Robert's Feed
Jun 22, 2010
via Summit Notebook

‘That’s a cheap suit!’ isn’t a compliment

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Memo to the men of the United States of America, including myself: it pays to invest in a suit, and it pays even more to invest in a few. When I was growing up, my father and other older guys told me that if I spent more money on a small number of suits, they would last a long time.

Apparently much of the rest of America’s men have decided that durability and classic style count for less now that their wallets have gotten a little lighter in the past few years. Perry Ellis Chairman and CEO George Feldenkreis, speaking at the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit, said that men are wearing fewer suits these days. “Not only that,” he said. “Men are buying cheaper suits.”

Jun 21, 2010
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Barbie does Beijing: The adventures of a Malibu girl in China

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Modern day national influence, some smart people like to argue, spreads through the “soft power” of brand appeal and attraction rather than the “hard power” of coercion. In China, one avatar of U.S.  soft power tends to be trim and busty, and come with blue eyes and a long mane of blonde hair. Her name is Barbie, she is made of plastic, she was born in Malibu and Chinese girls want to be like her.

Barbie comes in all sorts of versions, according to the man who introduces her to her foreign friends, Mattel’s international president, Bryan Stockton. Still, in China, the No. 1-selling Barbie doll is the sunny surfer girl who cruised across the Pacific from southern California to bring millions of young Chinese girls a new vision of the world, not to mention themselves.

Jun 21, 2010
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The Nina Kampler manifesto: don’t waste space, buy less stuff

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Sometimes it’s refreshing to meet people like Hilco Real Estate’s Nina Kampler. They work up to their eyeballs in finance, debt, bankruptcy and the business of making and salvaging profits, yet think that there is more to life than money and private enterprise.

Kampler, who runs the retailer real estate group, visited us at the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit on Monday, and talked about all sorts of business-y topics that we love to write about on our wire. But on this blog, I’ll highlight one or two of her more interesting thoughts about public spaces and how people shop — ideas that seem to exist in opposition to the profit motives of, well, everyone who’s in business.

Jun 21, 2010
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Ethan Allen fills up its (tastefully upholstered) bench

The recession wasn’t kind to Ethan Allen’s manufacturing plant workers, but now that the economy is recovering, so are the employment rolls. Last year, the Danbury, Connecticut-based furniture maker and retailer slashed its manufacturing workforce by about 30 percent, Farooq Kathwari, the company’s chairman and chief executive, told the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit in New York on Monday. That included closing a plant or cutting jobs in Chino, California; Andover, Maine;  Orleans, Vermont and elsewhere.

I could not pinpoint exactly how many jobs he was talking about, and Kathwari did not immediately have the numbers handy, but according to the Ethan Allen website, it looks like they lost 65 workers in Chino and about 320 in Maine and Vermont. Meanwhile, the company said in 2009 that it planned to add some 300 more jobs to its larger facility in  North Carolina, where it had 540 employees as of a year ago.  The published numbers suggest that Ethan Allen cut a little more than 40 percent of its manufacturing staff, while Kathwari at today’s interview said it was about a third. Either way, he told us, “In about six months, about half have been added back.”

Jun 15, 2010
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Living wages at Xanadu Meadowlands? Think again, New Jersey

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Do not expect the developer that’s working on the massive Meadowlands shopping and entertainment complex in northern New Jersey to compel its tenants to pay their workers a living wage. Related Companies, the New York-based real estate developer behind the project, said on Tuesday that it would be a deal breaker.

We talked to Stephen Ross, Related’s founder, chairman and CEO at our Global Real Estate and Infrastructure Summit, and after a while, talk turned to the stalled project, slated to open in 2011, four years after the 2007 planned opening date. Among other things, we learned that the name “Xanadu” isn’t happening anymore. Related, which took over the project after a bunch of lenders dropped out, has a list of other names, but wouldn’t share them with us.

Jun 15, 2010
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‘Take Me out to the Racetrack?’

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The bulk of our conversations at the Reuters Global Real Estate and Infrastructure Summit deal with, well, real estate and infrastructure. On Tuesday, however, we got onto the subject of horse racing. Our guest was Gregory Cross, a lawyer at Venable LLP. He is the head of Venable’s bankruptcy practice and represented the state of Maryland, a creditor of Magna Entertainment Corp, which runs the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and its famous Preakness Stakes horse race and filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

We asked Cross what could help ailing racetracks improve their financial performance. His answer? A little less Damon Runyon and Dick Francis, and a little more Black Stallion and National Velvet — crossed with Field of Dreams.

Jun 14, 2010
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LeFrak: We’ve been bunting for years

Watch out for Richard LeFrak when he’s at bat and you’re in the outfield. He has a tendency to bunt.

This is a funny baseball technique to use when most executives spend their time trying their best to hit home runs, but LeFrak Organization‘s chairman, president and CEO says it’s worked for his real estate empire, so there’s no need to stop now. When we asked him at our Reuters Global Real Estate Summit why his company didn’t borrow a ton of money during the real estate boom, he said:

Jun 4, 2010

Hungary, Eastern Europe debt fears gnaw at euro

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The possibility of a Hungarian debt crisis pushed the euro to a four-year low against the dollar on Friday and reignited fears more Eastern European nations could reveal financial frailties.

The new Hungarian government spooked investors and knocked more than 2 percent off its currency, the forint, versus the euro, after a prime minister’s spokesman said he supported the view the country had only a slim chance of avoiding the kind of debt crisis that plunged Greece into financial instability.

Jun 4, 2010

Washington Post fields several bids for Newsweek

NEW YORK (Reuters) – At least four interested parties appear to have submitted bids for Newsweek, the magazine that The Washington Post Co put up for sale on May 5.

Newsmax Media and Thane Ritchie, chief executive of Ritchie Capital Management, said they submitted bids. Private equity firm OpenGate Capital and Sidney Harman, the founder of audio equipment company Harman International Industries Inc, have expressed interest in the weekly news magazine, according to the New York Times.

Apr 9, 2010

Tribune gets creditor agreement on bankruptcy exit

NEW YORK, April 8 (Reuters) – U.S. newspaper publisher
Tribune Co said on Thursday it has agreed with creditors on a
plan that would help it exit bankruptcy protection later this
year.

The publisher of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times,
which filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008, said it
reached a deal with major creditors and lenders including
JPMorgan Chase & Co <JPM.N>, Angelo Gordon, Centerbridge
Partners and its Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors.