Day: August 18, 2016

Big business at the Old State Fairgrounds, 1929

Merchants and Manufacturers State Fair 1929
The handful of people in the foreground offers a sense of scale.

This was the Merchants and Manufacturing Building, which had opened eight years before with the claim it was bigger than Madison Square Garden. Built at the old Kentucky State fairgrounds, the cavernous room was filled with company kiosks, including “Southern Star” and “Auto Insurance.”

The old fairgrounds were in the neighborhood now known as Chickasaw. In 1907, 150 acres were purchased at the end of Cecil Avenue, west of 38th Street and north of Gibson Lane, and the fair was held there a year later, according to the University of Louisville Photographic Archives, the source of this photo.

Kentucky State FairThe Kentucky State Fair is one of the oldest in the United States, according to the Filson Historical Society, dating to 1816, when Colonel Lewis Sanders of Fayette County organized the first one in the commonwealth. It became official in 1902 after being mandated by the Kentucky General Assembly.

In 1956 the fair was moved to the Kentucky State Fairgrounds and Exposition Center where it remains today. This year’s opened today and runs through Aug. 28. Admission, hours and more information here.

Fasten your VR seatbelt: Ford’s the latest Louisville employer to debut virtual reality marketing

The automaker today unveiled a free virtual reality app that (almost) literally puts U.S. consumers in the driver’s seat. Ford says the new app for iOS and Android users “delivers a powerful storytelling platform for consumers and fans to experience Ford innovations like never before,” according to a press release.

The first content is the story behind the new Ford GT’s return to the iconic French 24 Hours of Le Mans race in June. (Eight-plus minute video, above, but you’ll need to watch it with the app.) Ford developed the software with production company Tool of North America, in Santa Monica, Calif., a leader in virtual reality and 360-degree content and mobile app creation. Consumers can download the app now for iOS and Android. More about Ford’s Louisville operations.

Ford’s app follows Brown-Forman’s dive into VR in mid-July with a 360-degree VR video promoting the flagship Jack Daniel’s brand on its 150th anniversary. The spirits maker showed it at festivals this summer, with plans also for September’s Life is Beautiful in Las Vegas. Watch that video here:

Companies across industries see potential in VR marketing to reach the most coveted consumers, young buyers attracted to the latest technologies. Especially hot sectors include auto, travel and fashion, according to Inc. magazine. Volvo launched a “Volvo Reality” app, immersing consumers in a VR test drive. “Shot on a 60-mile stretch of road,” Inc. said last spring, “this first-ever fully immersive virtual reality test drive blends a CG build of the interior of the car with footage shot on a 60-mile stretch of road in Vancouver, and can be viewed with or without Google Cardboard.”

‘The bottom line is, we’re a little bit ahead of our time. To me, the big shame is when you don’t dream big’

Greg Fischer

That’s Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, speaking to The Courier-Journal today about the unexpected failure of West Louisville FoodPort, which developers at Seed Capital Kentucky announced yesterday.

The Brown family donated $382,000 to the project since 2012, making the project’s collapse a rare defeat for the founding family of whiskey giant Brown-Forman.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post misattributed the quote to philanthropist Stephen Reiley, co-founder of Seed Capital.

Report: CJ owner ramps up hostile bid for Los Angeles Times, 10 other dailies

Gannett Co. has privately sweetened its bid for Tronc, hoping to overcome resistance to a sale from the parent of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, according to a new Wall Street Journal story, which cites people familiar with the matter.

Couier-Journal August 18 2016
Today’s front page

Details of the new overture, which comes after Tronc rejected a prior bid of $15 a share worth $864 million, couldn’t be learned, according to the WSJ. Tronc is expected to respond by the end of the week, some of the people said, indicating Gannett’s long pursuit of the storied newspaper chain may soon come to a head.

Gannett’s GCI shares closed this afternoon hardly changed at $12.14 on the news, which the WSJ reported late last night.

Michael Ferro

Any deal could have far-reaching implications for Gannett’s existing 109 dailies, including The Courier-Journal, depending on how the company reallocates personnel and financial resources to absorb the Tronc papers. Louisville is a regional headquarters for a customer service center and a page production hub that handles design work for other dailies in the chain.

On Monday, The New York Times said a deal was imminent if Gannett could win over Tronc’s mercurial chairman, the technology mogul Michael Ferro.

Pizza Hut adding 300-plus restaurants in Central Europe; Yum stock hits 52-week high; and White House in big new Obamacare push as Humana and Aetna flee exchanges

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 6:11 p.m.

Pizza Hut restaurant building
Pizza Hut has more than 14,000 locations worldwide.

PIZZA HUT said it signed a master franchise agreement with AmRest Holdings that gives the Polish company the right to own, develop and sub-franchise more than 300 restaurants in Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, and Slovenia over the next five years; AmRest already operates 80 Huts (press release).

Wall Street rallied around the news: YUM shares closed this afternoon at $90.76, after trading earlier at a 52-week high of $90.88.

Greg CreedThe expansion comes as Yum CEO Greg Creed is on the offensive against rival Domino’s on the domestic front, especially in technology such as ordering apps that attracts younger consumers. Pizza Hut, headquartered in Plano outside Dallas, is the world’s biggest pizza chain, more than 14,00 restaurants in more than 100 countries. No. 2 Domino’s has more than 12,500 locations in over 80 markets around the world.

AmRest was launched in 1993 with its first Pizza Hut in Poland’s Wrocław and says it’s now the biggest independent chain restaurant operator in Central and Eastern Europe. It operates more than 1,000 eateries in 13 countries through a portfolio of brands that also includes KFC, Burger King, Starbucks, La Tagliatella, Blue Frog and Kabb.

HUMANA: Facing withdrawals from insurance exchanges by Humana, Aetna and others amid surging premiums, the Obama Administration is preparing a major push to enroll new participants in public online marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act. The administration is considering an ad campaign with testimonials from newly insured consumers, as well as direct appeals to young people hit by tax penalties for failing to enroll (New York Times).

Humana and Aetna logos 250On Monday, Aetna blamed anticipated losses for the Hartford insurer’s decision to exit nearly 70% of the exchange markets it’s been serving; that pullout will come next year. The followed a similar announcement earlier this month from Humana, which said Continue reading “Pizza Hut adding 300-plus restaurants in Central Europe; Yum stock hits 52-week high; and White House in big new Obamacare push as Humana and Aetna flee exchanges”

In FoodPort’s sudden failure, a rare defeat for Louisville’s blue-chip philanthropists: the Brown family

FoodPort rendering 600
An aerial rendering of 24-acre site at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard.

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

For the past two years, developers of the West Louisville FoodPort worked mightily to bring urban farming and as many as 250 good jobs to the heart of a neighborhood yearning for a better future. Mayor Greg Fischer said the project would “change the look and feel of Russell forever.” Their ambitious, $35 million plan was going so well, one of the world’s foremost advocates of organic food paid a headline-grabbing visit last year: Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.

Stephen Reily

But yesterday, the entire enterprise collapsed when the non-profit developers, Seed Capital Kentucky, abruptly announced they’d lost a linchpin partner, and without enough time to find a replacement. “We don’t have a way to put it together,” Seed Capital co-founder Stephen Reily said. “We are deeply disappointed.”

Many, many other people were disappointed as well: the mayor, who’d pushed the project as a centerpiece for revitalizing the Russell neighborhood, only to see it steadily scaled back amid community infighting; some 150 residents who helped shepherd the project past months of political hurdles, and the Russell councilwoman, Cheri Bryant Hamilton, “heartbroken” last night over its failure, The Courier-Journal said.

But less publicized was the distress almost certainly felt by a high-profile Louisville family who had invested heavily in its development: the Browns, founders of the spirits giant Brown-Forman. It was an unusual defeat for a family that’s often in the vanguard of high-profile causes ending in resounding success.

Christy Brown

The Browns were there at critical junctures for the FoodPort, including last year’s goodwill tour by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. In a speech at the Cathedral of the Assumption on that overcast Friday in March, the CJ reported at the time, “the prince credited his visit to the persuasive powers of Louisville philanthropist Christina Lee Brown, matriarch of the family that controls Brown-Forman.”

Indeed, in 0ne photo with the newspaper’s online story, the unidentified woman in an orange coat and strands of pearls, beaming in the royal couple’s wake during one of their walkabouts, is Christina, known to many in Louisville as Christy.

Augusta Brown Holland

As one of the city’s best-known philanthropists, she and her immediate family have formed the core of the extended Brown family’s support of Seed Capital. Her daughter, Augusta Brown Holland, an urban planner and investor, is one of the non-profit’s six board members. Another daughter, Brooke Brown Barzun, has a more direct line to Buckingham Palace: Her husband, Matthew Barzun, is U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

A tale of IRS tax returns

The Browns donate multimillions of dollars annually to charities from coast to coast, although especially in Louisville. But they don’t often seek attention for their contributions.

Prince and Christina 300
On the CJ: Camilla, Christy and Charles.

In fact, Seed Capital only hints at the family’s hefty financial support,
on a difficult-to-find page of its website with a barebones alphabetical roster of “funders.” Of the 16 names listed, six are Brown family members or their personal charitable foundations. A seventh is the source of their $6 billion fortune: Brown-Forman, the nearly 150-year-old producer of Jack Daniel’s and other well-known brands. And an eighth, the Community Foundation of Louisville, is home to at least 10 individual Brown donor-advised funds.

Brown family foundation public IRS tax returns fill in details. In 2012-2015, six of the foundations donated a combined Continue reading “In FoodPort’s sudden failure, a rare defeat for Louisville’s blue-chip philanthropists: the Brown family”