No amount of clever copywriting can cover up the fact that Groupon is at a crossroads and that its CEO Andrew Mason -- described in one piece as both "'ridiculous, completely unserious and absurd' as well as 'intelligent, passionate and organized'" -- is in the crosshairs of analysts both inside and outside the company.
Motivational speaker, author and corporate trainer Hilary Hinton "Zig" Ziglar died yesterday in Plano, Texas, "after a short bout with pneumonia." He was 86. The erstwhile cookware salesman was a "man of a million motivational maxims who bucked up and cheered on three generations of Willy Lomans over a 40-year international speaking career," Mark A. Kellner writes in The Washington Times.
After more than a year in the kitchen, Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra has finally cooked up a generic deal palatable to Ralcorp -- about $6.8 billion in cold cash. The acquisition, which comes after Carl Icahn protg and Corvex management founder Keith Meister joined the Ralcorp board last month and reportedly agitated for a deal, creates the largest private label manufacturer in North America.
Meg Whitman's Hewlett-Packard tried to put the debacle of its Autonomy acquisition behind it last week by taking an $8.8 billion write-off, charging that previous management had been misled by cooked books and other nefarious deeds on the part of the UK-based software automation company. The claims have turned into yet another public relations spectacle for the Palo Alto-based company as Autonomy founder and former CEO Mike Lynch fights back with fire and feist, and pundits again point fingers at HP's management, board and outside advisers for ineptitude.
"People get ready/There's a train a coming," Alicia Keys sang a few years ago in a haunting cover of the gospel-inspired, Curtis Mayfield classic. Now she's 31, the mother of a young boy named Egypt, married to music producer Swizz Beatz (a.k.a. Kaseem Dean), executive producer of a forthcoming feature film and a collaborator on a new line of Reebok sneakers. And who else would attempt a cover of the "Gummi Bears" theme song on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," no less pull it off?
For the third year now, American Express -- and a plethora of "supporters" -- is trying to add Small Business Saturday to the vocabulary and shopping habits of consumers who presumably devote Friday (and, controversially, Thursday night) to battling crowds at the malls and Monday to clicking on deals in cyberspace. It's been hard to avoid commercials for the promotion in recent weeks, on screens of all sizes. And the Facebook page for Small Business Saturday has 3.1 million "likes."
After 40 years Inside Intel -- the last eight as its first CEO from the sales and marketing ranks -- Paul Otellini surprised both Silicon Valley and Wall Street yesterday by announcing that he was stepping down as president, CEO and a director of the company at the next annual meeting in May. "I've been privileged to lead one of the world's greatest companies," Otellini says in a release, "...it's time to move on and transfer Intel's helm to a new generation of leadership."
The lamentations have begun anew for Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Drakes Cakes, Wonder Bread, Ho-Hos and -- my personal favorite -- Hostess Cupcakes with a squiggly line of sugar on top of chocolate icing and cake with mushy cream in the middle. Everyone, it seems, has a favorite Hostess small pleasure -- including some brands in this Daily Beast photo gallery that have never have registered consciously before but that you've probably eaten. (Hostess Donettes? Not a delicacy on my radar but Baltimore pitching prospect Kevin Gausman makes a ritual out of them.)
BP pled guilty yesterday to 14 criminal charges related to the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 that killed 11 workers and created the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history. It will pay a record $4.5 billion in fines and penalties. Three of its workers also face criminal charges.
Perhaps aside from the national election results, it has been a tough month for Prius lovers in the U.S. First, Toyota announced yesterday that 670,000 2004-2009 Prius models are among the roughly 2.8 million vehicles that it is recalling worldwide, as Christopher Jensen reports in the New York Times' "Wheels (The Nuts and Bolts of Whatever Moves You)" blog. Then the Los Angeles Times' David Undercoffler tells us this morning that the new Ford C-Max delivers "an eco-beat down to the Toyota Prius v" with "a drivetrain that's both faster and greener."