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Rupert Murdoch discusses News Corp. split

In interviews, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch said the decision to split the company in two had nothing to do with the U.K. phone-hacking scandal or family succession issues.

Citing an interview with News Corp.'s Fox Business Network, the Financial Times reported that the 81-year-old Murdoch said it was "highly unlikely" that his son Lachlan would head the spun-off publishing business because Lachlan is "very happy" running his own business in Australia. In order for Lachlan or James Murdoch, Rupert's younger, embattled son, to have expanded roles, "They have to earn it, and they have to want it," he said.

But Murdoch told the Wall Street Journal (which will be part of the spun-off publishing company) that although Lachlan likely wouldn't be CEO of the publishing company, "I certainly hope that Lachlan will return to the company," though not necessarily on the publishing side.

Murdoch discussed his long resistance to the idea of a split with the Journal. "I was hanging on, and so was the whole family," he said. "We were very emotional about it.... I went through lots of ups and downs."

The Journal report noted that the Murdoch family, which has had a 40% voting stake in News Corp., will have the same holding in the two companies after the spinoff. All existing stockholders will get one share of the new publishing company for each one they own in News Corp.

A separate Journal report said the split won't interfere with the company's stock buyback program. (Sources: Financial Times, June 29, 2012; Wall Street Journal, June 29, 2012.)

AB InBev buys out Modelo

Anheuser Busch InBev has reached an agreement with the families who control Grupo Modelo to buy the portion of the Mexican brewer it doesn't already own for $20.1 billion, Reuters reported.

Modelo, founded in 1925, is Mexico's largest brewer, the article noted.

Two Modelo board members will invest $1.5 billion of their proceeds in AB InBev shares and will join AB InBev's board, according to the report.

AB InBev inherited a 50.4% stake in Modelo when it bought Anheuser-Busch in 2008. The conglomerate's initial effort to acquire the remainder of Modelo was halted when Modelo's controlling Fernandez family began arbitration proceedings, arguing that the deal would break an agreement that Modelo should be consulted over change in control of the stake, the Reuters report said. While the arbitration panel ruled in favor of AB InBev in 2010, AB InBev executives joined the Modelo board, and "pressure emerged from some family members and other investors to look for the sale," Reuters reported.

Modelo will also sell its 50% stake in Crown Imports, a partnership with Constellation Brands Inc., to Constellation for $1.85 billion. Crown Imports distributes Modelo beers in the U.S. under a deal that expires in 2016. AB InBev won't try to buy out Constellation and distribute Modelo itself because of antitrust concerns, the Reuters report said. (Source: Reuters, June 29, 2012.)

News Corp. split raises questions about newspapers’ future

News Corp.'s board unanimously approved a plan to split the company into separate publicly traded publishing and entertainment companies. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, which is part of News Corp.'s publishing business, the process will take about a year and will require formal board approval.

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch will be chairman of both organizations and CEO of the media and entertainment company.

Two anonymous insiders told the Financial Times that Murdoch, who long opposed investors' demand to split the company, changed his mind because the split would help both companies to make deals. But in analysis of the split, the FT's John Gapper noted that "the news division is no longer sturdy enough to finance its own investment needs." Gapper wrote that hundreds of millions of dollars will be needed to cover legal liability stemming from the phone hacking scandal at News Corp.'s U.K. tabloids; at the same time, funds will be needed for digital investments at the news company.

In a Reuters blog, business writer Felix Salmon noted that Rupert Murdoch "at heart, is a news man, and although most of his wealth is attributable to sports and entertainment, it's clear that his heart is very much in journalism. Moreso, it should probably be said, than most of the Bancrofts who sold him the Journal."

Salmon wrote that the split will make it easier for Murdoch to take the news company private. "Rupert Murdoch won't be any poorer after this deal is done -- in fact, he'll be richer, thanks to the eradication of the ‘Murdoch discount' -- and so his newspapers' charmed lives as playthings of a billionaire who doesn't care much about ROE is likely to continue either way," Salmon wrote.

Both Salmon and Gapper pointed out that investors in the news company will demand profits. Salmon wrote:

"Up until now, Murdoch has never really needed to worry very much about his newspapers' profitability, because the rest of his empire was throwing off such enormous profits. That's going to change. Even if he does take the papers private, none of his heirs particularly wants to inherit them. There's a big question mark over the papers' future, now, which will only grow as Murdoch gets older."

(Sources: Wall Street Journal, June 28, 2012; Financial Times, June 27, 2012 and June 28, 2012; Reuters, June 27, 2012.)

Porsche wants to close VW deal soon

Porsche said it wants to complete the sale of its remaining 50.1% stake in its sports-car business to Volkswagen AG as quickly as possible, the Wall Street Journal reported. Critics have said that completing a tax-free deal before August 2014 would be bad for German taxpayers, the Journal report noted. Because of a legal loophole, if VW transfers one voting share to Porsche along with the purchase price, the deal would be considered a reshuffling instead of a sale, and about 1.5 billion euros in taxes could be avoided, according to the Journal.

In 2009, Porsche agreed to sell 49.9% of its sports-car business to VW and plans to sell the remaining stake for about 4.5 billion euros, or $5.66 billion, the Journal article said. Porsche and VW granted each other options to transfer the remaining stake to VW if the original plan for a full merger didn't work out; those options expire in August 2014. Under the planned arrangement, VW will be the core investment of Porsche's holding company, which holds a 50.7% stake in VW.

The Porsche and Piëch families control 90% of Porsche's voting stock, the report noted.

The Journal article also said institutional investors in Germany and the U.S. have filed suits alleging market manipulation during Porsche's earlier unsuccessful effort to take over VW. That move was abandoned in 2009. (Source: Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2012.)

News Corp. considering a split

News Corp. is considering whether to split itself in two by separating its publishing assets from its entertainment businesses, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a News Corp. publication. If the corporation were to split, the publishing company would be much smaller than the entertainment company, the Journal article said.

The report noted that the possibility of a split has been discussed within the company for years. News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, who previously opposed such a move, recently has showed signs of changing his mind, the article said.

The Journal article said a split wouldn't change the Murdoch family's effective control of any of the businesses. The family owns about 40% of the voting shares of News Corp.

The Journal report said outside investors would welcome the move; the company's TV and film assets are more valuable than its publishing businesses. Phone hacking by staff at the company's U.K. newspapers led to a government investigation and international criticism, and U.K. government investigators are considering whether News Corp. should be permitted to keep its 39% stake in British Sky Broadcasting.

Analyst Alex DeGroote told Bloomberg Businessweek:

"I don't think most corporate shareholders want to have exposure to U.K. newspaper assets. But I think Rupert Murdoch wants the assets, so there's a conflict between what shareholders want and what Rupert wants, so one way around that is de-merge them." 

(Sources: Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2012; Bloomberg Businessweek, June 26, 2012.)

Ritz Camera files for bankruptcy for second time

Photography retailer Ritz Camera & Image has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the second time, the Washington Post's Capital Business Blog reported.

Citing a company statement, the blog said Ritz, based in Beltsville, Md., is evaluating which of its 265 stores it will close.

Two years ago the company, previously known as Ritz Camera Centers, emerged from bankruptcy protection with less than half of its 800 stores, according to the report. Last September, it received funding from private equity firm Transcom Capital.

After the first bankruptcy filing, David Ritz, whose uncle founded the company in 1936, assembled an investor team to buy the company's assets at auction. The revamped company included photo imaging but had difficulty competing with Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target, the blog reported. (Source: Capital Business Blog, Washington Post, June 22, 2012.)

Modelo likely to be acquired by AB InBev

Anheuser-Busch InBev is nearing a deal to buy the 50% of family-controlled Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo that it doesn't already own, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Journal article noted that talks could break down, or the acquisition could come under scrutiny by antitrust authorities.

A Reuters report said the deal could cost AB InBev more than $10 billion if it buys out the controlling family entirely.

Modelo's brands, which include Corona Extra and Modela Especial, are imported to the U.S. and marketed through a joint venture with Constellation Brands Inc., the Journal report noted.

The Journal article said the two companies have a "contentious history." IB InBev acquired the 50% stake in Modelo when it acquired Anheuser-Busch in 2008. Anheuser had tried unsuccessfully to merge with Modelo when it received the unsolicited takeover bid from InBev. After the InBev acquisition, Modelo claimed Anheuser-Busch breached a prior agreement by failing to consult Modelo on its sale to InBev. An arbitration panel ruled in favor of AB InBev in 2010, "paving the way for AB INBev to eventually consolidate its ownership of Modelo," according to the Journal report. (Sources: Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2012; Reuters, June 24, 2012.)

Constellation family members get lavish perks

Robert Sands, CEO of Constellation Brands, and his brother Richard, the company's chairman receive lavish perks in addition to their salaries, the business blog reported. The brothers' father, Marvin Sands, founded the wine, beer and spirits company in 1945; it has been a publicly traded company since 1973. reported that Robert Sands' compensation is $7.7 million and Richard Sands' is $6.7 million. Between them, they received more than $775,000 in company-paid personal flights on corporate aircraft, and they each received an automobile lease allowance of nearly $10,000. In addition, Robert Sands incurred more than $21,500 in "car/driver services."

Citing the company's proxy, reported that Robert Sands received $5,532 and Richard Sands received $10,000 in "product allowance." The company's products include Robert Mondavi and Ravens Wood wines, Corona beer and Svedka vodka. Other company executives also received product allowances of up to $5,000, for a total of nearly $27,000.

The report said that although the company shares beat the S&P 500 in the fiscal year ended February 29, the total return of the company's stock has trailed the industry and the S&P 500 year to date, over the last 12 months and during calendar year 2011. (Source:, June 21, 2012.)

James Packer moving his family enterprise out of media

With his agreement to sell his 50% interest in Australia's largest pay-TV company to News Corp., James Packer is severing his family's ties to the media sector, the Financial Times reported.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is offering $2 billion for Consolidated Media Holdings, which owns 25% of Australian pay-TV company Foxtel. Packer is the largest shareholder in CMH.

The FT article said CMH is the last media asset Packer inherited from his father, Kerry Packer. Other family TV and publishing assets that have been sold include Nine Entertainment. Packer retains a personal 10% holding in broadcaster Ten Network, according to the report. His grandfather Frank Packer founded Australian Consolidated Press in 1936; ACP inaugurated Australia's first TV broadcasts in 1956.

The FT report noted that Packer has reinvested the funds in gaming businesses. He is bidding against Malaysia's Genting for a deal with rival Australian group Echo Entertainment that would enable him to build a hotel and casino in Sydney. An analyst told the FT that Packer is seeking to sell CMH for A$3.50 per share, when previous reports had said he wanted A$4, "suggests he wants cash and he wants cash quickly," so he can counterbid against Genting. (Source: Financial Times, June 21, 2012.)

Young fashion designers are hiring their moms

Many up-and-coming young fashion designers are working with their mothers, who serve as employees or directors, the Financial Times recently reported. Joseph Altuzarra hired his mother, Karen, as his firm's CEO; she previously was head of recruiting in Europe at J.P. Morgan and had worked for many years in the financial firm's cash management business. Zac Posen's mother, Susan, was his firm's first CEO. Alexander Wang's mother, Ying Wang, serves on the board of his company.

The FT report noted that many fashion houses are family firms, but traditionally the senior generation has groomed the younger generation, or spouses have worked together. Joachim Schwass, a professor of family business at IMD, told the FT that the new breed of fashion firms are embracing what he calls "reverse succession." (Source: Financial Times, June 21, 2012.)

Steve Wynn’s ex-wife wants to sell her shares in his company

Elaine Wynn, the former wife of casino mogul Steve Wynn, has filed a legal motion arguing that she should be released from a shareholder's agreement that had restricted her ability to vote and sell her shares in Wynn Resorts Ltd., the Wall Street Journal reported.

If Elaine Wynn is allowed to sell her shares without restrictions, Steve Wynn could lose control over the company, the report noted.

Elaine Wynn owns nearly 9.7% of the company and is a member of its board, the Journal article said. Steve Wynn owns about 10%. The couple split their shares when they divorced in 2010.

Under their agreement, she is barred from selling or voting her shares; Steve Wynn controls her voting rights. Her filing, in U.S. District Court in Nevada, asks the court to declare the agreement invalid.

Elaine Wynn and Steve Wynn were first married in 1963 and divorced in 1986; they remarried each other in 1991. Her direct involvement in the company stopped as they were finalizing their second divorce in 2010, the Journal report said.

Elaine Wynn had been a director of Steve Wynn's former company, Mirage Resorts Inc. Steve Wynn started Wynn Resorts Ltd. with his former business partner Kazuo Okada; Steve Wynn held control via a series of shareholder agreements with Okada. Elaine Wynn said in her court filings that she signed her agreement "because she had not wanted to upset the balance Mr. Wynn had struck with Mr. Okada," according to the Journal report. The partnership ended in February when the company said Okada had made improper payments to public officials in the Philippines. Okada sued Steve Wynn, the company and the board, accusing them of plotting to defraud him and push him out of the company. Elaine Wynn's filing says that with the dissolution of Steve Wynn's partnership with Okada, "the motivating reason [for her agreement] has disappeared," the Journal report said.

Elaine Wynn had been in negotiations to sell her stake to her ex-husband, but they couldn't come to an agreement, the Journal article said. (Source: Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2012.)

LVMH acquires third-generation menswear brand

Giant luxury products group LVMH has acquired Arnys, the French menswear brand that has been led by the Grimbert family since 1933. Third-generation brothers Jean and Michel Grimbert are the current business leaders.

Arnys will become a part of LVMH's Berluti unit, led by Antoine Arnault, a former Louis Vuitton executive and the son of LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault. Berluti, known for its upscale footwear, plans to build on Arnys' expertise in bespoke fashion. Jean Grimbert will continue to oversee Arnys, and Arnys' Paris boutique will become Berltui's flagship store.

French family business leader will join Vivendi board

Vincent Bolloré, chairman and managing director of several companies in Groupe Bolloré, plans to join the board of Vivendi SA in the fall, the Wall Street Journal reported. Through his family group, Bolloré will become one of Vivendi's biggest shareholders, with slightly less than 5% of its equity, with a deal to sell French TV channels to Vivendi's Canal Plus unit, the article said. He will join the Vivendi boaord when the deal closes, pending an antitrust review.

Bolloré is known for success in turning around companies, the Journal article said. He is interested in a long-term relationship with Vivendi, the article said.

Bolloré took over his family business at age 29 and grew it from a struggling paper company to a conglomerate with interests in transportation logistics, energy and media, the Journal report noted. (Source: Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2012.)

Retiring German exec says owners won’t sell out

Peter Bettermann, who is retiring after 15 years as CEO of Freudenberg, a German textiles and chemicals business with sales of 6 billion euros, told the Financial Times that the owners of the company -- 320 descendants of Carl Johann Freudenberg, who founded the business in 1849 -- were not seeking to sell out.

"There's no reason for anyone to want to leave [being a shareholder] in Freudenberg which is becoming more valuable by the day."

The company was founded as a leather works and has diversified into synthetic materials, the article said.

Bettermann told the FT the "number one aim" was to "secure the continued existence of the company at all costs" and the second most important goal was to keep it family-owned. (Source: Financial Times, June 14, 2012.)

Barnes & Noble chairman settles shareholder lawsuit

Barnes & Noble chairman Leonard Riggio settled a shareholder lawsuit over the company's 2009 acquisition of a college bookstore chain from Riggio and his wife, the Wall Street Journal reported. The shareholders had alleged the company's purchase of the college chain didn't make good business sense and the price was too high. Riggio owns about 30% of Barnes & Noble, the Journal article noted.

"Mr. Riggio agreed to a $22.75 million reduction in the $596 million purchase price, of which $150 million was still owed by Barnes & Noble in the form of a loan from Mr. Riggio," the article said. Riggio will also give up $6.3 million in interest payments on the loan. (Source: Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2012.)

Wash. Post’s Katharine Weymouth could get millions in stock

Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth stands to receive up to 42,500 shares in restricted stock awards by 2018 if she meets her performance goals, the Washington City Paper reported, citing an SEC filing by the Washington Post Co. According to the City Paper report, if the company stays around its current stock price, the amount could be about $15.4 million. If the stock loses half its value, she could make more than $7 million.

The City Paper article said the amount is a huge increase over the 7,500 shares Weymouth has received since 2009. The report also said the company declined to answer questions about what Weymouth needs to do to earn the stock awards.

The City Paper report noted that Weymouth was criticized by Post employees when it was revealed that she made more than $2 million in 2010. In 2011, as the paper prepared to offer buyouts to employees, she made $1.9 million, the article said. (Source: Washington City Paper, June 12, 2012.)

Newhouse draws fire for handling of newspaper cuts

The Newhouse family's Advance Publications Inc., which has drawn fire for reducing the print publication schedule of its newspapers in New Orleans and Alabama, also received widespread criticism for the number of job cuts in the two locations, and the way those cuts were handled.

The New York Times reported that the Birmingham News cut 61 people out of a 102-member newsroom staff, and that the New Orleans Times-Picayune laid off more than 200 people, or nearly a third of its overall staff, including about half the newsroom. In addition to reporters, those who lost their jobs in New Orleans included advertising staffers, copy editors, press operators, photographers and graphic artists, the Times article said. The Gambit, New Orleans' alternative weekly, said the Times-Picayune's entire marketing staff except for one person was fired, along with all special sections employees, the library staff and human resources employees. Among those who lost their jobs was James Beard Award-winning dining critic Brett Anderson.

The city of New Orleans, which is "fiercely protective of its institutions," has been up in arms about the cuts, the Times reported. A letter criticizing the new publication schedule (in which the print edition will be published only three times a week) was signed by "university presidents, chefs, chief executives, civic activists and even the archbishop of New Orleans," the article said. The Times report also noted that a group of prominent citizens has been lobbying the paper's owners to reconsider their decision and also have been trying to lure other publishers to enter the New Orleans market.

Steven Newhouse, chairman of, told the Times, "We think the best change to keep it going as a quality news operation is to enhance the digital product." He also said, "We have no intention of selling, no matter how much noise there is out there."

The Times noted that many Times-Picayune staffers were told they could remain at the company but if they chose to stay, their titles would change. "Several of those who were invited back said they knew little of what to expect, even what their titles meant, and could not get their questions answered," the Times article said. According to the Gambit, those who were invited to stay have two weeks to decide whether to accept the "conditional offer," although they don't know "even the most basic details of the new jobs."

The Gambit article said that no one from parent companies Advance Publications or Newhouse came to New Orleans to deliver the news to Times-Picayune employees, and the paper's new publisher was not seen in the building.

The American Journalism Review noted that NOLA Media Group -- the new name for the New Orleans organization, which will oversee the website and the newspaper -- minimized coverage of the cuts, putting them way down on the website's homepage. (Sources: New York Times, June 12, 2012; Gambit, June 13, 2012; American Journalism Review, June 12, 2012.)

Bernadette Castro sells on TV again

Bernadette Castro, who as a child starred in TV commercials for her father's company, Castro Convertibles, is again demonstrating pull-out furniture on TV, the New York Times reported.

This time, she is appearing on the Home Shopping Network rather than on commercial ad spots. And although she has revived the Castro Convertibles brand, the product is now a convertible ottoman that opens into a single bed.

Castro sold her father's original company in the 1990s; the company that bought it later went out of business. The new Castro Convertibles are sold on the Internet as well as on HSN. (Source: New York Times, June 11, 2012.)

Many shareholders suing over Books-A-Million buyout plan

Books-A-Million Inc. shareholders have filed seven separate lawsuits related to a $48.8 million buyout offer from the company's executive chairman, Clyde Anderson, the Birmingham Business Journal reported.

The lawsuits claim Anderson and company directors are acting in their own interests instead of in the interests of shareholders, the article said. The reported that longtime stockholders contend the offer undervalues the company. (Source: Birmingham Business Journal, June 11, 2012.)

Heineken acquires Belgian cider business

Heineken will acquire Belgium's Stassen Ciders for an undisclosed price.

Reuters reported that Heineken acquired Stassen to extend its lead in the cider market and to "tap into the small family controlled company's skills in developing non-alcoholic ciders and wines."

Industry website noted that Stassen was sold to HP Bulmers in 1992, became part of Scottish & Newcastle in 2003 after a buyout, and in 2008 was sold by S&N back to its original family owners. (Sources: Reuters, June 8, 2012;, June 8, 2012.)

Carlson names two family directors

Family members Geoffrey Gage and Wendy Nelson have been elected to the board of directors of Carlson, the giant global hospitality and travel company. They are the grandchildren of founder Curtis Carlson.

Geoffrey Gage is founder and president of Geoffrey Carlson Gage Brand Communications. He has served on several corporate and non-profit boards, including Carlson Holdings Inc. and the Curtis L. Carlson Family Foundation.

Nelson is chairman of the board of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. She is also a board member of Carlson Holdings Inc., Carlson Real Estate and the Curtis L. Carlson Family Foundation, among others. She joined Carlson in 2003 as vice president of real estate for Carlson Restaurants in Dallas. She then became executive vice president for Carlson Hotels Real Estate Company and ended her tenure at the company as executive vice president of brand strategy for Carlson Hotels.

Gage and Nelson replace retiring family directors Barbara Carlson Gage, president of the Curtis L. Carlson Family Foundation, and Glen D. Nelson, M.D., chairman of GDN Holdings LLC.

Ohio furniture company to close after 7 generations

The Taylor Companies of Bedford, Ohio, founded in 1816 and family-owned for seven generations, will cease all business operations after production of existing furniture orders, the company announced in a statement.

Taylor was the oldest business in Ohio and ranked at No. 36 of Family Business Magazine's most recent list of America's oldest family businesses. It had also been manufacturing in California since 1923 and had a third plant in Mississippi from 1973 to 2006.

In the statement, Taylor CEO Jeff Baldassari said the business "was brought down by an unprecedented sequence of events dating back to December 2007." According to the company, in 2004 the company opted to build a new facility on a remediated brownfield in Bedford to replace its outdated century-old facility, in lieu of moving out of state. The state of Ohio promised a ten-year property tax abatement of more than $850,000 as an incentive to develop the brownfield, the company said.

According to the statement, Taylor did not receive the abatement and incurred "considerable legal expenses over the next 18 months in litigation," on top of a $6 million investment in the new facility. When the recession hit in 2008, furniture orders decreased. Despite assistance from the Ohio Department of Development, Cuyahoga County and the city of Bedford, the company could not secure additional financing, the statement said.

Seventh-generation executive vice president Brett Meals said in the statement:

"This is a sad ending in so many ways. It's said for our local communities, our Taylor family of employees, and it's certainly sad for my family. It was not for lack of trying. Without the efforts and commitment of our long-standing employees, this would have happened much sooner. Moving to this new facility had all the promise and hope in all of our hearts for a different outcome than this one."

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Bedford Mayer Dan Pocek and City Manager Hank Angelo lobbied lending institutions to restructure Taylor's loans.

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Development told the Plain Dealer that the $850,000 tax deal mentioned in Taylor's statement "wasn't a state program." She told the newspaper, "The company's struggles reinforce the point that incentives alone aren't what help a company, or what help a state or region."

According to the Plain Dealer report, as of 2010 the company had 65 employees between its Bedford and California facilities.

The Plain Dealer article noted that Taylor's closing also represents a loss to the sustainability community. "The company became a national model for turning waste products into cash and retrofitting its facilities with green technology," the article said. (Source: Plain Dealer, June 8, 2012.)

Samsung names new CEO, weakens post’s power

Samsung Electronics Co. has named a new CEO but has diminished the power of the position, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Choi Gee-sung stepped down from the CEO position and was replaced by Kwon Oh-hyun, the head of the company's component businesses, the article said. Customers of Samsung chips and other components are Samsung's competitors in products like TVs and phones, the Journal article said. Apple Inc. has sued Samsung for allegedly copying the designs of the iPhone and iPad

The Journal report noted that the company is trying "to create more separation -- or at least the image of it -- between its consumer and component businesses."

According to the report, the leaders of Samsung's consumer product divisions will not report to Kwon. "Chairman Lee Kun-hee will play the decisive role when the component and consumer product sides of Samsung conflict," the article said. (Source: Wall Street Journal, June 8, 2012.)

Gap’s Fisher family to buy Ariat

According to a Reuters report, Ariat International of Union City, Calif., which makes high-end equestrian apparel, is being sold to its management and the Fisher family, the founders of Gap Inc.

The company had been owned by two private equity firms. The Reuters report said the company was likely valued at $350 million to $400 million. (Source: Reuters, June 7, 2012.)

Brennan’s new cocktails support New Orleans newspaper

New Orleans restaurateur Ralph Brennan has developed special cocktails in response to the news that Newhouse Newspapers will cease operating the New Orleans Times-Picayune as a daily newspaper, the Times-Picayune reported.

Brennan and his cousins, members of the third generation, rum 12 New Orleans-style restaurants, nine of which are located in the city. The family has been in the hospitality business since 1947.

The cocktails are being offered as part of the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group's "Cocktail for a Cause" program. Twenty percent of the proceeds from the special drinks will "benefit adversely impacted Times-Picayune employees," the company said in a statement. The statement also said the company supports "keeping The Times-Picayune in our collective hands seven days a week."

Newhouse has announced that starting in the fall, the Times-Picayune will print only three days a week while emphasizing its website. The move will involve staff reductions. (Source: Times-Picayune, June 7, 2012.)

Marriott plans to add jobs

Marriott International is planning to open 150 hotels in the U.S. in 2012 and hire as many as 10,000 workers, the Washington Business Journal reported, citing an interview with Bill Marriott on Bloomberg Television.

Marriott recently agreed to acquire the Gaylord hotel brand from Gaylord Entertainment Company and is open to considering other acquisitions, the article said. (Source: Washington Business Journal, June 6, 2012.)

Pernod Ricard revamps marketing for flagship brand

Pernod Ricard aims to counteract falling sales of its Ricard anise liquor by introducing a new bottle, updating the glasses and jugs it provides to bars and promoting new cocktail recipes, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

The new recipes mark a departure from tradition, the article noted. Since Paul Ricard developed the liquor in 1932, the classic way of serving it has been to mix one part Ricard with five parts water; the beverage is servedas an aperitif. The company is now suggesting that consumers use Ricard in a variety of cocktails and mixes.

Ads for the brand, however, have retained the traditional yellow and blue color scheme. Patrick Ricard, chairman of the company and son of the founder, told Bloomberg Businessweek, "You're more able to communicate the spirit of the brand if you refer to the roots."

The company also owns Absolut vodka, Chivas Regal whiskey and Martell cognac. (Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, June 4-10, 2012.)

Walmart re-elects its board, but dissent is evident

At an event celebrating Walmart's 50th anniversary, the company said all the company's board nominees had been re-elected. The Financial Times noted that this result was not surprising, since the founding Walton family owns nearly 50% of the company shares, and "declared investor rebels" control less than 1%.

However, the FT noted in a subsequent report, support for chairman Rob Walton, CEO Mike Duke and Duke's predecessor, Lee Scott, fell sharply from last year.

The U.S.'s two largest pension funds, along with other investors, had voted against some or all of the nominated directors to protest recent charges of bribery at Walmart's Mexican businesses and a perceived lack of independence on the board, the FT report said. According to the report, Walmart says 11 of its 16 board nominees are independent.

New York City comptroller John Liu, who ordered five public pension funds to vote against certain directors, said, "The results are a vote of no confidence that sends a message to Walmart's entire board."

According to the FT, Rob Walton received 87.37% of total votes. The article noted, "If the Walton family together with company insiders voted roughly 50% of outstanding shares for him, that indicates that more than 25% of independent investors opposed him."

Rob Walton, son of founder Sam Walton, spoke at the 50th anniversary event. He said, "Let me be clear. Acting with integrity is not a negotiable part of this business. It is our business," the FT article said.

At the celebration, which was hosted by pop star Justin Timberlake, Walmart employee Jackie Goebel introduced a proposal on executive pay and drew loud cheers. According to the FT report, Goebel said of the Mexico scandal, "We have seen what happened in Mexico, when some people are so focused on growth at any cost that they forgot our code of ethics."

The FT report noted that Walmart said in a regulatory filing that it was facing several previously undisclosed lawsuits over the Mexico allegations. (Source: Financial Times, June 2-3, 2012 and June 5, 2012.)

Zippo expanding into China

Zippo Manufacturing Co. plans to open five retail outlets in China, Business First of Buffalo reported.

The Bradford, Pa., company will sell its iconic lighters as well as clothing, accessories and its Zippo perfume in the stores, the article said. Zippo plans to open the stores in August.

The company also hopes to eventually open U.S. stores that Zippo would own and manage.

Zippo planned to host national and international media at a celebration to mark the launch of its 500 millionth lighter on June 5, the birthday of founder George Blaisdell. Blaisdell's grandson George Duke owns the company. (Source: Business First, June 4, 2012.)

Comcast’s independent shareholders oppose poison pill

Comcast Corp.'s independent shareholders rejected the recommendation of the company's management and approved a non-binding resolution that seeks to dismantle the company's poison-pill takeover defense, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts controls 33.3% of the votes through a super-voting class of stock. Observers were surprised that this was not sufficient to defeat the resolution, the Inquirer report noted.

Comcast's takeover defense expires in November, the article said. A company spokesman said Comcast's board would take the shareholder vote into consideration when deliberating whether to renew the plan. Comcast enacted its plan in 2002 when it acquired AT&T's broadband division, the Inquirer article said. (Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, June 5, 2012.)

‘Rockchild’ deal highlights evolution in both families

The recently alliance between the Rothschilds' investment trust RIT Capital Partners and the Rockefellers' wealth and asset manager Rockefeller Financial Services will give the Rothschilds a foothold in the U.S., which their ancestors never established, the Financial Times reported.

Lord Jacob Rothschild, patriarch of the U.K. branch of the storied family, told the FT that having a strong presence in the U.S. is "extremely important" to his investment strategy. He said his firm has become less U.K.-oriented and "less parochial."

The FT report noted that RIT Capital Partners has also formed an investment partnership with Franco-Swiss bank Edmond de Rothschild. Jacob Rothschild has worked to reunite the two branches of the family, the report noted. He had his cousin Sir Evelyn de Rothschild had a falling out in the 1980s when Sir Evelyn took the helm of U.K.-based investment bank NM Rothschild. Jacob Rothschild told the FT that he and Evelyn de Rothschild now have "an extremely good and close relationship."

The FT article also noted that Baron David de Rothschild, who is based in Paris, recently brought together NM Rothschild and the family's French banking group. "A reunion of all these family ventures could be an -- albeit distant -- possibility," the article said.

A separate FT report said Rockefeller Financial Services, one of the oldest U.S. family offices, now has $34 billion of assets under management, most of which originate from outside the Rockefeller family. The firm, founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1882, started professionalizing in the early 1980s and gradually began marketing its services outside the family.

David Rockefeller, 96, is no longer chairman but is still an honorary director and played an "essential" role in making the deal with the Rothschilds, the FT article said. (Source: Financial Times, June 2-3, 2012.)

Arnaud Lagardere misses his own election

Arnaud Lagardère failed to appear at the annual shareholder meeting of Europe Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. NV (EADS), where he was scheduled to be elected as the aerospace group's next chairman.

EADS is governed by an agreement between French and German shareholders. Lagardère's family enterprise, primarily a media group, owns 7.5% of EADS, which is the world's second-largest aerospace company, a Reuters report noted. Other EADS shareholders include the French government and Germany's Daimler AG.

Outgoing chairman Bodo Uebber said at the meeting, "Mr. Lagardère gave his excuses last night and said he had important matters to do," according to the Reuters report. A spokesman for Lagardère said he didn't want to interfere with Uebber's last appearance as EADS chairman.

An aerospace analyst told Reuters, "These things can't be ignored, even if we don't know the reason for it, the nuance is still noted."

According to Reuters, Lagardère's absence will likely be interpreted as a snub to Louis Gallois, EADS's outgoing CEO. The two disagreed earlier this year during a delay over agreement on the management handover, the Reuters report said. It had been rumored that Gallois sought to retain influence, according to the report.

Last summer, a provocative video of Lagardère and his younger girlfriend, Jade Floret, went viral. Earlier this month, he told Lagardère SCA shareholders at his company's annual meeting that Floret was pregnant and they planned to marry, the Reuters article said.

A Wall Street Journal article said "questions remain about how [Lagardère] has piloted his own family business."

The Journal report noted that Lagardère has said he intends to sell his company's stake in EADS. The article said Lagardère's commitment to the aerospace industry has been questioned. His father, Jean-Luc, who died in 2003, "was a stalwart of the French defense business," but Arnaud Lagardère has focused more on the media side of his family enterprise, the Journal article said.

Lagardère's share price has dropped more than 60% since 2006 owing to a weak advertising market and an underperforming sports management venture, the Journal article said. In addition, the company's deputy chairman, Philippe Camus, who has been a key adviser to Arnaud Lagardère, is due to retire at the end of June, according to the Journal report. (Sources: Reuters, May 31, 2012; Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2012.)

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