"I want to be Jiminy Cricket to humanity."
--Ted Turner, who is giving away $1 billion to humanitarian programs, in an interview with BUSINESS WEEKEDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top
THE PRINCE AND THE PRINCESSES
SAUDI PRINCE ALWALEED IS getting deeper into hotels, a booming industry lately. The 40-year-old billionaire is negotiating to buy seven Princess Hotels International from British conglomerate Lonrho for $500 million, say people close to the deal. Already, Alwaleed owns stakes in the Four Seasons chain and five Fairmont Hotels, including Boston's Copley Plaza and Manhattan's Plaza--as well as such nonlodging assets as Citicorp and Apple Computer.
The high-end Princess resorts "have significant upside potential," says Arthur Adler, a Coopers & Lybrand partner. They're in choice vacation destinations: two each in Acapulco, Barbados, and Bermuda; and one in Scottsdale, Ariz. Now, they cater mainly to tourists, but the Prince wants to go after the business and convention market. Lonrho and the Prince aren't commenting.
Trouble is, the Princess properties need costly rehabbing. Alwaleed and Fairmont spent up to $15 million to refurbish the Copley Plaza. The Prince is counting on strong management for the sites from a familiar team, his 50%-owned San Francisco-based Fairmont Hotel Management LP. Fairmont CEO Robert Small, 58, is an old pro at resorts: He once ran Walt Disney World's resorts division.Lisa Sanders EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top
A MERGER OF MERGEMEISTERS
IT'S RARE, BUT CONSULTING firms sometimes take their own advice. Consider Mercer Management Consulting, soon to announce a merger with rival Corporate Decisions Inc. Terms aren't disclosed, but those close to the deal call it a mixture of cash and stock.
Mercer got attention with its 1995 book Grow to Be Great, calling for growth when reengineering was still the mantra for most consultants. CDI, though smaller, has a growth-oriented following of its own. Staffers wrote Value Migration, a 1996 business best-seller linking shareholder wealth with knowing customer needs.
The merger will create a $300 million strategy consultant (some 15% of that from CDI) that will operate under the Mercer name, with a total of 17 offices and 1,200 staffers. The new Mercer, a unit of professional-services provider Marsh & McLennan, will remain the nation's No.5 strategy consulting firm in revenue.
Unlike the recently announced union of accounting-and-consulting giants Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand, which still requires the O.K. of partners, CDI and Mercer negotiated for 18 months to be sure that everyone was on board. Post-merger, the new Mercer won't be downsizing, since it is growing so fast it has to hire people. That's called practicing what you preach.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT Jennifer ReingoldReturn to top
A FED WATCHDOG TAKES A BREATHER
FOR NEARLY A QUARTER-CENTURY, a self-appointed group of academic and business economists known as the Shadow Open Market Committee has met religiously every six months to critique the real Federal Reserve. And for much of that period, the inflation-hawk Shadow Fed has found reason to fault Fed policy, usually for not being tough enough.
But that 24-year run has been snapped. The Shadow Fed is forgoing the meeting scheduled for Sept. 30. Reason: With the economy continuing its remarkable run of robust growth--and with a surprising lack of inflationary pressures--the group could not bring itself to second-guess Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. "We see no reason to meet," admits Carnegie Mellon University economist Allan Meltzer, who co-founded and chairs the Shadow Fed.
Not that Meltzer's group doesn't try to claim credit for Greenspan's success. "While there is still room for improvement, many of the policies we advocated are currently in place," Meltzer says. "They have worked as we expected them to work." In other words, the Shadow Fed knows.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT Dean FoustReturn to top