Nortel has completed its stunning fall. Eight and a half years ago, it was Canada's most valuable company and an international technology juggernaut; today, it is a hulk to be most likely sold for parts.
Nortel's boom years coincided with my first few years in grad school. They made it well known that they were on top: student recruiting events were well-funded, profs were getting Nortel money for research, and everyone (save those destined for academia) expected to be working there one day. I still have a Nortel mug on my desk from those happy days when they couldn't give away enough free stuff.
But now. Say you had bought one share of Nortel stock on the TSE at its peak on July 26, 2000, which (following a reverse split) would have been worth $1,231. Even if you had sold that stock a year ago, on January 14, 2008 -- when times were still relatively good and long before the fall's economic crisis -- you would have recovered $12.89 -- about a penny on the dollar. (If you had sold that same share yesterday, it would have got you $0.39.)
By comparison, the legal minimum price in Ontario for 24 bottles of beer is $25.60, and the amount you would receive for returning the empties is $2.40 -- a better investment over peak-to-year-ago-Nortel by roughly a factor of nine.