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Archive: June, 2013

POSTED: Friday, June 14, 2013, 11:38 AM

I've gone out West to backpack up some Rocky Mountains with a couple of my sons and their Scout friends. Joe D.

POSTED: Friday, June 14, 2013, 6:16 PM

Statement from S&P: "Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said today it raised its long-term rating and underlying rating on Philadelphia's general obligation debt one notch to 'A-' from 'BBB+'." S&P also rated the city's 2013 general-obligation bonds A-. Higher-rated bonds typically can be sold at lower interest rates, saving the city money.

"The upgrade reflects our assessment of the city's progress in restoring its general fund balance through cost containment as well as stronger revenue streams," Standard & Poor's credit analyst Hilary Sutton said in a statement. SUP also boosted Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, Philadelphia Industrial Development Authority, Philadelphia Municipal Authority debt to A-.

Sutton praised Mayor Nutter's "proactive administration that has taken action to rebalance operations during a difficult recession, evidenced by surpluses in fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012 that have helped reverse a trend of general fund deficits," along with state oversight by Sam Katz's Pa. Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, and the city's increased reliance on hospitals and colleges as major employers. Though recession, high pension costs, and all the money borrowed under Mayors Rendell and Street continue to haunt the city's finances, she added. Nutter keeps on borrowing to refinance old debt and for new capital spending.

POSTED: Thursday, June 13, 2013, 12:05 PM

As the Franklin Institute prepares to expand, the Parkway science museum's financial outlook is now 'stable,' up from its previous 'negative,' says Moody's Investor Service analyst Heide Wilde in a report to clients. So its credit rating will remain at Baa1, above junk-bond levels, as it prepares to borrow more money.

The museum is already "challenged" by its "aggressive debt profile," with variable-rate debt hedged by interest-rate swaps, Moody's reported. But current management has boosted attendance, improved cash flow, and raised "expectations that Commonwealth of Pennsylvania funding" totalling $11 million, plus more from private-sector donors, and city-backed short-term borrowing, "will cover financing and reimbursement costs" for the museum's planned expansion.

Montly operating cash flow rose to $13.5 million in fiscal 2012, up from $11.5 million in fiscal 2009, the report added. Last year's "Inspire Science" capital campaign raised $65 million; gifts and trustee contributions now account for 21% of the Franklin Institute's yearly budget, a relatively high proportion; admissions (not counting merchandise and event sales) totalled 46%, up from 38% in 2009.

POSTED: Thursday, June 13, 2013, 12:00 PM

InterMedia Marketing, a 30-year-old, West Chester-based company best known as an outsource call center for Comcast, Glaxo, Frontier Communications, and other telecom and pharma companies, says it's recruiting 300 phone health insurance salespeople to be trained this summer to service and sell policies to potential customers of several Blue Cross affiliates under the new Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) individual-enrollment program, starting in October.

"We're recruiting at colleges -- it's a great opportunity for a newly graduated students, and for retired licensed insurance agents," InterMedia's operations chief, Patricia Elkins, told me. She's looking for "people who know what it's like to sit at a phone for eight hours and paint a picture," working with consumers who might never have bought their own health insurance. College degree not required, but applicants wil be trained to apply for the state insurance sales licenses they'll need. Elkins claims a "75 percent success rate" for license tests under an earlier training program for agents selling to Medicare Part D customers after that program began in 2006.

InterMedia's customers for the new program include Blue Cross affiliates Carefirst (Maryland, Delaware, D.C., Virginia), Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, and Excellus (western New York State), among others.  "We're doing a huge ramp-up during open enrollment. We need to get a lot of knowledgeable, credible agents on the phone and get them licensed." Some will work from home, others from InterMedia centers in West Chester, Johnstown, Pa., and Orangeburg, S.C.

POSTED: Thursday, June 13, 2013, 11:24 AM

Revlon, the New York cosmetics maker controlled by Philadelphia native Ronald Perelman, has agreed to pay the Securities and Exchange Commission $850,000 to settle charges that Revlon "misled shareholders" and its own independent directors when it suppressed information that its own financial expert found the company was underpaying shareholders when the company bought back shares to pay more than $100 million Revlon owed Perelman's holding company, MacAndrews and Forbes, in 2009.

Revlon eventually raised its offer for the shares; some shareholders sued, demanding more. The SEC accused Revlon of "ring fencing" information about the real value of the shares instead of sharing it with independent directors and investors. Read the SEC's order against Revlon here. Revelon's lawyer, Colleen Mahoney at Skadden Arps, wasn't immediately available for comment.

POSTED: Thursday, June 13, 2013, 4:34 PM

Philadelphia City Councilman Bill Green has introduced a bill that would allow Philadelphia to issue and sell tax liens that would allow private collectors to go after deadbeat property owners who don't pay their city and school support taxes. Councilmen O'Neill, Henon, Oh, Squilla and Kenney are co-sponsors.

No word yet from the city, Green tells me. Many other towns in New Jersey, for example, "The difference between cities that have swift and sure collection, and what we have, I think we could collect another $75 million a year," Green added.

POSTED: Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:58 AM

If he's serious about making city government work for the people, Mayor Nutter ought to learn from the Boy Scouts, instead of running them out of town. Plus: De-regulation liars, doing a job vs. getting the job done, and more in my column in today's Inquirer here.

POSTED: Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 4:47 PM

North Broad Street apartment developer Eric Blumenfeld's ex-business partner, Market Street apartment developer Ron Caplan (the two are waging a nasty legal fight, as my colleague Jennifer Lin wrote here), says in court papers that he has purchased Blumenfeld's $28 million personally guaranteed but sadly defaulted Wells Fargo Bank loan, which was supposed to fund the aborted conversion of the Marine Club apartments at Broad and Washington into condominiums.

Caplan has told his lawyers to collect the money, now swollen to $37 million with interest and attorney fees. "We have the judgment," and have sent Blumefeld requests for information about personal assets that could be used to pay what Blumenfeld owes, Caplan's lawyer, H. Robert Fiebach of Cozen O'Connor, confirms.

UPDATE: But Blumenfeld plans to challenge Caplan's claim on the loan, says Blumenfeld's New York lawyer, Jonathan Minsker. That would put Caplan's ability to collect on his judgment (which was purchased from the bank at a greater than 50% discount) into question. Minsker notes that the dispute over who controls the asset, and under what conditions, is a focus of the larger litigation (see link above).

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 N. at or 215 854 5194.

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