Archive for July, 2010

Should BP rebrand itself?

BP has lots of self-inflicted wounds from the Gulf oil disaster.

As it tries to repair its tarnished reputation, should it change the name of its gas stations?

Associated Press is reporting that BP station owners across the country are divided over whether the oil giant should rebrand U.S. outlets as Amoco or another name.

Some who have seen their sales plunge say BP has already sought a fresh start by naming an American to replace its gaffe-prone British CEO, AP writes. So why not change the name on gas stations marquees as a further symbol of that culture shift?

Others worry that a name change is a big deal that is risky given all the marketing dollars already spent building up the BP brand. They also believe a successful turnaround with the existing brand will have a bigger payoff, AP reports.

What do you think? Should BP try to get a fresh start with a new name? Will it do any good? Will it make any difference to you?

For instant updates, follow …

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Power Breakfast: Lockheed’s Marietta plant getting new jobs, banker troubles, foreclosure help, Arlington, BP, Buffett

The Lockheed Martin plant in Marietta got some welcome news this week.

With production of the F-22 Raptor fighter jet winding down, employees at the Lockheed facility have been looking to the company’s delay-plagued F-35 Lightning II fighter program to keep many of them in work, AJC reporter David Markiewicz writes.

Officials announced this week that assembly of the center wing on the stealth fighter will be starting — and soon, Markiewicz reports. Preliminary work starts Friday with a startup crew of 10, with employment on the project expected to reach about 600 by the time full production is under way in 2016.

The company said 175 employees now on the F-22 line eventually will be put to work on the new aircraft,  which is smaller and cheaper than the F-22. Another 425 workers will be hired over time for the F-35 production line. Total employment at the plant stands at 7,800.

The F-35 is primarily assembled at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, plant. Some work was …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Lockheed’s Marietta plant getting new jobs, banker troubles, foreclosure help, Arlington, BP, Buffett »

Goldman Sachs banning profanity from e-mails

Goldman Sachs is cleaning up its act.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that it’s telling employees that they will no longer be able to get away with profanity in electronic messages.

That means all 34,000 traders, investment bankers and other Goldman employees must restrain themselves from using oft-used dirty words on Wall Street, including the expletive that came back to haunt the company at a Senate hearing in April, the WSJ writes.

Goldman’s sanitized e-mail policy is being enforced by screening software. Even swear words spelled with asterisks are out, the WSJ says.

Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase have policies against using swear words in company e-mail, the WSJ reports. Morgan Stanley tells employees that their e-mail should be “professional, appropriate and courteous at all times,” but doesn’t specifically forbid naughty words.

Does your company have a policy? Should it?

Is it over-reaching for a company to do this? Or do more companies need to do it in the …

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Power Breakfast: Air fares flying higher, MARTA, Equifax, immigration, Goldman Sachs

Air fares are climbing again, as travelers return to the skies and airlines try to boost revenues, AJC reporter Kelly Yamanouchi writes.

Atlanta air fares increased 6.9 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with a year earlier, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That’s larger than the national increase of 4.7 percent, Yamanouchi reports.

It’s the first increase since 2007 in first-quarter average fares.

The average Atlanta fare was $355.65 in the first quarter of the year — up from $332.76 in the same period of 2009, Yamanouchi reports.

But the average Atlanta fare is still lower than first quarter levels in 2007 and 2001.

“Coming off some pretty steep lows…. those are still pretty nice prices for people out of Atlanta,” Rick Seaney, of FareCompare.com, told Yamanouchi.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Air fares flying higher, MARTA, Equifax, immigration, Goldman Sachs »

Thinking about buying electric car?

Too rich for your blood? Or the right move at the right price?

GM is pricing its new electric car, the Chevy Volt, at $41,000. But wait a minute before you say, “No way.”

While the Volt costs $8,000 more than the base price of Nissan’s Leaf electric hatchback, GM is matching the $349-per-month lease deal that Nissan is offering on its car, Associated Press is reporting.

And Nissan countered by matching the Volt’s eight-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty, AP writes.

What’s more, you don’t pay for gas. General Motors said it would cost about $1.50 worth of electricity to fully recharge the Volt each night, AP reports.

For those who buy the Leaf or Volt, the two cars also are eligible for a federal tax credit that will cut their prices by $7,500. The Volt’s price would fall to $33,500, while the Leaf’s would drop to $25,280, AP reports. Some states, including Georgia, offer additional tax breaks that will lower the price further.

Interested? Still too expensive? Good way …

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Power Breakfast: Shareholders sue Georgian Bank, kids’ health, Southern CEO to retire, BP, consumer confidence

We’re likely to see more of these.

A group of investors in the parent of Georgian Bank have filed suit against two former top officials, claiming they failed to disclose important information about the bank’s condition before it spiraled out of control and was shut down in September 2009, AJC staffer Scott Trubey reports.

The suit filed in Fulton State Court claims Gordon Teel and Lynn Darby “negligently misrepresented” Georgian’s financial condition in the months before regulators closed the Atlanta-based bank. Teel is a former chairman of Georgian Bancorporation and was the bank’s president and CEO. He resigned in July 2009 and was replaced as chairman by Darby.

Georgian Bancorporation shareholders Paul Wilkerson, R. Lynn Wilson and Marigene Doyal claim they relied on the defendants’ statements about the bank’s finances, and continued to hold their stock as its condition worsened, Trubey writes.

The shareholders lost their investment the day the bank failed.

The …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Shareholders sue Georgian Bank, kids’ health, Southern CEO to retire, BP, consumer confidence »

Report: Two CEOs paid over $1 billion in past decade

It pays to be at the top of the corporate food chain. It really pays.

Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Larry Ellison, founder and chief executive of software maker Oracle, topped the list of best-paid executives of public companies during the past decade. Ellison received $1.84 billion in compensation, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of CEO pay.

Barry Diller came in second on the compensation list, the WSJ reports. Diller received $1.14 billion from IAC/InterActive and Expedia.com, the online travel site IAC spun off in 2005, where he remains chairman.

Rounding out the top five were Occidental Petroleum CEO Ray Irani at $857 million, Apple’s Steve Jobs with $749 million and Capital One Financial’s Richard Fairbank at $569 million, the WSJ said.

No Georgia CEO made the list of the top 25. No woman is on the list.

Four of the top 25 CEOs worked at financial companies, the WSJ reports. The newspaper’s analysis includes salaries, bonuses, perks …

Continue reading Report: Two CEOs paid over $1 billion in past decade »

Aflac CEO won’t lay off workers

Maybe Aflac should tone down the duck’s quack since it seems soft as feathers when it comes to layoffs.

Dan Amos

Dan Amos

Few companies in this day and age can say they haven’t had job cuts during this economic mess. Even fewer can say they’ve never laid off employees.

But since its founding 55 years ago in Columbus, Aflac has managed to avoid chopping heads in the U.S. and Japan, where it sells supplemental health insurance.

“I think job security enhances the productivity of your employees,” CEO Dan Amos told me during a recent interview. “You can’t have your heart and soul in it if you’re worried about your job.”

That attitude is a prime reason Aflac has consistently made lists of top places to work. It also scores high on diversity.

After talking to many CEOs for this column, I can say that Amos is in a small minority on the layoff issue. Companies have been cutting costs — and employees have been the main victims.

What’s more, many CEOs believe it’s important to reward employees …

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Power Breakfast: Tech colleges surge in recession, Publix, Aaron’s, CCE, BP, Target

Chalk up more fallout from this recession — surging enrollment in tech schools.

The Technical College System of Georgia’s 26 campuses enrolled 190,842 students during the 2010 fiscal year — an increase of 22 percent over last year’s figures and a new record, AJC reporter Laura Diamond writes.

Much of the increase can be attributed to the recession as thousands of out-of-work and underemployed adults returned to school in search of new careers, Commissioner Ron Jackson said. For example, enrollment among students 40 and older increased by 32 percent to 31,262, according to new figures.

Another sizable increase came from traditional students — those 25 and under, Diamond reports. The system has become a first-choice for many recent high school graduates. Enrollment among students 21 and under increased by 11 percent to 46,910. The number of students between the ages of 21 and 25 increased by 22 percent to 46,377.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Tech colleges surge in recession, Publix, Aaron’s, CCE, BP, Target »

Power Breakfast: Job retraining is not panacea, bank closure, Cobb teachers, Sunday alcohol, Macy’s, BP

Job retraining has been billed as one of the solutions for the unemployed. But there does not seem to be any silver bullet in this recession.

AJC reporter Dan Chapman writes that there are plenty of questions about whether worker retraining is working in this era of double-digit unemployment. He talks with several workers who have tried to get jobs after gainining new skills.

Some schools don’t adequately retrain workers for new jobs, Chapman reports. Some graduates discover that once-promised jobs in nursing or medical billing, for example, now require three or four years of work experience. Or prospective employers demand even more training.

While Washington has pumped $10 billion in grants into retraining programs nationwide the last two years, critics say much more is needed to deal with the unprecedented surge in the long-term unemployed, Chapman writes.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Job retraining is not panacea, bank closure, Cobb teachers, Sunday alcohol, Macy’s, BP »