Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.

Incoming UofL CFO backs out just before starting position

Jonathan Pruitt

UofL was supposed to have a permanent chief financial officer for the first time in a year beginning next week, but interim President Greg Postel revealed Thursday that the person chosen for the job last fall will not take the position.

Jonathan Pruitt, the CFO of the University of North Carolina system, was supposed to begin his new position with UofL early next week, but called Postel Tuesday night to tell him that he would be taking another job in North Carolina due to family considerations.

In an email to the campus community Thursday morning, Postel wrote that “this news obviously is disappointing. We will reignite the search for a permanent CFO immediately. We had a very strong pool of candidates, and I anticipate an equally strong pool as we start the new search.”

Susan Howarth will continue in her role as UofL’s interim CFO. She has held that position since last January, when Harlan Sands left to become the CFO of the The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. —Joe Sonka

Michter’s purchases land in Springfield for rick houses, grains and eventually a distillery?

Pamela Heilmann, master distiller of Michter’s, at the Shively facility | Photo by Sara Havens

In early December, Insider ran an article by the Kentucky Press News Service that indicated Michter’s was eyeing property in Springfield, Ky., just about an hour south of Louisville, for a possible rick house.

On Tuesday, the purchase was confirmed by a news release from the Louisville-based distillery.

“We are excited to be expanding Michter’s operations in Springfield and Washington County,” said Andrea Wilson, Michter’s master of maturation, in the release. “This is a wonderful community with warm people and a great heritage. The property offers rich soil and naturally filtered limestone water, which are essential to producing the greatest American whiskey.”

That last sentence by Wilson reveals that Michter’s may be planning a little more than a rick house or two. Also, the release went on to quote Michter’s President Joseph J. Magliocco, who added: “The property has natural springs and currently has crops grown on it. This acquisition opens up a multitude of exciting possibilities, including farming our own estate-grown grain for Michter’s distillation program.”

Magliocco does say the land will complement its current operations in Shively and soon-to-open Fort Nelson Distillery downtown, so it’s nothing we need to lose sleep over.

Currently, Michter’s ages its barrels in a state-of-the-art warehouse in Shively, but it also would be nice, we assume, to age them out in the country, where the wild wind blows and the sun shines bright. Also, growing your own grains is a bonus, and that “naturally filtered limestone water” is essential to bourbon production. —Sara Havens

Is Yuengling beer coming to Kentucky?

Yuengling may be coming to Kentucky. | Courtesy of Yuengling

If a tweet could make a sound, it would be the mouthwatering eruption of compressed air a beer makes when its top is popped off.

On Thursday, Jonathan Blue — chairman and managing director of Blue Equity, which owns all Kentucky Liquor Barn and Party Mart locations — tweeted: “Yes. It’s coming here finally. Liquor Barn and Party Mart will carry it first. Exciting news indeed!”

It was in response to someone hoping the rumors of Yuengling beer finally being distributed in Kentucky were true.

Insider reached out to Blue, who confirmed there’s a deal in the works, and Yuengling should be here as early as this spring. We also reached out to a media representative at Yuengling & Son — the oldest brewery in America and the largest U.S.-owned brewery — and they told us, “Sorry, no announcements are available at this time.”

We’ll stick with the good news and hope Blue is right with his announcement. He went on to tell us that his stores will be the first to carry the popular East Coast beer, possibly by spring, and his company has been working hard to bring new products to Kentucky.

Blue said he often drank Yuengling while in college at the University of Pennsylvania, and although it’s now available in Indiana, he’s always wanted to bring it to Kentucky. His affinity for the beer could be felt in his excitement about the news, and he even referred to it as “the Pappy of beer.”

If and when Insider gets more of a solid word from the Yuengling folks, we will share the news. Cheers! —Sara Havens

GE Appliances introduces kitchen hub at CES

Courtesy of GE Appliances

GE Appliances has unveiled a new kitchen hub that features a 27-inch smart screen and forward- and cooktop-facing cameras and that will allow cooks to more easily seek advice from mom, check on the kids and “share” their culinary creations on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Placed over the range in the same spot where you might place a 30-inch hood or microwave, the hub also allows customers to control connected appliances, such as washers, refrigerators and the front door security camera. The device responds to touch, voice and gesture commands.

GE Appliances is displaying the hub at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. The company told Insider via email that the range would be available this summer, but that it hasn’t announced the brand yet.

The company did not respond to a question about price, but DigitalTrends reported it will sell for $600. DigitalTrends recognized GEA for the hub with the Top Tech of CES 2018 award for home appliances.

To get the hub to market, GEA leveraged ideas from its Louisville-based co-creation subsidiary FirstBuild and the technology capabilities of its China-based parent company Qingdao Haier. GEA said in a news release that the concept came from the FirstBuild community and that the operating system, the Haier U+ Smart Life Platform, came from Qingdao Haier, which bought the local appliances maker in 2016.

GEA said the forward-facing camera allows customers to cook while video chatting with friends — or to call mom if they can’t remember whether her delicious pasta requires one or five cloves of garlic. The internet-connected hub also will allow cooks to easily access recipes or follow cooking videos.

“A cooktop-facing camera and ample task lighting make sharing your latest culinary masterpiece on social media easier than ever,” the company said.

“The kitchen is the heart of the home, and the range is the heart of the kitchen,” said Shawn Stover, vice president of GEA’s SmartHome Solutions team, said in the release. —Boris Ladwig

Louisville Free Public Library and Louisville Forward hosting entrepreneur fair

The Louisville Free Public Library and Louisville Metro’s economic development arm Louisville Forward hope to foster small business development in west Louisville through an entrepreneur fair on Saturday, Jan. 20.

Called the Entrepreneur Fair West, the event will feature three free workshops on starting a small business, alternative financing options and marketing, as well as provide an opportunity to talk to members of local small business support organizations.

The entrepreneur fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Nia Center, 2900 W. Broadway. The event is free and open to the public. —Caitlin Bowling

Shop Local Kentucky continues to make lemonade with lemons

The T-shirt is listed for $25. | Courtesy of Shop Local Kentucky

Insider reported earlier this month that Shop Local Kentucky’s pop-up store in Shelby Park was hit by a vehicle in the wee hours of New Year’s Day. It was the second time this had happened to a Shop Local Kentucky store.

Rather than taking a woe-is-us attitude, owner Rick Paynter said the company would use the opportunity to support the Shelby Park Neighborhood Association. Shop Local Kentucky is now selling special T-shirts calling the Shelby Street store, its second drive-thru location. All the profits from the sale of those shirts ($25 per shirt) will go to the association, which is helping lead the effort to revitalize the neighborhood.

Last year, when Shop Local Kentucky‘s Lexington store was hit, it did something similar but the funds benefited the Kentucky Officers Memorial Foundation.

Paynter previously told Insider that the shop plans to look for a new, permanent location for the store. —Caitlin Bowling

In Brief

Olmsted Parks Conservancy said Layla George would be its next president and chief executive. She succeeds Rachel Kennedy. Most recently, George served as the director of development for Louisville Public Media for five years. She begins on Feb. 5.

Endeavor Louisville announced in a blog post this week that there are 200 job openings in 2018 from its local chapter, including Rivera Group, Red e App, El Toro, EdjAnalytics, SkuVault and Healthcare Asset Network.

Venture Connectors said its new leadership includes Tendai Charasika, chief executive of SuperFanU, chairman; Larry Horn, president of Great American Specialty Fasteners and chief executive of Derby City Cut & Sew, president; John Williamson, founder and chief executive of RCM Brain, president-elect.

LG&E and KU Energy CEO Victor A. Staffieri announced this week that he plans to retire March 8. He will be succeeded by Paul Thompson, who was named the utility’s president and COO a year ago.

Churchill Downs said this week that it had completed its $990 million all-cash sale of its mobile gaming subsidiary, Big Fish Games, to Australia-based Aristocrat Leisure Limited. The Louisville-based company also said this week that it had offered to repurchase up to $500 million of its common stock.