Thursday, July 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Friday, July 18, 2014, 8:17 AM

Safeguard Scientifics, Wayne, has joined Michigan-based Biostar Ventures and other investors pumping $11.6 million into Trice Medical, a King of Prussia company that makes "mi-eye," a mini-camera and light mounted on a 14-gauge needle -- the kind they use in vaccinations -- and wired to an Android tablet, which CEO Jeff O'Donnell tells me can be used to probe hips and shoulders, "averting the need for an expensive MRI" or exploratory surgery. 

O'Donnell is a serial startup CEO: He previously ran Embrella Cardiovascular of Wayne, which he sold to Edwards Life Sciences in March 2011 for $43 million, four times what investors put in. He also ran Photomedex (based in Montgomeryville), Kensey Nash of Exton, and Cardiovascular Dynamics, Irvine, Calif.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 4:57 PM

It's starting to look like more than a coincidence: Yet another former Wilmington Trust business lender has been indicted, by federal prosecutors in Wilmington, and charged with fraud for giving a developer millions more than he was authorized to lend in the years leading up to the collapse and forced sale of what used to be Delaware's dominant bank.

The ex-lender, Peter W. Hayes, worked for the bank for 20 years until he left in 2011, the year the bank was taken over by M&T Bank, which cut more than 700 jobs. Hayes is accused of lending $195 million to a developer over several years, while he was secretly invested in the developer's properties, and using false and insufficient documents to justify loans that weren't repaid.

"He has consistently denied criminal wrongdoing" and will plead not guilty," his lawyer, Eugene Maurer, told me. If convicted, Hayes faces 210 years in prison and $7 million in fines if convicted of all five counts of fraud and two of bribery, according to US Attorney Charles Oberly.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 4:20 PM

Remember Col. Sanders? KFC owner Yum Brands still has 4,000 stores around the U.S., open every day. But market share has sunk from 40% at the end of the 1990s to just 22% today. Meanwhile, Chick-fil-A, the family-owned, Christian-friendly chain that keeps the Lord's day holy by shutting on Sundays, is now the nation's most popular bird-meat meal purveyor, with 26% (more than 1 in 4) of the chicken-chain market, despite a count of just 2,000 stores, half KFC's total.

And fast-food leader McDonald's (with its Chicken McNuggets, McChicken Sandwich, and all) ought to be worried, writes Janney Capital Markets analyst Mark Kalinowski, in a report to clients.

McDonald's still outsells evey other U.S. restaurant chain, with $36 billion in sales last year, triple Subway or Starbuck's, nearly four times Wendy's or Burger King or Taco Bell. But Chick-fil-A, #9 with $5 billion in sales, has been growing rapidly larger -- tripling its market share in 14 years -- and could actually add more sales over the next decade than McDonald's, if current trends hold.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 3:41 PM

Steven Craig Clemons is "Washington Editor-At-Large" for the Atlantic, the public-affairs magazine, founded in 1857, which is trying to stay solvent and relevant by bringing together Washington movers and other powers to talk about policy. Richard Vague, of Center City, made his millions in credit card and energy marketing; since 2004 he's been sponsoring studies and conferences on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, private debt and public spending. This morning they hosted Siemens and Glaxo executives, ex-Gov. Rendell and other public figures at a National Constitution Center talk on manufacturing. Over coffee I asked why the came here and where they're headed:

CLEMONS: It's good to be back in Philly. When I was growing up, my dad worked for awhile for the Navy Yard, and I lived in Upper Darby. I went to Beverly Hills Middle School. Like Tina Fey, only she went much later. And I was a boy soprano in the Spencer T. Videon Boys Choir. It took me awhile to realize I was a marketing guy for a funeral parlor.

That was back in the 70s. Frank Rizzo was the mayor. Everybody was divided about him. The crime rate was bad. Philly was a dirty city. There were these huge fires at the oil refineries. All the old industrial battles, which Philly lost. 

POSTED: Monday, July 21, 2014, 6:00 PM
Comcast Cable's operations chief David N. Watson posted an employee memo where he admitted, "The agent on this call did a lot of what we trained him and paid him -- and thousands of other Retention agents --to do." (Joe Raedle, Getty Images, file)

MONDAY: Re the infamous Ryan Block customer service call (see below): Comcast Cable's operations chief David N. Watson has posted an employee memo, reproduced here by Consumer Reports' Consumerist site, admitting the company is "embarrassed by the tone of the call and the lack of sensitivity to the customer’s desire to discontinue service."

Watson wrote of his "regret" it all happened, but maintains it's "not representative of the good work that our employees are doing," and that most Comcast employees are "respectful, courteous and resourceful." Still, "it was painful to listen to this call, and I am not surprised that we have been criticized for it. Respecting our customers is fundamental, and we fell short in this instance.

"I know these Retention calls are tough, and I have tremendous admiration for our Retention professionals, who make it easy for customers to choose to stay with Comcast. We have a Retention queue because we believe in our products, and because we offer a great value when customers have the right facts... If a customer is not fully aware of what the product offers, we ask the Retention agent to educate the customer...

POSTED: Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 10:59 AM

Claiming that "existing data centers in Philadelphia are woefully inadequate for today's cloud and network application businesses," vXchnge, Tampa, Fla., says it plans to build a 70,000 sq ft "state of the art" data center at 1500 Spring Garden St., the former Smith Kline pill factory that is already a major data site for Wayne-based SunGard Availability.

vXchange says it will seek clients from the region's "dense concentration of healthcare, pharmaceutical, manufacturing and financial services firms" with "high-density cabinets and advanced cooling capabilities" to support "cloud and network application businessees." CEO is Keith Olsen, an AT&T veteran. Other vXchange bosses include former Unisys executives Charles Browning and Ernie Sampera.

Existing data centers in the area include the Navy Yard data center (Philadelphia Technology Park) sold to St. Louis-based TierPoint last month; Digital Realty's 655,000 sq ft facility at 833 Chestnut St. (ex-Gimbel's department store tower); ex-1500 Spring Garden owner Amerimar Enterprises' ex-Packard Motor Car factory at 401 N. Broad St. (home to other Sungard Availability operations, and recent subject of a $70 million upgrade); SteelORCA's $650 million upgrade of an ex-Pfizer site near Princeton, the Citi and JPMorgan data centers near Wilmington; and others.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 9:44 AM
Scotts Miracle-Gro's Chairman and CEO Jim Hagedorn. (Photo from thescottsmiraclegrocompany.com)

This is bigger than Nicki Minaj: Some of America's foremost trash talkers are corporate CEOs. Bloomberg LP has catalogued chief executives' use of the words "s---" and also 'f---," a------" and "G---d---ed" in publicly-traded companies' quarterly conference calls for the past 10 years, and found a surge after the 2008 stock market collapse.

Boss potty-talk eruptions in those recorded, transcripted and public exchanges rose from less than 10 a year in 2004-08, to more than 20 in 2009, and an average of more than 50 in 2010-12, before slipping to 30 as stock values rose last year, and 12 so far this year (though first-half reporting isn't done yet.)

Multiple-repeat offenders including Scotts Miracle-Gro CEO James Hagedorn, who for example called 2012 "clearly a s----y year"; longtime Ryanair boss James O'Leary, who told the world in 2011 that "I have no interest in f---ing dividends;" and Emerson Electric boss David N. Farr: "If I see that in writing one more G--d-----d time, I'm going to tear them apart... We do well in China, G--d---it, and I'm not embarrassed by it..." More here.

POSTED: Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 3:27 PM
Fans enjoy the atmosphere during celebrations to mark Germany's 2014 Brazil World Cup victory, at a 'fan mile' public viewing zone in Berlin July 15, 2014. Germany's victorious soccer team led by coach Joachim Loew returned home on Tuesday after winning the 2014 Brazil World Cup. A triumphant Germany team landed in Berlin on Tuesday to a hero's welcome, greeted by hundreds of thousands of jubilant Germans waving flags and wearing the national colours, revelling in the nation's fourth World Cup victory on Sunday in Brazil. (Alex Grimm / Reuters / Pool)

World Cup Facebook, Twitter and other social-media fans posting in English (US, UK, India, Australia, Malaysia, South Africa, other ex-British colonies), German (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, other central Europe), and Spanish (Spain, most of Latin America) posted a steady 1 million to 1.6 million posts a day during the first month of World Cup play -- the volume slipped and became more volatile form day to day as crowd favorites like Spain and the U.S. dropped out -- then surged to more than 3 million, 7 million and 10 million posts on the three final days, according to trackers at SAP Social Media Analytics, a Silicon Valley outpost of the business-software giant, which is based in Germany and run partly from CEO Bill McDermott's Newtown Square offices.

The English-speaking crowd (the largest by far) tended to be markedly more positive for most of the series, with Spanish comments getting darker as more pan-Hispanic teams were eliminated, and Germans more critical after each controversy involving the national team, then rising on wins.

SAP hasn't laid out all the ways it plans to profit from this data. But the Germany-based firm is bragging how its SAP Match Insights futbol-data service "helps the German team improve performance." And it's probably useful to know, given the many billions spent advertising around the Cup games, that the U.S. National Security Agency isn't the only organization out there collating what social-media users are saying.  

About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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