March 24, 2023

Tony Metcalf, Editor of Free City Newspapers, Dies at 50

The cause was colon cancer, said a company spokesman in New York, where Mr. Metcalf was based.

At his death, Mr. Metcalf, a newspaper veteran from Northeast England, was considered a rising star in the free-newspaper empire of Metro International, a spinoff of a Swedish media company that started its first free newspaper in Stockholm in 1995. Metro International now publishes about 100 such papers in 27 countries.

Starting in 2000 as editor of the company’s first giveaway newspaper in England, the short-lived Metro Newcastle, Mr. Metcalf was named global editor in chief in 2001 and dispatched to start similar newspapers in a dozen locations, including Toronto, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Hong Kong and Seoul. (All are still operating.) He was named editor of Metro US in 2008.

Mr. Metcalf worked from an established template. Metro papers are thin, colorful tabloid digests of news that are published only on weekdays and typically hawked at or near subway and bus stations. News staffs are skeletal. The pages often have wire service reports or material acquired under arrangements with CNN, as well as several magazines and Web sites.

Mr. Metcalf described the target readership as “the hard-to-reach metropolitan” — the young, employed city dweller who is more apt to get news online or from television. The Metro ads are mainly directed at them, and the articles can easily be read between stops, running about 300 words each. (A word count ending about here, for example.)

Metro US said that under Mr. Metcalf’s leadership, the three American dailies’ readership had grown to about one million at a time when the newspaper industry as a whole has lost vast numbers of readers.

In addition to the three major daily newspapers based in New York City, Metro’s main competition for the mass-transit audience in New York is amNew York, a free daily started by the Tribune Company in 2003 and now owned by Cablevision. (Since 2005, The New York Times Company has owned a 49 percent stake in the Metro newspaper published in Boston.)

A committed purveyor of journalistic Britishisms, Mr. Metcalf was known to egg on his overworked skeletal staff with compliments and other noncash rewards. A well-done article was “a belter” or a “bobby dazzler,” staff members said. Announcing an office party, he would say he was “planning a bit of a knees up.”

Mr. Metcalf was born on June 12, 1963, in Newton Aycliffe in the north of England and received a journalism degree from the Darlington College of Technology in the early 1980s. He went on to work as a reporter and editor at The Northern Echo, a regional newspaper, from 1987 to 2000, when he left to edit Metro Newcastle.

He left Metro International in 2004 to edit 7Days, a free newspaper in Dubai, of which he was a part owner, before returning to the company in 2008.

He is survived by his wife, Lesley; two children, Alex and Freya; and a brother and a sister.

Mr. Metcalf straddled the lines between journalism, showmanship and marketing. He wrote occasional commentaries on events like the London Olympics and the death of Margaret Thatcher, hired Alex McCord of “The Real Housewives of New York” to write a column, and recently offered readers a chance to win an iPod by “liking” Metro on Facebook.

His most animated encounter with American readers came after his decision to run a Reuters article about Europeans’ revulsion at American celebrations in 2011 over the killing of Osama bin Laden. Readers were angry and in some cases threatening.

Mr. Metcalf’s response was at first diplomatic and then stern: “Democratic states do not execute people without first going through the judicial process,” he wrote on the Metro editor’s blog. “If that process is circumvented, then you are no better than the terrorists.”

He added: “I defy you to argue with that logic.”

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Media Decoder Blog: Netflix Teams With DreamWorks Animation on Cartoon Series for Children

LOS ANGELES — Continuing a campaign to deepen its appeal to children, Netflix on Tuesday announced a partnership with DreamWorks Animation to create an original cartoon series.

The show, expected to make its debut on the streaming service in December, will be based on DreamWorks Animation’s coming movie “Turbo,” about a snail who gains the power of superspeed. The Netflix spinoff will be called “Turbo: F.A.S.T.,” which stands for Fast Action Stunt Team.

Netflix is gambling that “Turbo” will be a hit when it arrives in theaters on July 19. Although DreamWorks Animation has high hopes for that movie, it’s still anyone’s guess how audiences will respond; the company’s last film, “Rise of the Guardians,” was a box-office disappointment.

Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, said in a statement that DreamWorks Animation had “a long track record of creating incredibly successful characters.” DreamWorks Animation’s chief executive, Jeffrey Katzenberg, never shy about making a hard sell, called the partnership “part of the television revolution.”

A rival streaming service, Amazon’s Prime Instant Video, is racing to prepare its own original series, and has five children’s shows in development.

Netflix, which recently introduced the original series “House of Cards” to strong reviews from critics, has been working over the last several years to enhance its offerings for children. In 2011, it acquired the streaming rights to DreamWorks Animation’s movies and television specials. New films from Disney, Pixar and Marvel will move from Starz to Netflix in late 2016, following a deal the streaming company made with the Walt Disney Company in December.

Netflix said its members streamed more than two billion hours of children’s content in 2012, taking care to note that it is “always commercial free.” Netflix is also trying to enhance its appeal with multiple audience niches. A new horror series called “Hemlock Grove” is on the way, for instance. “Orange Is the New Black,” an original comedic drama from the “Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan, is aimed at women.

Children’s programming is particularly important to the company’s growth plans. Children are avid streaming consumers, particularly overseas, and Netflix can pitch itself to parents as a commercial-free alternative to television. Cartoons are also less likely to appear on the pirated-content sites that compete with Netflix for viewers.

For DreamWorks Animation, the agreement is part of an effort to diversify into television both as a way to grow and to avoid the sharp ups and downs of the movie business. The company’s shares rose 2.91 percent on Tuesday, to $16.63.

The company has two shows on Nickelodeon that are spinoffs of its “Madagascar” and “Kung Fu Panda” films; a third series built around “Monsters vs. Aliens” is in the works. DreamWorks Animation also has a series built around the film “How to Train Your Dragon” on the Cartoon Network, as well as a growing number of holiday-themed television specials.

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Novartis Profit Rises; Its Chairman Will Step Down

The board is proposing that Jörg Reinhardt, the chairman of the German rival Bayer HealthCare, succeed Mr. Vasella. Joseph Jimenez will remain as chief executive.

Novartis said that its profit rose in the fourth quarter but that sales were flat because of price cuts and competition from cheaper drugs. Net income was $2.08 billion, compared with $1.21 billion in the period a year earlier, when it took a $900 million charge from ending its clinical study into wider uses of the hypertension drug Tekturna.

The results were slightly above most analysts’ expectations.

Mr. Jimenez said Novartis had a strong range of new products coming from research and development — including an infant vaccine for meningitis — and predicted net sales to grow after 2013.

Fourth-quarter sales were almost flat at $14.83 billion, compared with $14.78 billion in the period a year earlier, and sales in 2013 are expected to suffer from the expiration of patents on the hypertension drug Diovan.

Novartis said Gilenya, its once-a-day pill against multiple sclerosis, attained what it called “blockbuster status,” with full-year sales of $1.2 billion in 2012.

Novartis expects the Food and Drug Administration to carry out an inspection in the coming months at its plant in Lincoln, Neb., which was shut down at the end of 2011 after officials found numerous problems with quality control. Mr. Jimenez told reporters in a conference call that in the meantime, the company was relying on third-party manufacturers to ensure the continued supply of products like Excedrin across the United States.

Separately, Abbott Laboratories said on Wednesday that its profit fell 35 percent in the fourth quarter on costs from the spinoff of its drug business into the new company AbbVie.

Abbott completed the split on Jan. 1, leaving it with a business model built around generic drugs, medical implants and nutritional formula. AbbVie will market the company’s branded prescription drugs, including the popular anti-inflammatory drug Humira.

In Abbott’s last quarter as a combined unit, the company earned $1.05 billion, or 66 cents a share, compared with $1.62 billion, or $1.02 a share, in the period a year earlier.

Earnings were weighed down by a number of one-time charges, including $265 million in separation costs. Excluding that and other charges, Abbott would have earned $1.51 a share. Revenue increased 4 percent, to $10.84 billion.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected, on average, earnings per share of 70 cents a share on revenue of $10.61 billion.

Finally, Amgen, the maker of the anemia treatments Aranesp and Epogen, posted a 16 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit as higher costs for production, marketing, research and other items offset higher sales for many of its biologic medicines. The results fell short of Wall Street expectations.

Net income was $788 million, or $1.01 a share, compared with $934 million, or $1.08 a share, in the period a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, net income would have been $1.40 a share, 4 cents less than analysts expected, on average, according to FactSet.

Revenue rose 11 percent, to $4.42 billion.

Sales were led by the immune disorder treatment Enbrel, up 23 percent, to $1.16 billion, and Neulasta and Neupogen for fighting infection in cancer patients. They had a combined $1.31 billion in sales, down 1 percent.

Sales of Aranesp and Epogen fell 9 percent and 1 percent, to a combined $968 million.

Several newer drugs, like Prolia, Xgeva and Sensipar, had double-digit jumps in revenue.

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DealBook: Amid Insider Trading Inquiry, Tiger Asia Calls It Quits

Tiger Asia, a spinoff of Tiger Management, the hedge fund founded by Julian Robertson, told investors in a letter that the fund would be returning their money in the coming weeks as a result of a “prolonged legal situation.”

That situation is a three-year insider trading investigation by the Hong Kong authorities into allegations of trading improprieties at the hedge fund, which was founded by Bill Hwang. The Securities and Exchange Commission has also been investigating the fund.

“As you are aware, the firm has been the subject of government investigations of alleged trading based upon confidential information and engaging in certain manipulative trades in late 2008/early 2009 in Asian markets,” Mr. Hwang wrote in his letter to investors. “We continue to work to resolve these matters in the U.S. and overseas and look forward to putting them behind us.”

Mr. Hwang is the latest investor to throw in the towel as a hedge fund manager because of a government investigation. His fund has dwindled to about $1.2 billion from about $3 billion in 2010. Though he has not been formally charged with any wrongdoing in the United States, Mr. Hwang has decided to no longer manage outside capital.

He is not the first hedge fund manager to make that decision. David Ganek decided to shutter Level Global Investors, which was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in late 2010. Mr. Ganek said at the time that with the government scrutiny, he did not feel he could comfortably make investment decisions for the long term. Later, Mr. Ganek’s co-founder, Anthony Chiasson, was charged with insider trading.

Mr. Hwang held on to his operation for several years, despite the allegations made by the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong. Regulators there have accused Mr. Hwang of obtaining inside information during 2008 and 2009 about placements of shares in the China Construction Bank Corporation and Bank of China, tips that regulators say earned him $5 million.

The regulator sought to bar Tiger Asia from trading on Hong Kong exchanges altogether, the first time it had ever tried to exclude an entity from trading on its exchanges. That litigation is still pending.

The investigation spread to the S.E.C., which subpoenaed the fund in 2010. While Mr. Hwang has denied the allegations, those claims did little to quell investors or end the investigation.

Mr. Hwang founded Tiger Asia, which is based in New York, in 2001 after working for Mr. Robertson at Tiger Management. He focused his trading on Asia, and like his mentor typically bought and sold stocks.

“I am saddened by the news but certainly understand Bill’s decision,” said Mr. Robertson in a statement. “I have worked side-by-side with Bill for 20 years. I have enormous respect for him as an individual and an investor. He has always been a great partner, a great person and a great friend. I continue to hold him in the highest regard.”

Since its inception, the firm has returned about 16 percent a year for its investors, handily beating the indexes during the same period. In the letter, Mr. Hwang said Tiger Asia would continue as a family office with most employees remaining at the firm.

“It is my hope that someday I will again have the privilege to manage your capital,” he wrote in the letter.

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DealBook: Posting a Profit, A.I.G. Aims to Trim U.S. Stake

Robert H. Benmosche, chief executive of the American International Group.Doug Mills/The New York TimesRobert H. Benmosche, chief executive of the American International Group.

8:49 p.m. | Updated

The American International Group said on Thursday that it swung to a profit in the second quarter as the company took fewer charges related to its effort to shed its government bailout.

Last year, A.I.G. posted a loss of nearly $2.7 billion for the second quarter, harmed by a $3.3 billion accounting charge tied to the sale of a major international life insurance unit. Since then, the insurer has shed additional businesses and, perhaps most important, begun selling down the government’s controlling equity stake.

“A.I.G. is basically back in business,” Robert H. Benmosche, the insurer’s chief executive, said in a telephone interview. “The crisis is over for this company.”

Still, much of the quarter’s gain came from its stake in American International Assurance, the big Asian life insurer that the company took public last year. A.I.G. earned $1.5 billion from its holdings in the unit.

A.I.G. is expected to make additional business changes in the near term, including a potential spinoff of its large aircraft leasing business.

For the quarter, the company earned $1.8 billion, or $1 a share. On an after-tax operating income basis, which excludes additional profit from discontinued businesses as well as accounting charges tied to its overhaul, A.I.G. earned 69 cents a share. That fell short of the 92-cent average consensus estimate of analysts, according to Thomson Reuters.

A.I.G. also said that it had finished an “active wind-down” of its financial products division, the unit whose derivatives contracts tied to subprime mortgages — a portfolio with a notional value of more than $1.6 trillion at one point — led to the company’s near-downfall.

The company said that the notional value of the financial products’ portfolio had fallen 42 percent to $198.4 billion, as the company closed out most of the remaining troublesome mortgage derivatives contracts. Remaining, according to A.I.G., are relatively benign contracts that are unlikely to cause ruinous damage.

Thursday’s results showed that A.I.G. still faced pressure on its core operations, as its Chartis casualty insurance business recorded $539 million in losses because of disasters like tornadoes in the Midwest.

The unit reported $789 million in operating income for the quarter, down from $955 million for the quarter. Still the business increased the amount of its net premiums written by 17.6 percent, to $9.2 billion. It also made few changes to its reserve levels, a sign of better financial health.

SunAmerica Financial, A.I.G.’s domestic life insurance unit, posted an 18.3 percent drop in operating income, to $743 million, hurt in part by lower investment income. But it showed strong growth in sales, including double-digit gains in annuity deposits and retail policies.

Other operations reported declines, including the aircraft leasing business, the International Lease Finance Corporation. The unit posted a 53 percent drop in operating income to $86 million because of accounting charges and retiring old aircraft, though its rental revenue dipped only slightly to $1.1 billion.

Though A.I.G.’s stock price has fallen 10 percent since its “re-I.P.O.,” and fell 6 percent on Thursday amid the broad market sell-off, Mr. Benmosche said that he was not worried about any future stock offerings that the company would hold.

A.I.G. is hoping to take down the government’s stake well below its current 77 percent.

“We’re going to make that decision in November,” he said.

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