"Just in case the dot-com thing doesn't work out" -- Ad on the New York subway for Kaplan, the test preparation service Toyota plans to introduce a new sports car following its debut in Formula One racing next year, BusinessWeek has learned. A top Toyota exec is mum about exact specifications. But with the retro boom in full swing, the car could be a revival of Toyota's classic GT2000 featured in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice.
That slick road rocket, powered by a 2-liter, 150-horsepower, six-cylinder engine, broke world records for speed and endurance at the time. Only 346 were made before production stopped in 1970. By recreating it, Toyota would seek to spice up its image and lower the median age of its customers, mainly boomers buying its mainstay sedans and SUVs. (Toyota makes a low-end sports car, the $23,000 MR2 Spyder.)
Entering F1 racing is also part of that effort. "It doesn't make much sense to compete in Formula One without a true sports car in our lineup," says Tadaaki Jagawa, executive vice-president for corporate planning. And that could mean the GT2000 will also live twice. Few have been more vocal advocates of the personal computer than Joel Kocher. He was Michael Dell's right-hand man at Dell Computer through the early '90s, where he whipped the staff into a direct-sales juggernaut. He oversaw Mac clone Power Computing's hypersales in the mid-'90s. And in '98, he took over PC maker Micron Electronics.
But that was then. Now, with PC sales tanking as customers turn to the Net, Kocher says the good times are over for the PC--forever. Sure, other PC execs talk about moving "beyond the PC" to sell Web servers, storage, and other Net-related gear.
But Kocher is spending all of Micron's investment dollars on its HostPro hosting business. "You'd have to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to see where things are going," he says.
Rather than run software on their own PCs, companies will have applications--from simple word processing to complex financial programs--delivered for a monthly fee from HostPro-style data centers. In other words, Kocher will no longer sell computers, but sell the use of them. "I believe down to my tippy tippy toes that this migration will happen," says Kocher.
He says Micron's low standing--it's the No. 10 player--gives him an advantage. Simply put, he can walk away. He has tried to sell the PC business, and insiders say he may soon start liquidating assets. Back when Ken Starr was exposing the wayward ways of Bill Clinton, his approval ratings sank so low that his future looked more doubtful than the ex-President's. Some of his colleagues were so unhappy with his notoriety they suggested he sever his ties with his Chicago law firm, Kirkland & Ellis.
But five months after quietly returning, the 53-year-old Starr is doing just fine, thank you. In fact, he's leading some of the biggest antitrust and intellectual-property cases going on in the U.S. today. He helped a coalition of high-tech companies craft an appeal brief in the Microsoft case, arguing for breaking up the software giant. He's the lead counsel for Beech-Nut Nutrition before the Federal Trade Commission over its plan to merge with H.J. Heinz. And he represents National Geographic in an upcoming Supreme Court case over copyright disputes between media companies and freelancers.
So how does the longtime corporate lawyer feel to be back representing business? "Very, very relieved," Starr says, adding that five years as independent counsel has left him with a new appreciation for working outside the govern-ment. Proxy season is nigh, and executive perks are under scrutiny. Here are previously undisclosed examples found by Nell Minow, co-founder of the Corporate Library, a governance think tank, and PricewaterhouseCoopers' Stewart Reifler, who negotiates on execs' behalf. The execs are still in place, but these provisions may not be:
EMILY WOODS, Board Chairman, J. Crew Group
Assurance she could take the Concorde when traveling to Europe (1997)*
VINCENT McMAHON, Chairman, World Wrestling Federation Entertainment
Up to $50,000 reimbursement expense for "cleaning services" (1999)
RAY IRANI, CEO, Occidental Petroleum
His perk: $87,745 for "financial planning" (1997)
W.J. SAUNDERS III, CEO, Advanced Micro Devices
His $1 million base salary has a consumer price index escalator clause (1996)
* Contract year is denoted in parentheses
Data: The Corporate Library/PricewaterhouseCoopers/SEC filings Wanna go where everyone knows your name? Some five-star hotels think so, and are equipping staff with discreet two-way radios. Bellhops let reception know who's on the way in so they can be greeted by name. Floor attendants and even pool staff do the same.
Sound a little too intimate? Park Hyatts, Ritz-Carltons, and a handful of others say high-end guests love it. "It is part of the art of service," says Richard Hadek of The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., where 200 of 1,900 employees relay guests' names into their lapels like secret agents.
Ritz-Carlton was so happy with a San Francisco trial last fall it plans "talkabout" radios in all 39 properties. And 18 Park Hyatts worldwide may adopt them after positive responses in Chicago and Tokyo. "Greeting people by their last names impresses them," says John Moroney of the Park Hyatt Chicago. The price is impressive, too: just $90 per radio. More than a year ago, A man in Dallas who legally changed his name to DotComGuy decided to stay home for all 365 days of the year 2000. Equipped with a Gateway PC, he set up 20 Web cams to record his everyday movements and ordered everything online: his food, clothing, and even a pet, DotComDog (from www.aspca.com). The point was to prove that the Age of the Internet means never having to leave home again. He did, and then some, sparking imitators around the world and even an MSN TV commercial.
So what's he done since leaving the DotCompound? For starters, he went to a party--at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1. Then he went to Disney World with his girlfriend.
But for the most part, DotComGuy spends his days solo, writing, e-mailing, and reorganizing his personal life. The resulting quiet, it turns out, is a bit of a letdown. "It's almost boring now," frets the 27-year-old former systems manager who misses his minor-celebrity status and drop-by visits from personalities such as Ed McMahon and the band Kansas. His DotComGuy Inc. had signed up sponsors such as UPS and 3Com and generated ad revenues of $2 million that went to pay technical costs and up to 20 employees promoting his endeavor. Today, DotComGuy says he merely broke even.
Now he's considering new projects: a book, speaking engagements, a new Web site. He's also planning his wedding and...a name change, back to Mitch Maddox. "My fiancee doesn't want to be `Mrs. DotComGuy."' In this era of dot-com failures, it's easy to see why. Number of the nation's top 200 CEOs replaced last year for failing to deliver growth and profitability: 20%
Data: Bain & Co.