"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
---President ClintonEDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top
WHEN DUMB NAMES HAPPEN TO GOOD FUNDS
NAMING A MUTUAL FUND The Gabelli Global Interactive Couch Potato Fund may have seemed a gently whimsical notion a few years back. Now, however, the idea seems merely half-baked.
Money manager Mario Gabelli launched Couch Potato in 1994 as a multimedia investment vehicle to buy growth stocks in the telecommunications, entertainment, and computer industries. The fund has done well, averaging a respectable 18.3% annual return since inception and a smart 41.7% last year.
The name has proved a clunker, though. Couch Potato has attracted a paltry $45 million in assets in four years. "I think people don't know what it is," says Marc Gabelli, Mario's 30-year-old son, who runs Couch Potato.
Do investors think Marc picks stocks with a beer in one hand, a remote in the other? Maybe they pass it up because they figure a Couch Potato has no get-up-and-go. Who knows? At any rate, Gabelli now wants to rename Couch Potato. Nothing has been chosen yet, but it may be wise to pass up any name with a vegetable in it.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATT Robert BarkerReturn to top
MIKE MILKEN'S VISION THING
MICHAEL MILKEN, the once-convicted, still-rich former junk-bond king, has strong feelings about how to run his $800 million company, Knowledge Universe. So did Joseph Costello, who joined KU last October, planning to be its chief executive. But those ideas were very different. Guess who left?
Costello had been CEO of Cadence Design Systems, a software company, before joining KU, a group of educational, consulting, and training firms founded by Milken and Oracle boss Larry Ellison. Costello wanted Knowledge Universe, cobbled together through acquisitions, to develop its own educational software. While he had no employment contract, Costello says Milken promised to make him CEO. The company, run by its five-member board, has no chief executive.
Alas, Costello's dreams weren't to be. He left in December without being paid. He told BUSINESS WEEK that Milken sees dealmaking, not technology development, as the right focus for KU. "It's an LBO kind of thing--how to make things more valuable. I want to really change education." Milken wouldn't comment. Costello, however, says that the parting was amicable. And it was friendly enough that Milken may even back a new software company for him.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATT Peter BurrowsReturn to top
ZIPPERGATE HAS THE AD WRITERS BUSY
YOU'D THINK BILL CLINTON'S latest scandal would be the stuff that dreams are made of for the execs behind the Hollywood satire Wag the Dog. Think again.
Despite the similarities between real life and the movie, in which a fictional President gets caught in his own Zippergate, moviegoers aren't rushing to see it. Grosses fell the week after the scandal broke. So New Line Cinema has changed its print ads to subtly capitalize on Clinton's problems. It has put a White House silhouette in the ads with a large-type blurb from a review: "The action starts with a crisis in the White House." The change isn't unusual for a flick the studio hopes will see a long release, say New Line execs.
Meanwhile, Universal Pictures is taking a different marketing tack for its Clinton-based film, Primary Colors, a sexy, behind-closed-doors--and fictional--account of the 1992 Presidential election, starring John Travolta. Based on last year's best-seller of the same name, it opens on Mar. 20. But Universal doesn't plan on adding to its ad budget. "We don't have to," says one exec. "Bill Clinton seems to be doing all the marketing we need."EDITED BY ROBERT McNATT Ron GroverReturn to top