Saturday, May 30, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 11:30 AM

"Taco Bell plans its first outlet in the world with alcoholic beverages," in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, reports Mark Kalinowski, fast-food analyst at Janney Capital Markets in Philadelphia.

Besides burritos, there'll be beer and frozen margarita-style drinks, based on tequila and other hard liquor. Perhaps an admission that Chicago's well-established Mexican-style restaurants are tough competition among a chile-literate (and thirsty) clientele. No word on when the Yum Brands chain that owns Taco Bell plans to take alkie national (or can afford a few hundred Pa. liquor licenses). 

Elsewhere at Yum: "Colonel Sanders is back," Kalinowski tells us. He scanned YouTube and reports the dead founder's corporate reincarnation is Saturday Night Live comedian Darrell Hammond, in a white goatee and white suit and horn-rim-topped specs, telling lame jokes and pitching the product critics call "chicken-flavored doughnuts." 

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 11:30 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2015, 1:19 PM

Lawyers for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who campaigned for competitive bidding and lower fees in state legal contracts, told one of the state’s biggest employers last month to hire three Philadelphia law firms -- not just the one it wanted -- as a condition for routine state and federal tax breaks.

Back in March, the University of Pennsylvania Health System wanted to borrow up to $400 million to expand its West Philadelphia trauma center, Chester County Hospital and Radnor outpatient offices and demolish the old Penn Tower Hotel, among other projects. Penn Health brought its plan to the Pennsylvania Higher Educational Facilities Authority, one of several state-backed agencies that help issue income-tax-exempt bonds.

Penn Health asked to hire well-connected Ballard Spahr LLP as its bond lawyer. The authority’s board, with representatives from state agencies, legislators and the elected auditor general and treasurer, approved Penn’s plan unanimously March 10.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 1:19 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2015, 1:09 PM

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has told staff that four ranking law-enforcement officers from its evening shift “are no longer employees of the Bank.” The move follows “a great deal of investigation, deliberation and consultation,” according to a staff memorandum from James Welch, vice president for law enforcement and facilities management at the Philadelphia federal reserve bank.

The four previously had been suspended, according to the memo. Marilyn Wimp, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Fed, declined to comment on why the officers no longer are employees, or the reason for their departures.

With about 900 employees, the Philadelphia Fed is one of the smallest of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks. Its hulking modern stone headquarters near Independence Mall handled more than $20 billion in cash for banks last year.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 1:09 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2015, 12:56 PM
File: The 9th Street entrance to The Gallery. (MATTHEW HALL / Staff Photographer)

UPDATE: A South Philly reader writes: "Also on the agenda is a plan to change the zoning of an entire block in South Phillly for the Concordia group who bought a number of closed Philadelphia schools (near Mt. Sinai at 400 Reed Street) to (convert to) multiuse... (We haven't seen a) civic design review, to say nothing of meeting with the neighbors... Should be an interesting meeting." Looks like she's talking about Councilman Squilla's Bill 150355 changing zoning between 4th and 5th, Reed and Dickinson. See Agenda link below.

EARLIER: The Philadelphia City Planning Commission holds its May meeting Tuesday, upstairs 1 p.m. at 1515 Arch St. Big item on the Agenda is a review of the Gallery renovation on Market St., which would include city payments of $175 million -- up to $7 million a year over the next 42 years -- to publicly-traded landlords Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust and Macerich Corp. "for construction, maintenance, and operating cost" at the public part of the Gallery.

The developers also want at least $31.5 million in state matching funds, and $127.5 million in tax "increment" financing (to fund a $55 million construction loan,) and say they'll put in $235 million, "net."
GALLERY MILLIONS: Read the Galley ordinance #150375, by Councilman Squilla, here. See also #150376,-7 and -9, which further authorize city financing and redevelopment. The city planning staff is expected to back the bills.

NEW PRISON: Separately, planners will review Bill 150406, to replace the 1920s-era House of Corrections with a new prison up at 7777-R State Road in the Northeast; 

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:56 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2015, 9:48 AM

Chemours, the $7 billion (yearly sales) spinoff company carved out of DuPont Co. to run its cyclical titanium-dioxide (white-paint-base) business and send $4 billion in cash to DuPont shareholders, will be run by veteran DuPont executive Mark P. Vergnano, 57. Vergnano has been named CEO and a director of Chemours ("kem-OARS"), which will be based at the former DuPont headquarters in central Wilmington. Vergnano is also a director of Johnson Controls Inc. (which has a plant in Middletown, Del.) and the U.S. National Safety Council.  

The other seven founding Chemours directors include: Curtis V. Anastasio, executive chair of GasLog Partners, LP, San Antonio, and vice chair of Par Petroleum Corp.; he's also ex CEO at NuStar Energy (Valero); Bradley J. Bell, non-executive chair of Momentive Performance Materials Holdings Inc. and former CFO of Philadelphia's former Rohm and Haas (now part of Dow Chemical) and Nalco Holding Co.; Richard H. Brown, chair of Browz Inc. and ex-CEO of EDS, Cable & Wireless, H&R Block, and a former DuPont board member (2001-15).

Also, Mary B. Cranston, chair emeritus of law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLC; consultant Curtis J. Crawford, former CEO of Onix Microsystems and a former DuPont board member; Dawn L. Farrell, CEO of TransAlta Corp.; and Stephen D. Newlin, executive chair of polymer maker PolyOne Corp. and former COO of Nalco Chemical. 

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 9:48 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, May 15, 2015, 4:18 PM

"Penn State University, which develops sensitive technology for the U.S. Navy, disclosed Friday that Chinese hackers have been sifting through the computers of its engineering school for more than two years," Bloomberg reports here.

"One of the country’s largest and most productive research universities, Penn State offers a potential treasure trove of technology that’s already being developed with partners for commercial applications...The hackers are so deeply embedded that the engineering college’s computer network will be taken offline for several days while investigators work to eject the intruders."

“This was an advanced attack against our College of Engineering by very sophisticated threat actors,” Penn State President Eric Barron told staff and students in a letter. "This is an incredibly serious situation, and we are devoting all necessary resources to help the college recover as quickly as possible.” FBI told Penn State of the breach in November 2014.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 4:18 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, May 15, 2015, 12:47 PM
Aetna's corporate headquarters in Hartford, Connecticu in February 2015.Photo: Ron Antonelli (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UPDATE: Shares of Cigna are up around $3.75, to above $132, since May12, when two analysts who met with Aetna Corp. bosses told clients there's a high probability Aetna will buy Cigna or another big insurer soon.

"UBS analyst A.J. Rice wrote in a note to investors that Aetna 'expressed confidence that its balance sheet is strong enough to pursue any attractive consolidation opportunity that arises,' and that Cigna has 'consolidation potential,' the Hartford Courant wrote here.   

EARLIER: "Analysts predict Aetna is planning to acquire another [health insurer], likely Humana or Cigna, a move that promises to disrupt the industry," writes Melissa Winn here in Insurance Networking News.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:47 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, May 15, 2015, 9:39 AM

"Welcome to the big leagues of bad customer relationships," writes Jeremy Nowak, past head of the Philadelphia-based Reinvestment Fund, in Philadelphia Citizen here. Highlights from his Comcast section:

"I want to love Comcast because they are Philadelphia born and bred and they had the chutzpah to buy NBC in New York City. For a Philly guy, that is way better than, say, beating the New York Giants on a cold winter Sunday.

"But a company in the midst of building a second office tower in Philadelphia that contributes greatly to the city’s economy has a problem and it better address it soon. Forget the failed Time-Warner merger! That was merely a symptom.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 9:39 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts drafts, transcripts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area business, which he's been writing since 1989.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn and taught writing at St. Joseph's. He has written thousands of columns and articles for the Inquirer, Bloomberg and other media, wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at,, 215.854.5194 or 302.652.2004.

Reach Joseph N. at or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano