"I am not trying to be heroic or controversial." -- Piper Jaffray analyst Safa Rashtchy on setting a $600 target for Google's shares in 2006, to AP
Will Chrysler build a grown-up version of its Baby Bentley? After hitting a home run with the in-your-face looks of its 300 sedan, which some think resembles the Bentley Arnage, Chrysler is testing the waters with a luxury car built on the same platform.
At the Detroit auto show, which opens to the media on Jan. 8, Chrysler will show off the Imperial, a concept car named for its boulevard boat of the '60s. The Imperial is a few inches longer than the 300, with a posh cabin. Seats have two-toned leather, and front and rear doors open away from each other to let passengers in and out more easily.
Chrysler insiders are cagey about whether the car will be built. It helps, though, that Chrysler is likely to produce the Dodge Challenger concept. That knockoff of a 1970 Challenger also uses the 300 platform. Meanwhile, the company is taking a baby step: Recently, it commissioned an Ohio company to stretch a few thousand 300s to sell as personal limos.
Nick Lachey, soon-to-be ex-husband of starlet Jessica Simpson, wants in on the social networking action. On Feb. 1 he'll launch Yfly.com with buddy A.J. Discala and entrepreneur Drew Levin. They hope to make it a MySpace.com (NWS) for young teens. The site will sport cool technology such as wireless messaging direct from the site. But what really sets Yfly apart is a focus on safety. When teens enter personal info, a button pops up, prompting them to consider that parents, teachers, or predators might be reading in. Teens are invited to join by others in their school, so unfamiliar names can be singled out. And WiredSafety consultant Parry Aftab will watch for outsiders.
Lachey says he got behind Yfly after learning that his identity is one of those most frequently used by predators to lure teens. A December poll of 1,468 teens by the Polly Klaas Foundation found half have exchanged messages with someone they don't know. "It's disturbing to hear someone is using your name and identity to commit these horrible acts," Lachey says. His name is sure to generate buzz. But it's possible a safety- oriented site will come off like your mom's after-prom party. Cool is hard to manufacture, even for a heartthrob.
It looks more and more as if Guidant (GDT) shareholders will have to make do with a lowered bid from Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). Yet the money J&J is offering senior Guidant execs is growing. In a Dec. 23 Securities & Exchange Commission filing, J&J says it boosted payouts, contingent on the merger's completion, to more than a dozen Guidant higher-ups by $5 million. As reported by Footnoted.org, CFO Keith Brauer will receive $2.7 million (up $108,000 from March, 2005) and Fred McCoy, president of cardiac rhythm management, will get $2.3 million (up $210,000). And a group of nine unnamed execs, originally to receive $13 million, has been expanded to 11, with $17.2 million in pay. Not included: former CEO Ronald Dollens or Chairman and interim CEO James Cornelius.
Charles Elson, a University of Delaware governance expert, says the payouts appear to "sweeten J&J's offer." Guidant's board has backed J&J's bid heading into a Jan. 31 shareholder vote, despite a higher offer from Boston Scientific. (BSX) J&J and Guidant declined to comment.
It's the price of product placement: Create a special pair of shoes for a hit movie, and fans may clamor for them. Al Cabino, a twentysomething sneaker enthusiast from Montreal, loves the moonboot-like Nikes worn by Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future II. Two months ago, Cabino started an online petition to get Nike (NKE) to produce them. "They're the most mythical sneakers in film history," he gushes. So far, Cabino has 3,500 signatures from 30 countries. There's a precedent: Fans got ASICS to make a small number of shoes worn by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol. 1. Nike, while flattered, says it has no plans to deliver.
WHY READ IT: To find the latest craze among tweens and teens. Anastasia Goodstein, an audience participation manager for Current TV, keeps tabs on trends that resonate with teens and highlights those that flop, helped by a handful of teen bloggers.
NOTABLE POST: On the new popularity of participation-oriented rock bands: "This isn't going to replace 50 Cent or Holla Back Girls anytime soon, but...it is part of a huge influence informing everything from fashion to magazines to iPod cases."
When a new biography of Hershey (HSY) founder Milton S. Hershey hits stores this week, it will sport a disclaimer saying the book is "Neither authorized nor sponsored by the Hershey Co." That settled a lawsuit claiming the cover infringed trademarks. But according to the author, this was more than a dustup over a dust jacket.
Michael D'Antonio says that in early December a Hershey official demanded changes in Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams (Simon & Schuster). The author declined, and the lawsuit followed. Hershey now says it is satisfied.
But D'Antonio says that in Hershey, Pa., anything challenging the founder's reputation is still a hot potato. The book alleges that accounts may have been "jiggered" to extract a premium for a caramel company Milton sold in 1900 and that he was a heavy gambler. "It's common for people here to think of him as a saint," notes Pamela Whitenack, director of the Hershey archives.
The days of avoiding sales tax on the stuff you buy online may be numbered. Salivating over booming Web purchases -- $30 billion this holiday season, by some measures -- states are taking the first steps toward requiring retailers to collect taxes on Internet and mail-order sales. And 2006 will see a bipartisan push in Congress to O.K. the levies.
Since 2000 nearly all of the 45 states charging sales taxes have worked together to establish a simplified and relatively uniform collection system. The project was started after Congress barred states from taxing Internet access and began pressing governors to curb taxation of Internet-based sales. The Supreme Court has prohibited states from requiring out-of-state sellers to collect the taxes, largely because of a morass of multiple state and local levies. Now, 13 states, including Michigan and New Jersey, have adopted a streamlined system aimed at satisfying the court's concerns. Six other states have started incorporating the changes into their own laws. Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) are asking Congress to give those states the go-ahead to collect sales taxes from e-tailers.
Not surprisingly, bricks-and-clicks retailers back the change. (Many voluntarily collect taxes on their own online sales.) But expect a fight in Congress, with Web heavyweights such as eBay (EBAY) and AOL (TWX) leading the charge. They'll have the support of anti-tax Republicans in the House as well as the White House. But with California and others likely to sign on to the simplification plan, pressure to approve the changes is building.
One holiday season soon, don't be surprised to see state sales tax included when you click on "place your order."
Three years after going private, El Al is one of the world's most profitable airlines. Higher fares and an 18% rise in passengers more than offset higher fuel prices and the cost of the Israeli airline's rigorous security measures. But El Al may soon face its first Israeli competition. The government, hoping to bring in a million more tourists in 2006, will decide soon whether to grant Israir, a low-cost startup, permission to fly the lucrative Tel Aviv-New York route.
Having operated thrice-weekly charter flights, Israir wants to launch daily service. Industry insiders say the government is leaning toward approval. But El Al claims the government pledged not to permit a second carrier unless El Al missed traffic benchmarks. El Al Board Chairman Israel "Izzy" Borovich, who controls a majority stake, says the airline has met those conditions.