Opening Bell: 08.27.14

Legroom Gadget Maker Sees Sales Jump After Air-Rage Case (Bloomberg)
The Knee Defender, a gadget that blocks airplane seats from reclining, got a global boost after a scuffle between two passengers forced a United Airlines jet to make an unscheduled landing. The gizmo’s website crashed today after traffic surged, and sales rose “substantially” for the $21.95 plastic clips that have been on the market since 2003, said the inventor, Ira Goldman. While a product that interferes with another flier’s comfort may rub some people the wrong way, the issue is airlines’ legroom cutbacks, Goldman said. Carriers are shrinking space between rows — Spirit Airlines Inc.’s allotment is about 10 percent less than the industry standard — and using thinner cushions to squeeze more people into coach cabins. “They don’t have Plan B for the fact that a lot of people, when they sit down in their seat at the gate, their knees already are hitting the seat-back in front of them,” Goldman said in a telephone interview from Washington. The Knee Defender hit the headlines because of an in-flight squabble on United Flight 1462, which had to touch down on Aug. 24 in Chicago en route to Denver from Newark, New Jersey. One person installed a device that prevented the passenger in front of him from reclining, said Charlie Hobart, a spokesman for United Continental Holdings Inc. The Associated Press, citing an anonymous law enforcement source, gave a more-graphic account: Upset that her seat was locked, one traveler threw water at a man who employed a Knee Defender and refused to remove it at the request of a flight attendant.

Tim Hortons’ Canadian Fans Leery of American Hookup (Bloomberg)
“I don’t like the idea of an American company buying a Canadian company — it’s our brand,” Crosgrey, 60, said as she sipped a Tim Hortons coffee with three creams at a food court in downtown Toronto. “Timmy’s is always trying new things, adapting, they always have good service, and you always get your coffee fast no matter how long the lineup is. Burger King may screw it up.”

A new king of Kickstarter about to be crowned (CNBC)
With a little less than three days before the Coolest Cooler campaign ends, the project raised $10,211,436 as of late Tuesday afternoon. It’s well on its way to surpassing Pebble’s $10, 266,845. Created by Ryan Grepper, the high-tech cooler is part blender, part waterproof bluetooth summer DJ speaker system, part USB recharge station, and yes, also a cooler to keep your stuff cold, with an LED light, cutting board and bottle opener. Although it may seem hard to believe that a cooler—the bread-and-butter of low-tech companies like Coleman—could be the most-funded project ever in a Kickstarter universe of gamers and wearable device nerds, don’t think for a second there wasn’t a lot of hard work that went into this success story. In fact, evolving the cooler has been a passion of Grepper’s for a decade, he told CNBC. “Nine or 10 years ago, I was making a blender out of a weed wacker, putting an old car stereo into a cooler.” His early experiments didn’t work, but Grepper—who is a member of the CNBC Tech Crowd Council—did realize technology could transform a cooler into something even the cool kids might coo over. Grepper didn’t give up easily either. The Coolest Cooler failed the first time he rolled it out on Kickstarter in November 2013. “We weren’t successful,” he said. “We thought tailgating folks would want it, and Christmas would work. But I hadn’t done enough homework.” The failure—the first incarnation of the Coolest Cooler raised a little over $102,000 of a $125,000 goal, connected Grepper with enough people to give him the confidence to expand the project’s design and Kickstarter campaign. By the time the Coolest Cooler rolled out its second bid for crowdfunding fame, on July 8, Grepper had learned a few valuable lessons about finding success on Kickstarter. “I learned that Kickstarter and crowdfunding is a visual medium and people want to see what they are getting and we weren’t there the first time. I took the design to the stage you see it at now.” Timing is also key—when it comes to a cooler, summer rules over Santa and Sunday football tailgating. “The cooler market is hot in the summer,” Grepper said. “That was one of those hindsight realizations.”

Hutchin Hill, Citadel See Assets Jump as Pensions Call (Bloomberg)
Neil Chriss is hitting his stride. The math doctorate turned hedge-fund manager founded Hutchin Hill Capital LP more than six years ago and built it to cater to large investors. After posting annualized returns of 12 percent, about six times the average of his peers, he finds himself in the sweet spot for fundraising. Hutchin Hill’s multistrategy approach is the most popular hedge fund style this year, helping the New York-based firm double assets by attracting $1.2 billion.

Casino Loses 21K After Armored Car Drives Off With Money On Roof (AP)
An armored car company will reimburse an Atlantic City casino after nearly $21,000 fell from the roof of one of its trucks. Police tell The Press of Atlantic City an internal investigation by GardaWorld found no wrongdoing. The company picked up the cash at the soon-to-be-closed Revel casino on Aug. 6. Surveillance video showed the bag holding the cash on the roof as the truck left Revel. The bag was still on the roof when the truck pulled away from nearby Resorts Casino Hotel. A search failed to recover the money.

U.S. loses bid to dismiss ex-AIG CEO’s $25 billion lawsuit over bailout (Reuters)
A federal judge has rejected the United States’ bid to dismiss a more than $25 billion lawsuit filed by Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the former chief executive of American International Group Inc, over the insurer’s government bailout, clearing the way for a Sept. 29 trial. Judge Thomas Wheeler of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims said the case brought by Greenberg’s Starr International Co on behalf of itself and other AIG shareholders involves “complex financial and economic issues” that deserve analysis and testimony from qualified expert witnesses. “The complexity of the submissions and the factual disagreements strongly point to the need for a trial,” Wheeler wrote in an order dated Monday.

High Food Prices Lead to Trade-offs Even in Upper-Income Households (WSJ)
Leanne Powers-Mattioli with her husband, Chris Mattioli, are hosting their annual end-of-summer beach barbecue next month at their shore-front home on Lake Erie for about 200 friends and family members. This year, they won’t be serving shrimp cocktail. Stubbornly high prices for shrimp prompted Ms. Powers to instruct the caterer to substitute locally sourced heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil drizzled with olive oil. And she is opting to serve barbecued chicken, along with potatoes and lots of salads, instead of the usual hamburgers…Rising prices have been battering the budgets of low-income consumers in recent years. Now, researchers say more high-income households, defined as those earning more than $100,000 a year, report feeling pressure, too. Last month, some 36% of these consumers said food prices are negatively impacting their overall spending habits, up from 20% in January, according to survey data by Consumer Edge Research.

Singer hires Albright’s firm to help him in Argentina (NYP)
The billionaire hedge-fund mogul has hired the consulting firm of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to lobby for him in the South American country, The Post has learned. Carlos Gutierrez, Albright’s co-chair and a former US Commerce Secretary, has been in Argentina trying to mobilize opposition to the government, sources said. President Cristina Kirchner has rallied the country around her fight with Singer and other “vultures” that demand to be paid in full. The cry intensified after the country defaulted on July 30 on some $15 billion in debt rather than pay Singer.

Engaged Florida couple seeks corporate sponsors for their big day (NYDN)
Courtney McKenzie, 27, and fiancé Jamil Newell, 34, are trying to get businesses to sponsor their nuptials and cover the $30,000 price tag of their dream wedding in Thailand. The enterprising Orlando, Fla., couple, slated to get married in December, launched their Sponsor Our Wedding campaign and website last week. McKenzie, a former beauty queen turned entrepreneur with a mind for marketing, told the Daily News she came up with the idea in middle of the night. She talked it out with her husband-to-be, and they decided to go for it. “We’re still going to get married either way,” she said. “It was one of those things that we just wanted to see if it worked.” And, so far, it is working. McKenzie said they already have a handful of sponsors on board, including a hotel that will provide lodging and a company that has agreed to sponsor the wedding bands (McKenzie was clear that Newell purchased the engagement ring). They will also pick a brand’s logo to incorporate into the groom’s tuxedo and the bride’s wedding dress.

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Comments (3)

  1. Posted by guest | August 27, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Didn't see this coming.

  2. Posted by Narcissus Bellicose | August 27, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    My first wedding was sponsored by Victoria's Secret, my second wedding was sponsored by Seagrams, my third wedding was sponsored by Hazelton Recovery Centers, my fourth wedding was sponsored by Phizer/Viagara, and my fifth wedding was sponsored by Charlotte Hyperbarics Inc.

  3. Posted by Guest | August 27, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    My subscribers have been repeatedly warned about this since 1994. Also, tldr.