Tag: Douglas Cobb

Follow the money: A trail of footnotes and government documents leads to Insider Louisville’s front door

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

In business journalism, some of the most interesting news shows up in fine-print footnotes in documents companies file with government agencies. Hospital and nursing giant Kindred Healthcare is great example. Last spring in a statement to stockholders, it disclosed two special payments to top executives: $6 million to then-executive vice chairman Paul Diaz in connection with his leaving the CEO’s job, and $250,000 to Chief Financial Officer Steven Farberto help him escape a high-profile dispute with a Glenview neighbor. But to uncover that, you had to follow three different footnotes on a table showing how much they got paid overall.

Insider Louisville logoThis leads me to another footnote, of sorts — one that appeared on a story today at Insider Louisville, the online news site launched in 2010, and to a document I’ve run across at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Together, they open a window on who’s investing in Louisville’s news media at a time when the once-dominant Courier-Journal has been losing influence amid steep staff cutbacks, shifting the balance of power in Kentucky’s biggest city. They underscore the importance of news outlets everywhere telling readers who’s behind the scenes, and about any conflicts of interest owners may pose for their publication. (I’ve got disclosures of my own.)

This morning, at the bottom of a long story about the Humana Foundation, Insider Louisville editors added this disclosure: “One of the five directors of the Humana Foundation is David A. Jones Jr., an investor of Insider Louisville.”

David A. Jones Jr.
Jones

Jones is one of Louisville’s more influential residents. He’s on the board of directors of Humana itself, and his father, David A. Jones Sr., is a co-founder of the insurance giant. Jones Jr. is a partner at Chrysalis Ventures, the Louisville venture-capital firm he founded in 1993, and he’s chairman of the elected seven-person board overseeing the Jefferson County Public Schools. (Here’s Chrysalis’s portfolio of company investments; it doesn’t show Insider Louisville, which suggests this was a personal investment.)

Tom Cottingham
Cottingham

To be sure, close readers of Insider Louisville have known Jones was an investor for several years. In August 2014, owner Tom Cottingham told readers he’d brought in three new minority investors he knew from a prior venture: Jones; Doug Cobb, the former Greater Louisville Inc. CEO, and Jon Pyles, now the site’s vice president of marketing. The story — which carried only a “staff” byline — didn’t say how much they’d invested, nor the exact size of their stake. Cottingham said he remained the majority holder.

Douglas Cobb
Cobb

Now, though, an SEC document filed in April offers more clues about the publication’s investors, whom we learned this summer include a prominent heiress to the glittering Brown-Forman whiskey fortune. I can’t find any mention of the regulatory filing on Insider Louisville’s website, nor in any other media outlet in Louisville. My readers may well correct me after I publish this post; in any case, this is certainly the first time I’m writing about it.

The April 12 document shows that Insider Louisville LLC raised $975,000 from 12 investors in a $1.5 million stock offering that drew the first investment March 31. It didn’t identify the investors by name, however, and it didn’t say how big their stakes were. The first $450,000 was to pay down an undisclosed amount of debt, according to the document; anything left over would go to any of its directors: Jones, Cottingham, and a third named Jamie Wilson. (Who’s Wilson? I haven’t figured that out; maybe one of my readers knows.)

Minimum investment: $25K

Continue reading “Follow the money: A trail of footnotes and government documents leads to Insider Louisville’s front door”

PR exec Jennings says ‘bloodthirsty thought police’ chased Cobb off UofL board of trustees

A Louisville public relations executive and former advisor to Republican U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell has attacked the news media for whipping up a “feeding frenzy” over controversial tweets by businessman Douglas Cobb that led to his withdrawing as one of Gov. Matt Bevin’s appointees to the new University of Louisville board of trustees.

In an op-ed piece in today’s Courier-Journal, Scott Jennings of RunSwitch PR writes:

Scott Jennings
Jennings

“I don’t necessarily agree with some of Cobb’s tweets, which were breathlessly reported by the bloodthirsty thought police who turned his opinions on Christianity, global warming and sports into a shooting gallery at their ridiculous carnival. But Cobb has a right to express an opinion, and we should be mortified that our town’s unelected information gatekeepers are personally deciding not only who is fit to serve but what opinions disqualify someone from serving.”

Douglas Cobb
Cobb

Cobb, a venture capitalist and former CEO of Greater Louisville Inc.’s predecessor organization, turned down his university board appointment July 12 , two weeks after news reports said he’d tweeted climate change was a hoax; evolution was for patsies, and “gay Christian” was an oxymoron. Cobb initially defended his views, but then deleted his Twitter account entirely.

Run Switch has been a University of Louisville Foundation vendor, according to the CJ. Jennings co-founded the agency in 2012. In addition to advising McConnell, he was a special assistant and deputy White House political director for President George W. Bush.

Taco Bell to open flagship Cantina on Las Vegas Strip; Pizza Hut launches a chatbot ordering system; and Humana stock edges higher, breaking downward spiral

A news summary, focused on 10 big employers; updated 5:34 p.m.

Taco_Bell_Las_Vegas_Flagship_Restaurant
Artist’s rendering shows new two-story Las Vegas restaurant.

TACO BELL this afternoon announced plans to build a two-story 24-hour flagship Cantina in Las Vegas right on the Strip at East Harmon Avenue, across from CityCenter and The Cosmopolitan Hotel; it’s expected to open this fall and will be the third in the growing Cantina division. Like other Cantinas, the Las Vegas restaurant will serve alcohol, including beer and Twisted Freezes slushies. Taco Bell introduced the Cantina concept last year with two urban locations, in a bid to draw younger diners with a more tech-focused ordering system and design. Of the 2,000 Taco Bell restaurants planned to be built by 2022, 200 will be urban locations, a typically underrepresented geography for the brand (press release).

Cantina debuted in Chicago last September, and a San Francisco outpost followed a few weeks later. After Las Vegas, Taco Bell plans to take the concept to Atlanta, and further expansion is in the works for college towns and dense urban areas across the country (Eater). Twisted Freezes come in three flavors: Taco Bell’s proprietary Mountain Dew Baja Blast (blue), Cantina Punch (red), and Margarita (green). Patrons can add their choice of rum, tequila or vodka (Chicago Eater).

Baron Concors
Concors

PIZZA HUT announced a new artificial intelligence chatbot that works within Facebook Messenger, and on Twitter, part of a massive roll-out the company is calling “social media ordering.” Chief Digital Officer Baron Concors demonstrated the chatbot at MobileBeat 2016 during a session on chatbot innovations. The new bot can handle pizza and other food delivery orders from customers who have Pizza Hut accounts, streamlining the process, improving accuracy, and eliminating wait-times. It will be available starting next month (Venture Beat and press release).

HUMANA‘s stock closed moments ago at $154.65 a share, up less than 1% — still, the first up day since news broke last week that the insurer and Aetna of Hartford were struggling to keep their $37 billion merger on track during an unexpected meeting with the Justice Department. Aetna’s stock fell less than 1%, closing at $115.50 (Google Finance). None of the parties in the DOJ negotiations Friday have publicly disclosed the outcome. Humana has 12,500 employees in Louisville.

AMAZON: Some shoppers encountered a glitch Continue reading “Taco Bell to open flagship Cantina on Las Vegas Strip; Pizza Hut launches a chatbot ordering system; and Humana stock edges higher, breaking downward spiral”

Amid Cobb’s inflammatory Tweets, did Gov. Bevin fully vet his new UofL trustee?

That’s Courier-Journal columnist Tim Sullivan’s excellent question this afternoon about businessman Douglas Cobb, who tweeted that climate change was a hoax; evolution was for patsies; “gay Christian” was an oxymoron, plus other controversial views — before abruptly deleting his account last night.

Douglas Cobb
Cobb

Cobb, a venture capitalist and former CEO of Greater Louisville Inc.’s predecessor organization, was one of a slew of high-profile business men and women Gov. Matt Bevin added yesterday to his dramatically redrawn University of Louisville board of trustees. Since Bevin was trying to introduce adult supervision to the board, he’s now in a major jam: Does he stick by Cobb, or press him to step aside so — as the boilerplate language goes — he doesn’t become a “distraction”?

Yesterday afternoon, Cobb initially defended his Tweets, telling WDRB he wouldn’t back down. But by evening, he’d zapped his account — sparking a continuing storm of Twittercism:

Bevin appoints Brown-Forman, Glenview Trust, other big-money heavy-hitters to new UofL board; Schnatter and Frazier raise profiles

A news summary, focused on 10 big employers; updated 10:42 p.m.

Matt Bevin
Bevin

Tightening his grip on the University of Louisville, Gov. Matt Bevin today added 10 more members to his reconfigured board of trustees, appointing a slew of business heavy hitters, including at least one with long family ties to the board.

Among them: Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter; Glenview Trust Co. founder and chairman David Grissom, who’s also a retired Humana executive; and Brown-Forman heiress Sandra Frazier.

Schnatter is a major UofL booster, donating millions for naming rights to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. He and conservative industrialist Charles Koch donated $6.3 million to the school in March 2015 to establish an on-campus center to study the virtues of free enterprise; responding to criticism, the university said the money wouldn’t curtail academic freedom.

Sandra Frazier
Frazier

Frazier, who is now cycling off the Brown-Forman board of directors, also is a director of Glenview Trust, a boutique investment firm that serves more than 500 of the area’s wealthiest families. Her late father, Harry Frazier, is a former UofL vice chairman, and her uncle, the late Owsley Brown Frazier, was once chairman.

Two other Bevin appointees are private equity and venture capitalists, according to The Courier-Journal: Dale Boden, now a partner with Weller Equity; and Douglas Cobb, who co-founded Chrysalis Ventures with David A. Jones Jr., a Humana director. Jones’ father, David Sr., co-founded Humana and is also a Glenview Trust director. The 10-member Glenview board comprises some of Louisville’s  biggest power brokers.

Here’s Bevin’s order, with the full list of appointees and their terms.

Bevin’s announcement today follows his surprise June 17 dismissal of the previous 20-seat board, which he called “dysfunctional” in its oversight of the university and President James Ramsey. He replaced them with an interim three-member board, which he filled out with today’s appointments. The school has been roiled with controversy over Ramsey’s seven-figure compensation; a sex scandal involving the marquee men’s basketball program, plus other administrative missteps. Ramsey offered to resign when Bevin dissolved the board, but a final decision on his future was deferred to the next board.

In other news: Continue reading “Bevin appoints Brown-Forman, Glenview Trust, other big-money heavy-hitters to new UofL board; Schnatter and Frazier raise profiles”