The Whispers Blog
Arkansas' breaking business news blog, with news and commentary from the Arkansas Business staff.
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Anyone who's read Mark Friedman's recent Arkansas Business cover story on Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s online retail efforts won't be surprised by much in this report today by the Wall Street Journal.
But it does contain some new on-the-record comments by Neil Ashe, the retailer's president and CEO of Global e-Commerce, who recognizes the challenges Wal-Mart faces while rethinking its supply chain to meet the demands of the online shopper who wants unlimited supply and quick delivery. As the Journal story notes, this is a party Wal-Mart's admittedly a little late to, but determined to solve at any cost:
Neil Ashe, Wal-Mart's president of global e-commerce, says Wal-Mart has solved similar conundrums before—most notably in 2005, when it reinvented its supply chain after plunging into the fresh-grocery business. Groceries now account for 55% of the company's U.S. sales.
Still, he concedes the online problem is challenging. He recounts a conversation at a director's meeting held at the e-commerce headquarters in San Bruno in March, when he was asked how long it would take and much it would cost to build out the e-commerce operation.
"It will take the rest of our careers and as much as we've got," Mr. Ashe says he replied. "This isn't a project. It's about the future of the company."
Subscribers can read the full Wall Street Journal piece here. (Non-subscribers might be able to get backdoor access by Googling the article's headline, "Wal-Mart's E-Stumble with Amazon.") WSJ reporter Shelly Banjo summarizes her story in the video above.
When last we checked in with Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale, it was spending an undisclosed amount of money to buy Circle Foods LLC, which makes frozen and refrigerated handheld Mexican foods, uncooked tortillas and Indian flatbreads.
This week comes words of an $11 million expansion of a beef, chicken and pork plant in Sherman, Texas. The plant is the largest employer in Sherman, and after adding about 75 jobs through the expansion, will have 1,200 workers there.
According to local CBS affiliate KXII, Tyson is getting nearly $500,000 in incentives to expand. You can see the full report in the video above.
The Alotian Club, which will host the Western Amateur golf tournament, has revealed the names of the some of the competitors who'll be teeing off at the ultra-exclusive course next month. Included are the country's two top-ranked amateurs:
No. 1 Bobby Wyatt and No. 2 Justin Thomas, who anchored the Crimson Tide’s victory in the NCAA finals June 2, are among 13 of the world’s top 20 amateurs who already have committed to play in the championship. They will be joined by two former Western Junior champions: No. 7-ranked Patrick Rodgers of Stanford, who won the Junior in 2010, and No. 9 Cory Whitsett, 2008 Junior champion and a member of the Alabama juggernaut.
Other players include last year's Western Amateur champion, No. 3-ranked Chris Williams, as well as No. 8-ranked Max Homa, No. 11 Michael Kim and No. 24 Michael Weaver. Deadline for entries is June 21
(You can read more about the event, including rules of the tournament, in a news release here (PDF).)
As we've noted, this will be the first time the Western Amateur has been played in Arkansas and the first time since 1966 it's been played in the South. It's also the first time The Alotian Club has hosted a major competition.
Tickets to the tournament, which takes place from July 29-Aug. 4, are still available at TheWesternAmateur.com.
Gannett Co., which owns KTHV-TV, Channel 11, in Little Rock and the Baxter Bulletin in Mountain Home, announced Thursday that it's buying Belo Corp. of Dallas in a $2.2 billion deal that includes $175 million of debt.
Gannett's purchase of 20 Belo stations in markets including Dallas, St. Louis, Phoenix, New Orleans and Seattle will bring its total station portfolio to 43, creating the fourth-largest owner of major network affiliates with 21 stations in top 25 markets.
In all, Gannett says it will become the No. 1 CBS affiliate group, the No. 4 ABC group and expand its current position as the No. 1 NBC group.
From the news release:
Gracia Martore, President and Chief Executive Officer of Gannett, said, “We are thrilled to bring together two highly respected media companies with rich histories of award-winning journalism, operational excellence and strong brand leadership. We have been successfully transforming Gannett into a diversified multi-media company with broadcast, digital and publishing components across high-growth markets nationwide, and this is another important step in the process.
(Note that the deal doesn't include Belo's newspaper properties, which includes the Dallas Morning News. Belo spun off its newspaper division into a separate company, A.H. Belo, in 2008.)
Obviously, the deal removes Belo Corp. from the list of possible buyers of Allbritton Communications Corp.'s portfolio of stations, which includes Little Rock ABC affiliate KATV-TV, Channel 7.
Allbritton announced earlier this year its intention to sell all its TV stations to focus on Politico, the fast-growing political news website it founded in 2007. The company told Arkansas Business last month that it hopes to sell its stations in one batch by the end of the summer.
The Gannett-Belo deal is a good sign for Allbritton -- more evidence that there's still companies looking to expand their local television portfolios. And Gannett's deal for Belo -- with a multiple at 9.4 times the average 2011-12 EBITDA multiple -- is good news for station valuations throughout the country.
"The deal appears to be really good news for TV station valuations and would seem to indicate that the rough economic times may be easing," Doug Krile, executive director of the Arkansas Broadcasters Association, said an email to me this morning. "Especially if buyers are willing to pay a substantial premium over the going stock price for properties."
Who's Left to Buy?
Meanwhile, now that Belo's sold out, who's left that could snatch up Allbritton's portfolio of ABC affiliates?
Barring the possibility that ABC might want to snap up the Allbritton stations to build out its "owned and operated" portfolio, the most likely candidate is probably Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. of Hunt Valley, Md., the country's largest TV station owner.
Sinclair's been on a tear lately, quickly adding to its stable of mid-sized market properties. It's announced three deals this year, and when they're complete, it will have doubled in size to operate 134 stations in 69 markets.
And in case you're wondering about Nexstar Broadcasting Corp. of Irving, Texas, which has itself been on an acquisitive streak -- well, you can probably count it out of the running. Along with its shared services partner Mission Broadcasting, Nexstar has already maxed out its presence in Little Rock, controlling two stations: NBC affiliate KARK-TV, Channel 4, and Fox affiliate KLRT-TV, Channel 16.
(* Arkansas Business and THV 11 have a news-sharing agreement.)
Frontline Athlete Management of Little Rock continues to add to its deep roster of baseball talent.
The firm started by agent Darek Braunecker advised more first-round picks in this year’s Major League Baseball Draft than any other agency, according to sportsagentblog.com. Braunecker himself represents three of Frontline’s five first round picks, giving him the second-highest total of players in the top 33 picks.
Picks No. 4, 7, 8, 21 and 26 are Frontline clients. Based on 2012 contract information, those picks are worth about $13 million. Last year’s No. 4 pick earned $4.2 million.
Frontline is already home to pitchers (and Arkansas' own) like A.J. Burnett, Cliff Lee, Drew Smyly and Travis Wood.
Braunecker’s newest clients include:
- Kohl Stewart, Pitcher, No. 4 overall, Minnesota Twins
- Trey Ball, Pitcher, No. 7, Boston Red Sox
- Hunter Dozier, Shortstop No. 8, Kansas City Royals
Other Frontline players selected:
- Nick Ciuffo, Catcher, No. 21, Tampa Bay Rays
- Rob Kaminsky, Pitcher, No. 28, St. Louis Cardinals
Here’s more on Braunecker from the Dec. 17, 2012 Arkansas Business.
- Video: WSJ Looks at Wal-Mart's High-Stakes Battle With Amazon
- Tyson Foods Plans $11M Expansion in Sherman, Texas
- Here Are Some of the Golfers You'll See at Alotian Club's Western Amateur Tournament
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