Ya-Oops! Internet Biz Breach; Tesla Calling Out Wolverine State; Budget Beauty Goes IPO Glam

Out of breach…

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As if things couldn’t get any dicier at Yahoo, the company is now facing the wrong end of a security breach with roughly 500 million Yahoo accounts caught in the fray of the company’s core internet business. And all this as Yahoo hopes to close a $4.8 billion deal with Verizon so the telecom giant can acquire those compromised core internet assets. It seems talk of a breach surfaced way back in August when a story broke out about a hacker, who goes by the name “Peace,” sold a ton of personal info that included birthdates, usernames, scrambled passwords etc. for the price of three bitcoins. In case you were wondering, because I know you were, that’s around $1,800. The question of the day is should Yahoo have come clean about the breach sooner and been a bit more proactive? After all, there are laws regarding breaches in 48 states that stipulate that companies must alert affected customers within a certain amount of time. But Yahoo might be in the clear since no social security numbers or other financial information was supposedly involved.  For those who have Yahoo accounts and want to take additional precautions, besides changing passwords, they can visit http://www.identitytheft.gov.

Denied…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tesla’s not very happy with Michigan right now as evidenced by the lawsuit it filed against the state and its Governor Rick Snyder. Tesla is screaming foul, calling a 2014 Michigan law unconstitutional, because it seems to have been designed to protect auto titan and Michigan darling, General Motors. Apparently, the Great Lake state doesn’t take kindly to automakers selling their cars directly to (gasp!) consumers and refuses to issue a dealership license to the maker of the pish-posh battery-operated cars. Car salesmen find Tesla’s business model positively odious because it has the car company selling its motorized wares directly to the folks who will ultimately be driving them, thereby cutting out the middleman i.e. car salesmen. Tesla, which is also suing Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson – her department officially rejected Tesla’s license application – is hoping a judge strikes down the the law because it impedes commerce between states. Tesla is currently barred from selling and repairing its cars in Michigan, as well as not being licensed to sell them in Connecticut, Texas and Utah.

IPO glam…

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There’s a new darling on Wall Street and this time it’s one that has very little to do with tech. Enter e.l.f. beauty  – which stands for eyes, lips, face (duh!) – a cosmetics company with 9 stores in the New York area, two stores in the L.A. area and is also sold in 19,000 retail locations including Walmart and Target, of course. E.l.f., which trades on the NYSE exchange under the ticker symbol ELF, is positively fabulous if only because of its super-special price point: it’s considerably lower than other brands with most of its products selling for $6 or less. Backed by private equity firm TPG, the IPO was set to debut between $14-$16 a share, but was then later priced at $17 per share with 8.3 million shares up for grabs.  None of that seemed to matter when it opened this morning at $24 a share and then soared 59% to $27.09. That gave the company a value of over $1 billion which is not bad for a company that sells a bargain product in a very crowded $57 billion global cosmetics industry.

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Ralph Lauren’s Man with a Plan; Voila! French Rogue Trader Gets Last Laugh…Almost;Ya-Who Will Get the Winning Bid?

 

Plan of attack…

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ralph Lauren will bite the very preppy bullet and start cutting jobs, closing stores and cashing out on some real estate as the retailer tries to climb out of a dismal fiscal year. Out of its 15,000 full-time employees, 1,000 of them will soon be getting their walking papers so the company can restructure itself and go from nine management layers to six. Spearheading these new changes are CEO Stefan Larrson, who is the person responsible for lifting Gap Inc.’s Old Navy out of its own retail funk awhile back. And Larsson’s got his work cut out for him. The retailer posted sales losses for every quarter of fiscal 2016, resulting in a full year sales decline of 3% and a 30% decline in shares in the last twelve months. Part of Larsson’s plan to lift Ralph Lauren out of its misery is to speed things up. Literally. It currently takes well over a year for a design to hit shelves ,which accounts for improperly forecasting supply and demand. Instead, Larsson will shorten that turnaround, as he feels that nine months is a perfectly reasonable amount of time for designs to reach stores. Unfortunately, 50 of those stores will be closing. But at least there will be over 440 other stores from which to purchase those expedited designs. Phew. While this restructuring will cost Ralph Lauren a whopping $400 million, not to mention an additional $150 million in inventory reduction, this new plan will also help the retailer save $220 million a year and Ralph Lauren needs every million it can get.

Wait a minute…

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Societe General Bank’s very own rogue trader, Jerome Kerviel, just got his day in court. Even though his poor trading skills cost the French bank billion in euros, and got him convicted of fraud and breach of trust in the process, the trader still managed to win a wrongful dismissal case against his former employer. What was, in fact, wrongful, was that SocGen waited too long between the time it discovered Kerviel’s misdeeds and the time it booted him from the firm. French labor code allows companies a grand total of two months to sanction those who have been found guilty of misconduct. Kerviel, however, was dismissed in 2008, many many months after the time, in 2007, when it was discovered that he went rogue and lost 4.9 billion euros. The Labor Court has now ordered SocGen to pay Kerviel 450,000 euros, which is roughly equivalent to $510,000. SocGen’s lawyer, Arnaud Chalut, called the ruling “scandalous,” presumably in French, and plans to appeal the decision. Kerviel, however, is not in the clear just yet and neither is his $510,000. France’s highest court already ruled that the three years of jail time to which Kerviel was sentenced was justified. But the court didn’t feel that he should be liable for the whole 4.9 billion euros. So the bank has brought a civil suit against Kerviel, which begins next week, to determine exactly how much he should pay back to SocGen.

Bid adieu…

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Verizon is on the prowl for some internet business and it is honing in on Yahoo. The telecom giant is said to be bidding $3 billion for the privilege of owning Yahoo’s core internet biz, however, Verizon is not the only company looking to scoop up that entity. AT&T is said to be licking its chops at the opportunity, in addition to private equity firm TPG , Advent International and Vista Equity Partners, to name but a few. Experts were thinking that bids would come in between $4 billion and $8 billion. But then some bidders lost interest after Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made a presentation last month showing how Yahoo’s online ad biz is headed south, losing digital advertising ground to Facebook, Google and even Twitter. Yahoo, however, might just prove to be the perfect fit for Verizon, which already picked up AOL last year for $4.4 billion. Together with AOL, the two companies attract over one billion users every month. There is probably going to be one more bidding cycle before any deals are reached and it’s still anybody’s guess where Yahoo will land. But if I were a betting man…well, I’m not.

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…

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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…

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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!

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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.