Once upon a time, say from 1995 through 2002, there was no better place to be come chow time than the Olive Garden. Oh, the unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks! The pastas, whose recipes were pretend-learned at the maybe-not-so-much-extant Culinary Institute of Tuscany! The shrimp scampi, rivaled only by OG’s sister restaurant and frequent neighbor, Red Lobster.
Well, things have gone somewhat downhill since those carefree salad days, and now the OG is a millstone around the neck of its owner, Darden Restaurants. Both because it is not growing as fast as such Darden gems like Bahama Breeze and LongHorn Steakhouse and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, and because it has attracted the attention of hedge-fund rabble-rousers Barington Capital Group and Starboard Value.
To fend off these advances, Darden has suggested spinning off Red Lobster—and Red Lobster alone. This will not do for Barington and Starboard Value, who propose much more radical surgery, including a real-estate spinoff, but, most importantly, keeping the largest purveyors of shrimp scampi in the U.S. under one roof. And that is something Brad Blum, Olive Garden president from 1995 to 2002, can get behind. Read more »
Mike Corbat scored himself a nice little raise. Read more »
Whether it’s a rate-rigging scandal, a “culture” problem, or just a bunch of clowns dicking around on IM and ruining it for the whole group, Uncle Vik is here to help. Read more »
Earlier this week, Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Ross McEwan announced that he had a new professional goal for himself. “My aspiration is not to run the world’s biggest bank,” he said via video posted on the bank’s website. “My aspiration is to run the best bank in the UK – nothing to do with size.” What role will the men and women who make up Team RBS come in vis-à-vis said aspirations? That’s where this conversation gets awkward. Read more »
J.P. Morgan Holder Pulls Independent-Chair Proposal (WSJ)
A J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. shareholder has pulled a proposal calling for the largest U.S. bank to split the chairman and chief executive posts held since 2006 by James Dimon. A small Toledo philanthropic organization called The Needmor Fund had backed the nonbinding resolution asking J.P. Morgan to name an independent chair for its board. But J.P. Morgan said in a news release that it had reached an agreement with the group to withdraw the proposal. The decision by The Needmor Fund means that Mr. Dimon won’t face a vote from shareholders this month about whether they support the idea of having different people in the roles of chairman and CEO role, a company spokesman said. The bank said it agreed to an “ongoing dialogue” with the proponents and to hear any questions “directors might consider in reviewing the implications of combining or separating the roles of CEO and chair.”
Upstarts Hope to Make 2014 a Blowout Year for Hedge-Fund Debuts (WSJ)
A host of notable hedge-fund startups are expected to begin operating in 2014, each with at least $500 million—and in one case $2 billion—to invest. Bankers and lawyers who work with such funds say this is likely to be the busiest year for launches since the financial crisis. The resurgence comes even as the industry broadly has underperformed recently when compared with rebounding stock markets…Among the new entrants this year are veterans from established funds venturing out on their own, including Herb Wagner, formerly of Baupost Group LLC, Matthew Sidman, out of Highfields Capital Management LP, and Jim Parsons of Viking, according to people familiar with the matter. Baupost and Highfields are also closed, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Murdoch Buys 4 Floors of NYC Condo Tower for $57 Million (Bloomberg)
Murdoch, 82, who is also chief executive officer of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., went into contract to purchase two units at One Madison, a triplex penthouse spanning the 58th through 60th stories and another full-floor apartment beneath it, his spokesman, Steven Rubenstein, said. The properties total about 10,160 square feet (944 square meters), according to a statement from Related Cos., one of the developers of the tower on East 22nd Street in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood.
Energy Holdings Prepares for a Breakup (wSJ)
One of the biggest leveraged buyouts of an American company is preparing to file for bankruptcy protection, brought to its knees by heavy debt and a misguided bet on the direction of natural gas prices. Energy Future Holdings Corp., previously called TXU Corp., is lining up loans to keep two subsidiaries operating during bankruptcy proceedings after months of talks have failed to produce an agreement with creditors on reworking its $40 billion-plus in debt, according to people familiar with the matter.
Loeb: Spirituality is good for Wall Street (NYP)
“Meditation, contemplation — it’s not just for monks and hermits,” Loeb told attendees at an American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
World’s Largest Oyster Is Size Of A Man’s Shoe (NPR)
The world’s largest oyster is nearly 14 inches long and resides in Denmark, according to the folks at Guinness World Records. And it’s still alive and growing, according to Christine Ditlefsen, the biologist at the Wadden Sea Centre whose world record was recently certified. The oyster was found in October in Wadden Sea National Park, a shallow area off of the North Sea on Denmark’s southwestern coast. Its size and shape could be said to resemble a huge plaintain. But when they found it, the Wadden staff compared the oyster to a large and sturdy shoe. “My staff called me immediately and said we’ve found this oyster that’s as big as a 44 shoe,” Klaus Melbye, the head of the Wadden center, told the food website Fine Dining Lovers in October, when the discovery was first reported. Here in America, a European size 44 is equal to a men’s shoe size of 11 (or a largish 10-1/2; shoe sizes aren’t the most scientifically calibrated things). But the oyster might outgrow that comparison, because it could live another 10 years. Read more »
$$$ Jobless Claims in U.S. Fell Last Week as Firings Abated [Bloomberg]
$$$ JPMorgan Dad Starts Biotech in Muscular Dystrophy Quest [Bloomberg]
$$$ McKevitt was working the second shift at Polaris Industries’ warehouse in Milford when he decided to break for a snack last fall He says he deposited $1 in a vending machine, selected a 90-cent Twix bar, and then watched as the candy bar crept forward in its slot, began its descent and was abruptly snagged by a spiral hook that held it suspended in midair. “I was, like, ‘Oh, man,’ ” said McKevitt, 27. “So I put in another dollar, and then it wouldn’t do anything.” At first, McKevitt’s frustration took the customary route: He banged the side of the machine. He tried rocking it back and forth. But when that didn’t work, McKevitt walked away and commandeered an 8,000-pound forklift, according to state unemployment compensation records. He reportedly drove up to the vending machine, lifted it 2 feet off the concrete warehouse floor — then let it drop. He allegedly repeated the maneuver at least six times, by which time three candy bars had fallen into the chute for his retrieval. [DMR] Read more »