Thursday, April 19, 2018

Business: Toys r Us says "No" To Rescue Bid

Foundering toy retailer Toys R us has rejected an $890M bid from Isaac Larian, the CEO of toymaker MGA Entertainment, to acquire and keep open several hundred stores in the U.S. and Canada, the Wall Street Journal reports. An anonymous source told the Journal that the bid failed to meet the qualified bid threshold under the bankruptcy court procedures. 

Though Toys R Us is liquidating stock at all 735 of its stores in America, with plans to close them all by summer, it is still auctioning its Canadian stores for sale with an option to add the best-performing 200 stores in the U.S., according to the WSJ. Auction proceedings will reportedly resume on April 19, with multiple bids having been entered. 

Whether or not any qualified bids would keep stores open has yet to be disclosed. Larian, whose company relies on Toys R Us for 20% of its sales, told the Journal that he had not been notified of his bid's rejection. "If that's the case, it’s really a shame that they’re going to let this company go into liquidation instead of at least responding and saying we need more or we need this," he said. 

The MGA CEO also told Retail Dive that he expects to remain involved in the auction process in some way, and that he believes the bid he submitted was "a fair valuation of the company's U.S. assets in an effort to save the business and over 130,000 domestic jobs." The next auction date for the Canadian portion of Toys R Us bankruptcy filings is set for April 23.

Business: Barbie, Hot Wheels Slump Too Deep for Mattel CEO?

Mattel Chief Executive Margaret "Margo" Georgiadis is in discussions to leave the toy maker, according to people familiar with the matter, an abrupt exit at a company struggling with slumping sales and in the midst of a restructuring.
The former Google executive, who joined Mattel in February 2017, has been unable to reverse the Barbie doll and Hot Wheels maker’s fortunes.
The details of her departure are unclear, Mattel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Shares of the company fell more than 2 percent during trading on Thursday.

Business: In Wake of Philly Meltdown, Starbucks Plans Kingston openings

Starbucks Jamaica will host a job fair in Liguanea later this month, as it gears up to open two locations in Kingston.
The company is looking for persons to fill barista and shift supervisor roles at the two locations, one in Liguanea and the other on Knutsford Boulevard in New Kingston.
Starbucks first entered the local market, when it officially opened a cafe at Doctor’s Cave Beach, in Montego Bay, last November. During that time, it announced plans to open 15 stores on the island over five years.
Additionally, three Starbucks Coffee are also expected to be added at the Sangster International Airport and will be operated by Express Catering, led by Ian Dear.
The stores outside the airport, are being operated by Caribbean Coffee Baristas, a joint venture between Dear, who is also the CEO of leading restaurant management and franchise operator Margaritaville Caribbean Group and Adam Stewart, the Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sandals Resorts International.

Ads: Publicis "Lapping Up" Clients; Beats Forecast

Amid all the disruption affecting the ad agency sector right now, Publicis Groupe was off to a good start in 2018, beating analysts’ expectations to post organic growth of 1.6% (versus the 0.3% expected) in its first quarter. 

Recent account wins—including Campbell Soup, Marriott, Mercedes-Benz and Carrefour—helped the French advertising group move in the right direction, although growth in its home market of Europe was largely flat. 

Of course, there were questions about the disruption at WPP, although Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun opted not to comment. (That certainly wouldn’t have been the case under Maurice.) Fortunately there was lots of chatter about the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation to liven up the call. 

The message from Publicis was that it’s not just ready, but that its acquisition of Sapient—and the “three and a half thousand” data scientists, analysts and engineers that came with it—puts the agency group in good stead to advise its clients on the new regulation.

Regional:" Our [New] Man in Havana

The Cuban Revolution has, at last, a new president with a new name and a new face, the gray-maned 57-year-old Miguel Díaz-Canel, who wears the uniforms of a businessman, not a soldier.
Fidel Castro is dead. His 86-year-old brother, Raul, is stepping aside. But nobody should believe the Castros are gone, or that there’s a new revolution in the Revolution. Raul remains the head of the Communist Party, which is the body that determines all political life in the country, and behind him is a coterie of military officers whose power is matched only by their anonymity.
“We know there are senior figures in the leadership,” says the eminent Latin America scholar William LeoGrande at American University, “we just don’t know who they are.” These officers are “the ones who protect Cuba from the U.S.,” says LeoGrande, and they were the ones who never really trusted the thaw in relations offered by U.S. President Barack Obama, which President Donald Trump is doing his best to thwart.
Díaz-Canel is first and foremost a product of the Cuban Revolution. Born soon after Fidel Castro triumphantly entered Havana in 1959, he studied electrical engineering. Steeped in revolutionary ideology, he quickly rose through the echelons of the Communist Party in his hometown of Santa Clara, famous as the site of the mausoleum that holds the remains of the iconic Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara.
As Cuba’s first vice president, Díaz-Canel was less a contender for power than the anointed poster boy for the “new” Cuba that Raul had under construction, one seemingly more open to the world and, especially, to business. “Raul is very much in favor of building institutional strength and doing things by the book,” says LeoGrande. He added that if Díaz-Canel had not been approved by the National Assembly on Thursday—as he was by 603 votes from 604—it certainly would have upset the apple cart.
But who will really be running the show? The situation is in some respects similar to other nations where revolutionary soldiers came to power in the 1950s and ’60s and constructed civilian façades, while the real power lay with the intelligence and security apparatuses. In Algeria, for instance, the question of who rules the country often has been answered by the enigmatic designation “Le Pouvoir”—The Power. And in Cuba there is a particularly good reason for anonymity.
In the 1980s, in the wake of the Nicaraguan revolution and at the height of renewed efforts to spread Cuba’s influence in Central and South America, Fidel and Raul personally authorized cartel drug-running operations from Colombia to the United States using Cuban territory and territorial waters to evade U.S. Coast Guard vessels. The payoff was supposed to be funding for communist revolutions around the world. But the operation eventually was busted by the FBI, which apprehended the facilitators—the runners, couriers, speedboat drivers—who talked.

TV: Amazon Greenlights "Utopia" series

Amazon Studios announced today that it has greenlit a straight-to-series order for Utopia, a nine-episode series from award-winning Gillian Flynn, the best-selling author and screenwriter of Golden Globe nominated Gone Girl and HBO's highly anticipated Sharp Objects. 

Flynn has also inked an overall deal with Amazon Studios across television, marking Utopia as the first project. Utopia will be available exclusively on Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories.
Utopia is based on the British series of the same name written by Dennis Kelly. The series is a co-production between Endemol Shine North America and Kudos, an Endemol Shine Group UK production studio, and Amazon Studios.

A group of young adults, who meet online, are mercilessly hunted by a shadowy deep state organization after they come in to possession of a near mythical cult underground graphic novel - they discover the conspiracy theories in the comic's pages may actually be real and are forced in to the dangerous, unique and ironic position of saving the world.

"We are huge fans of Gillian Flynn's electrifying work," said Nick Hall, Head of Alternative Series for Amazon Studios. "She crafts stories that hold her audience in a constant state of suspense and subverts the expectations behind her characters. She will deliver Prime Video members a series they won't forget, and Utopia's relevance is sure to connect with viewers around the globe."

"Utopia is pure creative catnip to me. Dennis Kelly's show blew my mind, and he has been so incredibly generous in letting me crack open his world and play around in it and make it my own weird, wild place. Utopia is all about exploring resonant issues within dark, twisted storytelling--it's a series that's urgent and current and a little holy-crap!, but a hell of a lot of a fun," said Gillian Flynn.

Diederick Santer, CEO of Kudos said; "Dennis Kelly and the team at Kudos created a unique, dark and gripping British thriller, and we are incredibly excited that it has been so brilliantly reimagined by Gillian Flynn for a new global audience."

Flynn is the creator, executive producer and showrunner of Utopia, and executive producers include Jessica Rhoades (who Flynn collaborated with on Sharp Objects), Sharon HallKaren WilsonDennis Kelly and Diederick SanterSharon Levy, President, Unscripted & Scripted Television, Endemol Shine North America, will oversee production for Endemol Shine.

Prime Original series are available for Prime members to stream and enjoy using the Prime Video app for TVs, connected devices including Amazon Fire TV, and mobile devices, or online with other Prime Original series at, at no additional cost to their membership. Eligible customers who are not already Prime members can sign up for a free trial at For a list of all Prime Video compatible devices, visit Content is available through the Prime Video app and in more than 200 countries and territories.

Auto: McQueen's "Bullitt" Mustang on Show

This week, the original 1968 Mustang from the action flick “Bullitt” (1968) is on display on National Mustang Day on Tuesday and staying on display through Sunday as part of a weeklong event, sponsored by the Historic Vehicle Association.
The car was selected to be part of this year’s Cars at the Capital lineup from the Historic Vehicle Association. The Bullitt Mustang is one of only a handful of vehicles to be placed on the National Historic Vehicle Register and recognized as historically significant in the Library of Congress.
“The Mustang is one of the important cars of all time, and this is the most famous Mustang,” said Historic Vehicle Association President Mark Gessler.
The chase sequence the car was used in, involving tire-squealing slides and airborne jumps on the hilly streets of San Francisco, was groundbreaking. “All the chase scenes that you’ve ever seen in a movie after that — are all based on that,” Gessler said.
Two identical 1968 Mustang GT fastbacks were used in the movie, but after filming, the cars went their separate ways.
The “hero vehicle” driven by McQueen was sold by Warner Bros. to a private buyer, while the stunt car — used in many of the jumps during the famous chase scene — was sent to a salvage yard.
That jumper vehicle resurfaced in Baja, California, in early 2017, but the other was thought to be lost to history.
Turns out, Sean Kiernan inherited the car in 2014 from his late father, Robert, who had purchased it in 1974. But it wasn’t until this past January at the North American International Auto Show that the “Bullitt” hero vehicle was finally shown to the world again by the Kiernan family.
Sean Kiernan believes his father bought the car for between $3,000 and $6,000. Rather than keep it as a collector’s item, his parents used it regularly. “They put 46,000 miles on the car,” he said. “It was their daily driver.”
Estimates now put the car’s value at $3 million to $5 million, Gessler said.