Archive for April, 2011

Does charitable giving affect your buying decisions?

As a business journalist for a long time, I’ve always wondered whether consumers pay attention to corporate philanthropy when they make decisions about where to shop or what to buy.

The Home Depot Foundation is refocusing its giving on veterans’ organizations and rehabilitating houses — a change for the philanthropic arm of the retailer, AJC writer Arielle Kass reports today. The foundation is announcing a three-year, $30 million commitment to address issues in veterans’ housing.

As you know, Coke, UPS and many other Atlanta-based companies also put considerable financial resources behind their charitable efforts.

Does it make a difference to you? Why or why not?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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Power Breakfast: ICE expanding to Brazil, Atlanta wages, Sunday alcohol, tax scam, NASCAR, Home Depot

Atlanta-based ICE has been on the move lately.

IntercontinentalExchange said Tuesday it plans to launch a partnership in Brazil to operate a trading platform for electric power in the South American nation, AJC reporter Scott Trubey writes.

ICE operates trading exchanges for futures contracts on oil, natural gas and other commodities such as coffee and sugar, Trubey reports. The Brazilian electric power trading platform, called BRIX, is expected to launch in June, ICE said.

Earlier this month, ICE teamed with the parent company of NASDAQ on an $11 billion-plus bid to acquire the assets of the New York Stock Exchange’s parent. That offer, which would see ICE gain control of NYSE Euronext’s futures business, was rejected Sunday by NYSE Euronext officials, Trubey writes.

Still, ICE and NASDAQ OMX continue to push for their deal, insisting their proposal is superior to a previously announced merger bid by Deutsche Boerse, Trubey reports.

Also in the AJC:

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Student loan debt is now more than credit card debt

Student loan debt — totaling more than $800 billion — outpaced credit card debt for the first time last year and is likely to top a trillion dollars this year, the New York Times reports.

“In the coming years, a lot of people will still be paying off their student loans when it’s time for their kids to go to college,” Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, told the Times.

Two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with debt in 2008, compared with less than half in 1993, the Times writes. Last year, graduates who took out loans left college with an average of $24,000 in debt.

The mountain of debt is likely to grow more quickly with the coming round of budget-slashing, the Times writes.

In Georgia, cuts in the HOPE scholarship program will mean increased borrowing costs for many students in the future. And federal Pell grants for low-income students are expected to be cut, the Times writes.

Some education policy experts told the Times that the mounting debt …

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Entrepreneur builds sports business by listening

One thing leads to another. Or, as Lonnie Cooper puts it, “listen and evolve.”

That’s what Cooper has done for 25 years as he built his Atlanta sports agency, CSE, from one to 126 employees by capitalizing on related niches, one after another.

Lonnie Cooper

Lonnie Cooper

Looking back, it’s quite an impressive — and logical — string of services, possibly a textbook case on integrating various opportunities without growing too fast or abandoning the core business.

He was aided, I think, by the relatively small and connected world of sports, which often enjoys high profit margins and functions on word-of-mouth recommendations. Still, I haven’t heard of too many local businesses that have developed quite like this.

“It’s very systematic,” Copper, a 56-year-old Waycross native, said. “Be methodical and listen [to clients].  … Take it step-by-step.”

First, Cooper represented former Atlanta Hawks guard Spud Webb in contract negotiations with the team. That led to former Hawks coaches Mike …

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Power Breakfast: State tax reform dies, immigration, Flowers acquisition, Japan, college loans, Wal-Mart

Tax reform is easier to talk about than pull off — as the state’s latest effort shows.

Georgia lawmakers could never answer the most burning question about a proposed overhaul of the state tax system — what would it mean to you, AJC reporters Chris Joyner and April Hunt write.

The much-debated tax reform plan needed to pass the House on Monday to make it to a Senate vote by the end of the session, the reporters write.

But House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said he had no confidence about how much Georgia residents would pay in taxes if the plan went forward, Joyner and Hunt report.

Ralston said months of work on the bill had been plagued by shifting revenue projections from the Georgia State University Fiscal Research Center, the reporters write. When a new set of numbers arrived Monday afternoon, Ralston made the call to shelve the vote for now, the reporters write.

“We’re going to call a time out,” he said.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: State tax reform dies, immigration, Flowers acquisition, Japan, college loans, Wal-Mart »

Four Georgia CEOs make top pay list

Companies may not be hiring much, but they’re doing well enough to amply reward their CEOs.

Four chief execs of Georgia-based companies were on a top pay list compiled by the New York Times.

The Times, with the help of the Equilar research firm, posted the total compensation for 200 CEOs whose 2010 salaries were released in proxies by April 1. The companies had to have at least $7 billion in annual revenue.

The list was led by Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, who enjoyed total compensation of $84.5 million — up 149 percent from 2009.

There was a time, not too long ago, when there was a lot of talk about reining in executive compensation, especially during the height of the financial crisis. That didn’t happen — and it’s not likely to in the future.

Here are the Georgia names on the list:

– Coke CEO Muhtar Kent — $19.2 million in total compensation — 30 percent increase from 2009.

– Aflac CEO Dan Amos — $15.9 million — 20 percent increase.

– UPS CEO Scott Davis — $9.5 million — 73 …

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Will Verizon’s iPhone help the AT&T brand?

I’ve got a question about wireless service for you. But first a little background.

AT&T has been widely criticized by readers of this blog for dropped calls and poor customer service, largely because its network has been overwhelmed by Apple’s iPhone and iPad. We’ve also reported that it did poorly in a customer satisfaction survey conducted by Consumer Reports.

But last week, reporters, editors and yours truly got the chance to talk with Ralph de la Vega, who heads Atlanta-based AT&T Mobility. AJC reporters Margaret Newkirk and Michael Kanell put together a Q&A of the discussion that is linked right here.

But the Q&A left one question for me to report here. I asked de la Vega why there has been so much hostility directed at his company through repeated comments posted on this blog.

De la Vega said he thought that it was because AT&T had been the iPhone’s exclusive carrier until recently. As a result, he said, all consumers “could do was vent” when something went wrong because …

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Power Breakfast: Former Gov. Perdue launching new business, metro foreclosures fall, NYSE rejects ICE, debt, oil

Former Gov. Sonny Perdue is parlaying business information gleaned, and contacts made, during two terms in office into a new company called Perdue Partners, AJC reporter Dan Chapman writes.

The firm, incorporated March 22, will be “an Atlanta-based global trading company that facilitates U.S. commerce, with an emphasis on the export of U.S. goods and services through trading, partnerships, consulting services, and strategic acquisitions,” according to its under-construction website, Chapman reports.

The business launches April 18.

Perdue will be joined in the venture by three people he appointed to powerful state positions: David Perdue, a cousin and Georgia Ports Authority board member; Heidi Green, the former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development; and Trey Childress, who is currently chief operating officer for Gov. Nathan Deal but will leave that job this month to join Perdue, Chapman writes.

Yasha Heidari, a former legal counsel to …

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Metro foreclosure notices plummet to lowest level in 2 years

Foreclosure notices in metro Atlanta fell dramatically in April to the lowest level in more than two years, according to data released Monday by Equity Depot.

Barry Bramlett

Barry Bramlett

But the decline to 7,784 notices — a drop of 28 percent from March and 18 percent from April 2010 — may only be temporary for the 13-county region, said Barry Bramlett, president of Kennesaw-based Equity Depot.

“As much as we’d like to think this means foreclosures are going down, there are recent changes in lender requirements … that may be the primary reason, and unfortunately this downturn may be temporary,” Bramlett told the AJC.

Due to widespread problems with paperwork in the mortgage industry, Bramlett said some lenders started last month to require an extra step before properties are advertised for foreclosure. That has temporarily slowed down the process.

“Because they’re now doing this, we won’t know for another month or two whether the actual foreclosure rate is decreasing or increasing,” …

Continue reading Metro foreclosure notices plummet to lowest level in 2 years »

How can new Falcons stadium avoid Turner Field-like isolation?

It’s a legitimate question — especially if taxpayer money is on the hook.

How would a proposed open-air football stadium for the Falcons affect the local community?

Area residents successfully pushed for an impact study because they want to avoid duplicating a Turner Field-type development, AJC reporter Leon Stafford writes.

It’s really a Turner Field lack of development that’s the problem. The baseball stadium is surrounded by parking lots and not much else, Stafford writes. By contrast, ballparks in many other cities have become vibrant areas.

What will happen with the area around a new football stadium?

A big project can cut off the area or bolster it, depending on lots of factors.

Got a good idea about how to avoid the former and create the latter?

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the Falcons are in talks to either build a new $700 million stadium on the Marshaling Field or to expand the Georgia Dome, Stafford writes.

That leads to another …

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