Fortune can’t explain ‘significant and unusual’ stock swing

Fortune Industries Inc.’s thinly traded stock rarely gets much attention. Shares of the Indianapolis-based personal employer organization seldom move more than a few pennies on a daily basis.

Until Monday, that is, when the stock jumped as much as 285 percent from Friday’s closing price and trading volume shot through the roof.

Fortune shares rose from 20 cents each at the end of Friday to a high of 77 cents on Monday before closing at 49 cents, an increase of 145 percent.

More than 2.8 million shares changed hands Monday, up from a daily average of 52,000 over the past three months.

The New York Stock Exchange found the trading so “significant and unusual” that it asked the company to issue a press release to explain the activity.

“Ordinarily, it is the company's policy not to comment on unusual market activity, but the company has confirmed that it is not aware of any explanation beyond its most recent [SEC] filings for the high volume or unusual price activity of its shares today,” Fortune said in a prepared statement.

Those March 8 SEC filings dealt with Fortune’s plan to go private through a $13.3 million buyout offer by the firm’s top two executives.

The plan, detailed in another public filing in February, calls for an acquisition by CEP Inc., a holding company led by Fortune Industries CEO Tena Mayberry and Chief Financial Officer Randy Butler.

The filing says the two will pay $7 million in cash and the remaining $6.3 million with a promissory note to acquire common and preferred shares held by the estate of company founder Carter Fortune, who died in August.

CEP would be based in Nashville, Tenn.

Founded in 2000, Fortune has shifted its focus in recent years from a diversified holding company to a professional employer organization. It has clients in 47 states.

Fortune shares were up 4 cents Tuesday morning, to 53 cents each.

 

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