Welcome to the Jan. 4 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

The Chinese appliance maker who tried to buy Maytag…

Screenshot of GE Appliances website.

If GE’s appliance division were bought by a Chinese-based multinational, the purchase would come, among other things, with a heavy dose of irony.

Last month, GE pulled the plug on the division’s $3.3 billion sale to Sweden-based AB Electrolux as an antitrust trial was about to go into its fifth week.

Regulators had objected to the deal because they feared it would create a duopoly, in which Electrolux and Whirlpool would control virtually all of the appliance market.

GE still plans to sell the division, and is now looking for another buyer. CEO Jeffrey Immelt said in a recent conference that he expects to sell the unit early this year.

Bloomberg, quoting unnamed sources, said that China-based multinational Haier Group is considering an offer.

That’s the same Haier Group that about a decade ago was interested in buying GE rival Maytag.

A source familiar with the industry told IL that in 2006 rumors swirled that antitrust legislators allowed Whirlpool to acquire Maytag to prevent the latter from being purchased by investors including the Haier Group.

The Washington Post reported in 2005 that the Haier Group’s proposed purchase of Maytag, coming on the heels of China-based Lenovo Group buying IBM’s PC business, “helped touch off a wave of anxiety about the ambition of Chinese companies to grow into global brands by snapping up well-known U.S. firms.”

The potential scenario: Antitrust regulators prevented Haier from acquiring iconic American brand Maytag in 2005 – only to see Haier a decade later acquire iconic American brand GE. With the latter deal being enabled by the feds’ objection to the GE appliance division’s sale to Electrolux.—Boris Ladwig

Holly Weyler McKnight joins 21c

HollyLocal PR whiz Holly Weyler McKnight announced on Facebook that she has joined 21c as the hotel group’s director of public relations and events for all the hotels and restaurants.

She should have the “events” part down, as she’s in charge of PR and Marketing for one of Louisville’s biggest events: The Forecastle Festival, which was founded by her husband J.K. McKnight.

Before joining 21c, she was senior manager of PR and Partnerships for Bandy Carroll Helliage, where she worked for six and a half years.

Weyler McKnight says she hasn’t visited any 21cs outside of Louisville, but “I’m in the process of finding my way there in the coming weeks.”  She called it her “dream job.” –Melissa Chipman

LIBA hosting first ever small business expo

The Louisville Independent Business Alliance is looking to connect locally owned businesses with those who make purchasing decisions for other companies.

The membership organization is hosting a small business exposition from 1 to 5 p.m. on Jan. 14 at the Clifton Center, 2117 Payne St. LIBA members can access the expo from 1 to 2 p.m. before the general public is admitted at 2 p.m. Admission is free with a business card.

“Keeping Louisville weird is about more than where you buy gifts or groceries,” Jennifer Rubenstein, LIBA director, said in a news release. “Having a healthy ‘B-to-B’ community reinvesting our dollars is an important piece.”

A market shift of 10 percent to local businesses would keep an additional $416 million in the regional economy, the release states.

The event will feature 35-plus local businesses; TED-style talks; and 20-minute consultations with professionals in industries in human resources, social media, accounting and others.

For more information and to register, click here. The first 150 registrants will receive a “Local Love” gift bag. —Caitlin Bowling

Stoll Keenon Ogden receives top honors

Corporate America magazine has recognized Stoll Keenon Ogden as Kentucky’s litigation law firm of the year and the firm’s Mergers & Acquisitions practice as the best in the state.

Also SKO attorney Erica Horn was named the Best in Corporate Tax Appeals and John Bilby was recognized as the Best in Technology Transfers Disputes.

Award recipients were nominated by their peers and clients. According to SKO, “The awards are given solely on merit, to commend those most deserving for their exceptional service and strong performance over the last 12 months.”

These awards celebrate those who see to completion key deals that play a major role in shaping businesses, local economies and even entire countries,” said CA magazine editor Mark Toon.

SKO has over 140 attorneys, with offices in Louisville, Lexington and Frankfort, Ky., as well as Evansville, Ind., and Pittsburgh, Pa. —Melissa Chipman

Pizza Hut seeking new advertising agency

pizza-hutRight before the Christmas holiday, Ad Age published an article noting that Pizza Hut is on the prowl for a new advertising agency.

Quoting sources familiar with the matter, Ad Age said Pizza Hut has asked a select group of agencies to submit ideas for the brand. The scope of the work is unknown, however.

New York City-based marketing firm Deutsch is the pizza chain’s lead agency, but the company often uses other agencies on limited projects. For example, Ad Age noted, Dallas company TracyLocke was responsible for the holiday commercial featuring Michael Bolton.

But the company also hired a new U.S. chief marketing officer, David Timm, in November. Timm may be looking to shake things up after an underwhelming relaunch of the brand and overhaul of its menu in late 2014.

Quarter after quarter, Pizza Hut’s numbers have continued to disappoint, but company executives said the chain is on the upswing with positive same-store sales growth during the last two quarters of 2015.

For this reason, it is unclear if Pizza Hut plans to give Deutsch the boot and bring on a new agency or is simply looking for some fresh ideas for a limited campaign. —Caitlin Bowling

Round-up of a few new restaurants coming to Louisville

Not every restaurant opening necessarily deserves its own full-length story, but here are a few eateries under construction in Louisville that warrant a mention:

  • Nashville-based Juice Bar is opening a 1,400-square-foot location in Middletown Commons, the multi-million shopping center that opened on Shelbyville Road last year. According to the building permit, it will cost $40,000 to renovate the space for Juice Bar, which currently has two others stores in Louisville.
  • Zaxby’s is opening a new store at 13811 Terra View Trail, off Old Henry Road. The location will be 3,994 square feet and cost $750,000 to build, according to the building permit. Zaxby’s is an Athens, Ga.-based fried chicken chain with six location in Louisville and Southern Indiana.
  • A new Panera Bread Co. store is being built at 6900 Dixie Hwy., the site of a former PNC Bank. The site also will house Fidelity Bank & Trust with three drive-thru lanes, according to the building permit.

Caitlin Bowling

Yum! raises $640 million for hunger relief over eight-year period

Christina Aguilera is a spokeswoman for the United Nation's World Food Programme. | Courtesy of Yum Brands

Christina Aguilera is the United Nations’ “Ambassador Against Hunger.” | Courtesy of Yum! Brands

Louisville-based restaurant giant Yum! Brands has raised roughly $80 million annually in cash and food donations over the past eight years for various hunger relief charities including the United Nations World Food Programme.

“We’re a company with a huge heart, and it’s our privilege and responsibility to feed the world by making a difference in global hunger,” CEO Greg Creed said in a news release. “I’m enormously proud of the hard work and passion of our associates and franchisees around the globe.”

Those donations translate to 2.6 billion meals for hungry women and children, according to Yum.

Grammy Award winner Christina Aguilera has served as the “Ambassador Against Hunger” for the U.N. since 2009 and completed a PSA this year with Yum! to draw attention to the need around the world.

“Yum! Brands continues to be WFP’s leading private sector fund-raising partner as we strive for a world with zero hunger,” said Jay Aldous, director of WFP’s global private partnerships. “The impact this partnership has made over the years has helped set millions of children on the path towards reaching their full potential.”

In 2015, Yum! also adopted the city of Jinotega in Nicaragua as part of its new Feed the World Ambassador Program that supports school infrastructure improvements. —Caitlin Bowling

GE employees raise $30,000 for local families

Local General Electric employees distributed about $30,000 worth of food, clothes and toys to local families over the holidays.

Presents bought by local GE employees for local children this year. | Courtesy of IUE-CWA Local 761.

Presents bought by local GE employees | Courtesy of IUE-CWA Local 761.

Through sales of baked goods and Christmas wreaths and other fundraisers, IUE-CWA Local 761 collected nearly $14,000 this year from the roughly 6,000 employees at Appliance Park, said Daniel Cummins, chief steward.

Employees also raffled off appliances provided by GE and basketballs signed by University of Kentucky players to purchase food baskets for local families.

The workers pitched in additional dollars as they bought presents for local children through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. Trees are decorated with paper angels that feature information about a child and his/her wishes for Christmas. Employees “adopt” such children for the holiday and purchase presents. This year, the Appliance Park employees adopted 300 children.

Cummins, who has worked at GE for 22 years, said gifts for the children ranged from basic necessities, such as socks and pants, to bicycles and toys. Whatever was on the wish list, Cummins said, the workers made sure that the children got toys as well.

Cummins said the employees enjoy helping the community. Plus, they’re thankful to have a job that allows them to provide for their families.

And as residents of the Louisville area, they see people in need.

“They see it every day,” Cummins said.—Boris Ladwig

Bollywood Bourbonism

woodford_reserveBrown-Forman brands Jack Daniel’s and Woodford reserve recently got some press in India in a story that indicated the iconic American brands are helping fuel Bourbonism in Scotch country.

The story, in The Economic Times, quoted a 34-year-old Twitter manager in Gurgaon, in north-central India, who said his favorites include Woodford Reserve Double Oaked.

Exports of American spirits to India through October of last year were $4.3 million, already higher than in all of 2014, the paper reported.

“American whiskies have, in fact, been making a strong comeback globally among the hip Millennials and India is no exception,” the ET reported. “This is due, in part, to the resurgent cocktail culture and flavour revolution in cocktails globally.”

A spokeswoman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. told the ET that Indian consumers like American whiskeys “because of their authentic heritage, distinctive taste profile, and their versatility in cocktails.”

At the same time, U.S. distillers are looking for growth markets.

Brown-Forman said last summer that sales in India in fiscal 2015 jumped 14 percent, “as a small but growing cadre of consumers look for authentic, premium imported American whiskey.”—Boris Ladwig

Get ready for a self-driving Ford Fusion

Ford Motor Co. has received permission to test a “fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid” on public roads in California this year, the company said on its website.


A self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrid. | Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

“The testing is further advancement of Ford’s 10-year autonomous vehicle development program and a key element of Ford Smart Mobility, the plan to take the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics,” the company said.

Ford employs about 10,000 people at two Louisville area plants.

Yahoo Autos also has reported that the company would announce at this month’s Consumer Electronics Show that it will team up with Google to build self-driving vehicles.

Google has worked on the technology for years, and while it has built and tested a prototype vehicle, it lacks Ford’s design, engineering and manufacturing expertise.

The allure of autonomous vehicles primarily deals with safety. Google said that self-driving cars would dramatically reduce the more than 30,000 annual traffic deaths in the U.S., 94 percent of which involve human error.

And, the company said, such vehicles also would allow older drivers and the visually impaired to retain their independence.

The idea of self-driving vehicles also makes sense from an efficiency standpoint: Rather than paying attention to driving their vehicles, commuters could instead spend time reading news websites, watching TV or even taking a nap.

Many car companies are working on self-driving cars. Nissan Motor Co. in October showed off a concept vehicle. Audi has posted a video on its website that shows what it calls “piloted driving,” in which an A7 drives journalists from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas over two days.

Tesla’s Autopilot already “allows Model S to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, and manage speed by using active, traffic-aware cruise control.” But the company also said that “truly driverless cars are still a few years away.”—Boris Ladwig

Martha has good taste: Sweet Surrender makes magazine’s top 25 wedding cakes list

Cake by Sweet Surrender | Flowers by Jaclyn Journey | Photo from Martha Stewart Weddings

Cake by Sweet Surrender | Flowers by Jaclyn Journey | Photo by Whitney Neal

Martha Stewart Weddings magazine named this cake by Louisville’s Sweet Surrender to it’s “Top 25 Wedding Cakes of 2015.” It’s buttercream.

Sweet Surrender has been in business more than 20 years. It’s located at 1804 Frankfort Ave. — Melissa Chipman