Let's go deep into economic history, back to the year 2004. The value of property was rising at a blistering pace with no end in sight. Everyday condo-owners were becoming millionaires, and nobody was enjoying the boom more than NYC's hoteliers whose properties helped rocket them to stardom and into the company of the world's most beautiful women.
In April of that year, Gawker.com declared "You have to own a hotel these days to score a starlet" upon the news that actress Heather Graham was seen canoodling with a hotelier. And she wasn't the only one. In March, Daryl Hannah, star of the movie Wall St., started dating Sean Mcpherson, another hotelier. In May, it was rumored that Andre Balazs, owner of the Mercer Hotel, would be walking down the aisle with girlfriend Uma Thurman.
Then of course there's Jason Pomeranc, owner of the Mansfield hotel, who was described, last March, as the "Current hotelier f*cktoy of (actress) Shannon Doherty." 2004 was a good year for him. Here he is (above, in white shirt) clutching another unnamed piece of arm-candy.
Are we forgetting someone? Oh yeah, 2004 was the year that the world's number #1 hotel-related celebutante heiress--Paris Hilton--became a full-fledged celebrity, as she graced gossip-pages on nearly a daily basis, dominating news cycle after news cycle.
This flurry of activity coincided perfectly with some boom times for the hotel business. Take a look at a 2-year chart for Hilton Hotels (NYSE: HLT). Hilton's shares went from around $17/share in January '04 to nearly $23/share by the end of the year, for a gain of over 33%. Or take a look at Marriot (NYSE: MAR). That stock went from around $46 to $62 in that year.
Of course, from these few data-points, we can't quite conclude that there is a meaningful relationship (causal or correlative) between celebrity dating patterns and industrial trends, so let's look further. Why have shares in Marriot and Hilton languished in '05? The answer is that while the value of hotel properties was creeping up, and their owners innocently frolicking with blond bombshells, something was going on that undermine the whole party.
The price of oil was rapidly creeping up, and American consumers, inspired, no-doubt, by the gluttonous excess of these celebrities, were lavishing upon themselves a wide range of mundane and luxurious goods. Thus, our international trade, particularly with China accelerated and reached new heights. All of the sudden, there was quite a lot of money to be made in shipping!
Check out at 2-year chart of $2.5 billion shipper Tidewater (NYSE: TDW). In the last 2 years, it's run nearly 60%! Inspired by these gains, tons of companies have entered the fray. Here's a list of new shipping companies to come onto the market just this year:
- Dryships (NASD: DRYS). From Greece, came public in February '05.
- Diana Shipping (NYSE: DSX). Greece, IPO in March.
- Teekay Partners (NYSE: TGP). Bahamas, IPO in May.
- Aries Maritime Partners (NASD: RAMS). Greece, IPO in June.
- Eagle Bulk Shipping (NASD: EGLE). New York, IPO in June.
- TBS international (NASD: TBSI). Bahamas, IPO in June.
- Quintana Maritime (NASD: QMAR) Greece, IPO in July.
- Genco (NASD: GSTL) New York, IPO in July.
- Seaspan (NYSE: SSW) Hong Kong, IPO in August.
- Horizon Lines (NYSE: HRZ) North Carolina, IPO in September.
And this is just a partial list! Several more have IPO'd overseas or are planning on going public later this year. While under-reported by the media, the shipping mania approaches that of the dot.coms in 1999. Like the dot.coms many of these are basically shell companies, with just a big wad of cash and a plan to buy some ships at some point down the road.
Now readers of the gossip-sheets will already know exactly where we are going here. Greek shipping magnates are this years hoteliers! It started in the spring when Paris Hilton started dating billionaire Greek shipping heir Paris Latsis. She wasn't the only one. Newly-legal Mary-Kate Olson, who has been tearing through men since turning 18, has been with Stavros Niarchos III (both jumping on trampoline), grandson of famous Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos. Then some shocking news came down the pike just last week (Gawker.com):
Proving that her own offensiveness has no limits, Paris Hilton allegedly broke up with fiancé Paris Latsis while her new f*ckbuddy, Stavros Niarchos was listening on the phone.
That's right, Ms. Hilton has jumped ship, literally, from on Greek shipping heir to another, stealing Mary-Kate's man in the process!
At this point the link between celebrity dating patterns and industrial shifts looks quite strong. There's historical precedent for this too. The last time the shipping industry boomed like this, in the middle if the 20th century, Stavros Niarchos (the first) married Charlotte Ford, the daughter of Henry Ford and arguably the Paris Hilton of her time. Of course there was also Ari Onassis who managed to marry JFK's widow, Jackie.
Judging from the timing of all this, it would seem that a high celebrity-dating factor almost certainly signals a top for an industry. Just as 2004 was a high-water mark for the hotels, followed by trouble, the spate of new shipping concerns almost certainly spells trouble going forward as price-wars are inevitable in the maritime transport industry. Some analysts have even come out advocating short-selling of these stocks.
There does seem to be an exception to this: In 2003, Tara Reid had a romance with a coal-mining executive. Had you invested then, you probably would have done quite well. We recommend keeping a close eye on Ms. Reid, and who she is with next. As for the others, you'd do well avoiding them. Like any gold-diggers, they'll leave you poorer for the time spent partying with them. Even junk bonds are probably more attractive then these, sorry, junk blondes.