Monday, November 30, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, November 3, 2015, 3:10 PM

Comcast says it has hired investment banker Robert L. Eatroff, Managing Director and Head of Mergers and Acquisitions for Morgan Stanley in the Americas, as Comcast's new Executive Vice President, Global Development and Strategy, effective in January, reporting to CFO Michael J. Cavanagh, another Wall Street veteran.

Eatroff advised Comcast in its purchase of NBCUniversal in 2011, and is well-versed in tech, telecom, media and wireles, Cavanagh noted in a statement.

Eatroff replaces Alexander D. Evans in the EVP-strategy role. Evans is joining Cavanagh's predecessor, Michael Angelakis, at Angelakis' new Comcast-backed investment partnership; and also Bob Pick, SVP for corporate development and part of Comcast's fabled legal and mergers team of Block and Pick.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 3:10 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, November 2, 2015, 12:03 PM
A view of the Dupont logo on a train car at the Dupont Edge Moor facility near Wilmington, Delaware, April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer

"We are creating businesses of more significant scale," DuPont interim CEO-Chairman Edward D. Breen said today in this statement, explaining why DuPont is folding four of its businesses into two. He said DuPont will combine Packaging & Industrial Polymers and Performance Polymers into a single unified "DuPont Performance Materials" group, and add Protection Technologies to Building Innovations to form "DuPont Protection Solutions," effective Jan. 1.

Breen, the former Tyco and General Instruments CEO who joined the board earlier this year and stepped in to run DuPont after CEO-Chair Ellen Kullman resigned on the eve of a disappointing profit report last month, has pledged to accelerate administrative and finance cost cuts -- while continuing to support an effective sales force and productive research and development -- at the DuPont Co., which is based in suburban Wilmington, Del.

Patrick E. Linder, a chemist and 19-year DuPont veteran who headed performance polymers, will lead DuPont Performance Materials as one of the six DuPont business segments. Rose Lee, an engineer and former Saint-Gobain executive who joined DuPont in January and was put in charge of protection technologies last month, will head DuPont Protection Solutions as a part of DuPont's Safety and Protection segment (which also includes one other business group, Sustainable Solutions). 

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:03 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, October 30, 2015, 3:41 PM

(Update: See also my column in Monday's Inquirer; plus a "sample list" of Phila healthcare startups at the end of this post) As Big Pharma downsized in the last recession, drug advertising tailed off, too. The industry fragmented: long-dominant firms cut back on research, generic drugmakers threatened price cuts, new firms began pushing smartphone apps and sensors to promote innovative therapies and alter the traditional doctor-patient consultation.

In 2011, French public-relations and marketing giant Publicis Groupe cut headcount at its Digitas Health and Razorfish agencies in their high-ceilinged Wanamaker Building headquarters in Philadelphia. The heads of both practices left. Publicis charged managers with winning new business by going after new customers using the new technologies 

How's that working? The group has added a net 70 people at its Philadelphia headquarters -- the total is now 450, "the most we've ever been," says Brendan Gallagher, executive vice president for Digitas Health LifeBrands' Connected Health unit.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 3:41 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, October 30, 2015, 8:23 AM

Keycorp, a Cleveland-based banking company, says this morning it has agreed to pay $4.1 billion, or $11.40 in cash and stock, for Buffalo-based First Niagara Corp. and its nearly 400 branches in Eastern states, including 58 in eastern Pennsylvania.  Statement here.

It's bad news for Buffalo, where First Niagara is based: Not only are headquarters jobs typically stripped when one bank buys another; Key boss Beth Mooney told investors that 120 First Niagara branches are within 2 miles of a Key branch; many will close, a few might be "divested" to another bank. She hopes to chop $400 million in yearly spending, about 40% of First Niagara's budget.

The Philadelphia area will likely see less impact. Key doesn't have branches here -- Mooney called First Niagara's eastern Pennsylvania and Connecticut territories "attractive new markets" -- plus First Niagara has already stripped its operations here:
- First Niagara has 43 branches with $2.1 billion in deposits in the Phila metro area as of June 30
- Predecessor Harleysville National Bank had 62 branches with $3.2 billion in deposits in the Phila metro area in 2009, before it was acquired by First Niagara. First Niagara also took over (and has consolidated) Harleysville branches in the Reading, Lehigh Valley and Pocono areas.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 8:23 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, October 29, 2015, 3:36 PM

Nicholas Schorsch, the Jenkintown scrap-metal heir turned Wall Street real-estate mogul, used to say he wanted to do for real estate what Malvern-based Vanguard did for mutual funds.

But now Vanguard's index funds and real estate funds have sued Schorsch in federal court in Arizona, alleging "a multi-year fraud and attempted cover-up" when he was chief executive at American Realty Capital Partners (ARCP, now Vereit). Schorsch left the company after it disclosed it had sent seven quarters of false earnings reports to shareholders and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In the 150-page complaint, Vanguard alleges the fraud "was orchestrated by the top executives of ARCP, one of the largest real etate investment trusts (REIT)." Schorsch bought thouands of commerical properties, from GE Capital-owned stores to Red Lobster restaurants, at distressed post-recession prices -- but "the true primary purpose in Schorsch's buying spree" was "to rob from shareholders and give to himself and his friends," according to Vanguard's suit, filed by lawyer Jonathan Sherman at Washington-based Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP and local lawyers in Arizona.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 3:36 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 2:43 PM
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen holds a news conference following the Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington September 17, 2015. (Reuters)

The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee  says it will raise interest rates (and the price of loans and bonds) in December if it decides "labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments" call for slightly more expensive loan and bond rates.

"The Committee anticipates that it will be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate when it has seen some further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective over the medium term." Read today's full statement here.

"This means that a December move is back on the table, with much higher probability," writes Tony Bedikian, managing director of global markets at Citizens Bank. "The risk of inflation is beginning to outweigh concerns about U.S. growth, the slowdown in China and slow wage growth."

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 2:43 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 12:08 PM
The Vanguard Group, a Malvern-based mutual fund company. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)

NOV. 6: Vanguard Group, the Malvern-based mutual fund giant, is looking outside the firm for a new general counsel, the company confirmed when I asked today. Heidi Stam, 59, "announced last month her intentions to retire in mid-2016 after a distinguished 18+ year career that was preceded by a distinguished 10-year career at the SEC," spokesman John Woerth told me. "Vanguard is seeking an external candidate to fill the role."

Stam joined Vanguard in 1997 as Principal in the law department, overseeing securities regulation. Before that she was associate director of investment management at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which she joined in 1987 from private practice. She has chaired the Investment Companies Committee of FINRA, the securities industries' self-regulating arm; the Investment Company Institute's SEC Rules Committee, an industry group; and advised the Institute for Law and Economics at Penn. She has law degrees from American U and Harvard (master's). 

OCT. 28:  Vanguard Group's chief auditing officer, Richard "Dick" Carpenter, left the company in October, a little more than a year since he stepped down as chief financial officer in favor of colleague Frank Satterthwaite. Paul Atkins, Carpenter's past assistant, has also left. Carpenter, a 1976 graduate of Lehigh University, retired, spokesman John Woerth said.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:08 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 11:09 AM

Food costs "are quickly approaching financial-crisis lows on high supplies and the strength of the (U.S.) dollar," writes Berwyn-based food markets analyst Jonathan Feeney. in a report to clients of Athlos Research.

But not all these savings are reaching the consumer. While energy and feed costs are down -- "The grain complex is down 50 percent from its Spring 2008 peak" -- Feeney also notes that "proteins and dairy prices are yielding higher producer profits generally, with cattle and beef showing near all-time-high price/feed ratios." Corn, beans and fuel are cheap, but meat and milk prices haven't dropped nearly as far: that means fatter margins for farmers and slaughterhouses.

Hogs and soybeans are cheaper as China demand falls. Meanwhile, "heavy stockpiles" are piling up for "beef, pork... berries, peaches" and other produce. Yet cattle prices remain tight as less meat is now entering the system; ranchers, feeling the low demand, have sent fewer cattle to feedlots than at any time "since at least 1996." Milk prices are also more stable, due partly to the California drought that has redeuced cheese production, cancelling somewhat the impact of falling exports.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 11:09 AM  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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