In Business This Week: Headliner
Lloyd Ward: The Maytag Man May Be Less Lonesome
When Lloyd Ward took the top job at Maytag a year ago, he arrived with a reputation as a marketing whiz. But who could have guessed that he would put his talents to work trying to make his biggest sale yet: an auction of the nation's No. 3 manufacturer of household appliances?
Ward, 51, has won praise for rolling out high-end products such as the front-loading Neptune Washer, but Newton (Iowa)-based Maytag hasn't fared as well in the middle market, where discounters are cutting prices--and cutting into Maytag's profits. Repeated earnings warnings have put Maytag's shares through the wringer: They're now in the high 30s, down from 64 last September.
Ward isn't talking, but the most likely buyer is Electrolux of Sweden, which makes Frigidaire appliances. Rival Whirlpool, which slashed its profit outlook on Aug. 30, has its own problems. Consolidation could shore up the industry--and Maytag shareholders--but not Ward. A takeover would cost him his chairman and CEO job.By Michael Arndt in Chicago; Edited by John ProtosReturn to top
AT&T Tightens Up Its Cables
AT&T is shifting its cable strategy into high gear. The company, racing to meet a yearend target of 500,000 to 650,000 cable phone subscribers, must more than double its growth rate of 1,600 a day. So beginning Sept. 1, people who sign up for cable phone service will receive up to five months of free local and long-distance calls. Cable-modem customers will get similar promotions in some markets. AT&T also hopes to boost cable growth by placing high-speed Internet service Excite@Home, in which it owns a 25% stake, on its books one quarter sooner than expected. AT&T lowered its earnings estimates for the third quarter, but investors liked the move. They took it as proof that AT&T is assuming more control over the venture.Edited by John ProtosReturn to top
CNN Fails at Glitz, Tries Economy
Three years ago, CNN hired veteran ABC news producer Rick Kaplan to remake the Atlanta-based cable-TV channel in the image of one of its glitzier broadcast rivals. Kaplan did just that. But on Aug. 30, he resigned after failing to reenergize Time Warner's CNN despite his flair for creative programming. He launched a glitzy newsmagazine show called NewsStand and raided the networks for stars such as Jeff Greenfield. He even spent $7.5 million on fancy new sets. But none of it was enough to keep viewers watching when there were no wars and no O.J. Ratings are down 35% so far this year compared with 1999. Now CNN is promoting longtime CNN hands to focus on cutting costs.Edited by John ProtosReturn to top
Sony Gets Real Personal
Sony dove into the U.S. handheld-device market on Aug. 30 with a personal digital assistant that differs little from the best-selling Palm V. Sony is counting on the 4-ounce, $399 Clie--which is short for Communication Linkage for Information & Entertainment--to move into the nascent market for networked entertainment. The company could use a hit. In the U.S., Sony has struggled to sell its personal computers and last year withdrew from the cell-phone business. Now, as technology enables mobile gear to handle music and video, the inventor of the Walkman hopes to fare better in the U.S. market with Clie.Edited by John ProtosReturn to top