Trump Tweets Out Boeing’s Air Force One; Lego’s Brick-By-Brick Expansion Plans; SeaWorld Sees Layoffs

Boeing going gone…

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President-elect Donald Trump was on Twitter. Again. This time he was telling Boeing to cancel the order for the new Air Force One that’s in the works.  In his usual eloquent manner he said that the cost to build the plane “is totally out of control.”  And just what exactly does “out of control” look like when you’re building a fleet of aircraft for the Commander-In-Chief? Well, it depends on who you ask but Trump has that figure pegged at $4 billion, though it’s not entirely clear where he got it. Another report has the Air Force budgeting the new planes at about $1.6 billion. However, it’s expected that the fleet of planes will cost $102 million this fiscal year, and another $3 billion over the next five years. So maybe Trump’s got his ducks in a row on this one. His tweets went on to say: “I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.” He probably would prefer if Boeing weren’t making that money off taxpayers’ backs. The Pentagon wants to replace the current fleet as it will have reached its 30 year service life in 2017. It has been around since 1990, has flown over one million miles and, in all fairness, could use  more than few upgrades – whether Trump’s on board or not. Which he won’t be because the aircraft is not scheduled to be ready for another ten years or so. Naturally, shares of Boeing fell on the news of Trump’s sentiments. In the meantime, 56% of Americans think Donald Trump uses Twitter way too much. Perhaps the time has come for his cabinet members and advisers to take away his phone.

Lego to stand on…

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Lego CEO Jorgen Vig Knudstorp is stepping down from his position and that’s actually good news. Knudstorp is leaving his post in order to move on to greener pastures as Chairman of  the Lego Brand Group. The toy company is on a mission to restructure itself to keep up with its growth momentum. By creating the Lego Brand Group, the company plans to explore new business ventures, opportunities and ideas that will help expand the brand in new, exciting and highly profitable ways. For the first half of the year the company posted an unwelcome surprise drop in profit of $499 million though its revenue still went up. The company blamed Americans, or rather, the fact that sales in the United States were flat. But, that’s probably the same thing. In any case, as part of his new gig, Knudstorp will be overseeing the family’s 75% stake in the company which is currently run by fourth generation Lego owner Thomas Kirk Kristiansen. Chief Operations Officer Bali Padda will take over for Knudstorp, officially becoming the first non-Dane to hold the post. The privately held company is headquartered in Denmark and employs over 18,000 people. Knudstorp, who said he plans to stay at Lego for the rest of his career, joined the company back in 2001, when the company was losing about $1 million a day. Lego just couldn’t compete with an exponentially-increasing digital toy industry. But it turns out it didn’t need to when it made Knudstorp CEO in 2004. Under his leadership, he made changes, booted people, brought in new folks and saw Lego’s revenue jump fivefold. Last year the company fiscally surpassed both Mattel and Hasbro, even with all their Barbie/ My Little Pony/Hot Wheels/electronic toys, to become the number one toy company in the world. No small feat considering that unlike Mattel and Hasbro, Lego pretty much makes just one product with assorted variations: a plastic brick.

Under water?

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With shrinking attendance, decreasing revenue and dwindling profits, SeaWorld announced plans to say a not so warm goodbye to 320 of its employees, both salaried and hourly. It was only back in 2014 that SeaWorld said goodbye to another unlucky 300 employees. The  soon-to-be-former employees will be receiving “enhanced severance benefits” which is fancy talk for some cash and maybe health insurance to tide them over for a little while. SeaWorld has even offered to help them find work elsewhere. How moving. The entertainment company is on a mission to restructure itself in any way possible to keep it from losing any more money than it already has. Of course, cost-cutting always factors in, along with examining how best to improve and streamline the rest of the business. Back in March SeaWorld made the decision to stop breeding Orca whales and also scrapped the shows in which the whales starred. SeaWorld is also blaming Disney and Universal for their disappointing digits, unable to woo away visitors from their PETA-friendlier attractions. Also, there seemed to be a drop in Brazilian visitors, presumably because they remained in Brazil for the Olympics, one might suspect, which apparently affected SeaWorld’s earnings.  Who knew SeaWorld relies on a Brazilian contingent to patronize its parks to help churn out a buck or two?

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What Goes Around Comes Around for EpiPen Maker Mylan; Fox News Says Sorry With $20 million; About LEGO’s Brick Shortage

Karma anyone?

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There’s nothing like a ridiculous over the top price hike to get the US attorney general’s unwanted scrutiny. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is now taking a cold hard look at Mylan in the form of a very unflattering antitrust investigation. The AG would like to know if Mylan violated antitrust laws when it gave schools free devices while contractually barring them from purchasing products from other competitors for a whole year. Mylan unwittingly invited this unwelcome attention when it drastically increased the price of its life-saving devices from $100 in 2009 to $600 today. You reap what you sow, I suppose. Mylan’s EpiPen4Schools program has so far given 700,000 pens to 65,000 schools, and according to Mylan, it followed all the rules and had no purchase requirements for the devices. But according to the investigation, it seems that Mylan may have cheated schools by handily placing certain terms into the sales contracts which seem awfully anti-competitive. Well, at least the company is offering a generic version for $300. Isn’t that special?

Speaking of karma…

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Former Fox News broadcaster, Gretchen Carlson, is getting $20 million from Fox News to settle the sexual harassment lawsuit she filed back in August against former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. If you recall, Carlson filed suit because she said that her contract wasn’t renewed after she refused to sleep with Ailes. Ailes, of course, denied the allegations and said the lawsuit was just retaliation for when the network didn’t renew her contract. Strangely enough – or not – once she filed her lawsuit, many many other women at Fox News also started coming forward with even more sexual harassment claims, some of which have since been settled. Apparently, Roger Ailes had complaints against him going back to the 80s. Ailes has several supporters at Fox including Brit Hume, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Maria Bartiromo and Greta Van Susteren who, by the way, just announced that she’s now leaving the network. Some said her departure has to do with a financial disagreement, while others strongly believe it has to do with Ailes demise at the network he founded back in 1996. Fox, however, did publicly apologize to Gretchen Carlson and praised her work and career. And while Fox has been a veritable ratings juggernaut, this last incident spooked investors by exposing a weakness. Shares of 21st Century Fox, which owns Fox News took a dive, albeit a slight 1%. And if for some inexplicable reason you feel bad for Roger Ailes, don’t. He walked away with a $40 million severance package.

If you build it, they will buy…

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Lego, maker of everybody’s favorite plastic toy bricks, posted some positively unimpressive numbers that included flat sales in the U.S. All because there was simply not enough of the plastic bricks to go around. That’s right. After posting a record profit last year, the world’s largest toymaker – sorry, Mattel – didn’t have the resources to get out its shipments according to the demand. Net profit for the company slipped to about 3.49 billion Danish kroner from last years’ 3.55 billion Danish kroner. 3.49 billion kroner, by the way is equivalent to about $523 million. But revenue was still up 11% to 15.7 billion kroner which translates to $2.35 billion. So the company went ahead and took money that would have gone towards profits to make some investments to increase and improve its supply chain. That included adding 3,500 jobs, bringing the total amount of Lego employees to 18,500, and building up factories in Mexico and China, amongst other locations. At least Lego doesn’t have to answer to demanding shareholders seeing as how it’s a family-controlled company.

Where in the World is Über?; Harvard Professor Gives Whole New Meaning to Chinese Take-out; See Which Company Made “The List”

Mo’ money, mo problems…

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Über just picked up another $1.2 billion in funding and is now valued at $40 billon. Awesome, right? Not even close. On the heels of its most recent “tracking-customers” scandal comes even more…problems. So on which part of the globe should we begin? How about Portland, Oregon? You might have downloaded the Über app there but don’t bother using it. Hours after it launched, the city put the kibosh on the ride-sharing device. In Über’s home state of California, San Francisco D.A. George Gascón and Los Angeles D.A. Jackie Lacey have filed suit against Über for, among other issues, not being totally honest about the quality of the background checks it conducts on its drivers. Which brings us to Chicago where an Über driver allegedly raped a female rider. And just because gambling and prostitution is legal in Nevada, that doesn’t mean Über is. Yes, oddly enough, it’s banned there too. On the other side of the pond, good luck finding an Über ride. Denmark and Norway have filed complaints, a Dutch court ruled it illegal, France has yet to decide, while Spain already but the brakes on Über’s operations. In Asia, Thailand also nixed the service and India’s having huge issues with it as well. But on his blog, Travis Kalanick did mention that Über operates in 250 cities on 50 countries. He must mean on a different planet.

Can I get the sauce on the side?

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Image courtesy of patrisyu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re going to overcharge your clientele, you best make sure they aren’t professors from Harvard’s Business School. Just ask Sichuan Garden’s Ran Duan. Except, he’s not so talkative lately. When Professor Benjamin Edelman ordered four dishes from the Boston eatery, he was over-charged a dollar more than the advertised price on the restaurant’s website.  So Professor Edelman, who, by the way,  fiercely and diligently took on the airline industry for misrepresenting fees, did the same with Mr. Duan. First, the professor suggested that Sichuan Garden refund him three times the amount of the over-charge. Mr. Duan, instead, offered to refund $3.00. After several emails were exchanged, which seemed to only fuel Professor Edelman’s irritation, he decided it was time to take the issue to the regulators, just as he had done with the airlines.  The lesson is? Well, there are several, aren’t there.

You call this work?

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Image courtesy of portal/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is your company on Glassdoor’s 2015 50 Best Places to Work list? If not, maybe it’s time to polish your resume and start spending lots of time on LinkedIn, which by the way, takes the number 23 spot. It’s no surprise, I guess that Google made the list. After all, didn’t Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson make a movie just about being interns there? However, this was the first time Google took the top spot. Among the many storied perks behind the company is twelve weeks maternity leave…for the father. So where does that leave mom? With an additional six weeks’ quality time with baby. Thinking of trekking down to Antarctica? Bain and Company, which ranks second, has got an expedition with your name on it. Just make sure they have a position you can fill. Facebook ranks at lucky #13 with one employee writing about it: “Transparency. Trust. Compassion. Food.” ‘Nuff said. Got IT problems? Great. Grab a beer and talk it over at Zillow’s “IT Happy Hour.” The real estate site ranks 33. Who is not in the top 50? Glad you asked. Twitter is noticeably absent from top 50 this year presumably thanks to some management “changes.”