Harley’s Rough Ride on Wall Street; Madoff Victims Pay Day; Amazon Wants You. Really.

Rough riding…

Image courtesy of sritangphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sritangphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Harley-Davidson is no match for Wall Street as the all-American bike gets whipped by yet another rough quarter.  With sales down 2.5% in the U.S. and another 1% worldwide, Harley-Davidson brass have made a brutal decision to cut a bunch of jobs and ship out 11,000 less bikes next year. Instead, the company will dish out $70 million to increase its 2016 marketing budget. The company is hoping (and presumably praying) that it can increase product and brand awareness. And get people to buy more bike, of course. But how is it even possible that a brand as iconic as Harley would need to do such a thing? While there’s no disputing that there’s nothing like a Harley, the company is facing increased competition from European and Asian bike makers, like Ducati, Royal Enfield and Triumph. Those companies are putting out some fierce machines, and in some cases, for a lot less money than a “hog.” The proof is that in the first nine months of the year, the number of registered bikes has surged 6.6%. Net income for Harley-Davidson came in at $140.3 million, a 6.5% decrease over last year’s $150 million. Harley added 69 cent per share when analysts predicted 78 cents instead. In fact, shares fell the most that they have in six years.  But that isn’t stopping Harley-Davidson from plans to open up 200 more dealerships abroad.

Lost and found…

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s been seven years since Bernie Madoff’s evil Ponzi scheme unraveled. But today, more than 1,200 of his victims (there were way more than that) can sort of rejoice and look forward to recouping at least some of their lost funds. Irving Picard, the trustee who has been hard at working recouping money on behalf of the victims of the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history, has managed to release $1.5 billion from legal reserves. Victims who invested up to $1,161,000 can expect to get back about $1 million. Those who unfortunately invested more can expect to recoup 61 cents on the dollar.  Much of this money is coming from the widow of Madoff’s deceased alleged co-conspirator Jeffery Picower.  She agreed to turn over $7.2 billion of her late husband’s ill-gotten stash. Of course, some of that cash, approximately $1 billion, will also go towards covering all those enormous legal fees of the law firm handling this case. U.S officials have so far recovered about $11 billion from the $17 billion that was lost. As for Bernie Madoff, he’s hitting year 7 of a 150 year prison sentence.

Hire cause…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re looking to score some extra cash this holiday season then don’t let the New York Times get in your way and  dissuade you from applying for a job at Amazon. I bet Amazon is hoping the NYT doesn’t dissuade you either since the company is looking to hire 25,000 full-time employees and 100,000 part-time employees for the holiday season. While the company has always hired more people for this time of year, this time the digits are pretty epic in that they’ve never been this high. It should be duly noted that plenty of people who had been hired specifically for the holiday season were subsequently kept on as permanent employees.  The jobs will be primarily in the sorting and fulfillment facilities across the country.  But Amazon’s not the only game in town as Target, Wal-Mart, Macy’s, Kohl’s and a slew of other companies are also looking to amp up their workforces this holiday season. Just be sure not to ask Bo Olsen for a reference.

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Target-ing the Preppy; No Clowning Around, Cirque du Soleil Goes to Private Equity Firm; Former Fed Chief Wants Overhaul, But Does Anybody Care?

I guess that means it was a success…

Image courtesy of cuteimage/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cuteimage/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Things are looking up for Lilly Pulitizer (did they ever look down?) as the line of 250 pieces it made for Target  – from dresses to beach chairs – nearly sold out within hours, with many crowing the moment as “Preppy Black Friday.” Just darling. In fact, the line of merchandise was so successful that 16,000 of the line’s items even made it onto eBay, priced much much higher than Target’s prices. Target’s website nearly crashed because of the traffic caused by the hype for the Lilly Pulitzer merchandise. Good thing Target already learned its lesson the hard way back in 2011, when it launched a line with Missoni, which did, in fact, cause the site to crash. This time, however, Target just made the site inaccessible for 15 minutes to deal with the onslaught. Much to the annoyance and disappointment of many, Target has no plans to restock the line since that might make the 250 items not as precious. No doubt the opportunists selling the marked up merchandise on eBay aren’t too sad about this decision. You know who’s not disappointed, or even annoyed? Oxford Industries, that’s who. Parent company to Lilly Pulitzer, Oxford Industries’ stock surged 9% because of all the success and excitement surrounding the Lilly Pulitzer/Target merchandise.

Send in the clowns…

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s no clowning around at TPG, the private equity firm that just picked up a majority stake in the world-famous circus sensation, Cirque du Soleil. Its founder, Guy Laliberté, has decided to take on new creative challenges instead of grooming his five children to take over the family biz. TPG has already helped companies, including J. Crew, Neiman Marcus and Ducati. So it’s safe to assume they know a thing or two about how to grow a brand. Quebec pension fund manager the Caisse de depot, and Chinese investment firm, Fosum, will take on minority stakes in the entertainment company. While the price for the deal is being kept under wraps, some analysts have pegged the deal between $1.5 and $2 billion. Not bad for a guy who started a traveling show with a bunch of street performers back in 1984. Laliberté will stay on with the company and its 1,400 employees to continue to offer strategic and creative advice. It pays for him to do so as he’ll still be left with a 10% stake.  Cirque du Soleil sells 11 million tickets a year and has been seen by 160 million people in 330 cities and 48 countries.

I said Volcker! Not Vulcan!

Image courtesy of sdmania/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sdmania/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Way harsh words from former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker who slammed the current U.S financial regulatory system during a speech in Washington, D.C. The former chief and close financial advisor to President Obama said if we don’t revamp the current system, it will only “…make us more vulnerable to the next financial crisis.” Mr. Volcker wants a complete overhaul of a system he says was developed piecemeal over the last 150 years in response to fiscal emergencies. He says the Dodd-Frank financial reform act of 2010 is not enough to head off an even greater economic disaster and wants to see a smoother, streamlined regulatory system instead of the current one we have in place which he thinks is “…highly fragmented, outdated and ineffective.” Ouch. In his fiscal eden, banks and other select Wall Street firms would be centralized. Then he’d merge the SEC and CFTC into one big happy family. In case you haven’t guessed it by now, plenty of people on Wall Street don’t seem to care for what the former fed chief had to say.