Uber Drama Revs Up; Gymboree’s Next Chapter in Life: 11; Aldi Ready to Feed You For Less. Much Less

These are the days of Uber’s life…

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The Silicon Valley soap opera we call Uber is making awkward, unpleasant headlines again. This time it’s because the rumor mill is swirling with talk that Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick, is about to take a leave of absence. Which begs the question about how this new development will affect Uber, if at all. Then we turn our attention to the now ex-number two honcho at the ride-sharing company, Emil Michael, who has left the Uber building. It’s doubtful he’ll be missed that much since he was apparently pressured to step down. In fact, Kalanick was advised to let Michael go earlier this year, however he declined to entertain that suggestion – a decision that eventually bit him in his corporate butt. Perhaps had Kalanick let Michael go when asked to do so, he might not find himself figuring out how to spend all his newfound free time. All this unpleasantness – well for Kalanick and Michael, anyway – ensued following a meeting with Eric Holder’s law firm. You remember him, dontcha? He’s the former U.S. Attorney General and if he’s got some recommendations, it’s prudent to follow them. Holder’s firm was retained by Uber to conduct internal investigations following accusations of sexual harassment and gender bias. The findings, his firm reported, were “ugly.” That doesn’t bode well for the world’s most valuable privately held company, now does it?

Another one bites the dust…

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Today’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing is brought to you by Gymboree, the children’s clothing store chain which can be found in just about any mall in the United States. Well, maybe not for much longer. The company still plans to remain in business, it’s just going to be shuttering anywhere from 375 to 450 of its stores. But rest assured, if you’re a frequent patron of the chain, there will still be well over 800 stores left from which to do your kids’ clothes shopping. If you are at all shocked about the store closures and bankruptcy filing, then clearly you aren’t one of the many creditors Gymboree refused to pay in the last few months. With increasing online competition and a major slowdown in mall traffic, it’s no wonder Gymboree just couldn’t make bank. The company is staring down the wrong end of $1.4 billion worth of debt and hopes to nail down a plan to help it shed about $1 billion of it.  The kicker, though, is that the company is still profitable, a bonus that a lot of analysts think will help propel Gymboree towards a bright, shinier fiscally nourishing future.

Grab your cart…

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Grocery chain Aldi has got some lofty goals. And if you’re thinking you’ve never heard of the chain, then just wait. The company just announced a $3.4 billion plan to make sure you do. Aldi has set its grocer sights on becoming the third largest grocery chain behind Kroger and Walmart. The grocery store chain currently boasts 1,600 locations from which to purchase your groceries, but by 2022, it expects to have 2,200 stores gracing the country.  Some 1,300 of its pre-existing stores are also being treated to a $1.6 billion remodel. And who doesn’t love a little remodel? However, the biggest thrill of all is that Aldi is going to attempt to price its merchandise over 20% lower than its rivals while adding 25,000 jobs in the process. If that doesn’t sound appetizing, the I don’t know what does.

Hey God, Make Room for Über; Feeling the JetBlues; Target Is Spot On

Üps…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Über is finding itself in a bit of a tangle, gaffe, pickle (insert any number of words) after it got busted using the company’s “God View” tool to keep tabs on a customer’s vehicle location. Except it wasn’t just any customer, but a journalist. Über general manager Josh Mohrer, who is now apparently under internal investigation, said to the reporter as she arrived at Über headquarters, “There you are. I was tracking you.” A big no-no, at least according to Über’s freshly posted privacy policy. “God View” it seems, is intended to be accessed for “legitimate business purposes.” Tracking that reporter did not comply with those rules. Über’s affections towards journalists previously came to light when when its SVP of business, Emil Michael, suggested the company find a way to get unflattering personal information on them. Über doesn’t like criticism, from journalists, anyway, especially considering that the company is in the midst of trying to raise another $1 billion to get a $30 billion valuation. It’s a good thing for Über that Ashton Kutcher sympathizes with its plight. “What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist?” the dashing actor recently tweeted. Did I mention that Kutcher’s A-Grade Investments is invested in Über?

Not a classy move…

Image courtesy of phasinphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of phasinphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just when we thought JetBlue was the cool new kid on the airline playground, it went and did the unthinkable. It became a follower. A conformist. Just like the others. Blah. Take note when you book your next flight with JetBlue that baggage fees are now part of the JetBlue experience. That is, if you booked the cheapest class of ticket. The company is on a tear to generate $400 million in revenue to get better profits. Baggage fees are one of the odious tasks on that “to do” list of its master plan. But if you’re one of the privileged few who already spent the equivalent of a down-payment on a house for your ticket, then you can sit back and relax. Well, maybe scrap the part where you “sit back.” JetBlue is adding 15 seats to its A320 jets which means less legroom for you no matter what you paid. Happy flying!

Unstoppable?

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not only did mega-retailer Target beat expectations, but it even showed Wal-Mart a thing or two. Well maybe just one thing – and that is that its sales grew faster than Wal-Mart’s. (Yes it is a competition.)  Target pulled in an impressive $0.54 per share on $17.56 billion in revenue. Analysts had Target pegged at pulling in $0.47 per share. It’s impressive because the company is still recovering from its mega-gaffe/data breach which is coming up on its one year anniversary. And because the verdict is still out on Target’s adventurous and fiscally questionable Canadian foray, those earnings are like an early Christmans/Hanukah gift. However, we musn’t overlook the fact that those earnings per share were still two cents less than what they were exactly a year ago.