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Thursday, August 27, 2015


Original Story: geekwire.com

GeekWire has discovered a “confidential” new Amazon facility that’s getting ready to launch Prime Now one-hour delivery in the Seattle area, as well as a completely new service called “Amazon Flex.”

The company hasn’t yet announced the new offering and didn’t respond to questions about how it will work. But signs inside the company’s new Kirkland, Wash., facility indicate Amazon Flex will be a new way for the company to distribute packages, possibly letting customers pick up items from the Prime Now center themselves. A Boston business lawyer has experience assisting both public companies and private companies achieve their business goals.

Amazon has also been reported to be considering crowdsourced package delivery, although it’s not clear if Amazon Flex is related.

An Amazon Flex sign inside the Kirkland location reads, “Please take a ticket located behind you. Please look for your number on the top corner of the wall on your left. Proceed to pick up your package once your number is displayed.”

The Kirkland facility also makes it clear that Amazon is preparing to launch its Prime Now one-hour delivery service in the Seattle area, something the company hasn’t publicly acknowledged. GeekWire has reported on the Prime Now plans since planning documents for sites in Kirkland, North Seattle and the northern edge of downtown Seattle started popping up in May.

Based on liquor license applications for the three Amazon sites, the Seattle-area locations are poised to become the first Prime Now operations in the U.S. to offer speedy delivery of beer, wine and liquor. Prime Now launched alcohol delivery in the U.K. earlier this year.

There has been a flurry of activity at the Prime Now site near downtown Seattle in recent days. GeekWire observed delivery drivers in training sessions at the facility on Monday. Crews are still putting the finishing touches on the building, a former car dealership on part of Amazon’s new campus in the Denny Triangle area.

But the Kirkland location — which is where we found the Amazon Flex signs — seems to be already up and running. Workers were sorting and loading packages on shelves for pickup by drivers. However, the Prime Now app doesn’t yet enable deliveries to zip codes in the Seattle region. A Boston business transactions lawyer is following this story closely.

We’ve heard the Prime Now service will work in the Seattle area just like it has in other cities since it first launched in New York in December 2014. The service is only available to Amazon Prime members and costs $7.99 for one-hour delivery and is free for two-hour delivery. The service will also deliver hot food from restaurants. It will also offer a large selection of food and household items, according to documents filed by Amazon with the King County Public Health Department, obtained by GeekWire through a public records request.

Amazon is working with delivery companies including Act Fast Delivery and Alpha Courier to provide the drivers. Both companies have recently posted jobs in the Seattle area, talking about a chance to work with one of the world’s largest retailers to deliver small packages — though they didn’t explicitly name Amazon.

And here’s some news for residents of the Rose City: Act Fast has posted an identical job description for openings in Portland, Ore., which is a pretty strong indication Prime Now will be going there next. “Oregon we are FINALLY ready to launch the newest most exciting delivery service yet,” the post reads.

But it looks like what’s coming to Amazon’s hometown isn’t the run-of-the-mill Prime Now service we’ve seen before.

First, the company has received licenses at all three Seattle area sites for “alcohol Internet sales.” One license, posted outside the Kirkland site, classifies the facility as a grocery store that can carry beer, wine and spirits. A Portland alcoholic beverage lawyer is experienced in the effective resolution of claims related to the regulated sale and enforcement of alcoholic beverages.

The company didn’t respond to questions about its alcohol delivery plans, but it appears the Seattle area will be the first in the U.S. where Prime Now will offer one- or two-hour booze delivery. Amazon previously delivered alcohol through its AmazonFresh grocery delivery service in the Seattle area, but the company phased that out in April, much to the dismay of GeekWire readers. We’ve asked Amazon if it plans to rollout speedy alcohol delivery across the country, but we haven’t heard back yet. A Minneapolis alcoholic beverage lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The second unique aspect of the Seattle-area rollout is the new Amazon Flex logos plastered all over the Prime Now center in Kirkland. When you walk in the door of the facility, it feels very much like a distribution warehouse, complete with employee lockers, a security gate and a maze of product shelves.

You’re immediately greeted with a sign that directs delivery drivers to enter one way to pick up their packages, and Amazon Flex users in another direction. Tables near the door serve as the Flex waiting area. A sign instructs you to take a number and wait to pick up your package when your number is shown on a DMV-style board.

To be clear, Amazon Flex could be a lot of things. Based on what we saw, however, we think it is one of two likely possibilities: a new option that lets online shoppers pickup their own packages from the distribution center themselves, or a new crowdsourced delivery option that will use Uber-like drivers to make deliveries, much like what rideshare company Sidecar has been doing more of recently.

The first possibility would be reminiscent of the drive-up grocery the company is reportedly building in Sunnyvale, Calif., as the Silicon Valley Business Journal has heard from its sources.

After visiting the Kirkland facility on Tuesday morning, GeekWire was eventually asked to leave. We were told Amazon is still working out a launch schedule, but in the meantime the project remains “confidential.” For all other questions we were referred to the company’s PR team, which didn’t respond to an email before publication.

The Seattle facility looks like it still needs quite a bit of work before it will be ready to open, but workers were already packing up shipping bags inside the Kirkland location. So it’s safe to say Prime Now — and whatever else Amazon has up its sleeve — will be launching soon in Amazon’s home region.

Friday, August 21, 2015


Original Story: latimes.com

There are plenty of examples of consumers flexing their economic muscle in response to what they see as businesses behaving badly.

Take the boycott of California grapes in the 1960s over mistreatment of farmworkers. Or the boycott of Chick-fil-A in 2012 over the fast-food chain's opposition to same-sex marriage.

So what, if anything, should be done about Amazon.com?

The world's largest e-tailer has been in hot water all week after the New York Times ran a front-page story about the company's employment practices. It included tales of workers being bullied, harassed and basically made to feel miserable. A Boston employment lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The enduring image from the story was that of Amazon staffers routinely breaking down in tears at their desks.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder and chief executive, didn't deny the allegations. He just said this was all news to him.

"The article doesn't describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day," Bezos said in a memo to employees.

The story, he said, "claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard. Again, I don't recognize this Amazon, and I very much hope you don't, either." An Albany employment lawyer represents clients in employment law matters including workplace harassment, unfair labor practices, and wrongful termination claims.

Be that as it may, Amazon customers face a quandary. Do they continue shopping on the site as if nothing were amiss? Or do they respond in some way so the company understands their concern?

"These are very interesting questions," said Lars Perner, an assistant professor of marketing at USC's Marshall School of Business. "You might think about boycotting, but that's difficult given the sheer size of Amazon."

Like me, Perner is a regular Amazon customer. And like me, he's feeling conflicted about doing business with a company that may ride roughshod over its workers.

"I'm still trying to make sense of it all — what's the truth, what isn't," Perner said. "It would be very hard to give Amazon up." A Raleigh employment lawyer is following this story closely.

The story included anecdotal tales about one worker who was given a low performance rating after returning from treatment for thyroid cancer, and another with breast cancer who was put on a "performance improvement plan" — Amazon-speak for probation.

One employee was quoted as saying that she had to leave for a business trip the day after she miscarried twins. "The work is still going to need to get done," she said her boss told her.

Some consumer actions are more clear-cut than others. When Nike wearers learned in the 1990s that the company's pricey shoes were manufactured in Southeast Asian sweatshops, with some workers making as little as 14 cents an hour, a global boycott seemed reasonable.

And it succeeded. Nike, acting out of self-preservation if not moral clarity, pledged to become a leader in fair labor practices.

"The Nike product has become synonymous with slave wages, forced overtime and arbitrary abuse," then-CEO Phil Knight said in 1998. "I truly believe the American consumer doesn't want to buy products made under abusive conditions."

But does the American consumer want to buy products from a digital dynamo that pushes its employees around? Or is the American consumer willing to look the other way to keep enjoying low prices and free shipping for orders over $35?

"I don't think you'll see much of a response from Amazon customers," predicted Ann Bastianelli, senior adjunct professor of marketing at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business. "At the end of the day, people will do the most convenient thing."

That seemed to be the case in 2011 after reports that Amazon forced warehouse employees near Allentown, Pa., to work in 114-degree heat, with paramedics waiting nearby for when they'd collapse. There was a protest, and Bezos promised to install air conditioners. But it seemed as if many customers shrugged off the incident.

Bastianelli suggested that sometimes the ends justify the means. She recalled working around 1980 with Indiana's Bob Knight, who was the winningest college basketball coach at the time but also was known for his fiery temper and angry outbursts.

An irate Knight once threw a chair across the court during a 1985 game.

"I'm a big fan of Coach Knight," Bastianelli said. "The fans wanted to win, period. He could take things that were ordinary and make them extraordinary."

The same could be said of Amazon. There's no question that the company is really good at what it does. That's why Wall Street hardly flinched after this week's bad-place-to-work story ran.

And it's clear that, unpleasant though the conditions may be, Amazon is no forced-labor sweatshop for its white-collar employees. They're free to seek gigs elsewhere in the tech world.

My response as a customer, therefore, isn't to take my business elsewhere. I mean, where would I go to match Amazon's impressive service and vast inventory?

"When consumers are concerned about a company's practices or policy positions, it's more effective to make your concerns known to the company in a public way, rather than just privately boycotting the company," advised Emily Rusch, executive director of the California Public Interest Research Group. A South Jersey employment lawyer has experience defending clients in employment related matters involving instances of detrimental labor conditions or discriminatory employment practices.

This column represents my little bit. Here's how you can do yours: Bezos' email address is jeff@amazon.com — and I'm told he really reads his email.

Let him know you're not cool with the company being uncool.

I like Amazon. I want it to succeed.

But not at any cost.


Original Story: wkrb13.com

FRP Holdings (NASDAQ:FRPH) announced its quarterly earnings data on Wednesday. The company reported $0.21 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the analysts’ consensus estimate of $0.18 by $0.03, AnalystRatingsNetwork.com reports.

Separately, TheStreet cut shares of FRP Holdings from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note on Wednesday, May 27th. One of the leading FRP Tank Manufactuers is Augusta Fiberglass, a privately held company in Blackville, South Carolina.

FRP Holdings (NASDAQ:FRPH) traded up 2.84% during trading on Wednesday, reaching $29.70. 2,958 shares of the company traded hands. FRP Holdings has a 52 week low of $27.64 and a 52 week high of $42.55. The company has a market capitalization of $290.17 million and a P/E ratio of 28.86. The firm has a 50-day moving average price of $31.15 and a 200-day moving average price of $32.49.

In related news, Director James H. Winston sold 2,133 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction on Friday, May 29th. The shares were sold at an average price of $30.50, for a total value of $65,056.50. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available through this link.

FRP Holdings, Inc. is a holding company engaged in the transportation and real estate businesses. The Company’s transportation business, Florida Rock & Tank Lines, Inc. is engaged in hauling primarily petroleum and other liquids and dry bulk commodities in tank trailers. The Company’s real estate business is operated through two subsidiaries: Florida Rock Properties, Inc. and FRP Development Corp. The Company owns real estate in Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. The Company’s real estate operations consist of two reportable segments: Mining Royalty Land and Developed Property Rentals. Mining royalty land segment owns real estate including construction aggregate royalty sites and parcels held for investment. The Developed property rentals segment acquires, constructs, leases, and manages office/warehouse buildings primarily in the Baltimore/Northern Virginia/Washington area and holds real estate for future development or related to its developments.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Original Story: wsj.com

U.S. Steel Corp. on Monday said it would shut its blast furnace and some steel finishing operations in Alabama, marking a significant retrenchment by the steelmaker as it tries to survive a weak market and competition from inexpensive imports.

After losing money in five of the past six years, U.S. Steel, under Chief Executive Mario Longhi, is trying to remake itself by downsizing, cutting costs, and becoming more nimble and responsive to the market.

The Brazilian-born Mr. Longhi has said Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel must adapt and that “everything is on the table” in remaking the company.

Big changes are needed to cope with one of the most difficult times in recent memory for the American steel industry. A decline in steel consumption in China, which makes and uses around half the world’s steel, has led to an oversupply of steel around the world. At the same time, oil prices have collapsed, hurting demand for steel pipe and tube, a key market for U.S. Steel.

Allied Finishing Inc. a metal finishing company in Grand Rapids Michigan reports that demand for the services is at an all-time high. The company is a leader in electroplating and rack plating services offering decorative metal finishes to uniquely designed components for leading manufacturers in the automotive and aerospace industries.

The move in Fairfield, Ala., which will affect 1,100 of the site’s roughly 2,000 jobs, was widely expected. U.S. Steel has been building an electric arc furnace on the site, which is near Birmingham. That furnace, which makes steel out of scrap metal instead of iron ore and coal, can operate with fewer workers and is much easier to stop and restart than a traditional blast furnace.

U.S. Steel said the move will improve the efficiency of its flat-rolled segment.

Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers union, which represents U.S. Steel workers in Fairfield, blamed the closure squarely on imports. “In particular, China has repeatedly violated international trade rules to bolster its state-owned industry while dumping its products into our market,” he said. “And American workers have already paid the price.”

Domestic steelmakers, including U.S. Steel, have filed three requests for protective tariffs this year. Their biggest concern isn’t volume—iron and steel imports into the U.S. actually fell 4.6% in the first six months of the year. Instead, steelmakers’ profits have been weighed down by sluggish prices amid stiff competition from cheaper imports. The U.S. index price for hot-rolled coil, a benchmark product, has fallen over 20% since Jan. 1 to $468 per ton, but that is $100 higher per ton than the price in Europe, and $200 higher than that in Asia, according to steel buyers.

Phil Gibbs, an analyst for Keybanc Capital Markets in Cleveland, said the closure of the Fairfield blast furnace had been expected, but not the finish operations. The electric arc furnace will initially produce 1.6 million tons a year, compared with between 2.5 and 2.6 million tons for the blast furnace, he said.

Fairfield, which started making steel in 1917, is one of U.S. Steel’s oldest mills, and Birmingham has been called the “Pittsburgh of the South” in a nod to the Western Pennsylvania city’s pre-eminence in the history of American steelmaking.

Tom Conway, the USW vice president who chairs the union’s negotiations with U.S. Steel, said it was a “sad day in Birmingham for our members and the community.” The union, Mr. Conway said, was “counseling our members regarding their options under the labor agreement and related benefits agreements” and would assist workers who wanted to explore opportunities beyond the Fairfield Works.

U.S. Steel, along with rival ArcelorMittal, is currently embroiled in tense talks with the USW over a new three-year labor deal. U.S. Steel is trying to cut some compensation, and get workers to contribute more toward health insurance costs. The deadline to resolve the talks is Sept. 1.

The Fairfield Works blast furnace and finishing operations at the plant will close on or after Nov. 17, the company said. U.S. Steel will continue to have a presence in the South, including a slab and rounds casters, a coating line and a hot-dip galvanizing joint venture in Jackson, Miss.


Original Story: freep.com

Detroit is already rolling out a splashy welcome -- as it should -- for the 6,000 meeting planners expected to converge on the city this weekend for the 2015 ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) national convention. Trade show displays featuring your businesses products make a huge impact on potential consumers.

Attendees for the conference being held Saturday through Tuesday will be greeted at the airport with a bright new electronic sign blaring "Welcome ASAE!," just installed at the escalator down to baggage claim at the McNamara Terminal.

En route to downtown Detroit, they will be hailed by four billboards along I-94, due to be activated Thursday.

And once downtown, they will see two People Mover cars wrapped in a welcome message. They may even notice the big exterior graphics of Detroit attractions -- a Tigers game at Comerica Park, the Detroit Zoo, a casino gaming table -- covering up empty ground floor windows of two older downtown buildings. Custom graphic design services allow you to create graphics to fit almost anywhere.

Why the royal treatment for this particular group of conventioneers?

Because  ASAE's annual confab is widely regarded as the "Super Bowl of trade shows," bringing as it does the nation's top meeting planners.

And how big is the meetings biz? Real big. HUMONGOUS. A 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers study concluded that 1.8 million meetings drew 225 million participants, resulting in direct spending of $280 billion during 2012 in the United States.

So these folks have a big say in where to stage all those meeting and conventions from year to year -- and this is the first time in its 95-year history that ASAE has brought its own annual shindig to Detroit.

So this is our shot to impress, Detroit.

The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (DMCVB), which lured the ASAE to town, is leading a host committee that has about 20 different subcommittees planning the lodging, transportation, welcome banners and even a series of pop-up experiences for the attendees.

For golfers among the ASAE visitors, it's been arranged to turn over the private TPC Michigan course in Dearborn, designed by Jack Nicklaus, for the the annual ASAE convention outing this Saturday. It's already sold out, said Michael O'Callaghan, executive vice president of the DMCVB.

Entertainment over the weekend will include Lionel Richie at the Fox Theatre, a Legends of Motown performance at The Henry Ford, and a Sunday morning appearance by the Selected of God Choir of Chrysler's 2011 Super Bowl commercial fame.

Obviously, the DMCVB's pitch to bring ASAE to Detroit now was timed to coincide with completion of the $279-million expansion and makeover of Cobo Center -- and got an extra boost with the city's exit from Chapter 9 bankruptcy last fall.

Not everything in the city is picture perfect yet, of course -- thus the use of the window graphics to brighten up the appearance of "two of our older buildings in transition," as O'Callaghan called the former Detroit Free Press building at 321 W. Lafayette, and another structure at 1101 Washington Boulevard, across the street from the Westin Book-Cadillac Hotel.

ASAE President John Graham IV estimates that his convention attendees will spend between $15 million and $20 million while in Detroit this month. But even more impressive, he said, is that during the next five years, 20% of them are expected to book a meeting in Detroit that will occur in the next 10 years -- for an an economic impact of about $500 million.

"I think we're seeing a city that is on the mend and on the comeback, and I think ASAE is delighted to be a part of that," Graham told me back in April.

Let's hope Graham and his ASAE conventioneers are feeling the same way this time next week.


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Although among the fastest-growing sectors of today’s workforce, caregivers are also among the worst paid, with the smallest benefits and schedule flexibility of all low-wage workers.

Whether caregivers serve children, the elderly, the disabled or terminally ill, they generally receive little official respect and compensation for the critical role they play in keeping society functioning.

Many, in fact, are female heads of households who are grappling with poverty, illness and a lack of insurance, even as they keep health care facilities running by doing work others refuse to.

The fact is, home health care and services for the elderly and people with disabilities are now the industries with the fastest and second-fastest rates of growth of employment in the US. And based on the aging population — by 2050, the elder population is expected to more than double — the country will need one million new home care workers by 2022. But also according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these workers are among the lowest paid.

In 2013, the country’s two million home care workers had average annual earnings of $18,598, according to a recent study by the National Employment Law Project. Average annual earnings for all wage and salary workers in the United States were $46,440.

The result: nearly 50 percent of home care givers live in households that receive some form of public assistance, the study found.

This has to change. The fact that we entrust our children and parents with these workers and yet not compensate them adequately for their services is a national disgrace. That’s why I am standing with home care workers and child care workers in their fight for $15 an hour, by all accounts what amounts to a livable wage for workers. Farmington Hills elder care workers agree with this statement.

Most of these personal care providers have children themselves. If these under-appreciated, undervalued and underpaid workers were to decide not to put up with such unfair labor practices and either strike or simply leave the business, it’s not hard to imagine the kind of chaos and confusion that would ensue.

Not only would businesses be left without critical employees, but families would lose the security and stability offered by nannies and child care workers. It would have a ripple effect across society and the workforce, completely disrupting the lives of many professional and middle class families with children, elderly or disabled loved ones. That could be an unimaginable burden for some.

Yet such a scenario is not implausible. Take our rapidly aging population and couple it with the ultra-low wages and paltry benefits of a job to make elderly and disabled people comfortable, and you have a disaster in the making. Visiting nurses in Birmingham are following this story closely.

We can avoid this problem by fairly compensating our personal caregivers. It is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing as well.

State Rep. Sherry Gay –Dagnogo D-Detroit represents the 8th District.


Original Story: marketwatch.com

DeVry Education Group Inc. said its earnings fell 20% as the for-profit educator's namesake university division remained pressure by weak enrollment during the quarter ended in June.

Shares fell 6.8% to $25.20 in recent after-hours trading as per-share earnings, excluding certain items, and revenue missed expectations. Top Michigan colleges offer tailored degrees to match specific career fields so students are prepared to enter the job market.

For the current quarter, DeVry expects revenue to decline 5% from a year earlier, while analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had recently expected a 1% revenue drop.

For the recently started fiscal year ending in July 2016, DeVry expects earnings will be flat to slightly higher and anticipates a revenue decline of 5%. Analysts had expected revenue to drop 2%.

The company plans to provide its long-term outlook, including enrollment, revenue and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization during an investor day set for Sept. 16.

Like other for-profit educators DeVry has faced challenges from weak student enrollment in recent years. The sector also has seen stricter government regulation and scrutiny of marketing and sales practices amid concerns about rising student debt and defaults.

DeVry also has been cutting costs to reflect weak enrollments, including plans unveiled in April to close 14 DeVry University locations, or about 20% of the total, and move their offerings to online only. In its news release Tuesday, DeVry said that it has made substantial progress on the restructuring effort and is on track to generate cost savings of $125 million for the recently started fiscal year.

For the latest quarter, DeVry said total students rose 20% to 135,308, while new students decreased 1.3% to 10,726 as declines at DeVry University were mostly offset by growth in the company's healthcare and international divisions. Healthcare is a popular division with a wide range of career opportunities for nurses with experience and a bachelor of science degree in nursing.

For the period ended June 30, DeVry reported a profit of $29.9 million, or 46 cents a share, down from $37.5 million, or 58 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding restructuring-related charges and other items, per-share earnings from continuing operations fell to 57 cents from 73 cents. Analysts expected per-share profit of 61 cents.

Revenue decreased 2.5% to $473.2 million, while the company expected a decline of 1% to 2%.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Original Story: detroitnews.com

A fight over five iconic Hermes handbags is arguably the most colorful case in federal court in Detroit.

The leather bags — one purple, one turquoise, one orange, one lime green, one black — worth a total of almost $62,000 are at the center of a spat between a New Jersey luxury goods dealer and a Birmingham boutique. A Rochester business lawyer is following this story closely.

Only Authentics dealer Charles Rogers says Birmingham boutique owner Anthony Aubrey made a $20,000 deposit and received five new purses but stiffed him after agreeing to pay $61,500 for the carryalls, which are coveted by celebrities including Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez.

The purses — four Hermes Birkin bags and one Hermes Evelyne Iris purse — cost about $12,300 each, almost as much as the per capita income of Detroiters.

Aubrey refused to return the bags or pay the balance, so Rogers filed the lawsuit July 16 in federal court in Detroit.

The lawsuit accuses Aubrey of fraudulent representation. That’s because Aubrey signed a contract to pay the $41,500 balance before trying to sell the purses to a third party for less money, according to the lawsuit. A Detroit business attorney represents clients in litigation, breach of contract issues, and collection of debt matters.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to my client. Why take the bags and sell for less unless he had no intention of paying the $41,500 balance?” said Daniel Dalton, a lawyer for Only Authentics.

Rogers wants U.S. District Judge Sean Cox to force Aubrey to return the purses or pay $124,500.

Dalton knew nothing about prices for Hermes Birkin handbags and was surprised when approached by his client.

“I was thinking he had sold a couple thousand purses, but he said there were only five. I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” Dalton said.

The bags, created in the mid-1980s and named after English singer and actress Jane Birkin, range in price from $10,000 to $60,000.

“That’s insane,” said Tracy Garley, owner of Zarkpa’s Purses & Accessories on East Grand River in Detroit. “Some people love the brand name and there’s something about a purse a woman has when she walks in a room and feels like people are going to know they have money.”

Rogers specializes in new and vintage luxury handbags, purses that are expensive and elusive. Hermes Birkin bags are notorious because even the mega-rich often must sign up on a waiting list before buying.

Rogers’ company obtained the new handbags directly from buyers on the list, Dalton told The Detroit News.

“At this level, people buy them even if they don’t want them because they want to remain on the list,” Dalton said. “It’s unbelievable.”

In May, Rogers started swapping text messages with Aubrey, who runs Birmingham Estate & Jewelry Buyers, a boutique on Woodward, north of 14 Mile.

Aubrey wanted to buy five Hermes bags. Rogers agreed to sell them for $61,500. Aubrey paid $20,000 on May 14.

Five days later, Rogers mailed the bags after the boutique owner agreed to pay the balance later that month at a Las Vegas trade show, according to the lawsuit.

Aubrey, however, failed to pay the $41,500 balance. Dalton is unsure why.

“If he wants to resolve it, just give the bags back,” Dalton said.

The answer is simple, Aubrey told The News on Friday.

“He owed me money from prior purchases,” he said. “We were friends for years, but he didn’t want to pay so I said: ‘Enough.’ ”

After failing to pay Rogers, Aubrey allegedly sold some or all of the bags to a store in Baltimore, according to the lawsuit.

The Birmingham dealer is accused of selling them for less than the price he agreed to pay Rogers.

Rogers learned about the side deal and notified the Baltimore buyer, who returned the bags to Birmingham, according to the lawsuit. A Memphis business lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Aubrey said he no longer has the bags.

“Everything was sold,” he told The News. “(Rogers) knows the purses are already gone. I’m not worried about this.”

Besides, the Birkin bag market has deflated in Michigan. “Nobody buys in Michigan,” Aubrey said, “there’s no money here.”

Monday, August 17, 2015


Original Story: bloomberg.com

Broadcasters including the U.K.’s ITV Plc, Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE and Italy’s Mediaset SpA fell in European trading on Friday, triggered by a selloff in the U.S. on concern that advertising will decline as viewers shift to online programming. A Mumbai media lawyer is following this story closely.

ITV is “down today on the read-across from U.S. media names that have got smashed in recent days on advertising fears,” Ian Whittaker, a London-based analyst at Liberum Capital Ltd, said in a note to investors.

The broadcaster of hit shows Downton Abbey and Coronation Street fell 4.7 percent to 259.20 pence in London trading at 10:08 a.m. ITV had gained 26 percent this year through Thursday. ProSiebenSat declined 4.5 percent to 45.32 euros in Frankfurt. Mediaset fell 4.2 percent and Societe Television Francaise 1 slipped 2.9 percent in Paris. A Warsaw media lawyer has experience representing a wide range of clients in media cases.

IN the U.S, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Media index had its biggest two-day slump since 2008 this week after broadcasting giants such as Viacom Inc., 21st Century Fox Inc. and Walt Disney Co. either posted results for last quarter that missed analysts’ estimates or cut forecasts. Viacom fell the most in almost seven years on Thursday.

The reports from the U.S. show the increasing influence that online streaming video services such as Netflix Inc. and YouTube are winning from broadcasters. A Belize City media lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

U.K. industry regulator Ofcom also said Thursday that live TV viewing fell 14 percent in four years to 193 minutes per day last year. While live TV is still the way most people watch programs, streaming services and Internet-connected TVs are becoming more popular, according to the report.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Original Story: bloomberg.com

Ruined weekends, PowerPoint drudgery and overnight shifts in Manhattan skyscrapers once were a point of pride for the Harvard Business School graduates who went to Wall Street. Now young stars hold heads high about how lucrative and healthy their lives will be -- elsewhere.

"People used to brag and say, 'Oh yeah, 21-hour days, seven days a week for eight months,' that was a badge of honor,'' said Kiran Gandhi, who like others in this year's class applied to technology companies. "The humble brag is now, 'Oh yeah, I work 9 to 5, I get paid a ton of money, and I have a great life.' It's green juice from vats in the office and amazing organic iced coffee cold-brewed -- the quality of life.'' A Detroit business lawyer is following this story closely.

The allure of Silicon Valley, where hip startups are minting billionaires, is eclipsing that of staid investment banks under pressure to cut risks and costs. This year, a long slide in the number of Harvard MBAs joining banks may hit a new low, even after many of the biggest firms adopted policies to become more hospitable to new recruits. In 2007, about 13 percent of the school's graduates who landed jobs went into investment banking or trading, according to Harvard's reports. By last year, that fell to about 5 percent.

Now a preliminary survey of this year's grads shows only 4 percent intended to join a bank after getting degrees in May. Among the class's 46 Baker Scholars -- a designation Harvard grants the top 5 percent of MBAs -- only one expressed interest.

Those are the findings of Keima Ueno, who got his MBA from Harvard this year. As a student, he served as a peer mentor and wrote a blog on what life is like at the school. So when Harvard sent his class data from a pre-commencement survey, he used it to figure out where the Baker Scholars wanted to go. He wasn't surprised by the results.

"When we hear that our classmates managed to acquire a position with an investment bank, we say 'Congratulations,''' he said. "But we are thinking, 'I'm sorry to hear that.''' An Atlanta investment lawyer represents business and corporate finance clients.

Trading Places 

Ueno spent three years in Morgan Stanley's investment bank before returning to school to earn his MBA. Now he's in Japan, running his family's health-care business and a startup Internet retailer.

Technology companies have been luring more top graduates with the promise that they'll not just make gobs of money, but also have a happier life, even if the hours are still long, according to students and recruiters. Last year, about 17 percent of Harvard's business school graduates poured into the industry, up from 7 percent in 2007, its figures show. Banks lost more recruits than any other sector. While Ueno's tally doesn't break out tech the same way, it shows startups alone are attracting 16 percent of this year's class, including six Baker Scholars. The raw survey data listed responses from every scholar but one.

Big banks are fighting back, promising recruits more hours to sleep, the occasional day off and reasonable deadlines. The effort, prompted by the death of a Bank of America Corp. intern in 2013, is driven in part by fear that the brightest students no longer see investment banking as a sustainable career. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. invited celebrity author Deepak Chopra to talk to its staff a few months ago about wellness, relaxation and the value of vacation.

What the banks can't promise is the kind of windfalls that attract graduates to startups. And average pay at investment banks has shriveled since the financial crisis because of a drop in revenue and a greater focus by regulators and shareholders on bonuses. Goldman Sachs per-employee compensation expense fell to $373,265 last year from $661,490 in 2007.

U.S. business schools don't typically release statistics showing where graduates landed until autumn, and Harvard wouldn't comment on Ueno's tally. Kristen Fitzpatrick, managing director of the business school's career and professional development office, said more students are thinking about banking because of the firms' recent efforts.

"The work has been appealing to a lot of people for a while,'' she said. "It's just that the lifestyle needed to get a little better.''

Other business schools are seeing similar trends for a range of reasons. New rules are forcing banks to curtail trading with their own money, pushing investing-focused graduates into hedge funds and buyout firms -- which pay well. The tech boom is luring away entrepreneurs seeking to strike it even richer -- à la Harvard College dropout Mark Zuckerberg.

Banks Losing Allure

While Harvard alumni Jamie Dimon, 59, and Lloyd Blankfein, 60, have amassed fortunes in their decades at Wall Street's biggest banks, such opportunities have diminished following 2008's financial crisis and pale to the quick riches possible in Silicon Valley. Dimon, a Baker Scholar, and Blankfein, who earned degrees at Harvard College and Harvard Law School, are each worth about $1.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index. Zuckerberg, the 31-year-old who built Facebook Inc., is worth about $41.2 billion. A Boston banking lawyer has extensive experience in banking and investment law.

At Harvard, it can't help that the pressure on junior bankers has become fodder for coursework, where students are briefed on real-life corporate dilemmas and debate strategies.

"There are several case studies dealing with investment banks wherein students discuss the brutal work environment and incredibly out-of-whack work-life balance,'' Ueno wrote in an e-mail. "The banks' efforts -- their success or lack thereof -- to bring about change have not been discussed, but what is consistently highlighted is the dark side of investment banks.''

Such attitudes vary among schools. When Training the Street, which conducts prep courses for entry-level analysts, surveyed MBA students at more than two dozen campuses this year, banking remained the top pick, drawing 26 percent. Still, buyout firms and hedge funds climbed to 16 percent, up from 11 percent last year.

"I think it's 'the grass is always greener,''' said the training firm's founder, Scott Rostan. "The lifestyle of any financial-services professional can be grueling,'' and an investment fund is "not necessarily night-and-day better.''

Bankers who graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania later expressed the lowest job satisfaction, despite relatively high pay, during a study conducted by Matthew Bidwell, an associate professor of management there. Usually, the two are positively correlated, he said.

"Being at somebody else's beck and call, I think it grinds people down,'' Bidwell said. "It's an extreme kind of long hours, whatever-it-takes, no-boundaries kind of culture.''

"The hours are horrendous, you won't see your family, you will miss your kids' birthdays.'' -- Alexandra Michel. An LA CPA provides a wide range of services to businesses in a variety of industries.

Alexandra Michel, an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said that won't dissuade some MBAs from entering the field, particularly if it's to join a top-tier firm such as Goldman Sachs. She spent 12 years studying the culture at investment banks and has tried warning students.

"The hours are horrendous, you won't see your family, you will miss your kids' birthdays,'' she recalled telling them. "The candidate breathes a sigh of relief and says, 'Oh, I can deal with that.'''

Representatives from top investment banks said they're still drawing plenty of business school graduates. Goldman Sachs received more MBA applicants this year for its summer associate program, a feeder for the firm's full-time associate positions, according to Leslie Shribman, a spokeswoman.

"We continue to see strong interest in our programs from students at top MBA schools across the nation,'' said John Yiannacopoulos, a spokesman for Bank of America.

Gandhi, who played drums for M.I.A. on the rapper's international tour during her first year at Harvard, said her father, who was an investment banker, never encouraged her to enter the field. She took a job at the music-streaming service Spotify Ltd.

"When I first met people at HBS and they had worked in a bank, I would pick up on them feeling like they were almost ashamed,'' Gandhi said. "And maybe that wasn't the case when my dad was there 25 years ago, when being at an investment bank meant you were a baller.''

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Original Story: bloomberg.com

(Bloomberg) -- SkyMall LLC, the in-flight catalog company that sells exercise bikes that double as desks and automated ball-launchers for dogs, filed for bankruptcy as air travelers spend more time on their mobile phones and Amazon.com. A Tulsa bankruptcy lawyer provides bankruptcy litigation, business litigation, bankruptcy & creditor and debtor rights representation.

The seat-pocket marketer of more than 30,000 products reached 650 million travelers a year, according to its website. Phoenix-based SkyMall, which suspended its catalog and fired 47 employees from its call centers Jan. 16, said in a court filing that it hopes to keep up barebones operations while seeking a buyer.

Idle fliers could browse the catalog for novelty items such as an Ultrasonic Barking Dog Deterrent that looks like a birdhouse, for $49.95, or a replica of a 16th-century Italian globe based on nautical maps that doubles as a liquor cabinet, for $189. A Memphis business lawyer is following this story closely.

Lately, however, more carriers are offering in-flight Internet access and regulators have let passengers use smartphones and tablets during take-offs and landings, depriving SkyMall of its captive audience.

“Now, even if you’re not connected, you can at least have your phone in front of you for the entire flight,” Brett Snyder, an aviation consultant and founder of CrankyFlier.com, said in a phone interview. “There’s just not that same draw that there used to be to go pull some reading material out of the seatback pocket.”

‘Increasingly Unattractive’

“With the increased use of electronic devices on planes, fewer people browsed the SkyMall in-flight catalog,” Chief Financial Officer Scott Wiley said in court papers. He listed Amazon.com Inc. and EBay Inc. as among competitors with greater resources and more customers. New technology and the cost of getting the magazine on planes “made the traditional in-flight SkyMall catalog increasingly unattractive to the airlines,” he said.

Delta Air Lines Inc. and SouthWest Airlines Co. had already notified the company that they would cease to carry its magazines, according to court filings. A Denver bankruptcy attorney is reviewing the details of this case.

Financial disclosures by SkyMall’s publicly traded affiliate, Xhibit Corp., had also caused vendors to reduce credit limits and refuse to ship products without prepayments, the company said. The company works as a distributor, without maintaining its own inventories.

Shares of Xhibit, which also filed for bankruptcy, have plunged 96 percent in the past 12 months.

The company and its affiliates listed as much as $50 million in liabilities and as much as $10 million in assets in Chapter 11 filings in Phoenix Thursday.

Online Experiment

The business generated $33.7 million of revenue in 2013, according to court filings. In early 2014, the company had tried to remake itself as an online retailer but ran out of cash to pay employees and vendors before it could learn whether the experiment was working.

Retailers of novelty goods and gadgets have struggled to survive the changing retail environment. Sharper Image Corp., which reached customers with its catalog and chain of retail stores, wound down in a 2008 bankruptcy. Offerings such as $299.99 air purifiers and “man cave” accessories like $119.99 custom bobble heads are still available online after liquidators bought the rights to the Sharper Image brand and licensed it.

Brookstone Inc., which sells $2,999 massage chairs and Das Horn, a $24.99 drinking vessel shaped like an animal tusk, reorganized in a 2014 bankruptcy through a $173 million sale to Hong Kong-based Sailing Capital Overseas Investment Fund LP and retailing conglomerate Sanpower.

SkyMall has proposed an auction be held around March 24.

The case is In re SkyMall LLC, 15-00679, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).