Macy’s Mixed Up Day; Uber Pumped for Some IPO Magic; Madoff Victims Rejoice. Well, Maybe Not.

It could have been worse…

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There’s good news. And there’s bad news. Well, for Macy’s anyway. So let’s start with the bad because, why not. The department store chain just released its third-quarter earnings and very unhappily reported that comparable same-store sales fell 3.6%. That’s not even the bad part. What’s worse is that analysts expected those sales to fall, but only by 2.6%. This latest quarter marks Macy’s 12th consecutive quarter of straight declines and these dismal results come smack in the middle of Macy’s turnaround plan called “North Star.” To be fair, however, it was expected that this turnaround plan wasn’t going to change numbers overnight. As for the good news, Macy’s profit rate went up, helped by cost-cutting measures and store closures. That helped the retailer take in $36 million, almost double what it took in last year at this time. Online sales also went up by so much, that it almost took the sting out of the fall in comparable sales. Almost. So naturally, shares went up today, as well. A smidge. But those shares were at the highest point they had been in nine months. Too bad, though, they are still down more than 50% in the last twelve months.

IPWhoa!

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Uber is almost ready to make its big Wall Street debut.  Almost. The company’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, wants to make that happen by 2019. With a $70 billion valuation, Uber is the most highly-valued private company in the world. According to Khosrowshahi, “We have all of the disadvantages of being a public company, as far as the spotlight on us, without any of the advantages of being a public company.” Even Travis Kalanick, the ousted CEO but current board member, agrees. As for Kalanick, he’s not really gone and you can bet he won’t be forgotten. Not if he can help it anyway. IPO’s weren’t the only thing Khosrowshahi’s been discussing lately. Earlier this week, the CEO unveiled his own “cultural norms” for the company, and one of them goes a little something like this: “We do the right thing. Period.” A far cry from the climate under Kalanick that had a former employee write a scathing blog post detailing allegations of sexual harassment.  Which brings us to the much-discussed Soft Bank deal, where Uber is poised to give a very hefty 20% stake to the Japanese bank. For the right price, of course. Khosrowshahi insists the deal is really, truly going to happen. For real. It. Will. Happen. The primary issue being the price, because isn’t it always?

It’s about time…

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Thousands of victims of Ponzi Schemer Bernie Madoff are set to receive over $770 million in compesation for the money they lost. The $770 million is part of a $4 billion fund set up to compensate victims. And sure, that’s good news. Except for the fact that it took nine years to happen and much of those funds will only cover about 25% of the losses.  But guess what? It still counts as “the largest restoration of forfeited property in history.” Close to 25,000 checks will be mailed to victims, ranging from institutions to individuals in 49 states and 119 countries.  If you recall, Bernie Madoff was accused and found guilty of perpetrating a $65 billion Ponzi scheme. These days, the schemer of the century is chillaxin’ in Club Fed for the next 150 years.

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​Big City Woos: It’s All About Amazon’s HQ2; Weinstein’s Ship Might Be Sinking But You Won’t Believe Who Might Come to its Rescue; Nords​trom’s Holding Out for a Santa Save

Pick me! Pick me!

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As a Thursday deadline looms, a heated race is on for cities across the United States (okay, and Canada too) as they toss away all their dignity in desperate attempts to woo Amazon and its latest project. The e-commerce giant announced about a month ago that it wants to set up a second headquarters, dubbed HQ2 and now there’s a mad dash from Atlanta to Grand Rapids and beyond to claim that glory, not to mention the $5 billion investment that comes with it. The fact that a project of this magnitude would also create around 50,000 jobs is the icing on this proverbial fiscal cake. Of course, Amazon’s got its own formula for picking the winning city and it’s got very little to do with Tucson delivering a 70 ft. saguaro cactus to Amazon’s Seattle door or Birmingham erecting giant replicas of Amazon boxes and strategically placing them around the city. For Amazon, it will probably boil down to which city will offer up the best tax incentives and breaks from local and state governments. In fact, the company has earned quite the reputation for being able to secure those tax breaks, whether through the promise of job creation or other financial packages that would have any major city’s mouth watering. Besides financial incentives for Amazon, any city that legitimately stands a snowball’s chance is also going to have to be in close proximity to a major airport,  possess the infrastructure to support the project, have easy access to mass transit and a population that boasts at least a million people to readily fill tens of thousands of jobs. That right there puts the kibosh on a bunch of contenders. But you know which cities analysts are expecting to see on the short list? Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh. As for Tucson and its aforementioned cactus, well you can visit the rejected botanical specimen at the Desert Museum.

It’s all a matter of perspective…or is it?

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The Weinstein Co. may be getting a much-needed cash-infusion to stay afloat in the wake of co-founder Harvey Weinstein’s ever-growing sexual harassment scandal. The cash-infusion could come from a private equity firm called Colony Capital, headed by an individual named Tom Barrack. If the name Tom Barrack rings a bell that’s because he served as chairman of President Trump’s Private Inaugural Committee and his name is being been bandied about as a pick for the White House Chief of Staff.  That’s right! Harvey Weinstein, an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter and staunch Democratic donor is probably getting a bailout from a Trump ally. But for Barrack, it’s all in a days work since he has a habit of picking up distressed companies in the entertainment realm, making all sorts of deals for the assets still in its clutches and making a mean mint in the process. Perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that there’s a good chance that this bailout will actually mean the Weinstein name disappears from the company, along with some of its honchos, because apparently, they knew about Harvey Weinstein’s sickening behavior for a long time. A sale could also mean that the Weinstein company, sans the name which is now synonymous with lechery, harassment, and abuse, could be restored to its former glory as a powerhouse of independent film and television production.

Let it snow let it snow let it snow…

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We may still have Halloween ahead of us but Nordstrom is already gearing up for Christmas. The retailer, which has seen its share of loss in the last few quarters – along with every other retailer in the U.S. – previously had plans for the founding namesake family to take the company private. There’s talk that the family, who controls a third of the shares, was trying to team up with private equity firm Leonard Green Partners to achieve this goal. However, now those plans are on hold to until after the holiday shopping season because rumor has it, the Nordstroms have been experiencing some issues borrowing cash at a respectable rate, whatever that means. Interestingly enough, while the company isn’t faring as well in terms of same-store sales, its e-commerce is alive, well and thriving quite nicely.  Still, Wall Street didn’t much care for the news and sent shares plummeting over 6%  Those shares, by the way, are over 30% lower than its 52-week high of $62.82.

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.

Amazon’s Kindness Almost Knows No Bounds; Uber Cleans House; Crew-Cut: CEO Drexel Waves a Preppy Goodbye

Yep, they went there…

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It’s the American Dream. Well, for Amazon anyway. Rather than worry about disenfranchising an entire portion of the population that can’t comfortably afford Amazon’s Prime subscription service, the e-commerce giant is now offering this highly esteemed membership privilege for a 50% discount to those on government assistance. All it takes is a valid Electronic Benefits Transfer card. Because why should the fact that someone is receiving government assistance stand in the way of their Amazon shopping experience, right? It is incredibly thoughtful of Amazon to think of those less fortunate by reducing the cost of subscription for them. However, if it were not to Amazon’s fiscal advantage, then this latest initiative might not have been unveiled. That fiscal advantage comes in the form of a competitive edge over Walmart, whose low prices have attracted the very countless customers that Amazon is trying to woo with this new incentive. After all, studies have shown that once customers sign up for Prime status, they tend to beef up their orders. So, we’re talking a win-win for Amazon. And a lose for Walmart.

Job openings…

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Looks like karma may finally be catching up with some folks over at Uber, as the ride-sharing company just fired 20 employees over sexual harassment claims. Apparently 215 claims were leveled against these 20 individuals, which sort of begs the question: Was there anybody left at Uber who didn’t get sexually harassed? The investigation was conducted by law firm Perkins Coie and disturbingly enough, it found that no action was even taken in 100 of those claims. Oh, and there are still even more claims being investigated.  In addition to the 20 terminated fiends, seven other employees received written warnings, while 31 more employees need to get “special training” to teach them how not to harass people and behave like stupid, thoughtless destructive pieces of trash. CEO Travis Kalanick launched the investigation back in February after a former Uber employee named Susan Fowler wrote in a blog post about her personal experiences of sexual harassment and gender bias at the company. However, when asked about the issue back in May, Uber’s head of HR, Liane Hornsey, said it wasn’t an issue that had come up. Especially if you had your head firmly entrenched in the sand, of course.

And that’s a wrap…

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After 14 years, J. Crew’s Mickey Drexler is calling it quits and handing over the reins to West Elm CEO James Brett. While Drexler may be out as CEO, he’ll still stay on as Chairman. And why not? After all, he owns 10% of the preppy apparel company. Drexel decided to step down from his role after declining sales – 6% in just the last year – led to a whole bunch of other problems including restructuring, layoffs and the departure of its pseudo-celebrity, high-profile creative director, Jenna Lyons. Not that any of that was entirely Drexel’s fault. Only a bit of it, some might argue. Because apparently the problems and challenges he faced were industry wide for apparel companies in general, as so many of them continue to struggle to get a leg up on fast-fashion, affordable competitors like Zara and H&M.