Winners and Losers: AMC and Yum Score Hits, Ellison and Dell Foul Out

Larry Ellison (CEO, Oracle) aboard the Rising Sun yacht in Valencia, Spain.
AlamyLarry Ellison

Companies and the people who run them often try to be brilliant, but there are times when things don't work out quite as planned. From a brazen CEO taking a gratuitous potshot at a beloved company to a savvy programming move by one of the hottest cable channels, here's a rundown of the week's smartest moves and biggest blunders in the business world.

OpenTable (OPEN) -- Winner

Facebook (FB) users can now square away their foodie urges without having to leave the popular social networking website. Facebook is teaming up with OpenTable to allow visitors to the profile pages of the more than 20,000 restaurants that use OpenTable to secure reservations online. They will no longer have to be bounced over to OpenTable.

This will naturally make Facebook even stickier, but it was OpenTable shares that hit two-year highs earlier this week on the news.

Larry Ellison -- Loser

Oracle (ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison made headlines on Tuesday after an interview with Charlie Rose aired on "CBS This Morning." Ellison was a good friend of Steve Jobs for a long time, and Apple's iconic co-founder is back in the spotlight with the theatrical debut of JOBS this weekend.

Ellison was asked how Apple (AAPL) will fare without Steve Jobs. "We already know," Ellison replied. "We conducted the experiment." Ellison then went on to point out how the stock fell when John Sculley replaced Jobs in the 1990s and how it's sliding now that Tim Cook is at the helm.

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It may seem like a fair shot, but let's fact-check this. Apple's stock is actually 33 percent higher than it was when Jobs passed away 23 months ago. That's no match for the S&P 500's 48 percent pop, but it's not too shabby. Ellison's own company -- enterprise software giant Oracle -- has seen its stock climb only 15 percent since Jobs died.

Should Ellison be throwing stones from the porch of his glass house?

Yum! Brands (YUM) -- Winner

Taco Bell's parent company knows that folks love Doritos-dusted taco shells. Same-store sales surged 13 percent last year during the quarter in which it introduced Doritos Locos Tacos. The success of Nacho Cheese Doritos-flavored shells last year led to a Cool Ranch version earlier this year.

Why stop there? Taco Bell announced this week that a spicier option -- Fiery Doritos Locos Tacos -- will hit the chain next week.(Based on taste tests, the food blogosphere was convinced the new flavor was going to be called "Flamas," ("flames") based on Doritos Flamas chips. It's definitely that flavor, but for whatever reason, someone must have decided a loose translation would sell better.)

Now that Taco Bell has the formula down it's really just a matter of keeping things fresh by rolling out new varieties. There are reportedly 123 different Doritos flavors worldwide. Yum! Brands has plenty of ammo for the next few years.

Dell (DELL) -- Loser

PC giant Dell posted ho-hum quarterly results on Thursday night. Sales were flat, and adjusted earnings were cut in half. It isn't easy making money in the box business these days. Smartphones and tablets are eating into the markets that Dell's desktops and laptops used to dominate.

However, Dell did a curiously silly thing in last night's earnings release. It refused to provide a near-term outlook, arguing that it's in the process of trying to get the company taken private.

Really? Dell has had a hard time swaying enough investors to agree to the buyout, and now it thinks that keeping information about its future undisclosed will help? Good or bad, Dell owes it to its stakeholders to reveal what they will be giving up if founder Michael Dell succeeds in cashing out public investors.

AMC Networks (AMCX) -- Winner

Sunday night's season premiere of "Breaking Bad" was huge. A whopping 5.9 million viewers tuned in to kick off the gritty serialized drama's sixth and final season, that's more than the double the 2.9 million that tuned in for last summer's premiere.

The show's availability on streaming services certainly helped get new viewers up to speed.

However, AMC did something pretty brilliant. It aired a talk-oriented recap show -- "Talking Bad" -- an hour after the show ended. Nearly half of the viewers stuck around, and that generated great results for the new show that AMC debuted after "Breaking Bad" and before "Talking Bad."

It remains to be seen if AMC watchers will take to "Low Winter Sun," but the cable network is doing everything it can to make sure that it has another way to hook viewers after Breaking Bad comes to an end later this year.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends AMC Networks, Apple, Facebook, and OpenTable. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Facebook, and Oracle.