Archive for September, 2012

Asbury Automotive CEO: ‘A lot of people had written us off as goners’

There’s nothing like a crisis to teach leadership. Craig Monaghan has experienced at least two — one on the Demilitarized Zone between North Korea and South Korea, and the other in the auto industry, when his company came within an eyelash of shutting the doors.

Craig Monaghan

Craig Monaghan

Monaghan, 55, is CEO of Asbury Automotive Group, the fifth largest publicly traded car retailer in the country, with $4.3 billion in annual revenue from 28 brands sold at dealerships in 10 states. The Duluth-based firm nearly failed during the Great Recession when lenders could have demanded $500 million it didn’t have. Monaghan talks about what he learned from leading people through nerve-wracking events in business and the military.

Q: Your company was in critically bad financial shape. Would you please discuss?

A: In 2008 and 2009, our stock was trading at $2 a share and a lot of people had written us off as goners. Our debt of $500 million was 5.5 times our cash flow, which is a very dangerous …

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How much does it cost to charge your iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III?

Samsung's Galaxy S III (left) and Apple's iPhone 5 (Bloomberg)

Samsung's Galaxy S III (left) and Apple's iPhone 5 (Bloomberg)

Owners of Apple’s new iPhone 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy S III don’t mind singing the praises of their smartphones or talking down their rival’s.

Researchers at Outlier, however, say both sides have something big in common: The annual cost of keeping their phones charged is minuscule.

It’ll cost about 41 cents to charge the iPhone 5 and 53 cents to charge the Galaxy S III, Outlier said. The cost for juicing the Galaxy is larger because it has a larger battery.

Outlier measured how much electricity it took to charge each phone from 0 percent to 100 percent full. The iPhone 5 used 3.5 kilowatt hours of energy while the Galaxy S III used 4.9 kWh.

Outlier paints a much different picture about power consumption, however, when you consider the “power of multiplication.”


Even if we consider just the 170 million iPhone 5’s that are projected to be sold globally in the next year, their aggregate …

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Number with student loan debt increasing

Nearly one out of every five U.S. households _ 19 percent _ owed some student debt as of 201o, an increase from 15 percent in 2007,  just before the onset of the recession, the Pew Research Center said.

Pew, using government data, also determined that 40 percent of all households headed by a person younger than 35 have student debt, a record.

The relative burden of student debt is greatest for households in the bottom fifth of income, even though people in this group are less likely to attend college.

Since the recession, student debt has increased in nearly every demographic and economic category.

The average outstanding student loan balance for those with the debt increased to $26,682 in 2010 from $23,349 in 2007.

In 2007, 10 percent of student debtors owed more than $54,238. By 2010, 10 percent owed more than $61,894, adjusted for inflation.

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Affluent Atlantans upbeat about 2013, and there will be more of them

Like most everybody else, the wealthy are concerned with the state of the economy and where it’s headed. They just feel able to cope with it.

According to the Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Survey, 42 percent of affluent Atlantans _ those with $250,000 or more in liquid assets to invest _ believe that the uncertain economy of the post-recession years is the “new normal” and that the country is not merely experiencing a brief period of high volatility.

Yet, 98 percent feel they are prepared to deal with that uncertainty.

Almost half of those surveyed explained that they have taken steps to gain greater control over their financial lives during the last year, and 47 percent said they have adopted more conservative spending habits.

“Affluent people in Atlanta are taking better care of their financial lives now,” said John Inhouse, managing director of the Atlanta Buckhead office for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

Inhouse described their mood as “cautiously …

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Metro Atlanta’s jobless rate drops to 8.9 percent in August

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent in August from 9.2 percent in July, but that wasn’t the only news worth considering to come out of the Georgia Department of Labor Thursday.

The size of the local labor force, the number of employed people here, and the number of jobs all increased last month from August 2011. As a result, the unemployment rate also fell a full percentage point over that time, from 9.9 percent.

While the importance of the July-to-August improvement can be downplayed _ much of it can be attributed to people leaving the workforce after the end of summer jobs _ the year over year gain is encouraging, Labor Department spokesman Sam Hall said.

The metro labor force declined by 23,505 from July to August.

“When you look at the one percent drop from August to August, we would place more importance on that than the month to month fluctuation,” he said.

The number of employed people in the metro area increased by 52,997 from August 2011 to …

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Kroger apologizes to food stamp customer

Kroger has apologized to a customer who said she was brought to tears after a central Georgia store manager made disparaging remarks because of her reliance on food stamps.

“‘Excuse me for working for a living and not relying on food stamps like you,’ “ Cindy Nerger told ABC News the Warner Robbins manager said to her recently after a dispute over grocery items not covered by food stamps.

Nerger, 28, said she argued for a half hour with store employees who questioned $10 worth of items. The manager later agreed the items could be paid with her EBT card, she said, and told the cashier, ‘Just give it to her.”

After he made his “working for a living” comment, Nerger said she realized others around her had heard the manager. “I was so embarrassed,” she told ABC News. “I started crying.”

In a statement, a Kroger spokesman said the company regretted the incident. “The comments made were not reflective of our company’s policy. We value all of our …

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Atlantans taking on less credit card debt

Overall consumer credit card debt in metro Atlanta declined by .79 percent from August 2011 to August 2012, new data released by Equifax shows.

Of the top 25 markets examined, 13 had  lower credit card debt. Detroit declined 1.8 percent, Las Vegas 1.88 percent and Los Angeles 1.70 percent.

Among markets that experienced increases in credit card debt, Houston led at 1.88 percent, followed by Washington/Baltimore at 1.15 percent.

Credit card debt increased 0.2 percent nationwide in the last year.

“The differences between the metro areas illustrate the uneven nature of the economic recovery,” said Trey Loughran, president of the Personal Solutions unit at Atlanta-based Equifax. “In places where the housing bust was the worst, such as Florida, California and Nevada, and in places like Detroit and Ohio where the recession was particularly deep because of a dependence on manufacturing, consumers are continuing to be prudent about using credit.

“In other pockets of the country, …

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Study: Georgia Tech, UGA offer best salary returns on tuition

(Associated Press)

Tech cheerleaders ride the Rambling Wreck onto Grant Field (Associated Press)

Georgia Tech offers “the best academic deal in America” when it comes to which colleges and universities help graduates reel in the biggest paychecks considering the tuition they had to fork over, according to to SmartMoney.

In fact, Georgia has two schools in the Top 5: The University of Georgia ranks No. 4, behind Tech, the University of Florida (2) and the University of Texas at Austin (3). (See complete table here – pdf). From SmartMoney:

Recent Georgia Tech grads earn $59,000, or a stellar 67% of what they paid in tuition. Grads in their 30s average $102,000 a year, more than three times their 1990s tuition tab.

President G.P. Peterson credits the focus of virtually all Tech students on science-oriented disciplines, including engineering and computer and software design, and Tech’s “fortunate position” of being able to get tuition subsidies from the state thanks to the HOPE …

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Toys R Us joins Kohl’s, Target, Walmart, others in holiday hiring spree

(Hyosub Shin,

(Hyosub Shin,

A week after Kohl’s Department Stores said it would be hiring thousands for the upcoming holidays, Toys R Us announced Tuesday it expects to hire 45,000 seasonal workers.

Toys R Us, which has nearly a dozen locations in metro Atlanta, plans to start hiring this week and continue through December. The world’s largest toy retailer is hiring 5,000 more workers this season than it did last season. The exact number of hires in metro Atlanta was not immediately available.

Signs that consumers feel more confident about the economy, and shopping, are fueling plans to boost staffing to handle the anticipated demand. Research firm ShopperTrak told Reuters that U.S. retail sales should rise 3.3 percent this holiday season. Kurt Salmon, another retail consulting firm, expects a 4.2 percent increase in sales.

The Hay Group consulting firm told CNBC most retailers plan to hire either the same amount of workers they hired last holiday season or …

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Should your education level, credit score affect your insurance rates?

Consumers don’t think it’s fair for auto insurers to consider education level, occupation, and lack of previous insurance in setting a driver’s premium, a survey from the Consumer Federation of America shows.  Most major insurers, it said, use such non-driving factors, which greatly increases premiums for low- and moderate-income drivers, often by more than 100 percent.

CFA executive director Stephen Brobeck  said, “…these factors have nothing to do with driving and discriminate against lower-income drivers.” He said,“Premiums should largely reflect factors such as accidents, speeding tickets, and miles driven, over which drivers have some control and which directly affect insurer costs.”

The survey polled 1,010 adult Americans in June.

All six factors rejected by consumers – gender, credit score, level of education, no previous insurance because the consumer did not own a car, occupation, and ZIP code of residence – do not relate to the consumer’s driving …

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