Italian clothing maker and retailer Stefanel SpA became famous for its knitted coats and cardigans. Many economists, investors and bankers know Stefanel as something starkly different: a zombie company. It has posted an annual loss for nine of the last 10 years and restructured its bank debt at least six times, including several grace periods when Stefanel only had to pay interest on what it owed.

I sometimes hear stories about companies from friends here in London. Some are pretty unbelievable. But they always confirm one of my theories: that most organizations are structured entities that dumb people (or lure already dumb people).