Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders
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.”
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:
What do gold and wine have in common?
Well, too high of a high price, according to Jeffrey Rubin, director of research at Birinyi Associates, the stock market research and money management firm.
Rubin told the Reuters Investment Outlook Summit on Tuesday that he thought gold prices were “certainly a little frothy” at current levels and that he would rather be a buyer of the gold miners such as Newmont Mining Corp, Barrick Gold Corp, or Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc. Gold hit an all-time high above $1,250 an ounce on Tuesday as investors piled in due to fears that European credit contagion could lead to a double-dip recession.
The U.S. economy is experiencing an ongoing but slow recovery, says Barry Ritholtz, director of equity research at Fusion IQ. But that’s not stopping him from enjoying discounted prices in a low-inflation environment, at least when it comes to his personal spending habits. The world is on sale if you’ve got the money to spend, he told the Reuters Investment Outlook summit in New York when asked, for example, if he might spend less while on a vacation or forego a purchase or two.
“I am an enormous counter-cyclical spender. At the top of the bull market I don’t want to buy anything. I am a seller into a bull market. We have been buying a ton of stuff over the past year. We got two new cars long before the May…. so we picked up two new cars. We’re doing work on the house. We’re adding a kitchen. I got my wife a very lovely birthday gift. She got me a very lovely birthday gift. We’ve been buying artwork. We’ve buying jewelry. I love to buy stuff when it is on sale. I hate to buy top dollar for it.
It’s hard to tell how much anticipation there is out there for Dell’s upcoming “Streak” micro-tablet. The No. 3 PC maker’s latest foray into a consumer arena that Apple’s iPad has essentially helped create is set to hit stores this summer in the United States.
Consumer business unit chief Steve Felice told the Reuters Global Technology Summit that Dell isn’t interested in becoming the No. 1 player in the smartphone and tablet mobile devices categories, where Apple and Google are waging a very high-profile war. But the former leader in personal computers fully intends to be a “top-tier player”.
You can just hear the University of Phoenix licking its chops right now.
Cisco expects to have its home TelePresence system — a living room version of what you have seen in those quirky Ellen Page commercials (see below) — by the holiday season at around $500 (plus some kind of monthly service fee), Cisco Executive Vice President Rob Lloyd said on Thursday at the Reuters Global Technology Summit. He and some other Cisco employees are about to start a round of internal testing.
The system will let two users have a conversation with video. Ok, yes, Skype does that every day over garden variety laptops. But TelePresence, as described by Lloyd, uses your high speed Internet link, and your own flat-screen TV, to deliver crisp video, and overcome that weird latency issue where you and your conversation partner both talk at the same time, and both stop to say “no…you go.”
Tod Nielsen certainly has the gift of the gab. VMWare’s chief operating officer, who was once videotaped by a reporter in the hope that he would turn out someday to be “famous” (and a royalty generator), waxed lyrical at the Reuters Global Technology Summit about everything from British CIOs and magic crystals to PCs .
Here’s a sampling of his colorfully phrased — though occasionally puzzling — views.
Apple developed the processor for it’s recently launched iPad tablet PC in-house. Intel was left waiting on the sidelines but change may be in store. Future tablets from other device makers, and maybe even Apple, could prove to be a lucrative for the world’s largest chipmaker. And why not, Intel already makes the microprocessors that are used in more than three quarters of the world’s PCs. Tom Kilroy, Intel senior vice president and general manager of sales and marketing, says “wait til Computex” for a big announcement. So, what’s likely to come out of the industry trade show this June in Taipei? Any thoughts? Click below to hear what Kilroy had to say in San Francisco at the 2010 Reuters Global Technology Summit.
Intel, Sony and Google are expected to unveil on Thursday a “smart TV”: an Internet-ready, super content machine that — if the hype is to be believed — will let viewers watch Celebrity Apprentice, tweet, and respond to emails at the same time. On Wednesday, Intel’s sales and marketing chief — while keeping his cards close to the vest — couldn’t resist a little plug for the general concept of Internet TVs.
“The smart TV category is going to take off. It just makes all the sense in the world,” Thomas Kilroy told the Reuters Global Technology Summit. “Why would you want to compromise when you’ve got a nice big screen, you’re watching TV and you want to access information and keep that program on instead of bringing in another device. ”