Saturday, November 28, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, October 6, 2015, 2:23 PM
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20: NAMM members including Chris Martin meet with Sen. Bob Casey (D) in the Russell Senate Office Building as part of 'Music Industry Leaders and Artists Drum Up Support for Music Education on Capitol Hill' event as part of Namm's D.C. Fly-in on May 20, 2015 in Washington DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for NAMM)

The Export-Import Bank charter is expired, but enough Republicans remain loyal to American business -- despite "ideological" defectors like his fellow Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who wants Ex-Im dead on grounds it subsidizes big American companies like GE and Boeing -- that Democrats may yet be able to renew its charter, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., told me in a stop through Philadelphia today. (See also this Bloomberg story which counts potential votes.) 

"It's not all that difficult," Casey told me. "It's not like some brave policy position. It makes sense. It works." Since 2007 (he rattled off to me)m ExIm has backed $7 billion in exports for 314 Pennsylvania companies, most of which employ fewer than 500 people. "It works well for big companies; it works enormously well for small cos. I don't know why Pat wouldn't support it."

Casey wrote a letter Monday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warning that GE is already moving locomotive production jobs from western Pennsylvania to France in search of cheaper financing due to Ex-Im's threatened demise. He says he's still more worried that small companies like Philadelphia's Bassetts Ice Cream, which got Ex-Im loans in the past, won't get cheap financing again. (Standard and Poor's warns the worst-case scenario is a slowing global economy amid higher U.S. interest rates making it tougher for more borrowers to afford U.S. products without Ex-Im loans.)

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 2:23 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, October 6, 2015, 12:51 PM
Mike George is CEO of QVC, the West Chester-based home-shopping company. (PROVIDED)

QVC boss Mike George packed the Pennsylania Convention Center's Terrace Ballroom at today's National Retail Federation digital-retail conference, and shed a little more light on his TV shopping network's $2.4 billion purchase of Seattle-based smartphone shopping network (see "Seeking Younger Women" here

Culture clash much? "We're getting all our developers under one roof," George said. "We have to get all our people comfortable with the idea (media-based shopping has to) complete reinvent ourselves..." It's not TV vs. smartphones; it's both, plus...From isolated strategies and creative groups, the firms are joining "those consumed by tomorrow's sales, and those free to strategize the future.

"We spent a lot of time getting our business and technology teams together" at QVC, even before the merger was vetted, George added. "One platform supports TV, digital, phone, tablet, Web." Mobile is now a quarter of the business, Web/laptop another quarter, and TV is still half (pre-Zulily.) New shopping campaigns are now about "how to target a market," which tech to lead with.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:51 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, October 5, 2015, 4:23 PM
File: Ellen Kullman, chief executive officer of DuPont Co., speaks during a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative CGI America meeting in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, June 14, 2013.Photo: Daniel Acker (Bloomberg)

TUESDAY UPDATE: DuPont Co. shares rose 11%, or $6 a share, in morning trading, rising above $57 and reversing most of this summer's loss, after CEO Ellen Kullman announced her abrupt departure Monday. She's leaving five months after reaching a truce with activist investor Nelson Peltz, who temporarily left her free to run the company without his public sniping -- until it was clear the company wouldn't meet its financial targets, again.

MONDAY: "Ellen Kullman, Chair and CEO of DuPont, announced that she will retire from the company effective October 16," writes DuPont Co. in a statement. "On that date, Edward Breen, a current member of the DuPont Board of Directors, will assume the role of Interim Chair and CEO of DuPont. The Board has engaged an executive recruitment firm to identify a full-time replacement." Earlier in the day, shares rose as investor Peltz's son-in-law Edward Garden on business TV reiterated his group's interest in restructuring the company to squeeze out more profits.  DuPont statement here.

Kullman, 59, is leaving as DuPont posts yet another reduction in profits and accelerates cost-cutting. DuPont cut yearly per-share profit targets to $2.75, from a previous $3.10, blaming the strong U.S. dollar and weak foreign pesticide markets. And DuPont says it will speed up cost cuts "to achieve $1.3 billion of savings on a run rate basis by the end of 2016," instead of 2017, and will cut an additional $300 million in 2017. The company will disclose more in an investor conference call at 5 p.m. DuPont will put out third-quarter results Oct. 27.  

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 4:23 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, October 5, 2015, 1:35 PM

When he presided at our wedding in 1988, Father Patrick Sieber OFM was a priest on the edge: The Catholic church's Philadelphia shepherd, John Cardinal Krol, wanted to see Pat leave town -- while federal authorities wanted him to stay put, at least until he finished his probation for breaking into a federal weapons facility in an anti-war protest.

On Sunday, Sieber celebrated his 50th year as a Franciscan in a Mass in the lower church at Visitation BVM in Kensington, a few blocks east of where he grew up in what is now one of the city's poorest pockets; and a few blocks north of where he has helped run St. Francis Inn and its associated programs for families and homeless people. He also ministers to patients at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden.

Sieber, a longtime critic of what President Eisenhower warned was the over-powerful American "military-industrial complex," praised Pope Francis as "man of mercy," rare even in church. When the Pope, a Jesuit, borrowed Francis' name for his papacy, he invited "a world of trouble" from powerful people, including Catholics, who see Christ's message as less than personally transformative, Sieber said in his Viso homily. Even during Francis' purportedly pastoral visit to this city, he was kept at arm's-length from the people by layers of security and officialdom -- the "men of power and protocol," as Sieber called them.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 1:35 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, October 5, 2015, 11:36 AM
Boarding call for CEOs at Ciao Philadelphia kickoff party for a month of Philelphia Italian-theme cultural events, Sunday at Penn's Landing. The "superyacht" is Philadelphia Energy Solutions' Philip Rinaldi's 116-foot Vivere. (Photo: Joseph N DiStefano)

Andrea Canepari, Italy's vastly energetic and partly Penn-educated Consul-General in Philadelphia, held a kick-off party Sunday for the city's prominenti i patroni in honor of Ciao! Philadelphia, the month-long abbondanza of Italian cultural events -- schedule here. 

It was a gray windy day for a boat ride -- but the glassed-in superyacht, Philadelphia Energy Solutions CEO and Philadeplphia energy hub advocate Philip Rinaldi's 116-foot, multi-level Vivere, has been around the world and can handle weather and much else (for just $57,000, you can charter the 2008-edition Azimut Grande-model boat, which sleeps 10 and comes with a full crew, here). Vivere = Italian, To Live.

For all the bold mid-Atlantic weather, "it's a beautiful day to be Italian," said Canepari, as the Philly Pops played and sporano Priscilla Coblenz Cohen sang Puccini for 100 business and political leaders and guests: former Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell; Bill Sasso, chairman of Stradley Ronon; Joe Del Raso, partner at Pepper Hamilton and chair of the Italian American National Foundation; suburban developer and state-agencies landlord Mark Nicoletti; surgeon and Ferrari collector Dr. Fred Simeone; ex-Wharton dean and Philly Fed President Anthony Santomero, now a Citigroup director: among others munching fruit, olives, roasted peppers, mini-cannolis and other Italianate snacks, washed down with wines at Penns Landing before boarding.  

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 11:36 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, October 5, 2015, 10:06 AM

41 million Americans owe money on college loans. 10 million are late, or have stopped paying. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Education and Treasury Departments last week issued this joint report examining the disconnect between lenders (mostly the government), borrowers (students), schools (including the private for-profit trade schools where most deadbeat students go) and servicers (the collection firms that end up squeezing students and parents for payments years later) and said, in sum, We gotta find out more about this.

The agencies note that a lot of college borrowers don't understand how much they end up paying over the long run - and aren't equipped to distinguish between government-backed loan deferment, forbearance, forgiveness, slow-pay and pay-what-you-can programs, all to keep borrowers from going completely deadbeat.

Call the Education Department, your lender, and your loan collector or servicing firm, and you are likely to hear from each about different troubled-loan programs and alternatives, each with different short- and long-term effects on your payments and your loan's co-signers (hi, Mom and Dad!). There are so many choices that borrowers have to "evaluate trade-offs between competing benefits," the report says.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 10:06 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, October 5, 2015, 9:22 AM

"Leaders would be forgiven for a lot of things. But never for a lack of vision," says Bill McDermott, the Newtown Square-based chief executive of the business-software giant SAP, after losing his eye. "It has taught me a lot about character," as he "willed" himself through pain back to his punishing, exhilarating global schedule, and about the generous, focused professionals who helped him rebuild his life, McDermott told me Friday. "I have, from seeing a whole different way of looking at the world, gained vision and insight."

McDermott, an ex-Xerox salesman who has retooled his 75,000-employee company for the cloud-computing and iPad era and is aggressively challenging the old enterprises software model with Hana in-memory systems, says he cut his face badly in a freak accident while visiting his father down South to mark the elder McDermott's 76th birthday, on the July 4 weekend.

I told him that readers of the first item I wrote were asking how such a thing could happen. "People have a fascination with other people's trauma. That's understandable," McDermott told me. A Roman Catholic, McDermott feels "closer to God now," accepting a kind of divine balance between his loss and his gain.  Read more on the SAP CEO's hurt and recovery in my column in today's Philadelphia Inquirer here. 

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 9:22 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, October 2, 2015, 12:12 PM
Cooper-Booth facilities were used by an organization headed by Ocean City, Md.-based Basel Ramadan, who prosecutors said shipped $55 million worth of low-taxed Virginia cigarettes to markets in high-tax New York City using Cooper-Booth's distribution network and a Delaware warehouse. (Reuters file photo / Michaela Rehle)

Convenience-store distributor Cooper-Booth Wholesale Co. LP has exited bankruptcy and 200 staff have kept their jobs at the company's Mountville, Lancaster County-based facilities, two years after the government forced it into bankruptcy following a New York State cigarette-smuggling investigation.

Cooper-Booth facilities were used by an organization headed by Ocean City, Md.-based Basel Ramadan, who prosecutors said shipped $55 million worth of low-taxed Virginia cigarettes to markets in high-tax New York City using Cooper-Booth's distribution network and a Delaware warehouse. Ramadan was convicted earlier this week of 198 New York State charges, including enterprise corruption, money laundering and tax offenses.

PNC Bank froze Cooper-Booth's accounts at the government's request, cancelling its line of credit and surety bond access and forcing it to file for protection from its unpaid creditors under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. Agents eventually seized $1.5 million from the company's accounts, but did not press charges against the middleman. Cooper-Booth said it had no knowledge of illegal activity.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:12 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts interviews, drafts and updates that Joseph N. DiStefano writes alongside his Sunday and Monday columns and ongoing articles about Philadelphia-area business.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn. He taught writing and research at St. Joe’s. He has written for the Inquirer since 1989, except when he left a few times to work at Bloomberg and elsewhere. He wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six kids with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at, 215.854.5194, @PhillyJoeD. Read his blog posts at and his Inquirer columns at Bloomberg posts his items at NH BLG_PHILLYDEAL.

Reach Joseph at or 215 854 5194.

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