(MONEY Magazine) – Marvel Enterprises (MVL) has suffered through enough misfortune over the past decade to make Spider-Man weep. In 1996, it was driven into Chapter 11 by the shenanigans of financier and Revlon chairman Ron Perelman and the depressed state of the comic-book business. Plus, legal battles over the rights to a Spider-Man film soured investors.
Now that Marvel has unleashed Spider-Man on moviegoers (box office tally $300 million and climbing) and is set to send X-Men, Hulk and Daredevil to theaters in 2003, all that seems far away. With more than 4,700 comic characters, Marvel is a "mini-Disney," claims CEO Peter Cuneo, who hopes that licensing revenue from movies and video games will vault the company to the top of the showbiz world.
But will Spidey's success boost Marvel's shares? Even before anyone plopped down $8 to see the movie, Marvel's stock had leaped 380% since last fall. But like other stocks that have risen on anticipation of a blockbuster product, Marvel's shares have slumped since Spider-Man's release. Marvel peaked at $9.38 on April 24, nine days before the film opened, and now rests around $6.
Among those selling has been company director Shelley Greenhaus, a savvy investor who scooped up Marvel's bonds in bankruptcy and swapped them for a 10% equity holding. So far this spring, his holding company, Whippoorwill Associates, has dumped about 1.5 million shares, or a third of his stake. So take it from Greenhaus: Skip the stock and see the movie instead. --DEREK MANSON
Note: Monthly data as of May 21. Source: Baseline.