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Krispy Kreme

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Kremed!
The rise and fall of Krispy Kreme is a cautionary tale of ambition, greed, and inexperience.
What could be more perfect than a Krispy Kreme doughnut? Hot from the fryer and loaded with sugar, the Original Glazed is practically irresistible. For a time, Krispy Kreme's stock seemed irresistible, too. When the company went public in April 2000, at the peak of the Internet whirlwind, investors flocked to buy into a business they could understand. An old-fashioned franchise based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. boasted solid fundamentals, adding stores at a rapid clip and showing steadily increasing sales and earnings.
But Krispy Kreme also had a mystique. Its doughnuts, available for many years only in the Southeast, had attracted a devoted, even fanatical, customer base. When the company decided to go national, it opened franchises in locations guaranteed to generate buzz — Manhattan, Los Angeles, Las Vegas — and customers lined up around the block. By August 2003, KKD was trading at nearly $50 on the New York Stock Exchange, up 235 percent from its initial public offering price of $21 on Nasdaq, and Fortune magazine was calling Krispy Kreme the "hottest brand in the land." For the fiscal year ended in February 2004, the company reported $665.6 million in sales and $94.7 million in operating profit from its nearly 400 locations, including stores in Australia, Canada, and South Korea.
And then, just as rapidly as its popularity spiked, Krispy Kreme pitched into a steep downward spiral that may yet end in bankruptcy. The company's woes surfaced in May 2004, when then-CEO Scott Livengood blamed low-carbohydrate diet trends for Krispy Kreme's first-ever missed quarter and first loss as a public company. That raised analysts' eyebrows, as blaming the Atkins diet for disappointing earnings carried a whiff of desperation.
The...

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