week alone -- on the stock of Bear Stearns, where he is a director... Novelly bought 50,000 shares of the Wall Street investment banking firm over three days last week: 35,000 shares March 20 at $147.49 a share, 10,000 shares March 21 at $150.29 a share and 5,000 shares March 22 at $150.18 a share.

After those purchases, Novelly, 63, owns 177,905 Bear Stearns shares worth more than $26 million at current trading levels...

"Insider buying is always a positive for a company, because an insider doesn't have to buy," said Ken Crawford, a portfolio manager who follows Bear Stearns at Argent Capital Management in Clayton. "The insider seems to think things are going well or the shares are underpriced."

According to the SEC's insider trading records, Novelly was able to sell $4.3 million worth of shares (50,000 at $86.78) on Dec. 28, 2007. But no additional selling records appear before Bear melted down completely last last week.

Now don't cry too hard for Novelly. A self-made zillionaire, he's the CEO and majority owner of Apex Oil Co., which reported $5.2 billion in revenue in 2006.

But it still can't be much fun losing, by my calculations, around $20 million in a very public and very humbling manner.

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