June 24, 2017

Irving Azoff Starts New Entertainment Business

Since the music executive Irving Azoff resigned as Live Nation Entertainment’s executive chairman at the end of last year, speculation about his next venture has been something of an industry pastime. Would he go into television? Music publishing? Something digital?

The answer is all of the above, and perhaps more.

On Wednesday, Mr. Azoff, 65, announced the creation of Azoff MSG Entertainment, a multifaceted company backed by $175 million from the Madison Square Garden Company, whose executive chairman, James L. Dolan, is one of Mr. Azoff’s longtime supporters.

The company, of which Mr. Azoff will be chairman and chief executive, will include his artist management business, whose clients include the Eagles, Van Halen, Steely Dan and Christina Aguilera; a television and live event division; a 50 percent stake in Digital Brand Architects, which manages bloggers; and a 90 percent interest in a music publishing venture led by Randy Grimmett, a former executive at Ascap, the 99-year-old performing rights organization.

“We want to be a nimble, quick place where people can get answers,” said Mr. Azoff, who got his start as an artist manager in the 1970s and upon his departure from Live Nation did not mince words about his distaste in working for a publicly owned company.

The Madison Square Garden Company — which is publicly traded — will pay $125 million for a 50 percent stake in Azoff MSG Entertainment, and provide up to $50 million of credit to the company, according to an announcement. Mr. Azoff will also serve as a consultant to the Madison Square Garden Company.

In a joint interview, Mr. Azoff and Mr. Dolan described the mission of the new company as being somewhat loose, saying they see it as a lean, digitally focused company that will address the needs of the evolving music business. They also pointed to Madison Square Garden’s $100 million renovation of the Forum, an arena in Inglewood, Calif., as an example of how their work could benefit the public.

“Over the last 10 to 15 years, the music industry has changed dramatically, and not necessarily for the better,” Mr. Dolan said. “I expect that this venture will address that and find new technologies that will help artists, and new business opportunities that we will invest in together.”

They also view the company as “a high-growth vehicle,” as Mr. Dolan put it, that could expand through acquisitions.

Mr. Dolan joined the board of Live Nation in 2011, the year after that company merged with Ticketmaster and Mr. Azoff became its executive chairman. After Mr. Azoff left, Mr. Dolan resigned from the board and his company divested itself of its 3.9 million shares in the company for $44 million. With Live Nation stock on the rise since January, that stake would be worth about $67 million today.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/05/business/media/irving-azoff-starts-new-entertainment-business.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Disney’s Chief Agrees to Hold Off on His Retirement Until 2016

Under the terms of Mr. Iger’s contract, signed in 2011, he was to step down as chief executive in March 2015 and remain as executive chairman until the middle of the following year. But Disney’s board, which was eager to retain a leader with a highly successful track record for as long as possible, last week asked him to stay on as both chief executive and chairman until June 30, 2016.

Mr. Iger’s compensation will not change. In 2012 he received $37.1 million, according to figures compiled for The New York Times by Equilar, an executive compensation data firm.

“Now Disney will continue to have the full benefit of Mr. Iger’s leadership,” Orin C. Smith, the independent lead director of Disney’s board, said in a statement. Mr. Smith cited Mr. Iger’s ability to “consistently deliver against a strategy of producing high-quality branded content, technology innovation and international expansion.”

Big media companies, notably News Corporation and Viacom, have a spotty track record when it comes to succession-planning, and Mr. Iger himself took over Disney in 2005 after a period of turbulence following a bitter dispute between Michael Eisner and Roy E. Disney.

But keeping Mr. Iger in place does not signal that Disney needs more time to groom a successor. Disney has a deep bench of chief executive candidates, including James A. Rasulo, chief financial officer; Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Disney’s theme park division; and Anne Sweeney, co-chairwoman of Disney Media Networks.

Rather, retaining Mr. Iger’s services reflects an if-it’s-not-broken-don’t-fix-it strategy. Disney has suffered the occasional setback — a movie flop, for instance, like “John Carter” last year — and has continued to struggle in video games, but over all the company has been soaring. Its shares closed Monday at $63.93, a 32 percent increase compared with one year ago.

Disney reported profit of $5.68 billion last year, an 18 percent increase from a year earlier, on $42.28 billion in revenue.

By remaining at Disney’s helm, Mr. Iger will be able to see to fruition the high-stakes opening of Shanghai Disneyland, a sprawling resort on a par with Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. The Shanghai entertainment and vacation complex, Disney’s first major outpost in China, is expected to open in late 2015.

Disney is still working to integrate its latest acquisition, Lucasfilm, and restart the Star Wars franchise. ABC, now owned by Disney, also is under pressure to introduce a hit this fall.

Mr. Iger, 62, started his entertainment career at ABC in 1974 and took over as chief executive of Disney in 2005. He will be 65 upon his departure; Disney’s mandatory retirement age for board members is 74.

Since chief executives typically leave their corner offices reluctantly, attention has focused on what Mr. Iger has planned for his long-term future. There has been speculation that he has political ambitions. He has steadfastly declined to comment on his life beyond Disney.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/02/business/media/iger-gets-extension-as-disney-chief-executive.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Dumping the Face, and Founder, of Men’s Wearhouse

The clothing retailer announced on Wednesday that it had fired Mr. Zimmer, who started the company in 1973, as executive chairman. For three decades, he had starred in its commercials, telling customers, “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”

A disagreement between Mr. Zimmer and the board appeared to be the reason for the sudden dismissal, though it was not immediately clear what that disagreement was. Some analysts suggested that the conflict might be over the company’s efforts to appeal to younger customers, which could have been hampered by Mr. Zimmer’s continued presence in ads.

“Over the past several months I have expressed my concerns to the board about the direction the company is currently heading,” Mr. Zimmer said in a statement provided to CNBC. “Instead of fostering the kind of dialogue in the board room that has in part contributed to our success, the board has inappropriately chosen to silence my concerns through termination as an executive officer.”

The company gave no reason for Mr. Zimmer’s dismissal in its statement. A spokesman for the company declined to comment.

Showing just how abrupt the decision was, Mr. Zimmer’s firing was announced the same day as a scheduled shareholders’ meeting, which has been postponed “to renominate the existing slate of directors without Mr. Zimmer,” the company said Wednesday. The board released a statement Wednesday saying it “fully supports C.E.O. Doug Ewert and his management team.”

The company has more than 1,100 stores nationally, under the flagship Men’s Wearhouse brand along with Moores and KG. The stores primarily sell suits and rent tuxedos.

Financially, it has been performing solidly, with sales increasing 5.1 percent in the quarter ended May 4 to $616.5 million. Sales for 2012 were $2.5 billion, up 4.4 percent, with profits rising to $2.55 a share from $2.30 a share.

Mr. Zimmer, 64, had been easing out of a leadership role at the company recently.

“He had been managing a transition, I thought, very effectively the last two years,” said Richard Jaffe, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus. In 2011, Men’s Wearhouse promoted Mr. Ewert to succeed Mr. Zimmer as chief executive, and recently hired the designer Joseph Abboud as creative director along with a new chief financial officer. Perhaps Mr. Zimmer “was reluctant to give up the reins,” he said.

Mr. Jaffe suggested that advertising might have split Mr. Zimmer and the board. The company has been trying to appeal to millennials, and has been evaluating whether Mr. Zimmer’s appearance in the advertisements resonates with younger shoppers, Mr. Jaffe said.

“They continually rework it, adjusting how much presence do we have on George. Does he stand? Does he sit? But it’s always all about George Zimmer — his voice, his physical presence,” he said. “An old guy with a gray beard may not provide credibility to the product in the eyes of a 22- or 24-year-old.”

Jerome Reisman, a partner with Reisman Peirez Reisman Capobianco in Garden City, N.Y., said it was irresponsible of the company to be so vague about the reasons for Mr. Zimmer’s departure.

“When you are a public company, when you have shareholders, when you report to the media, you have a duty to disclose the cause of any major material termination,” he said. “Zimmer, at all times, was the poster boy for this company — what Frank Perdue was to Perdue Chickens, what Tom Carvel was to the Carvel Ice Cream Company.”

The lack of details spawns speculation, Mr. Reisman said: “Is there more behind all of this? Is there a reason for shareholders to have fear? And the last thing you want from public shareholders is fear and the unknown.”

In its statement, the company said the board expected “to discuss with Mr. Zimmer the extent, if any, and terms of his ongoing relationship with the company.”

Mr. Jaffe said he did not expect Mr. Zimmer’s departure to affect the company, given the succession plan Mr. Zimmer had already put in place. The company maintains the legal right to his image and 500 hours of film of Mr. Zimmer, Mr. Jaffe said in a note to clients.

Men’s Wearhouse stock was down 1.2 percent, to $37, at the close of trading.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/business/dumping-the-face-and-founder-of-mens-wearhouse.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

You’re the Boss Blog: Nine Lessons We Learned From Andy Taylor

Building the Team

Hiring, firing, and training in a new era.

Last week, I wrote about why we set out to visit with Andrew C. Taylor, chairman and chief executive of Enterprise Holdings (“Maybe Someone Else Has Already Figured This Out“). In this post, I want to highlight what we learned during that half-day session in St. Louis in 2011.

Take time to teach

The time that Mr. Taylor, who is now executive chairman of Enterprise, spent with the H.Bloom team was not anomalous. The day before we were there, he had met with senior executives from one of the world’s largest banks. Every day, the team at Enterprise takes the time to teach new employees at Enterprise. Because their leaders do this at a world-class level, business people at other organizations want to learn from them as well. When people in an organization see the organization’s leaders taking the time to teach, they understand that it is important and they learn to do it themselves. This culture of teaching starts at the top.

Develop senior leadership that’s passionate

The senior executives that we met along with Mr. Taylor – Dave Deibert, Aaron Toombs, Tina Diehl, Steven McCarty and Pam Webster – were all passionate about Enterprise as a company. Each one had been with Enterprise for many years, some for decades, and they had moved from place to place as they climbed the ranks. Mr. Taylor talked about the importance of this dynamic: “Develop a small group of senior leaders who are in love with the business and are thinking about it all of the time.” It was clear that this group loved Enterprise, were proud of the talent development programs they had developed and were eager to share what they had learned with us. This type of enthusiasm is nothing but contagious. If you can get your senior leaders excited, they will ignite the passions of their direct reports, and so on.

You can be a nice person and tough

In the three hours that we spent with Mr. Taylor, he came across as a genuinely nice person. But, it was clear that he was no-nonsense about his business. “Do not compromise on talent,” he said. “Provide great training and extraordinary opportunity. But be honest about the hard work. The Management Training Program at Enterprise isn’t for everyone. Even if folks don’t make it to the end, they will have learned a lot that they can take with them to another company.”

You want only to promote the best

At Enterprise, management trainees are in the program for six to 12 months. Then, they have a written skills-evaluation test. After that, they participate in something called “The Grill,” which is an oral test conducted by an area or district manager. If a trainee passes this test, she is ready to interview for a management position when the next one becomes available. This is the first position that is eligible to receive incentive compensation from branch profits.

It’s not about the Ping Pong

There is always a lot of talk about company culture. Often, the talk is focused on the perks a company might offer: onsite dry cleaning, unlimited soda and snacks, a table tennis table. At Enterprise, it is clear that the company’s culture is built on the people. “We promote from within,” Mr. Taylor said. “We provide a career path. People move around to move up; we average 8,700 internal transfers per year. And we celebrate success.” This is sustainable culture. The reason the executives I listed above have been at Enterprise for so long is because they love the company and believe in its mission; it’s not because of a superficial perk.

Building the team is building the business

“Take care of your employees and customers first,” Mr. Taylor said. “Growth and profits will follow.” He knew that as Enterprise grew, he couldn’t be everywhere all of the time. The key to growth would be to train and then empower his employees. Moreover, if he could provide them with a well-defined career path, they would have the incentive to perform in their current roles and the chance to be promoted into a position of greater responsibility and compensation. At Enterprise, the career path looks like this (though at the branch manager level, many additional opportunities open up within the company as well):

  1. Management trainee
  2. Management assistant
  3. Assistant manager
  4. Branch manager
  5. Area manager
  6. Group rental manager
  7. Regional vice president
  8. General manager

Keep base salaries low but pay for performance

At Enterprise, income is tied to profit performance. Employees know base salaries remain low, but they have the ability to earn more and more money as they move up in the organization. As an example, while general managers may have the same base salary as management trainees, their overall compensation is far greater, which provides the incentive to work hard and rise through the ranks.

Leaders and managers are different

Mr. Taylor talked about how his company worked hard to separate leaders from managers. “Anybody can count the money,” he said. “We need true leaders to run our markets.”

Measure everything and share the results

Enterprise has dashboards to measure performance. Each market has a scorecard that evaluates performance in four areas: growth, profits, customer service and employee development and retention. Each market is then ranked on its overall performance, and everyone sees the results.

Bryan Burkhart is a founder of H.Bloom. You can follow him on Twitter.

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/18/nine-lessons-we-learned-from-andy-taylor/?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: Glencore Xstrata Names Mack to Its Board

John Mack, the former chief of Morgan Stanley.Hiroko Masuike for The New York TimesJohn Mack, the former chief of Morgan Stanley.

LONDON – Glencore Xstrata has named John J. Mack, a former chief executive of Morgan Stanley, and Peter T. Grauer, executive chairman of information provider Bloomberg L.P., as nonexecutive directors to its board.

The mining and commodities trading company is rearranging its board following the combination of Glencore International and Xstrata, which was completed last month. The company also named Peter Coates as an executive director; he advised Glencore Xstrata’s chief, Ivan Glasenberg, on the integration.

Glencore Xstrata is still searching for a chairman after the departure of John Bond, who failed to receive enough shareholder support at an investor meeting in May over anger about a plan to pay extremely high bonuses to retain some Xstrata managers. Tony Hayward, a former chief executive of BP who sits on Glencore Xstrata’s board, was appointed to fill the position on an interim basis until a permanent successor could be found.

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Mr. Hayward said on Wednesday that the new directors had “an excellent business track record and extensive international experience, which we believe will prove invaluable in continuing the strength of debate and challenge which has typified the operation of the company’s board.”

Mr. Mack retired as chairman of Morgan Stanley in 2011 and continues to be a senior adviser to the bank. He was Morgan Stanley’s chief executive from 2005 until 2009. Mr. Grauer was previously chief executive of Bloomberg and a senior partner at Credit Suisse’s private equity business. Mr. Coates previously managed Xstrata’s coal business after the company bought Australian and South African coal assets from Glencore.

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/glencore-xstrata-appoints-john-mack-to-board/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Spanish Banker Goes to Prison

MADRID — Miguel Blesa, the former executive chairman of Caja Madrid, which is now part of Bankia, has become the first prominent Spanish banker to enter prison since the start of the financial crisis. He is accused of leaving his bank saddled with huge losses because of the takeover of a bank based in Miami in 2008.

The problems at Caja Madrid were part of the cascading issues that eventually undermined Bankia, which was one of the biggest lenders in Spain before the government seized it last year, setting off a crisis that resulted in the country’s banking system requiring a €40 billion, or $51.3 billion, European bailout.

Mr. Blesa, 65, spent Thursday night in a Madrid prison after failing to post bail of €2.5 million. The Madrid judge in charge of the case, Elpidio José Silva, decided that Mr. Blesa should be jailed and have his passport withdrawn because there was a risk that he would flee the country. The judge did not elaborate on the reason for his decision.

Mr. Blesa has denied wrongdoing and has not been formally charged with any crime. His relatives were scrambling on Friday to raise the money to get him out of prison, according to Spanish news reports. The bail was set at €2.5 million because that is equivalent to the severance payment that Mr. Blesa received when he left Caja Madrid in 2010.

He is accused by Manos Limpias, or Clean Hands — a far-right association that has been pursuing several corruption cases — of buying City National Bank, based in Miami, in 2008 for an inflated price without following due diligence by checking into City National’s underlying liabilities. Judge Silva is also investigating whether the purchase involved falsifying documents.

The case highlights how Spain’s banking troubles stretched beyond its borders, as cajas, regional savings banks that are tightly controlled by regional politicians, tried to emulate the overseas expansion of their commercial peers during the country’s economic boom.

Over all, about 100 Spanish bankers have been named as suspects in continuing court cases that have mostly focused on allegedly fraudulent loans, conflicts of interest and excessive compensation packages granted by collapsed cajas.

Mr. Blesa, a former official in Spain’s Economics Ministry, became chairman of Caja Madrid in 1996, shortly after José María Aznar, who was a student with Mr. Blesa, was elected prime minister. In April 2008, the bank announced that it would buy 83 percent of City National Bank for $927 million, following the lead of Spanish commercial banks that had already expanded in the United States. Caja Madrid bought the remainder in 2010 for $190 million.

That purchase price was roughly equivalent to the book value of the bank, but Caja Madrid ended up having to absorb about €500 million of losses generated by City National’s Miami unit. The deal threw Caja Madrid into “a perfect storm,” according to the court filing, at a time when it was also facing rising domestic problems linked to the bursting of Spain’s housing bubble.

Mr. Blesa was replaced as head of Caja Madrid in 2010 by Rodrigo Rato, a former managing director of the International Monetary Fund who was finance minister in the Aznar government.

Under Mr. Rato, Caja Madrid was at the center of the formation of Bankia, a seven-way merger of cajas in 2011. The combination was designed to consolidate the caja sector by allowing stronger entities to absorb the losses of weaker and smaller ones threatened with collapse.

Instead, Bankia sank under the collective weight of bad property loans and required €18 billion in European rescue money to keep it afloat. The bank, which was nationalized a year ago, posted a loss for 2012 of €19.2 billion, a record for the Spanish banking industry.

Bankia is now the target of several lawsuits. Last July, Mr. Rato appeared in court after he was named along with 32 other former Bankia executives and board members in a criminal inquiry into potentially misleading accounts at the time of Bankia’s 2011 listing, which involved tens of thousands of the bank’s retail clients buying into the stock offering. The former Bankia executives and board members deny wrongdoing and have also not been charged so far.

Mr. Blesa, meanwhile, faces separate accusations, also from Manos Limpias, relating to his time at Caja Madrid, notably concerning a credit line of €26.6 million granted in 2008 to Marsans, a travel company that subsequently went bankrupt. Marsans was owned by one of Spain’s most prominent entrepreneurs, Gerardo Díaz Ferrán, who also sat on the board of Caja Madrid.

Mr. Blesa is the first senior Spanish banker to enter jail in almost two decades. Mario Conde, a flamboyant lawyer and banker, was jailed in December 1993 and later convicted for fraud linked to the collapse of Banesto, another major Spanish institution. Banesto was subsequently taken over by Banco Santander.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/18/business/global/spanish-banker-goes-to-prison.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Ford Chief Benefits From Auto Comeback

Ford said on Friday that it paid Alan R. Mulally, the chief executive, about $21 million last year, and paid $14.8 million to its executive chairman, William C. Ford Jr.

Mr. Mulally’s bonuses dropped to $4 million, from $5.4 million in 2011, with a steep drop in his stock awards and other compensation to about $15 million last year, from about $22 million the year before. Those reductions were based on the company’s falling short of overall performance targets, especially cash flow goals.

Despite the decrease, he remains among the highest-paid auto executives in the world, earning at least $20 million for a third consecutive year for his role in streamlining the nation’s second-largest carmaker and returning it to consistent profitability.

Over all, the company earned $5.67 billion in profits last year, a 5 percent drop from 2011 excluding one-time valuation changes.

Its profits were hurt last year by big losses in the troubled European market, but Ford continued to post record pretax profits in its core North American market. The company also was returned to investment grade by ratings agencies, and it reinstated its dividend.

Mr. Mulally, who is 67, was recruited to Ford in 2006 just as the Detroit automakers were tumbling into a financial crisis that would force the company’s two main rivals, General Motors and Chrysler, to seek government bailouts and file for bankruptcy.

Ford survived without federal help and has thrived since, posting pretax profits for 14 consecutive quarters through the end of 2012, while improving revenue and market share.

G.M., the largest American car company, paid Daniel Akerson, its chairman and chief executive, about $11 million last year.

The company has not yet revealed its compensation data for 2012, but last month submitted documents to Congress that said it was proposing to pay Mr. Akerson $11.1 million this year.

G.M. said that figure was the same level as Mr. Akerson received in 2012, making his compensation among the highest for seven bailed-out companies that remain under pay restrictions imposed by the Treasury Department.

Chrysler’s chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, received $1.2 million in compensation in 2012. That does not include his pay as chief executive of Chrysler’s parent company, the Italian automaker Fiat.

The pay levels at G.M. and Ford far exceed what the companies were paying their executives a few years ago, when the automakers were losing billions of dollars, shutting factories and eliminating thousands of hourly and salaried jobs.

In 2005, for example, Mr. Ford, who then served as chief executive and chairman of Ford, agreed to take no compensation until the company became profitable again.

He then recruited Mr. Mulally from the aircraft company Boeing, a move that started Ford’s revival.

Since joining Ford, Mr. Mulally has earned more than $160 million in compensation. He also has been given stock awards totaling about $126 million, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg News Service.

“We believe our 2012 performance clearly shows our management team performed exceedingly well in a difficult environment,” Ford said in a statement.

Mr. Mulally has indicated that he will retire from Ford by 2014. The odds-on choice to succeed him is Mark Fields, who was promoted to chief operating officer in December after leading the company’s Americas division for several years.

Mr. Fields earned about $8.6 million in total compensation from Ford in 2012, a slight increase from the previous year.

The healthy pay packages come as Ford and other automakers anticipate another strong year in the revitalized American car market.

Sales of all new vehicles have risen 8 percent through February, compared with the same period a year ago. The industry is on track to sell more than 15 million new cars and trucks in 2013 — the first time that level has been reached since 2007.

While Ford’s executives are enjoying the rewards of the company’s comeback, so are its workers.

Because of its hefty earnings last year in North America, Ford will pay an average of $8,300 in profit-sharing checks to each of its 45,000 union workers in the United States.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/16/business/another-lucrative-year-for-car-executives.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bits Blog: Google Working on Maps for iPhone and iPad

A melting map of Las Vegas.theamazingios6maps.tumblr.com A melting map of Las Vegas.

People pining for a Google Maps app on their Apple devices will get one eventually, but likely not for another couple months or so.

Google is developing a maps application for iPhone and iPad that it is seeking to finish by the end of the year, according to people involved with the effort who declined to be named because of the nature of their work. There has been widespread speculation about whether and when Google would release a maps application for Apple devices since Apple released a new version of its iOS operating system with an Apple-made maps service.

One reason that it will take Google some time to build the iPhone app: it expected the app with Google’s maps to remain on the iPhone for some time, based on the contract between the two companies, and was caught off guard when Apple decided to build a new application to replace the old one.

Apple’s service has been widely ridiculed for inaccuracies in addresses, mislabeled landmarks and other mistakes. It has been compared unfavorably to Google Maps, which previously supplied mapping services to iOS users through an app Apple bundled with the devices. Apple has said its new service will improve over time.

Publicly, Google has been cagey about whether it will provide Google Maps for iOS devices as an app, beyond saying that it wants to provide its maps to users on any device they use. On Tuesday in Tokyo, Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, said the company had made no move to submit a Google Maps app for the iPhone.

But Google does intend to build a Google Maps app for iOS, according to people who have been involved in an effort to create the app.

There are several complicating factors to Google’s development of the app. Google’s contract with Apple to keep the maps app on the iPhone had more time remaining, and Google did not know that Apple had changed its mind until Apple said publicly in June that it would replace the app with its new maps app, according to two people briefed on the decision. Google is now navigating business relationships with Apple that grow more tricky by the day.

Another complication, according to a person with knowledge of Google Maps: Google would likely prefer to release a maps app that includes 3-D imagery so it is comparable to Apple’s. But Google has 3-D images in Google Earth, which is a separate app with a separate code base from Google Maps, so it would take some time to combine the two.

The Verge earlier reported some details of Google’s iOS maps efforts.

Article source: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/google-working-on-maps-for-iphone-ipad/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Ford Brings Back Dividend

DETROIT – The Ford Motor Company on Thursday said it would resume paying quarterly dividends to its shareholders for the first time since 2006 as it closes out its third consecutive profitable year.

The company’s directors approved paying out 5 cents a share on March 1. Ford recently signaled that it was close to restoring its dividend, and analysts had been expecting an announcement soon, though some were forecasting a slightly higher amount.

The payouts will total about $200 million, Ford said.

“We have made tremendous progress in reducing debt and generating consistent positive earnings and cash flow,” William Clay Ford Jr., the company’s executive chairman, said in a statement. “The board believes it is important to share the benefits of our improved financial performance with our shareholders.”

Ford is the first of the three Detroit automakers to bring back a dividend and the only one to have avoided filing for bankruptcy during the 2009 recession. After closing numerous plants and cutting thousands of jobs as part of its restructuring, Ford has been focused on strengthening its balance sheet by paying down debt and improving its liquidity.

“The shareholders who have invested in us need to get a return on that investment,” Ford’s chief financial officer, Lewis W.K. Booth, said on a conference call with reporters. “As our business improves and our results improve, we’ll continue to look to see if we can increase the dividend.”

Mr. Booth said Ford expected that it could continue paying a dividend even if the economy worsened in the future. The company has historically cut its dividend during downturns to conserve cash.

Ford suspended its common-stock dividend of 5 cents a share in September 2006, a year after its credit rating fell into junk status. Company officials had said they intended to resume a dividend after regaining an investment-grade rating, but in October, Mr. Booth said the dividend might be restored even before that happens. Ford is currently rated one notch below investment grade.

Several analysts said the four-year labor agreement that Ford signed with the United Automobile Workers in October paved the way for the company to bring back a dividend in the first quarter.

Brian Johnson, an analyst with Barclays Capital, had projected an 8 cent dividend in the first and second quarters, and Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley estimated that Ford would pay up to $1.2 billion in dividends next year, or an average of about 7.5 cents a quarter.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=950775cff02086aebb9019f677f03c8c

Advertising: Bargains on Flash Sale Sites Serve a Long-Range View

After Saint Parfum sold $55 candles perfumed with peony and grapefruit for $25 on the flash sale site One Kings Lane, visitors to Saint Parfum’s own Web site spiked to 6,000, from about 250 on a typical day. In the next few months, sales of full-price merchandise on Saint Parfum’s Web site and at retailers also climbed, and 20 new retailers asked to sell the candles.

“We don’t profit much, because of the discount,” said Spencer Krenke, Saint Parfum’s founder and perfumer. “But more important is that what we gain is long-term, loyal customers.”

Saint Parfum’s experience has become the norm for many brands that sell discounted merchandise on flash sale sites like One Kings Lane, Gilt, HauteLook, MyHabit and Ideeli. Brands like Volkswagen, Brooks Brothers and Starbucks have used the sites for marketing campaigns.

The phenomenon is an example of the muddled lines dividing editorial, advertising and commerce online as Web sites increasingly serve all three purposes. And it is the latest evidence that shoppers, overwhelmed by the options online, are turning to e-commerce sites that do the choosing for them, narrowing the selection and giving advice on which brands to buy.

“It’s really becoming less about dumping inventory and more about shining a spotlight on a new or existing brand,” said John Gerzema, executive chairman of BrandAsset Consulting, a marketing strategy firm. “Getting an endorsement from a company like Gilt or HauteLook or Ideeli is really a way to get your brand a higher profile that spending additional marketing dollars really can’t do.”

One Kings Lane, which sells discounted home décor, says that these days it is as much a marketing company as an e-commerce company.

“Our pitch actually starts that way now,” said Susan Feldman, co-founder of One Kings Lane. “Instead of, ‘We can help you with your excess and closeouts,’ the marketing part of it is really much more powerful.”

Amazon.com introduced its flash sale site, MyHabit.com, in March, partly because brands that sell on other Amazon sites said they wanted to use flash sales to get in front of new customers, said Maria Renz, president of MyHabit.

Amazon’s merchandise buyers write testimonials about the brands at the top of each sale page, and Amazon prominently links to the Web sites of the brands so customers can also shop there.

“We’re very happy to also drive traffic to the brands,” Ms. Renz said. “At the core, these sites are great ways to introduce your brand to a new customer.”

Some brands have started using Gilt, the most prominent of the flash sale sites in the United States, to introduce products instead of selling overstock.

To introduce the 2011 Jetta, Volkswagen sold three of the $15,995 cars for $5,995 on Gilt. Fifty-five thousand people who missed out added their names to the wait list, and Volkswagen sent them $500 coupons to buy or lease a Jetta.

Volkswagen sold 69 full-price cars as a result of the Gilt sale and has an e-mail list of interested customers, said Charlie Taylor, general manager of digital marketing for Volkswagen of America.

“This wasn’t a sales objective, it was only three cars,” Mr. Taylor said. “It was very much an awareness play, meant to build buzz.”

Brooks Brothers introduced its Back to Campus line, slimmer-fitting clothes for younger men, by selling the clothes at full price on Gilt Man six weeks before selling them in stores to advertise to younger men who shop on Gilt but not generally at Brooks Brothers.

Seventy percent of the buyers on Gilt Man were under 39, according to Brooks Brothers.

Some of the flash sale sites are evolving into online fashion or design magazines. They often serve as copywriters, photographers and stylists for the brands, melding commerce and editorial in ways that were never possible for print publications.

“We are moving toward being an online retailer that understands that our mission is as much to impart information and give you ideas and help you make the best purchasing decisions,” said Susan Lyne, chairwoman of Gilt.

Younger people are more likely to discover new brands online than in magazines or department stores, she said, and they like doing it online because they can buy on the spot.

Gilt employs 100 stylists, makeup artists and photographers to shoot models wearing the clothes. It hired Ruth Reichl, former editor in chief of Gourmet and former restaurant critic for The New York Times, as editorial adviser for its new food site, Gilt Taste, which publishes essays and recipes in addition to selling food.

To promote another Brooks Brothers sale on Gilt Man, Gilt interviewed the costume designer for the detective TV show “White Collar” about men’s fashion on GiltManual, a site with articles like “How to Clash With Panache” and “How to Match Your Suit to Your Shoes.”

One Kings Lane has hired writers from Elle Décor and Domino. It publishes slide shows and articles with tips from designers on how to layer rugs or the latest wallpaper trends.

“These are e-commerce platforms, but they’re also marketing and media platforms rolled into one,” Mr. Gerzema said.

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