And the Biggest Turkey of the Year Goes to…

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m asking readers who they’d nominate for the biggest turkey of the year award.

On the LBO side, there are almost too many to count, beginning with TPG’s April decision to gamble on what was then the country’s largest savings and loan, Washington Mutual.

WaMu, of course, abruptly collapsed in September, after which JPMorgan swept it into its own operations for a mere $1.9 billion. The cost to TPG: $1.35 billion. Gulp.

It’s a little harder to figure out the biggest turkey of a venture capital investment. Certainly, Highland Capital Partners’ decision to participate in the January buyout of Harrah’s Entertainment is a frontrunner. As Dan reported this fall, Highland invested $20 million in the $31 billion deal led by TPG Capital and Apollo Management. For Highland’s investment, which represented more than 2 percent of its current general fund, it received less than a 1 percent stake.

The worst part of the story, of course, is that the casino giant has been tracking the economy down, down, down. Some of TPG and Apollo’s coinvestors, including GoldenTree Asset Management, had already written down their Harrah’s investment by as much as 75 percent as of October, the Wall Street Journal reported. Highland hasn’t said a peep about its investment thus far, but I think it’s probably safe to assume that it’s lost most of its stake, too.

Another “turkey” contender that jumps to mind is microblogging service Twitter, which recently turned down a $500 million acquisition offer from Facebook. The primary reason it said no was the all-stock nature of the offer. At Facebook’s current $5 billion valuation, it would have meant $150 million in Facebook shares for Twitter and its investors. Considering that Facebook is further along on the whole revenue-model front (Twitter has yet to unveil one), that seems like a good deal to me, but time will tell.

I’d love to hear from you. Has any investment or decision struck you as particularly egregious this year? (I’m most interested in venture-backed deals.) If you have a thought or two and a minute to share them, please let me know at connie.loizos at

Thanks in advance, and Happy Thanksgiving!