(Editor’s note: This post was updated at 7:30 a.m. to clarify that the Aegon Center itself will not be renamed.)
Welcome to the September 24 top secret, always confidential Monday Business Briefing.
These are business tips Insider Louisville staff and contributors have collected during the past few days, some of which are NOT double-verified like Insider Louisville’s daily reporting.
But as we always say, these items are inside dope from insider sources who have direct knowledge of events.
And these are some momentous events:
• This is where we usually have our first big scoop. But today, reportage gives way briefly to shameless marketing. Insider Louisville spent Saturday at NuLu Fest with about 7,000 of our closest friends. At our booth, we signed up new fans for our daily emails and instant Red e App alerts with the lure of a shiny new iPad 3. So, without further ado, the winner is (drum roll, please), David Triplett. Mr. Triplett will get a call at a reasonable hour this morning though we were so excited, we were dialing him at 6 a.m. before we came to our senses ….
• Our first big scoop of the day: The Aegon Center will get a rebranding. We got a tip Friday from our real estate sources telling us the main tenant will put a big “MERCER TOWER” sign atop Louisville’s tallest skyscraper. We said, “No freakin’ way … the REIT that owns the building isn’t going to go for that. And besides, we hear Humana actually has more leased more space in the tower than Mercer. We got five bucks that says you’re wrong.” To prove us wrong, they sent us this:
Global human resource consultancy Mercer, a large Louisville employer, is celebrating 30 years of commitment to the great city of Louisville. Marking this special occasion, the AEGON Center will bear on top the Mercer name this fall. With approximately one-tenth of the company’s US workforce located in Louisville, Mercer’s local office represents a diverse group of employees that play a strategic role for Mercer and its parent, Marsh and McLennan Companies (MMCo), at the local, national and global levels. In addition to a large number of traditional consultants, Louisville is home to Mercer’s US Retirement Service Center and Global Information and Product Solutions (IPS) operation, the global IT support for all of the MMCo operating companies including colleagues from Mercer’s sister company Marsh. With this enhanced presence comes new leadership: Doug Frederick took over as the office leader earlier this year. A 19-year Mercer veteran, Mr. Frederick also leads the company’s US Executive Benefits Group. “We’re very excited about the naming on our new, state-of-the-art office highlighting our continued support of Louisville’s vibrant downtown,” said Mr. Frederick. “While we’re proud of our past, we view this milestone as an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the future of Louisville, our clients and our employees.” With the name atop this prominent Louisville landmark, Mercer is proud to celebrate its success among Louisville’s corporate leaders.
That means our last architecturally pure tower will get a logo. Oh, well, bound to happen after Aegon’s exit out to Ormsby One in Forest Green. We even predicted this back in July, though totally in jest. Going to watch what we say from now on.
• IdeaFestival 2012 opened our eyes to many, many new concepts and companies. But one of the bigger scoops we simply stumbled into at the IdeaFestival opening party at 21C Museum Hotel. As we waited in line for refreshments, we noticed sealed bottles of bourbon on display with labels reading, “Larceny 1870.” Since 21C is owned by Brown-Forman heiress Laura Lee Brown and her husband Steve Wilson, we assumed Larceny is a new BF brand. We even asked the bartender, who confirmed it is, adding, “and don’t even think about asking me to open it.” Okaaaaay …. BUT, when we got back to the office and started Googling “Larceny,” we saw multiple industry blogger posts about it, which all state it’s an unreleased new Heaven Hill brand. (Heaven Hill has Evan Williams and Elijah Craig, among other premium bourbon labels.) There are even bloggers who patrol the industry, looking for new brands. One – Chuck Cowdrey – got hold of a copy of the label from a “COLA troller.” (“Certificate of Label Approval” is the Treasury Department office to which alcoholic beverage labels have to be submitted for approval. Go figure.) The reason this is a business story is that anyone can hire Dave Dafoe at Distilled Spirits Epicenter to create a bourbon, then get a Nelson County distiller to run a batch for a few thousand dollars. But a mega-distiller such as Heaven Hill launching a completely new bourbon brand likely means a multi-million dollar investment in market research, development, formulation, blending and ultimately advertising. Oddly, while Louisville-based Brown-Forman and Michter’s Distillery, part of New York-based Chatham Imports, were IF sponsors, Bardstown-based Heaven Hill was not. More as we figure this out.
• Tighten your seat belts if you are a doctor or a hospital executive in Louisville. Sources close to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services are telling IL that there will be four Medicaid health plans in the greater Louisville market starting on January 1, including Humana and embattled Coventry Cares. Currently, there is only one – Passport Health Plan, which is the only Medicaid managed care organization in Kentucky currently getting the job done. It sounds like there would have been five plans had St. Louis-based Centene, operator of Kentucky Spirit Health Plan not withdrawn last week. Centene’s CEO told a group of Wall Street analysts last week that Centene “won the bid” but couldn’t get the state to make certain “concessions” and therefore pulled out. If this plays out the way our Insiders are telling us, Kentucky’s Region 3 Medicaid Managed Care providers and people depending on Medicaid for their health care are in for a wild ride.
• Speaking of the health care industry, “partnership” talks between the University of Louisville and super covert parties (Catholic Health Initiatives) drag on and on. This week, we heard from insiders that Norton Healthcare is NOT one of the parties in the super-clandestine negotiations. We had been assured earlier in the year that Norton was coming in as the White Knight to solve all of U of L’s indigent care shortfalls at University Hospital. Not so, say sources. And we have to admit Norton spokesman Steve Minaugh assured us his system wasn’t involved. But we’re used to dealing with the Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Healthcare media people back when we bothered to call them. It’s hard to remember U of L issued a request for proposals back in March! As U of L officials moved the goal posts, it became sort of a pastime among people in the industry to figure out what was going on. “If you read the tea leaves, U of L already has multiple partnerships with Norton,” said a source. “Though how Norton would benefit from a deal that would expose them to operating shortfalls at University Hospital isn’t clear.” Norton and U of L’s Department of Pediatrics advertised for a pediatric cardiologist with experience in patient management. Norton Health Care and the Hiram C. Polk Jr., M.D., Department of Surgery at U of L’s School of Medicine signed a three-year academic affiliation regarding research and teaching. Maybe. Who knows? And truthfully, fewer people even care.
• Were we right all along? At least one Hilliard Lyons analysts thinks we were. Hilliard Lyons has lowered its rating for Republic Bancorp stock to “neutral” from “buy” because the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has forced Republic Bank & Trust Co. to drop its federal income tax refund anticipation loan business. In the report, HL acknowledges the end of RAL next year means a large percentage of the Louisville-based bank’s net income goes away.
• You’re going to be hearing a LOT more about this municipal financial disaster. Sources are telling Insider Louisville the Oldham Reserve Business Park outside La Grange is turning into a $30 million drain on the county’s finances. (In a county with just 60,000 residents.) Oldham Reserve is pretty much in the same category of sucker deals that swept across the United States from California to New Jersey and all the bills coming due on misguided projects started back before the Great Recession. Oldham County issued $20 million in bonds to finance Oldham Reserve back in 2005, with all that interest piling up. Envisioned as a 1,000-acre business park along the lines of Commerce Crossings in southern Jefferson County, the Oldham County version attracted exactly one tenant, The Rawlings Group. The deal was supposed to be a private/public project with The Hocker Group, the Owensboro, Ky. -based family owned company that briefly owned Oxmoor Center back in the 1990s. Whether that happened or not isn’t clear. Oldham County officials saw the park as a way to capture some county workers (and their payroll taxes) going to Louisville every day. Their ammunition was – ah, it’s all clear now – a 2008 study by University of Louisville economist Paul Coomes, a study that guar-an-teed Oldham Reserve would create 10,000 jobs. This one will be interesting, because this could be a harbinger of what’s shaping up in Louisville with KFC Yum! Center.
Some actually brief Monday biz briefs:
• Studio NuLu, a new huge photography studio, has opened very quietly at 1320 E. Washington St. in Butchertown. (Which brings up the question, “Where does Butchertown end, and NuLu begin?”) Photographer Nathan Lynch has more than 3,000 square feet of studios including a kitchen facility with industrial-grade appliances. So you don’t have to go all the way out to Power Creative in the far ‘burbs for those food shoots, Steve Coomes. Studio NuLu’s open house is scheduled for Nov. 8, from 5 p.m to 8 p.m. Check out their Vimeo video above.
• Speaking of U of L, sources are suggesting Insider Louisville might want to start looking at just how much money U of L has raised in its $1 billion capital campaign. Don’t hear much about that since the chances of getting CHI money went away with the first failed merger.
• And before we forget, multiple sources tell Insider Louisville that SAS Software, based in Raleigh, N.C., is opening an office here after having been awarded a contract with U of L for data mining projects.
• Meijer at Springhurst Shopping Center has had a rash of iPad thefts. Thieves grabbed the boxes, took them to the restrooms, removed the slate devices and bolted from the stores, say our sources. iPad grabs have been happening all over town, say our sources. Which confirms our conviction slate devices are more and more the platform of choice for all information delivery. With people willing to risk a conviction to get one.