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in the spotlight

Newtown Massacre Stirs Cries for Gun Control, Pressure on Politicians and Brands

Posted by Dale Buss on December 17, 2012 07:14 PM

Newtown, Conn., and its survivors have only begun to cope with the aftermath of the rampage that ended in the deaths of 28 people, 20 of them first-graders, on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

But it didn't take long for gun-control advocates to urge President Obama and all politicians, not just Democrats, to take a stand and rev up action for tighter controls on the types of weapons used by the shooter, Adam Lanza, as polls show that the majority of Americans favor gun control laws.

Those measures are shining a spotlight on "Big Gun" brands such as Smith & Wesson and owners of gun makers such as Cerberus, whose privately held Freedom Group is a "firearms conglomerate" (as Fortune puts it) that produces the Bushmaster .223 assault weapon (and a "man card" campaign raising hackles across the web) used by Lanza, along with his mother's Glock and Sig Sauer handguns.

Cerberus is taken to task in Eliot Spitzer's Slate column today, because the private-equity firm has acquired the find-it-at-Walmart Bushmaster and other top gun brands over the past several years. Meanwhile, investors nervous about the prospects for gun freedoms have been sending down the stocks of Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger. Even a hunting-gear retailer, Cabela's, has been caught in an investment downdraft since the Newtown massacre, Investor's Business Daily reports.

Naturally coming under the spotlight once again is Sig Sauer and Glock, an Austria-based arms manufacturer with a U.S. office in Georgia. Its semiautomatic pistols have been used in some of the biggest recent mass murders including the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and killings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.Continue reading...

in the spotlight

Tim Cook Polishes Legacy and Apple With US Jobs (and Steve Jobs) Promise

Posted by Mark J. Miller on December 6, 2012 04:22 PM

Outsourcing jobs has been a topic that kept coming up over and over again during the battle for the US presidency this year. And for good reason. American companies have been moving their manufacturing jobs elsewhere for eons, ia fact that wasn’t exactly helping the nation’s economy recover from a bruising recession.

Apple, which has manufactured most of its products in Asia for years, is doing an about-face following its bruising over labor rights at its Foxconn manufacturing plant in China. Now CEO Tim Cook tells NBC's Brian Williams (in an interview that will air Thursday night) that Apple will manufacture an entire Mac line in the US starting next year. 

“I don’t think we have a responsibility to create a certain kind of job,” Cook told Bloomberg Businessweek in its new cover story on his first year helming the brand. “But I think we do have a responsibility to create jobs.” Cook estimates that the company has created more than 600,000 jobs in America since 1980 (WSJ.com does a nice job summarizing Apple's US manufacturing history.)

Perhaps this is a way for Cook and Apple to give a little back to America. The New York Times reports that Apple is planning to shell out $100 million for American manufacturing next year. It currently manufactures some parts of the iPhone in the US. It's also, of course, a way for Cook to carve his own brand and legacy apart from his predecessor and old boss, Steve Jobs.

“My own personal philosophy on giving is best stated in a [John F.] Kennedy quote, 'To whom much is given, much is expected,’” Cook told Businessweek. “I have always believed this. Always. I think that Apple and Apple’s employees have done enormous good and can do even more.”Continue reading...

in the spotlight

Obama Pitches CEOs on His Fiscal Cliff Message; Is He Listening to Them Too?

Posted by Dale Buss on December 6, 2012 09:55 AM

President Obama lobbied a group of big business leaders in Washington this week with his views about the looming fiscal cliff. But at least one of the most important heads of a major American business, Ford CEO Alan Mulally, was taking no guff either from Obama or from the leaders of the Senate and House with whom the president is deadlocked — and apparently willing to push to the edge, if not over it, in a political stand-off.

"It's a concern to all of us, because this is a very, very fragile recovery," Mulally said on MSNBC this week. "It's just so important that we come together on a plan to deal with both the revenue side, but also the expense side, because really what we're talking about is keeping the economic development going. That's the most important thing about this issue."

And while so far the U.S. auto industry has more than carried its weight in the nation's sluggish economic recovery, Mulally said that he couldn't guarantee that it would be able to post continued sales increases if Obama and Congress don't deal quickly and decisively with the fiscal cliff.Continue reading...

in the spotlight

In the News: The Aftermath of Sandy

Posted by Shirley Brady on October 31, 2012 12:38 PM

While your humbled (by Sandy) editor's NYC apartment is still without power, I've made it to a power outlet and Wi-Fi and finally catching up with some of the impact of the storm on the U.S. and Canada, with 107 people dead and an estimated $20 billion in damages and $30 billion in lost business:

in the spotlight

Business as Unusual: Closures, Preparations for Hurricane Sandy

Posted by Shirley Brady on October 29, 2012 10:06 AM

A snapshot of how Hurricane Sandy is impacting the U.S. today, as states shut down transit systems and schools, and many businesses are closed or letting employees work from home as the northeast is in lockdown mode: 

in the spotlight

P&G Earnings: Bob McDonald's Good Day at the Office

Posted by Dale Buss on October 25, 2012 01:12 PM

Chalk this up as a "black"-letter day for Procter & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald, as the company beat analysts' forecasts with its quarterly profit and P&G stock rose to its highest level in four years. After several months of unrelenting pressure on McDonald over the company's less-than-stellar performance, no one would blame him for enjoying the rest of the afternoon.

McDonald has been battling slipping sales, market share and margins in many of P&G's brands with newly hatched plans to cut costs, renew product innovation, and narrow the focus onto key markets, products and countries. He's also being prodded by critics such as hedge-fund investor Bill Ackman, who's got a $1.8-billion stake in the company and wants changes fast, and the P&G executive retiree who wrote a 13-page letter of complaint that he sent recently to McDonald. And it didn't help that Warren Buffett this week commented that "the jury is out right now" on the company.

Yet in announcing per-share earnings of $1.06 for the fiscal first quarter that beat last year's $1.01 a share and analysts' expectations of a 96-cent quarter, P&G appeared to benefit from progress in all of McDonald's key areas of concern, including boosting productivity and widening gross margins.Continue reading...

in the spotlight

Lance Armstrong Loses Seven Titles In One Blow

Posted by Mark J. Miller on October 22, 2012 10:01 AM

It took years of work and sacrifice to win seven straight Tours de France, but it only took a minute for all seven to be taken off the record of the now-disgraced Lance Armstrong.

The announcement finally came Monday morning that cycling’s governing body, the International Cycling Union (which couldn't catch Armstrong red-handed through 218 tests) was erasing the famed rider’s slate since there was plenty of evidence that Armstrong himself hadn’t exactly been clean during his cycling days, and was banning him for life from competing in the sport.

The man who made the Nike anti-doping commercial above has denied it vehemently, of course, but his fellow riders have one by one decided to talk about what they saw him do and how they were, well, Strongarmed into cooperating, as the New York Times reported in a damning recap of their testimony.In the wake of the ICU decision, one of Armstrong's last remaining sponsors — Oakley — announced it's severing ties with the cyclist.Continue reading...

in the spotlight

Red Bull Stratos: You'll Believe a Man, and Brand, Can Fly

Posted by Mark J. Miller on October 9, 2012 11:06 AM

Can Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner break the sound barrier by falling from the edge of space? That is the question on everyone's mind as Baumgartner, backed by Red Bull, attempts to become the first human to break the sound barrier unaided by a vehicle.

In a huge leap (literally) for science and brand sponsorships, Red Bull is funding the historic attempt that will see Baumgartner jump out of a balloon above Roswell, New Mexico. He plans to the jump from a height of over 120,000 feet, and will be free-falling towards earth at an estimated 700mph, as soon as the high winds let him actually make the jump. Watch for updates on Twitter and live here. (Update: Today's mission was cancelled "due to strong winds" and has been rescheduled for Oct. 14.)

Like Baumgartner, the execs at Red Bull like to help folks break boundaries. Whether it is helping a few people rave into the wee hours, funding the creation of one of the most incredible Rube Goldberg-esque bits of tomfoolery ever, expanding its flavor menu or funding a daredevil's plunge nearly 23 miles to Earth, Red Bull seems game for, well, pretty much anything.Continue reading...

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