BROWN-FORMAN is still “very committed” to its Finlandia vodka unit, despite struggling sales in major Russian and eastern European markets, according to Marshall Farrer, head of the distiller’s global travel retail business and a company director. Farrer’s remarks, at the annual TFWA World Exhibition & Conference now under way in Cannes, followed industry speculation earlier this year that Brown-Forman had placed Finlandia on the auction block (Spirits Business).
KINDRED said it completed its previously announced agreement to sell 12 long-term acute care hospitals in six states for $27.5 million to Curahealth, an affiliate of the private investment fund Nautic Partners. The hospitals have a total of 783 licensed beds in Arizona, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee (press release). The Louisville-based hospital and nursing giant employs about 2,200 workers in the city, including at the Fourth and Broadway headquarters downtown. It has more than 100,000 workers nationwide.
PAPA JOHN’S stock traded at a new 52-week high, $78.49, today before easing back to close at $78.26, up 49 cents. The stock’s all-time trading high was $79.40, on July 13, 2015 (Google Finance). Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter is the pizza chain’s single-biggest stockholder, with about 10.5 million shares, including options — a stake worth $822 million at today’s closing price.
UPS plans to hire about 2,500 seasonal workers in Louisville to handle extra business during the holiday shipping period that begins in November and extends through January. The full- and part-time seasonal positions — primarily package handlers, drivers and driver-helpers — are among 95,000 seasonal workers overall the shipper plans to take on. Seasonal jobs have long been an entry for permanent ones at the company; from the 2012 through 2014 holiday seasons, more than 37% of those hired for seasonal package handler jobs were later hired in a permanent position when the holidays were over, the company says. UPS is the single-biggest private employer in Louisville, with about 22,000 workers at its hub at Louisville International Airport. Around the world, the company has 440,000 employees (press release and Courier-Journal). More about UPS.
FORD will move all the company’s small-car production to lower-cost Mexico over the next two to three years, CEO Mark Fields told an investor conference yesterday. The automaker produces its Fiesta subcompact in Mexico, but its Focus and C-Max small cars are made in suburban Detroit. The company is building a $1.6-billion assembly plant in Mexico’s San Luis Potosi, and plans to make small cars there starting in 2018 (Los Angeles Times). In Louisville, Ford employs nearly 10,000 workers at truck and auto assembly factories.
In other news, 21c Museum Hotel has sold a minority interest to a real estate investment unit of J.P. Morgan Private Bank. Under the deal, Junius Real Estate Partners will invest up to $250 million in the Louisville-based boutique chain toward building or acquiring new hotel properties.
Their first joint venture will be a 21c Museum Hotel Nashville in the historic downtown Gray & Dudley Building; it’s expected to open in the first half of next year with 124 hotel rooms, more than 10,500 square feet of museum and event space and five rooftop-level rooms, including two suites, with private terraces. 21c will manage the property and have joint ownership.
HUMANA: Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini says that “marketplace reality” is pushing the company to exit nearly 70% of the counties with public health exchanges next year, and dismissed criticism of the insurer by a group of U.S. senators as “unfounded accusations.” Bertolini was responding to a letter from Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bill Nelson of Florida and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent. The lawmakers said Aetna’s decision to quit numerous health exchanges “appears to be an effort to pressure the Justice Department into approving” its proposed $37 billion purchase of Humana (Hartford Courant).
TACO BELL: Designer and artist Olivia Mears has used Taco Bell wrappers, painted card stock, tissue paper, and felt to make her own spin on Belle’s dress from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” She tells Thrillist: “I had already sewn the yellow ballgown without tacos several years earlier for children’s parties and it was during this time that someone snapped a photo of me while at Taco Bell and it ended up going viral. Fast-forward about three years and I landed a role in a Taco Bell commercial wearing another dress I made from wrappers, so I decided to bring the Belle dress out from storage and continue the legacy.” The dress, unfortunately for fans, isn’t available for sale. But Mears is selling signed photos of it on her AvantGeek Etsy page (Thrillist).
In other news: Facing growing scrutiny from donors and its own university, the University of Louisville Foundation is paying $11,500 a month in retainers for external public relations advice from two Louisville PR shops: RunSwitch Public Relations, led by political strategist Scott Jennings, and Tandem Public Relations, led by Sandra Frazier, according to WFPL; both contracts were extended as of Sept. 1. Frazier, a recently retired Brown-Forman director, was one of Gov. Matt Bevin‘s appointees to a newly reorganized UofL board of trustees (WFPL).
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.
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.
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.
That’s according to a new Huffington Post story, which today cited a letter Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini sent to the Obama Administration on July 5 — 16 days before the Justice Department sued to block the merger on antitrust grounds.
The Post obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Act request. Aetna’s letter was in response to a Justice Department question about how any decision on the proposed merger would affect Aetna’s willingness to offer insurance through health-care exchanges under Obamacare.
The letter appears to contract a Bertolini statement late Monday, where he blamed anticipated losses on the Hartford insurer’s decision to exit nearly 70% of the exchange markets it’s been serving; that pullout will come next year.
When reporters asked Aetna whether it was also reacting to DOJ’s attempt to stop its merger with Humana, “company officials brushed off the questions,” the Post says, citing accounts in the Hartford Courant, Politico and USA Today.
A spokesperson for Aetna said the decision to roll back the coverage was not because of the DOJ’s lawsuit, but rather realizing the full details of the losses, according to a separate story by Business Insider based on the Post account.
Paired with some looming rate increases for next year’s health plans, the Post story today says, “the abrupt departure of Aetna has triggered new worries that Obamacare ― a subsidized public-private system of health insurance plans competing for beneficiaries ― is in serious trouble and may even be unsustainable.”
The Louisville-based health insurer added new language to the “Risk Factors” section of its quarterly 10-Q report filled today with the Securities and Exchange Commission, about the Department of Justice’s lawsuit last month blocking Humana’s $37 billion merger with Aetna of Hartford. Here’s what the new section says.
On July 21, the DOJ filed a civil antitrust complaint (which we refer to as the DOJ action) against us and Aetna in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, charging that the merger would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Antitrust Act and seeking a permanent injunction that would prevent the Merger. The filing of the DOJ action is delaying, and, if we and Aetna are unsuccessful in defending against or settling the DOJ action, could ultimately prevent, the consummation of the merger. There can be no assurance that we will be successful in defending against or settling the DOJ action or that the merger will be consummated by any particular time, if at all.
In addition, even if we and Aetna enter into a settlement with respect to the DOJ action, there can be no assurance that we and/or Aetna will not be required to agree to terms, conditions, requirements, limitations, costs or restrictions that could further delay completion of the merger, impose additional material costs on or limit the revenues of the combined company, or limit some of the synergies and other benefits we presently anticipate to realize following the merger. We cannot provide any assurance that any such terms, conditions, requirements, limitations, costs or restrictions will not result in a material delay in, or the abandonment of, the merger.
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