Jim Cramer admits he has done a fair amount of bad-mouthing as the host of "Mad Money" over the years, but on Wednesday he celebrated two executives that led their companies to new highs.
"Dave Cote, who retired last Thursday from Honeywell at right about the all-time high of the stock, and Ron Shaich, who just sold Panera Bread for a monster-good $315 per share, both deserve to have their numbers retired. These guys should be given a place of respect for other CEOs to aspire to," Cramer said.
On Wednesday, privately-held European conglomerate JAB Holding announced it would buy Panera in a $7.5 billion acquisition, which Shaich said would give his fast-casual chain a "competitive advantage."
Cote and Shaich's leadership is why they are the two newest members of Cramer's Wall of Fame.
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During his tenure as the CEO and chairman of Honeywell, Cote took what Cramer called "one of the most poorly run conglomerates out there" and gave shareholders a 575 percent return over his 15 years with the company.
The 2008 financial crisis hit industry hard, but Cote used the downturn to Honeywell's advantage, buying up cheaper companies and creating an enterprise that offered parts for connected cars and airplanes.
"He developed world-class climate controls that are the envy of the industry. And he did it all in a quiet, self-effacing manner, stressing integrity and a customer-first ethos that many others would do well to emulate," Cramer said.
Shaich's career took off when he founded Au Bon Pain, which he later sold to focus on expanding Panera, which he also founded.
At the time, Cramer said the sale appeared to many as "a ridiculously outrageous and risky decision." But in the 20 years since Shaich's decision, the stock of Panera has increased by 80 times, the best-performing restaurant stock in the last two decades.
Cramer said he will never forget an interview of Shaich's when the CEO confessed he had not figured out Panera's mobile ordering problems, calling the pick-up area crowd a "mosh pit."
"Talk about a call to buy," Cramer said. "Ron vowed to conquer the mosh pit and he ended up creating Panera 2.0, which not only solved the mobile pay issue — one that dogs Starbucks to this day — but actually turned Panera into one of the few mid-single-digit growers in an industry that has truly struggled of late."
"No active players get into the hall, because in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, 'It ain't over until it's over,'" Cramer said. But, "to Dave Cote and Ron Shaich, congratulations for everything you've accomplished for your shareholders. Welcome to the 'Mad Money' Hall of Fame."
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