Papa John’s opening 40 more outlets in Russia; judge sets Dec. 5 trial date for Humana-Aetna case, jeopardizing $1B breakup fee to HUM; and ouch: new GE beverage maker like something out of ‘Spaceballs’

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 3:14 p.m.

PAPA JOHN’S said today it will open 40 restaurants in Russia over the next eight years, with the first store scheduled to open in St. Petersburg next month. Franchiser PJ Western Retail already operates more than 80 restaurants in Russia and Belarus; it’s owned by Global Restaurant Management and private equity firm Capman Russia Fund (press release). The chain opened 357 outlets last year, and now has nearly 5,000 restaurants consisting of 752 company-owned and 4,141 franchised in all 50 states and in 39 countries and territories. Beyond the U.S., the country with the single-most locations is China, with 244, as of the end of last year (annual SEC report).

In Hawaii, a Papa John’s worker is among the latest of scores of people affected by a recent hepatitis A outbreak, according to the state Department of Health. The unidentified employee worked at a restaurant in Waipahu on the island of Oahu, and brings to a total of 168 cases confirmed through yesterday. DOH investigators suspect the source of the outbreak was likely a product widely distributed primarily on Oahu (KHON-TV).

Judge John Bates
Bates

HUMANA: The federal judge hearing the Justice Department’s case to block Aetna’s $37 billion purchase of Humana has set a trial date for Dec. 5 — later than the companies had requested — and allowed 13 days for the proceedings. The date is a compromise between the two sides. During a hearing yesterday in Washington, U.S. District Judge John Bates said he was leaning toward an early November trial, but he later accepted the Justice Department’s arguments that date wouldn’t give the agency enough time to prepare. The insurers had argued for an earlier time frame, noting that the current contractual agreement between the two is subject to a Dec. 31 deadline. If the merger isn’t approved by then, Humana would have the option of walking away and potentially collecting a $1 billion breakup fee. Bates told the parties to proceed with the “expectation” that he will issue a ruling in mid-January  (Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg).

Antitrust cases are typically kept on a strict timetable set by the judge, who in this case is very efficient, said David Balto, a lawyer representing several consumer groups that oppose the insurance mega-mergers. Even though Aetna and Humana extended the deadline to close the deal by the end of this year, the litigation is likely to force them to extend the closing again (Courier-Journal). The DOJ last month sued to block the merger, arguing that it would likely raise consumer prices and stifle competition.

Bates was appointed to the bench in December 2001 by President George W. Bush (Wikipedia).

Ford Explorer Sport
Sport’s MSRP: $45,000.

FORD says professional Generation-Xers don’t always drive SUVs, but when they do they drive a Ford Explorer Sport, according to a new vehicle customer study by MaritzCX. the The vehicle has the highest percentage of Gen-X buyers of any non-luxury SUV in the United States, MaritzCX says (press release). X-ers are the spawn of the huge baby boom generation. There are no precise dates for when the group starts or ends; demographers have used birth years bracketed by the early 1960s to early 1980s (Wikipedia). Ford employs nearly 10,000 workers at truck and auto factories in Louisville; more about the automaker’s local operations.

KFC is opening a new restaurant today at Louisville International Airport, as part of an ongoing renovation of the terminal there (Courier-Journal).

TEXAS ROADHOUSE has reportedly backed out of plans to build a restaurant in the northern Chicago suburb of Mount Pleasant (Journal Online).

AMAZON‘s stock touched a new record trading high, $773.75, before easing back to a recent $771.51, up $2.95. It’s one of the Louisville area’s biggest employers, with 6,000 workers at distribution centers in Jeffersonville and Shepherdsville. More about Amazon here.

GE: The new GE Keurig Beverage Center prototype would be built right into the wall and replace basically every appliance that makes drinks, including coffee, soda, and smoothies. Wolf Appliances debuted a semi-similar mega-coffeemaker two years ago. The cost? Well over $3,000, and it didn’t even have the built-in blender.

Spaceballs posterThere’s no plan to make more Beverage Centers just yet (and no word on how much each one would cost), but Chris Bissig, GE Appliances’ manager of concept and brand development wouldn’t rule it out (CNET and Tech Insider).

CNET’s cruel conclusion: The gadget looks like something out of “Spaceballs,” the 1987 Star Wars parody starring director Mel Brooks, John Candy and Rick Moraines, featuring a character named Pizza the Hut.

Here’s a bad photo of what it looks like:

GE Beverage Center
That’s a pullout tray of Keurig cups is in the foreground.

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