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Virgin America’s Straight Talk About Balance Sheets

It’s true that Virgin America has lost a total of $400 million since its founding. But it’s also true that the California-based airline made $10.1 million on $1.4 billion in operating revenue last year—and that revenue has been growing for the last five years at least. So when an incredibly downbeat AP story about the airline’s planned initial public offering appeared in the Dallas Morning News yesterday—the same day Virgin began flights out of Dallas Love Field—was Virgin America’s CEO upset? Not really, David Cush said last night at Virgin’s celebration party at the House of Blues: “I saw a lot of opinion in there, and I’ve seen lots of stories like that.” While the airline has moved in the past and is continuing to move to retool its balance sheet, Cush said, “The important thing is that when you’re a private-equity-owned firm, you don’t give a s*** about your balance sheet or your P&L” [profit and loss statement]. The key is keeping the investor-owners happy, the chief executive added. Virgin’s investors include a hedge fund called Cyrus Capital Partners, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and Don Carty, former chairman and CEO of AMR Corp.

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The Selling of Al Jazeera America

You’d think that a fledgling cable TV news channel owned by the Qatar-royal family’s Al Jazeera Media Network would be a tough sell in a deep-red state like Texas. But there was Al Jazeera America anchorman John Seigenthaler at a luncheon meeting of the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth the other day, showing the audience a clip from The Colbert Report in which the host was jokingly calling Seigenthaler and his employer part of the al-Qaeda Network. “That looks terrifying,” Stephen Colbert said to the veteran newsman, referring to the Al Jazeera logo. “That is not only Arabic; it looks like Arabic on fire! … It means, ‘The bombing starts at midnight!’ ”

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Comer Cottrell Jr., R.I.P.

An editorial in today’s Dallas Morning News lauds the life and legacy of Comer Cottrell Jr., the pioneering African-American businessman who died last week at the age of 82. Cottrell, who founded Pro-Line, a black-focused hair-products company that he sold for $80 million in 2000, broke down a number of racial barriers in North Texas over the years. In this cover story/book excerpt in D CEO magazine (then called Dallas CEO) back in 2008, Cottrell told how he did it in a gritty, no-holds-barred style. The excerpt recalls Cottrell’s multiple encounters with discrimination when he moved in 1980 to Dallas from Los Angeles. The fascinating thing is that the prejudice came not just from Dallas’ white establishment but from the local African-American community, too.

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Starbucks Giving Up on Seattle’s Best Coffee Stores Here

Sixteen months after plunging into the North Texas market with 10 drive-through Seattle’s Best Coffee locations, Starbucks Corp. has decided to shutter most of the stores. Eight of the drive-throughs should be closed by next month, the company says, while two locations—in Rockwall and Fort Worth—were converted this summer to Starbucks outlets.

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How an Office Romance Went Off the Rails and Brought Down the NCPA’s John Goodman

Back in June, when the National Center for Policy Analysis fired its CEO for alleged “sexual misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty,” the free-market think tank had more than a dozen directors on its board. Chief executive John C. Goodman denied the charges at the time, you might recall, and said his dismissal was based on trivialities. Today the NCPA board is down to just five directors—and insiders say the Dallas nonprofit is struggling to survive.

So, what happened to bring all this about? The apparent implosion has come as the result of an office romance between Goodman and a staffer that went way off the rails, leading to an unusual “job promotion” that backfired badly:

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Will CPRIT Be Perry’s Achilles Heel?

Disclosure upfront: Despite thinking Zac’s series on Gov. Rick Perry is hilarious, I sort of like Perry, not least for his ability to make “enlightened” types see red. That said, I can’t help thinking that the governor’s defenders in the Travis County dust-up—including David Axelrod and Alan Dershowitz—are underestimating one aspect of the case.

That is, the implication that Perry vetoed the public integrity unit funds because the unit was investigating funny business at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, one of Perry’s “signature accomplishments.”

That might be seen as a stretch—if the governor didn’t have a history of bigfooting in this manner. Remember how he delayed investigation of the Willingham arson case by replacing several members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission just before a key presentation? Just seems like the CPRIT angle might strike Jane and Joe Six-Pack as a little more troubling than Perry’s defenders are letting on.

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NCPA Names An Interim Leader; Will Continue to ‘Collaborate’ with Ousted President and CEO

The board canned the founding president, John C. Goodman, for alleged sexual misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty. The ousted chieftan struck back in the media, denying the charges and calling the people on the board “scared” and amateurish. Meantime, the National Center for Policy Analysis has been trying to carry on in a business-as-usual manner, issuing a flurry of announcements about their experts doing this or that and appearing here and there. Today the right-leaning Dallas-based think tank had yet another announcement, naming former bank CEO and business strategist Dennis McCuistion its interim president and CEO.

In an interview, McCuistion said he expects to fill the posts anywhere from six months to a year—or until a permanent replacement for Goodman can be found. He also said he’ll take a leave of absence from his job at UT-Dallas, where he’s been serving as executive director of the Institute for Excellence in Corporate Governance. Meantime, McCuistion added, the NCPA will continue to collaborate with Goodman on certain ongoing projects, just as it would with any other expert. One example: the Healthcare Contract with America initiative, which Goodman, the so-called father of Health Savings Accounts, helped shape. So, there’s no problem in an organization continuing to work with someone who was judged unfit for serious reasons to run the organization? No, McCuistion replied in a nutshell.

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Vying to Rub Shoulders With Elizabeth Hurley—and Her ‘American Daddy’—at the NorthPark Neiman Marcus

There was a mob scene yesterday afternoon at the Neiman Marcus store at NorthPark, where Estee Lauder scion Leonard Lauder, 81, and actress/model Elizabeth Hurley, the cosmetics company’s 49-year-old “brand ambassador,” turned up to launch a new Estee Lauder in-store shop. The throng packed excitedly into the first-floor cosmetics area included not just customers, but about every fashionista-blogger/writer sort in town. Everyone was jousting to get close to the coolly regal Hurley—she’d be perfectly cast as a British princess type—and to Leonard. It was his mother, Estee Lauder, who founded the eponymous, $10.4 billion (2013 sales) “prestige cosmetics” empire in 1946.

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John C. Goodman: NCPA Board is ‘Scared,’ Amateurish—And ‘Grasping at Straws’

The saga of John C. Goodman, former president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, is fast becoming worthy of a TV soap opera. Yesterday, the right-leaning Dallas think tank said it had ousted its nationally known founding president by a unanimous vote of its board, for reasons that would remain undisclosed. Then came a story in Friday’s Dallas Morning News in which Goodman called the NCPA vote a “coup” by the board, caused by disagreement over the organization’s management. He characterized the underlying problems as trivial and petty, adding, “Dallas needs a think tank. But Dallas is proving that it’s not ready for it.” This afternoon the NCPA fired back with both shotgun barrels, saying in a statement that Goodman was terminated “after an extensive investigation that found sexual misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty.” That was “not true,” Goodman told the DMN.

And, reached by cellphone this afternoon, the NCPA’s former leader seemed anything but contrite. Goodman contended the vote by the group’s 13-person board was not unanimous, as it was characterized, because just half the board members were present—and most of the members who “are supportive of me” were absent. He also said the organization proposed and discarded a number of reasons for his termination, seeking to find one that would stick. “They’ve had five different reasons for why they fired me,” Goodman said. “They sat with us, and our labor lawyer said, ‘That reason would violate federal labor law.’ Then they gave a second reason … then a third. They went through five reasons. Under labor law, if you want to fire someone and keep shifting the reason, you have a serious problem.

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Board Member: Ouster of Goodman at NCPA a ‘Shocker’

He was the right’s go-to expert on Obamacare, the so-called father of Health Savings Accounts, and the founding president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a right-leaning Dallas think tank. Now John C. Goodman is out as the group’s president and chief executive. In a terse statement late this afternoon, the NCPA said that it has …

… terminated the employment of President and CEO John Goodman, effective immediately. A statement issued by the organization said that the board’s vote to dismiss Goodman was unanimous. “Because this is a personnel issue, the details are and will remain confidential.”

Reached by phone this evening, one NCPA board member said that, “on advice of counsel,” he and the other board members wouldn’t be commenting just now, because they’re “trying to speak with a harmonious voice.” But Goodman’s abrupt removal, he agreed, “is a shocker.” More details to come as they emerge …

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Dazed and Confused on Al Jazeera America

FrontBurnervians who know me as a reactionary, mediocrity-defending supporter of Texas conservative things might be surprised by my appearance last night on Al Jazeera America’s Real Money with Ali Velshi show, talking about Toyota. (Al Jazeera’s the outfit that took over Al Gore’s old cable channel, Current TV.) Between sputtering something about how “shops” will benefit from the Toyota move—and a record number of “Uh’s” (Jeanne Prejean counted 47, I think)—I also neglected to correct the (substitute) host when he called me the editor of D magazine. (Sorry, Cristina!) I don’t think Cal Jillson has anything to worry about.

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Romancing The Killer, Or Why You May Not Want to Accept a Free Drink from Bernie Tiede on Sixth Street in Austin

Like Tim I’ve done my share of bitching in the past about writer Tod Robberson of the Dallas Morning News. Today, though, Robberson put up a great post about the early release on bond this week of convicted killer Bernie Tiede. Tiede’s story, you’ll recall, was the subject of the acclaimed 2011 movie Bernie, inspired by Skip Hollandsworth’s 1998 article in Texas Monthly. As Tod rightly asks, why in hell should Tiede draw a get-out-of-jail card just because it’s recently come out that he may have been sexually abused as a child?

However enchantingly Jack Black portrayed Tiede in the flick, the former mortician was given a life sentence because he shot an old lady four times in the back with a .22 rifle and then stuffed her body into a freezer. He’s a murderer, flat out. Now he gets to go live in Austin in the basement of the movie’s director, Richard Linklater? Let’s hope Linklater fares better than Norman Mailer did back in the day after Mailer helped spring Jack Henry Abbott—another convicted killer who was romanticized and lionized by the artistic intelligentsia.

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Everybody’s (Still) Talkin': Toyota’s Move and Its Impact on North Texas

The Dallas Regional Chamber held a reception at its downtown offices yesterday for Dale Petroskey, its new president and CEO. But the thing everyone was talking about was Toyota’s announcement on Monday that it would move its national headquarters from Torrance, California, to a 70-acre “campus” in Plano. The chamber was instrumental in the coup for North Texas, which was said to be the result of a super-secret, months-long effort in which even the likes of billionaire Ray Hunt, who helped out, didn’t know the company’s identity. Indeed, one chamber official said, the news got out last Friday only after the son of one Toyota executive in California tweeted out something like, “Hell no, I’m not moving to Texas.”

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