"Even Inspector Clouseau could find last year's guilty party: your chairman" -- Warren Buffett, accepting the blame for Berkshire Hathaway's poor 1999 performance.Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top
Sofa Spuds Never Had It So Good
It was a big week for Food.com. On Mar. 9, the San Francisco-based Web vendor of take-out meals announced an $80 million round of financing with stakes from McDonald's and Blockbuster. Six days later, the company bought Takeout Taxi, the country's largest meals delivery service. It all raises an intriguing question: Will it soon be routine to have Big Macs delivered along with Casablanca?
After all, Takeout Taxi gives Food.com access to delivery vehicles in big markets: Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. And the new delivery fleet will begin a pilot project with Blockbuster to deliver videos as well as meals. Food.com CEO Richard Frank and McDonald's say delivery of McDonald's food is not on the menu. But a spokesman did say that McDonald's wants to explore "synergies" with Food.com further down the road.
With the purchase of Takeout Taxi, Food.com enters into a rivalry with hot startup Kozmo.com. The nation's largest market, New York, home of Urban Fetch, may be another contest. Both Kozmo and Urban Fetch employ couriers to deliver videos, food, and other goodies within an hour.By Alex Salkever; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top
Wynn-Win Situation for Vegas?
What's a jobless visionary to do? If it's Steve Wynn, the man who built lavish casinos like Las Vegas' Bellagio--and who just sold the Mirage Resorts casinos to MGM Grand for $6.4 billion--the answer might be to try one's luck in Vegas yet again. That's the buzz in the tight-knit local gambling community. Most figure Wynn is likely to make a bid for the deteriorating Desert Inn, once home to billionaire recluse Howard Hughes and hangout of Hollywood's Rat Pack.
The hotel, with 32 acres on the Strip, is on the market after South African gambling tycoon Sol Kerzner's $275 million bid to buy it from Starwood Hotels & Resorts fell apart.
Wynn takes away about $400 million for his 12% Mirage stake. After getting an earful from shareholders and stock analysts about share price, he isn't talking, but probably won't want to run a public company again. With friends like ex-junk-bond dealer Michael Milken, however, he could doubtless finance another showcase. Last fall, Wynn considered a casino with a James Bond motif. At any rate, he has time to consider his next move. The MGM deal isn't set to close until late this summer.By Ronald Grover; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top
Kasparov Makes a Move on the Web
Michael Jordan may have cornered the athletic-footwear market with merchandise bearing his name, but World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov is set to create his own franchise on a playing field no athlete has yet conquered: the Web.
The man who battled a computer in two historic matches (one win, one loss) has launched KasparovChess Online. It will feature real-time playing, interactive lessons, tournaments, forums, chess news, and, of course, merchandise. Kasparov sees the Net as particularly suited to the cerebral realities of chess: "Chess is just as attractive online [as it is offline] because it doesn't lose its flavor."
The site rolled out in mid-March with $9 million in financing, and Kasparov hopes to take it public by year's end. Company strategy is to focus on young people, largely recruited through online tournaments. The young demographics should also draw sponsors and advertisers to the site, which wants 500,000 members by the end of the year. One focus: hiring grand masters to teach. One-on-one lessons will range up to $75 an hour--probably a lot less than Michael Jordan would charge for a one-on-one.By Stefani Eads; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top