Business

  • BlogWatch: What's Hot and What's Not

    Sports obsessives can always count on deadspin.com posts for laughs. Like a bizarre, rambling TV interview where Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury accidentally refers to his wife as "his better ho."Both "spheres"—blog and media—remain obsessed with all things Libby; talkingpointsmemo.com calls out the hypocrites among the president's defenders; corner.nationalreview.com pushes for a pardon.As summer movie attendance plunges, moviegoers have plenty of time to ponder more-pressing questions like: will "Transformers"' lead Shia LeBoeuf become a movie star? hollywood-elsewhere.com says ... nah.
  • Quinn: Washington Rolls Back Investor Protections

    Remember the "ownership society" that the administration swore to promote and protect? Remember the admiration lavished on the so-called shareholding class? You probably thought that meant you, because you invest in the stock market and own mutual funds. You would be wrong.Even with the corporate frauds of the '90s barely out of the headlines and 21st-century frauds taking over (rampant insider trading; backdated stock options for executives), your government is rolling back some investor-protection rules. It's also urging the courts to side with corporate captains against their trusting shareholders. Key people in Congress, mindful of campaign contributions, stand on the captains' side.I have three cases in point. ...
  • The Last Word: Naresh Goyal

    India is rising. and as rising nations are wont to do, it is launching airlines on global routes in pursuit of money and international glamour. The Indian entrants in this brutal market are led by Jet Airways, which begins to fly from major North American cities to Europe, Africa, China, the Middle East and to its home bases in India on Aug. 5. Chairman Naresh Goyal, who started his career as a ticket agent, founded Jet in 1993, when India began opening up its air market. Jet was India's first private domestic carrier, and is now the country's largest private airline. Goyal, one of India's 10 richest people, spoke to NEWSWEEK's Vibhuti Patel in New York about Jet's $3.7 billion expansion and the global airline business. Excerpts: ...
  • How Prison Made Steve Madden a Better Man

    Steve Madden is showing off his spring collection: gumball-colored sneakers with wedges that look like souvenirs from an acid trip. Fix, they're called, appropriately enough. "Fix?!" groans a Brooklyn shoe-store owner, whom Madden has invited to this New York trade show to critique his line. "Girls will look at them and say, 'What's wrong with me? What do I need fixed?' " Madden gives a quiet nod of his baseball-capped head. One of his employees fidgets nervously. But the store owner doesn't let up. "It's old. It's done. You need to define yourself in the marketplace."After a three-year hiatus, of sorts, Madden, 50, is doing just that—and he's not letting himself be rattled by critics. In the mid-'90s, Madden was a rock star to millions of young women who couldn't get enough of his affordable bejeweled platforms and big-toed clogs. The college dropout who'd gotten his start peddling shoes on Long Island was Manhattan royalty, holding court in his SoHo flagship and sitting courtside...
  • Sears Stock Takes a Hit on Profit News

    Sears Holdings, whose 3,800 Sears and Kmart stores make it the nation's fourth-largest broad-line retailer, surprised investors with an earnings announcement yesterday. For the first nine weeks of the current quarter, same-store sales fell 3.9 percent from last year, and quarterly profits could fall by up to 45 percent. CEO Aylwin Lewis noted that the company had been hurt by declining appliance sales (that darned housing market) and needed "to become more relevant to consumers." (That's retail-ese for our merchandise bites.) The stock plummeted about 10 percent on the news.The declining same-store sales for Kmart and Sears were nothing new, but the negative market reaction was. For the last several years, Sears Holdings, a mini-conglomerate cobbled together by hedge-fund whiz Eddie Lampert, has been a stock market darling. (Here's the stunning five-year chart.) Lampert acquired Kmart, which went bankrupt in January 2002, brought it out of bankruptcy, and used it as a platform to...
  • Moneybox: The Barneys Mystery

    Wall Street is going back to the future. This morning, news broke that a bidding war has erupted between a Japanese retailer and Dubai's state investment fund, Istithmar, over posh retailer Barneys. Last week Citigroup's London headquarters, a tower in the mega-complex Canary Wharf, sold for $2 billion.Those of us of a certain age—i.e., if you can remember listening to REM cassette tapes on a Walkman—may recall that Barneys and Canary Wharf were high-flying businesses of the 1980s that turned into major fiascos of the 1990s. History's snap judgment was that the families behind Barneys and Canary Wharf (the Pressmans and Reichmanns, respectively) had destroyed major franchises with their hubris and reckless management. When the firms filed for bankruptcy, the ideas behind their businesses—a nationwide superhigh-end clothing store in the case of Barneys, a new high-rise office center in east London in the case of Canary Wharf—were likewise deemed bankrupt.But the line separating...
  • Moneybox: The Barneys Mystery

    Wall Street is going back to the future. This morning, news broke that a bidding war has erupted between a Japanese retailer and Dubai's state investment fund, Istithmar, over posh retailer Barneys. Last week Citigroup's London headquarters, a tower in the mega-complex Canary Wharf, sold for $2 billion.Those of us of a certain age—i.e., if you can remember listening to REM cassette tapes on a Walkman—may recall that Barneys and Canary Wharf were high-flying businesses of the 1980s that turned into major fiascos of the 1990s. History's snap judgment was that the families behind Barneys and Canary Wharf (the Pressmans and Reichmanns, respectively) had destroyed major franchises with their hubris and reckless management. When the firms filed for bankruptcy, the ideas behind their businesses—a nationwide superhigh-end clothing store in the case of Barneys, a new high-rise office center in east London in the case of Canary Wharf—were likewise deemed bankrupt.But the line separating...
  • Samuelson: Finance Reform Makes for Unfree Speech

    The Fourth of July holiday makes this an apt week to reflect on one of the great underreported stories of our time: the rise of speech regulation. Glance at the First Amendment, but do not think it still applies. Large bodies of political speech are now governed by laws, agency regulations, court decisions and lawyerly interpretations. Speech has become unfree.This does not mean that we don't have vigorous debate or that most points of view aren't represented. But in and around elections, what can be said, by whom and under what circumstances, is now a tangled web of legal qualifications—all justified as campaign-finance "reform."As proof, consider the Supreme Court's recent decision in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life Inc. Don't try to understand it; you won't. That's the point. What's permissible or impermissible speech is now murky. Plain political speech has mushroomed into many subcategories—"issue speech," "electioneering communications," "express...
  • Dan Gross on Bear Stearns's Hedge Fund Bailout

    Bear Stearns has always been the pesky, streetwise, kid brother in the Wall Street family—smaller, younger (it was founded in 1923), and less polished. Bear lacks Goldman Sachs' tradition of public-minded financiers, the brand name of Merrill Lynch, the proud WASP lineage of Morgan Stanley, or the overwhelming size of Citigroup and Chase. Bear Stearns' market capitalization is a measly $21 billion, less than one-tenth that of Citigroup. CEO Jimmy Cayne isn't a Harvard MBA; he's a former scrap-iron salesman who didn't complete his studies at Purdue. Bear Stearns confirmed its outsider status in 1998 by refusing to participate in the Wall Street-orchestrated bailout of faltering hedge fund Long Term Capital Management.But now Bear Stearns has finally joined the club. Last month, facing a crisis at two large hedge funds run by its asset management unit, Bear Stearns agreed to bail out one of the funds (and its many creditors) by providing a $1.6 billion line of credit. The move,...
  • Franken-tomato!

    Finally, a genetically-modified food for the rest of us....
  • Quinn: Death and Medical Choices

    There's more reason than ever to leave written instructions about the medical care you want if you're unable to speak for yourself. In the wake of the Terri Schiavo case, in which her husband and parents fought over whether to remove her feeding tubes, right-to-life activists have been working on state legislatures. Their objective: requiring doctors and families to keep life support going for patients in a permanently comatose state. If that's not what you want, you need to make it clear. ...
  • Samuelson: The Cashless Society Has Arrived

    It's one of those vast social upheavals that everyone understands but that hardly anyone notices, because it seems too ordinary: the long-predicted "cashless society" has quietly arrived, or nearly so; currency, coins and checks are receding as ways of doing everyday business; we've become Plastic Nation. In the tangled history of American money—from tobacco receipts to gold and silver coins to paper money and checks—this is a seismic shift. Time to pay attention.If you visit the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (one operation in Washington, the other in Ft. Worth, Texas), you can still see greenbacks being made. They come off the presses in sheets of 32. In fiscal 2007, the government will print about 9.1 billion individual bills. But 95 percent is to replace worn currency, not to expand the supply. THE BUCK STARTS HERE, say signs on some printing presses. In reality, today's buck usually begins (and ends) as a mere data entry.You can use a card almost anywhere. From 1999 to...
  • Read This Really, Really Fast

    It depends on whom you ask. Are high-tech digital billboards that can change their message every few seconds a lively, promising source of ad revenue? Or are they an ugly road distraction?That debate is raging in city halls across the country as the digital-billboard industry starts to take off. In recent months, such municipalities as Atlanta; Concord, N.H.; Eden Prairie, Minn., and Des Moines, Iowa, have banned or limited the use of the signs. The Federal Highway Administration is now studying whether they threaten driver safety on interstate highways.The industry has putup about 500 signs so far, at a cost of $250,000 to $500,000 apiece. By 2017, the number of signs could grow tenfold. The signs are not the interactive, moving pictures (called "spectaculars" in the biz) seen in places like Las Vegas or Times Square. Instead, federal rules require that only static, fixed pictures can be shown on major highways, though the pictures can change every six to eight seconds. The...
  • The Most Self-Indulgent Sailboat Ever Made

    The sultans would've loved Tom Perkins and he would've felt right at home with them, at least until he decided to kick some sand in their faces when they didn't appreciate his sense of humor. It was early last summer in Istanbul. On the left bank of the Bosphorus, before the marbled splendor of the Ciragan Imperial Palace, the government of Turkey was sponsoring a feast. Ciragan was the last palace built in Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire for royal family members. It was a historic location, with a commanding view of the strait that separates Europe from Asia, and the site drew awe from any vessel passing by. On this resplendent evening, all the trappings to sate a sultan's appetite were present, though it's a good bet that Suleiman the Magnificent never saw such an ornate fountain of molten chocolate. The lamb dolma, the grilled sea bass, the chicken galantine, the baklava—washed down with Doluca reds—were to honor an American and his spectacular new sailboat built entirely in...
  • Secret Habits of the Super Rich

    There are bespoke suits. And then there are bespoke books. For the mogul who truly has everything, there's something new: a custom-made autobiography. For any where from a few grand to $100,000, Myspecialbook.com, a publishing company started a few years back by wealthy Argentines, will write, design and publish a book all about anyone who can afford it. The glossy pages will be filled with beautiful photos, personal letters and other mementos, artfully laid out to illustrate a life of wealth and privilege. The text will feature quotes and anecdotes from the subject's rich and powerful friends. Milton Pedraza, director of the New York-based research firm the Luxury Institute, recalls a well-known private-equity billionaire who was recently brought to tears after receiving such a birthday gift from his wife. "It's the story of your life, told by the people who love you," he says. "Can you imagine anything more personal? That's real luxury."The luxury industry sure isn't what it used...
  • Far, Far Away From Home

    Buying a villa in Tuscany is so cliché. These days, luxury consumers want their holiday refuges to be off the beaten path.
  • Searching for the Perfect Cleaning Technology

    Toxic cleaning solvents are being phased out, but it's not clear what will replace them. In the last installment of our small-business series about a San Diego dry cleaner, we follow its proprietor as he searches for the perfect environmentally friendly technology.
  • Poor Dad: The Inequity of Father's Day

    Poor dad. He just can’t get any respect. Many of us throw money around on Mother’s Day like a starlet on a shopping spree at Barney’s. But Father’s Day? Fuggetaboutit. He’s lucky to get a piece of paper with “Hallmark” stamped on the back.In a recent survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF), Americans spent $16 billion on Mother’s Day this year, but only plan on spending $9.9 billion on Father’s Day, which falls on June 17. Fathers and Families Executive Director Don Hogan says the discrepancy is just more proof that dads are overworked and underappreciated. “It seems that society places a greater value on mothers than fathers,” he says. “I think it's because there really is a value placed on the role of nurturing and bringing up children and that role has been assigned to mothers. Although you're seeing dads playing a greater and greater role, I don't think it has been reflected in how society views fathers.”So what exactly does dad get? Americans are expected to spend, on...
  • Exclusive: Michael Moore's Legal Troubles

    Controversy trails Michael Moore like a shadow—or is that the other way around? The lefty filmmaker, whose “Roger & Me,” and “Bowling For Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11,” all put pins in the proverbial cushion of power, is needling people again—this time with “Sicko,” his sardonic attack on the American health-care system. Moore has been playing both offense and defense in the run-up to the film’s partial release this Friday in New York and Los Angeles, promoting his film on the talk circuit, speaking out on health-care issues, and deflecting charges that his documentary violated standards of objectivity and professional conduct.The film’s final section has Moore in the hottest water: he leads about eight rescue workers who became sick after 9/11 on a pilgrimage through old Havana, where they buy prescription drugs cheaply and receive free health care, courtesy of Cuba’s socialized medicine. Moore’s not-subtle message: why can’t these folks afford this kind of treatment back...
  • Samuelson: Is the Low Interest Rate Era Over?

    The most important price in the American economy is not the price of oil, computer chips, wheat or cars. It's the price of money—interest rates. When rates move, they ultimately affect the price of almost everything else. Which poses some intriguing questions. Is the era of low interest rates ending? If so, what's next? The answers will hover over the 2008 election. A shaky economy would help Democrats; a stronger economy, Republicans.The economic expansion, both in America and the rest of the world, has rested on a foundation of abundant credit. Low interest rates famously drove the housing boom. In the 1980s, mortgage interest rates averaged 10.9 percent; after inflation, the "real" rate was a hefty 7.2 percent. During the decade, home prices rose a meager 1 percent beyond overall inflation. Since then, mortgage rates have dropped sharply. From 2000 to 2006, they averaged 6.5 percent, and after inflation only 4.2 percent. Lower rates meant people could afford to pay more. The...
  • Samuelson: The Quagmire of Inequality

    You have never heard of the Treaty of Detroit, which you may connect with the French and Indian War (1756-1763). Guess again. The Treaty of Detroit is a long-lost label describing a series of landmark labor agreements between the United Auto Workers and the Big Three U.S. automakers. Starting with a 1948 contract at General Motors, the agreements guaranteed annual wage increases, job security and generous fringe benefits. As Detroit's present turmoil attests, the treaty is in tatters.Now come economists Frank Levy and Peter Temin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who resurrect the label and say it explains something much greater: the rise of economic inequality. This promises to be a hot issue in the 2008 election. Until now, most economists have blamed the growing pay gap on skill differences caused by the explosion of computer technologies. Levy and Temin contend (correctly) that this is too simple; they also blame a shift in social norms and business practices.First,...
  • Turning Points: Garry Kasparov

    On March 10, 2005, I played my last game of competitive chess after three decades as a professional. The announcement of my retirement was a bit theatrical, delivered without warning at the end of a Spanish tournament in Linares I'd just won for the ninth time. In one day I went from the top of the chess world to a politician in Russia's struggling pro-democracy movement.There was no dramatic moment of judgment, no single incident that told me the time was right. Nor was it a spontaneous move. Every decision we make is the product of our entire life up to that point—all our knowledge, experience, intuition and calculation. I've spent considerable time since my retirement writing a book on exactly this topic: the decision-making process. The result, "How Life Imitates Chess," represents a careful analysis of my own development as a decision maker, and my leap from chess to politics is detailed. The book itself was one of the things I wanted to dedicate myself to after retiring; as a...

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