Marijuana Score With Venture Capital Firm; Global Economic Issues Make For Happier Borrowers; Is Yahoo CEO’s Head on the Chopping Block?

Gone to pot…

Image courtesy of Paul/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Paul/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It just keeps getting better and better for Marijuana. Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm whose focus happens to be on the cannabis industry, just got a major cash infusion from a venture capital firm. But this is not just any venture capital firm, either. The one and only Peter Thiel, billionaire, and partner at venture capital firm, Founders Fund, just handed Brendan Kennedy, CEO and co-founder of Privateer Holdings millions upon millions of dollars to be a part of the cannabis magic.  Privateer Holdings, if you recall (and it’s okay if you don’t) scored a huge 30 year licensing deal with the family of Bob Marley to manufacture Jamaican cannabis strains and hemp-infused products for the Marley Natural brand. It’s an epic move by Founders Fund, and an even better one for Privateer Holdings because it marks the first time a major institutional investor invests in the marijuana industry. Recognizing that this is a relatively new industry with countless untapped resources and opportunities, and marijuana legalization occurring in 23 states and counting, Founders Funds figures its a great strategic move. I suspect Founders Fund knows what they’re doing seeing as how it invested in a few other companies you might have heard about including Facebook, Airbnb and SpaceX.

 Mortgage sweet mortgage…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not that it’s polite to rejoice at the expense of our overseas friends and their fiscal shortcomings  – a veritable global schadenfraude – but their fickle unreliable little Euro and falling oil prices are doing wonders for our mortgage rates over here. Indeed, mortgage rates are dropping because other parts of the world are experiencing economic issues, and those issues are making investors eager to cozy up to the relative warmth and fuzziness of US government bonds. When investors start cozying up to these bonds, mortgage rates keep falling and falling and…In any case, if you’re looking to take out a mortgage, this week you can get one at a rate of 3.73% on a 30 year fixed. That’s not only down from 3.87% the week before but it’s the lowest rate it’s been in over a year and a half. Looking for a 15 year instead? How does 3.05% sound. That figure is also down from last week’s 3.15%. Clearly a lot of potential homebuyer’s are getting the memo on these falling mortgage rates as loan applications were up by 11% last week.

Can’t you take a hint?

Image courtesy of digital art/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digital art/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In a not so subtle hint, Starboard Value Chief Jeff Smith told Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in a letter that, “Should you instead choose to proceed down a different path … such actions would be a clear indication to us that significant leadership change is required at Yahoo.” The path to which Mr. Smith is referring is if Ms. Mayer decides to pick up CNN or another cable outlet instead of taking his suggestion of merging with AOL for the benefit of the “cost synergies” this merger would bring. By the way, Starboard owns 7.7 million shares of Yahoo. Also, by the way, Starboard owns shares of AOL, as well. Lastly, by the way, Starboard famously (notoriously?) chucked the board of Darden Restaurents, of Olive Garden fame, last year.

Alibaba Raising the Roof on the Range; Olive Garden’s Breaking Breadsticks; United’s Flight Attendants’ Six-Figure Payout

Oh Ma gosh…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just when you thought China’s biggest e-commerce site couldn’t get any bigger, it keeps doing just that. While last weeks’ range for its highly anticipated initial public offering was hovering in the $60-$66 range, already an impressive feat, this week the range just grew that much larger. The price now looms in the $66-$68 range. There is just so much ridiculously insane demand for this IPO that CEO Jack Ma, a former school teacher and China’s richest man with a net worth of $21.9 billion, had no problem raising the money for the IPO on his roadshow. And no, this type of roadshow has nothing to do with nosebleed seats and bad beer. When a guy like Jack Ma goes on a roadshow he is trying to raise in interest and money for his company. Something which he had no trouble doing in the last couple of days. The company has raised $21.8 billion…so far.

Dude, lay off the breadsticks…

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It seems Olive Garden needs to lay off the breadsticks and push the alcohol. At least according to Starboard Value LP, a firm that holds an 8.8% stake in Darden restaurants, Olive Garden’s parent company. Starboard is also taking issue with Olive Garden’s unlimited salad offerings. And don’t even get Starboard started on the pasta. “How does the largest Italian dining concept in the world not salt the water for pasta?” Starboard’s words, not mine. If you don’t believe what you’re reading then check out its just released 294 page turnaround plan. Darden rebutted with its own charming little 24 slide presentation challenging the report whose suggestions, Darden feels, are “not based on reality.” Though, to be fair, Darden has already been implementing many of the other suggestions. The question, however, is can you really blame Darden’s poor last quarter earnings on unlimited breadsticks?

Pay day…

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It pays not to be a flight attendant on United Airlines. Literally. The company, which currently has over 23,000 employees, apparently has too many flight attendants. So the airline graciously and, in my humble opinion, generously, reached an agreement with the Association of Flight Attendants to offer up to 2,100 early buyout packages to flight attendants (assuming they meet certain requirements, of course). Some of those packages will be worth up to $100,000. Yes. $100,000 to quit your job. Incidentally, United Airlines was the only major airline to post a loss this past quarter.  Also incidentally, it’s cheaper to employ less experienced flight attendants. I’ve had a few flight attendants  – of varying degrees of experience – who I’d like to see take that package. Of course, I wouldn’t give them $1 much less $100,000. Unfortunately, all the money I’ve plunked down just to have the privilege of traveling on United Airlines doesn’t entitle me to an opinion on the matter.

Twitter Tries to Up Its Game, Olive Garden Not Blooming and BofA Wants Quality Time With the Attorney General

Tweeting it all out…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Twitter just announced plans to snap up SnappyTV for an undisclosed amount. SnappyTV is a video sharing service where users can do all sorts of convenient and entertaining things like clip and share videos. Twitter is forging ahead with great big plans to integrate SnappyTV and all the visual enhancements it is bringing with it into Twitter Amplify. And really, who doesn’t love visual enhancements?  The social media company is in a mad crush and rush to grow its user base after announcing a less than 6% increase in growth. Numbers like that did less than wow investors and so it is on a mission to find ways to justify its high valuation that many have been calling into question.

Darden leaves Wall Street hungry for more…

Image courtesy of Feelart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Feelart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Darden Restaurants, the apparently not so forceful force behind the Olive Garden chain, failed to feed enough people and beat analysts expectation. Despite its efforts to dump the Red Lobster chain, the company’s profit wasn’t as high as Wall Street would have liked. Revenue for the period ending in May was a paltry $2.32 billion. But the hard-to-please Street was looking for $2.33 billion in revenue. Even though the company gained $0.84 a share, Wall Street was left unsatisfied and wishing for $0.10 more per share. The company and its food offerings is having a hard time competing with fast-food establishments that have been offering better quality food with more affordable prices. As a result, Darden’s net income fell a whopping 35% from a year earlier.

BofA feeling unsettled…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan wants to spend some quality time with US Attorney General Eric Holder. But bonding is not on the agenda. Instead, the BofA CEO wants to try and hash out the kinks over settlement issues. BofA, the second largest bank in the United States sold some really bad loans a few years back, in case you hadn’t heard. Now the time has come to pay for all the trouble it caused and the price tag on all that trouble is going to cost billions of dollars. Reps for the bank and reps for the Justice Department already had a bunch of meetings to try and reach an agreement. But the two sides just couldn’t play nice. So Moynihan probably took a cue from JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who also personally met with Holder in back in November where the two sides emerged with a $13 billion settlement agreement. While the move seemed peculiar at the time, the fact is that it worked and the formula has been used with other naughty banks that helped cause the epic 2008 financial crisis.