Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Living wages at Xanadu Meadowlands? Think again, New Jersey

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dollarDo 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.

The most interesting thing that I heard is that Related would not force stores at the complex, located in East Rutherford, N.J., by Giants Stadium, to pay living wages to their employees. While a minimum wage is the lowest hourly, daily or monthly wage that employers must pay, a living wage is what is considered the lowest amount of money that someone requires to pay for shelter, clothing and other basic needs. Here’s what Ross (incidentally, the 95 percent owner of the Miami Dolphins football team) said about that:

That would be a deal breaker for any retail development. … People earn tips. The large retail tenants have a different wage scale that they pay. I think the most important thing today is creating jobs.

‘Take Me out to the Racetrack?’

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PreaknessThe 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.

LeFrak: We’ve been bunting for years

LeFrakWatch 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:

Q+A: Maria Fiorini Ramirez

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I sat down with Maria Fiorini Ramirez today after she joined us at the Reuters Investment Outlook Summit and asked her about starting her own company — the global economic consulting firm Maria Fiorini Ramirez, Inc — her advice for young entrepreneurs, and if women can balance a successful work and home life.

Where you were you born?
Naples, Italy

When did you come to the U.S?
1960. To East New York.

Did you go to high school there?
Yes, St. Michael’s. An all girl’s Catholic school.

Dell: stay tuned for “Streak”

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”.

Even the best VCs strikeout — a lot

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Got access to a couple million bucks and want to be a venture capitalist? A miner of start-up business gold? Then get used to being wrong.

That’s one lesson we learned during a discussion with Venture Capitalists at the Reuters Technology Summit: even the most successful investors — those who finance the bandwagon others jump on when it comes to the likes of Facebook, Myspace and Twitter — meet with entrepreneurs, like what they hear, write a check, and watch the investment go up in smoke.

More or less fun in a recession? It’s a tough call

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EA_Jens_Uwe_Intat_SVP_Reuters_Summit_Paris_2010_17_May_30pctStill unsure whether economic recession is good or bad for video-games sales, more than a year in? If so, you’re in good company — neither does the world’s biggest games publisher. Electronic Arts’ head of European publishing says the company still hasn’t figured out whether people cut spending on big items like housing and cars first, or whether those kinds of decisions are just too hard.

“We really wonder, hmm, in economically difficult times would people in order to have SOME fun actually play more games or less games, and then, would they spend more or less?  It’s really, it’s impossible to say,” Jens-Uwe Intat told the Reuters Global Technology Summit in Paris.

What if there were no “too big to fail”? Fed’s Hoenig has a vision

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USA/Democrats and Republicans alike on Capitol Hill say they want to toss out the concept of “too big to fail” in the financial regulation reform they are tussling over. That way if a financial firm is going to go under, it will go under, with no thought for a taxpayer handout.

Since the concept of “too big to fail” has yet to be erased by law, and its demise yet to be tested by a failing financial institution, it was interesting to hear how Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Thomas Hoenig envisioned the financial industry without that concept to lean on.

ABA’s Yingling sees danger in rhetoric: it’s Wall Street, not banks

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REGULATION-SUMMITEd Yingling, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association, is a little worried about the rhetoric that’s been flying around as Congress tries to produce financial reform legislation.

And he wants people to be clear that the problems are with Wall Street, not banks.

Jon Stewart’s brother says mom ‘pretty happy with both’

EXCHANGES-SUMMIT/A bit grayer and world wearier, maybe, but there’s no mistaking the family resemblance between NYSE Chief Operating Office Larry Leibowitz and his kid brother Jon Stewart. Unlike the Daily Show host, Leibowitz mostly keeps a low profile, although he did find himself in the spotlight even before his appearance at the Reuters Global Exchanges and Trading Summit on Monday. The Wall Street Journal interviewed him in a story about the NYSE’s effort to turn some high frequency traders — who have been chipping away at the exchange’s business — into exchange floor traders.

Leibowitz may be sick of the Jon Stewart questions, but when pesky Reuters editors and journalists  inevitably raised them, he answered them with relatively good humor.  

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