Gates Skates, LeapFrog Leaps
By Olga Kharif
GATES TO ICOS: SEE YA. On Jan. 8, Paul Clark, CEO of pharmaceutical company Icos (ICOS ), got a call from Bill Gates, of Microsoft (MSFT ). The rest of us should be so lucky. But for Clark this was a surprise of the worst sort: Gates called to say he'd be leaving Icos' board for that of close friend Warren Buffett, chairman of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A , BRK-B ). That doesn't mean Icos is heading down the wrong track, though, Clark tells BusinessWeek Online.
The company's first drug, a competitor to erectile dysfunction heavyweight Viagra, is gaining market share in the U.S. and Europe, and it should become profitable in the second half of 2005, Clark says. Icos will also report results on trials of other treatments this year. Plus, the board still includes Vaughn Bryson, former CEO of Eli Lilly (LLY ); former COO of Microsoft Robert Herbold (he joins the board in March); and a former CEO of tech powerhouse IBM (IBM ), Frank Cary. Better yet, big Icos shareholder Gates "has never sold a share of Icos stock," says Clark. He hopes to keep it that way.
THE ART OF INVESTING. Marc Porter made the most important professional discovery of his life in the late '80s. Now president of venerable auction house Christie's Americas, he was sifting through a private library when he found a forgotten, yellowed manuscript. It was Abraham Lincoln's last speech, given three days before the President's assassination. At a recent auction, the paper fetched more than $2.5 million, about 10 times its worth a few years earlier. Indeed, as Porter can attest, the value of art of all kinds is steadily marching up -- which is certainly good news for Christie's.
Now more than ever, "more people are turning to art as a secure investment, part of an overall portfolio," Porter tells BusinessWeek Online. "We see that as an accelerating force in the market," particularly as the economy recovers and consumers' disposable incomes rise. The bummer for Porter is, fearing a conflict of interest, company rules prohibit him from collecting anything that Christie's offers. And since the auction house sells everything from rock 'n' roll memorabilia to paintings to manuscripts, that pretty much rules out everything. Or nearly everything.
"I collect restaurant bills," Porter jokes. Well, things could be worse.
LEAPING INTO COMPUTERS. Jerry Perez, president of toymaker LeapFrog (LF ), has two kids who are entering their teens, which could help explain why the company is moving from producing educational products for the under-10 crowd to targeting tweens. On Jan. 12, LeapFrog introduced Fly, a talking, computerized pen that can translate words into different languages and help teens with math or spelling. Among other things, a kid can draw a calculator on a piece of paper, push its buttons to make a calculation, and hear the answer.
Expected to be available for $99 this fall, this device marks a major leap for LeapFrog. "This really represents a departure for us. It's really not a toy product," says Perez, who contends the new product is "revolutionary."
LeapFrog will market the pen under the Fly brand and try to sell through mass-market retailers and electronics stores. It's already hatching ideas for improving Fly, for instance, by enabling e-mail access, he says. Hello, computer in a pen!
CORPORATE BLOGGER. Intel's (INTC ) Paul Otellini is dabbling in...writing. The world's largest semiconductor company confirmed to BusinessWeek Online that Otellini, due to succeed Craig Barrett as Intel's CEO later this year, has started a blog in December. In it, Otellini discusses Intel's strategic direction and other stuff we'd all love to read about.
So far, Otellini had blogged two or three entries, which "have been very well received," says an Intel spokesperson. But if you're like me, and dying to read Otellini's words of wisdom, I have bad news: Alas, the blog is internal, accessible only to Intelites.
EVA CHEN'S "DEMOTION". When Eva Chen became CEO of security software wizard Trend Micro this January, she says it didn't feel like a promotion. "I feel like I am demoted," the company's former CTO tells BusinessWeek Online, only half-jokingly. "I enjoy engineering products." On the other hand, she gets to hobnob with customers, negotiate complex deals, and travel all over the world (we caught up with her while she was in Tokyo).
Brother-in-law and fellow Trend Micro co-founder Steve Chang had tried Chen out as CEO for about six months prior to handing over the reins (Chang remains chairman). Chen got to negotiate the deal that put Trend Micro on the world map: In December, it became the security software used by e-mail service Hotmail. She also worked to expand a relationship with networking giant Cisco (CSCO ). Talk about a good start.
By Olga Kharif in Portland, Ore.
Edited by Thane Peterson