Taco rises, Chipotle plunges in new survey; Yum sets China spin for Oct. 31; Aetna: DOJ wants more info, but deal on track

A news summary, focused on big employers; updated 5:30 p.m.

Taco Bell store front
Taco revamped menu this year to include breakfast.

TACO BELL ranked No. 2 among fast-casual Mexican restaurants in the annual Harris Poll restaurant brand survey, published today, right behind Moe’s Southwest Grill. Last year, the Yum unit tied for No. 3. Meanwhile, Chipotle — hit hard this year by stubborn health scares at some restaurants — got knocked down to No. 5; it had topped the list the past three years (Harris). Moe’s is owned by the same company that operates shopping mall mainstays Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon. (USA Today).

In horrific allegations in Houston, three teenagers say Taco Bell employees stabbed one of them, then burnt the other two with hot grease — accusations the company disputes (CW 33and Houston Chronicle). And in Wisconsin, a 25-year-old Village of Waterford man is facing the possibility of more than three years in prison after allegedly passing out in the drive-thru of a Waukesha Taco Bell last week and physically refusing arrest (Journal Times).

McShane
McShane

BROWN-FORMAN said Michael McShane, a senior vice president overseeing the Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia regions, is retiring Oct. 31. The spirits and wine giant didn’t disclose details about replacing him. McShane’s 17-year career started in 1999 as finance director for Brown-Forman Beverages based in Sydney after serving in a variety of roles for Swift & Moore, then distributor for Brown-Forman in Australia (press release). Also, a transcript is now available for the company’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call yesterday (Seeking Alpha).

YUM has set Oct. 31 as the date it plans to formally split itself into two publicly traded companies when it cleaves the mammoth China division away under pressure from activist investor Corvex Management. CEO Greg Creed said yesterday his team would begin a road show in early October to pitch the split to prospective investors (The Street). Yum shares closed at $83.73, down less than 1%.

Karen Lynch
Lynch

HUMANA: Aetna president Karen Lynch told analysts at a Goldman Sachs health care conference the Hartford insurer is giving the Justice Department “a lot of information” in response to a second request, amid the agency’s review of the planned $37 billion acquisition of Humana. But she didn’t detail the nature of the agency’s additional request. Lynch said the deal still remains on track to close later this year (Hartford Courant).

TEXAS ROADHOUSE shares closed at $46.54, up 15 cents, after hitting an intraday high of $46.81. It was the second consecutive day shares closed at an all-time high. The casual steak house chain’s stock has soared 27% in the past year vs. a slim 1% gain in the S&P 500 index (Google Finance). Since opening in 1993, the company has grown to more than 460 locations in 49 states and five international locations in the Middle East (company fact sheet).

Haier logoGE will pay eligible workers a “closing payment” of $800 following the $5.6 billion sale of the company’s home appliances business to China’s Haier. Also, those who lose jobs within the first year after the sale will get preferential placement at other GE locations. The sale closed Monday, ending a 61-year chapter in Louisville’s economic history. The IUE-CWA union and Haier have agreed to honor terms of the current contract with about 6,000 Appliance Park workers while a new one is being negotiated (WDRB). Monday’s sale also included GE’s 1,200-employee refrigerator factory in Decatur, Ala. (Decatur Daily News). Haier and other Chinese multinationals setting up factories in the U.S. are attracted to America’s stable social, political, and legal environments. Haier completed its $5.6 billion acquisition of GE Appliances on Monday, part of a wave of such investments totaling more than $15 billion last year (Rutgers University).

UPS: Prosecutors in Las Vegas have dropped charges against a paraplegic man accused May 21 of robbing a UPS driver of a cellphone and scanner, and then running from the scene, conceding his disabilities would have made that impossible. But the prosecutor’s move didn’t come until after Antwine Hunter spent two weeks in jail (Review-Journal).

David Callaway
Callaway

In other news, in a move with big implications for The Courier Journal, the top editor at USA Today, David Callaway, is leaving to become CEO of financial news site The Street, effective July 1; the paper has started a search for his replacement (USA Today).

Callaway had been at the paper four years, a period during which it assumed growing influence over the CJ and about 100 other dailies all owned by the same parent company: Gannett. USA Today provides national and world news to the CJ in a standalone daily news section, and reporters for both papers collaborate on stories distributed across what’s now called the USA Today Network.

Candidates for Callaway’s job could include Beryl Love, executive editor of the USA Today Network National News Desk; he’s held that job three years. Today’s shakeup comes as Gannett presses a hostile takeover of Tribune Publishing, which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other high-profile newspapers.

Joanne Lipman
Lipman

Former Wall Street Journal editor Joanne Lipman has overall responsibility for the USA Today Network, making her the equivalent of Gannett’s overall editor.

Finally, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other major stock indices closed little changed this afternoon (Google Finance). Big employers in Boulevard’s Stock Portfolio closed mostly lower.

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