The Dallas Morning News has portrayed him relentlessly as a greedy, high-living, double-dealing fraudster. (Right after conceding he did lots of admirable work.) But for some reason a number of Dallasites haven’t bought into The News’ characterization of former UT Southwestern Medical Center president Dr. Kern Wildenthal. Among them, it seems: Children’s Medical Center. The country’s fifth-largest pediatric hospital has just appointed Wildenthal president of its foundation and executive vice president of Children’s Medical Center.
“We Could Hear it Coming. It Was Like Thunder That Wouldn’t Stop:” The stories out of Granbury are horrifying and heartbreaking, awful reminders that we live in a strange, unforgiving world in which, on rare occasion, the sky can just come down and rip you right out of your closet:
The closet door flew open, and the tornado yanked her oldest son, Brandon, into the air.
Green’s body twisted and bent, and she began to pray.
“Please let this be over. I can’t take this anymore,” she remembers thinking. “I asked God, ‘Is this really the way I’m going to die?’”
The Legacy of Mary Suhm vs. the Legacy of Dallas’ Super Donors: Two features in the local daily frame two perspective on the shaping of the city. Sure, as Mayor Ron Kirk puts it in this profile of outgoing City Manager Mary Suhm, “Her fingerprints are all over the city.” But what is the legacy of any powerful member of city government versus the “thousand families,” the philanthropists whose Texas-sized generosity (sorry) make Dallas one of the nation’s most charitable cities:
The city’s wealthiest philanthropists are also sometimes called the new Medicis, and there’s something to the comparison: Not a single major cultural institution in Dallas would exist in its current form — or exist at all, in many cases — without their help. . . . The philanthropists’ generosity extends beyond cultural organizations.
Fort Worth Figures Out Trinity Project: And speaking of big ticket city items, while Suhm’s legacy contains the unrealized Trinity River Project, Fort Worth seems to have figured out how to have simple fun down on the river with a much more modest, accessible investment. This, ahem. Not this.
So much for accountability in corporate governance. According to the DMN‘s Maria Halkas, every member of the J.C. Penney board that presided over the company’s spectacular recent meltdown has been re-elected to his or her cushy post. This apparently includes New York hedge-fund mogul William Ackman, who pushed to hire the failed ex-CEO Ron Johnson, as well as several board members from North Texas. All of the members have been compensated handsomely for their, er, leadership qualities at the Plano-based retail chain. Among the locals are ex-TI CEO Tom Engibous, the board chair, whose 2012 compensation was $328,702; Colleen Barrett, president emeritus of Southwest Airlines ($225,012); and R. Gerald Turner, president of Southern Methodist University ($235,012).
An insider contends the maestro has been complaining about the expense of the place for quite a while. But so far no one’s saying exactly why the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Jaap van Zweden has listed his 4,258-square-foot unit at the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton for sale. Actually, according to DCAD, the DSO music director is only a 50 percent owner of the 3-bedroom place. World-renowned violinist Michael Guttman owns the other half, the appraisal district says.
Valued by the green eyeshades at DCAD at a proposed $1.8 million, the swanky home has been listed for more than a month now for $2.9 million. Jonathan Martin, the DSO chief executive, told us the other day that Jaap “isn’t going anywhere,” and we know his contract runs through 2015-16. So, it may just be that he’s traveling so much these days he’d like to off-load the Ritz digs while the market is fairly strong, then move into something less grand. (We’ve tried repeatedly to call the DSO to speak with Jaap, but for some reason no one’s picking up the phone.)
What a difference in attitude a couple of months have made for Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne. As Krista mentioned earlier, AT&T and Dallas have (nearly) finalized snatching the very lucrative Byron Nelson PGA tournament away from Irving—a deal the mayor was understandably upset about earlier in the year.
In an April story in D CEO magazine she told writer Art Stricklin: “From Day One we have been partners with the city of Dallas. The mayors of Dallas and Arlington, Fort Worth, and Irving agreed that we were not competing with each other. … [But] this seems to be the aim of taking a golden nugget from one city to another city.”
Now, though, Van Duyne apparently has got her mind right about things. The Nelson “is and has always been a regional event,” she told today’s DMN. “The tournament is bigger than any one city and benefits every community in North Texas.” As she spoke harps may or may not have been playing in the background.
I mentioned this contest on the blog last summer, and some the commenters seemed to mistake our post for the official entry form. One lucky contestant was to receive $1 million from Plano-based Frito-Lay in exchange for a great new flavor idea for Lay’s potato chips.
Well, the winning flavor is Cheesy Garlic Bread. It beat out the other two finalists, Chicken & Waffles and Sriracha. The company received more than 3.8 million entries, and an online vote determined the winner.
A Wisconsin librarian named Karen Weber-Mendham gets the cash. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal interviewed her:
Weber-Mendham entered the contest to pick a new potato chip flavor last year at the urging of her 13-year-old son, Davey. She submitted her idea because who, after all, doesn’t like cheese, garlic and bread?
In her contest entry she wrote that her children always clamor for an appetizer when the family goes out to dinner and because she’s a mom, she always says no. That is, unless the family is dining at an Italian restaurant and Weber-Mendham smells the garlic wafting from the kitchen. So she relents and orders garlic bread. With cheese, of course.
“That’s what you do when you’re from Wisconsin, you put cheese on everything,” she said.
Dallas real estate executive Chuck Dannis has spent a lot of hours on American Airlines flights. But he’s never had such a scare on one as he did this afternoon.
Returning to Dallas from Denver aboard AA Flight 880, Dannis said he was sitting in first-class when he and the other passengers noticed an electrical “burning smell” shortly after takeoff. The plane was diverted quickly to the first available airport—in Pueblo, Colo.—where it made an emergency landing.
“They explained where all the emergency exits were, and told us to assume the crash position,” Dannis said by phone from the airport in Pueblo, where buses were scheduled to pick up the 100-plus passengers and shuttle them to Colorado Springs to board another plane for Dallas.
Then he added, jokingly, “It was enough to make you a believer.”
After several years in the ownership saddle, the Houston Chronicle reports this morning, private-equity firms TPG Capital and Warburg Pincus LLC are pondering a sale or a public offering of Dallas’ Neiman Marcus Group.
Will Changing Politics of North Dallas Affect Makeup of City Council? On paper, the Dallas City Council is non-partisan, but you don’t have to sit through too many council meetings to guess who voted Mitt and who voted Barack during the last election. As it turns out, more residents in historically conservative North Dallas voted Barack last time around, so Gromers Jeffers wonders if that will mean inroads for Democrats at the local level (paywall).
Did University Park Fire Firefighter to Avoid Paying Medical Bills? A 31-year-old former University Park firefighter says that five months after he threw-out his back on the job, UP stopped paying for workers compensation benefits. Then he was fired. So now he is suing the wealthy enclave. University Park is self-insured.
Tarrant County Water District Election Borrows From Chinatown Plot: Why would the wealthy Dallas investor who bought the estate of Bernie Madoff drop big bucks on a candidate for the Tarrant Regional Water District board — a candidate who doesn’t even live in the district? Why would that candidate need to start Political Action Committee when his opponents last month raised contributions of only around $3,500? What if I told you there was a pipeline project involved, and said pipeline is set to run through a few East Texas ranches owned by some wealthy Ewing-types. Starts to come into focus, no?
Last summer, we weren’t the only ones to take Nancy Brinker to task for the infamous Planned Parenthood fiasco. Not because the CEO and founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure yanked grants from PP, then restored them with a red face; as a private foundation, those are Komen’s decisions to make, screwy as they were.
The problem in our view was that Brinker never ‘fessed up to the real reasons behind the moves, besmirching the nonprofit’s image further with her ham-handed dishonesty.
Well, surprise, surprise. According to business columnist Cheryl Hall at the Dallas Morning News, Brinker has been handsomely rewarded for her ineptness. Cheryl found that Brinker earned nearly $685,000 in fiscal 2012—a whopping increase from her previous year’s salary of $417,000.
That really is nice work, if you can get it.
West Fertilizer Plant Was Plagued by Theft, Tampering. While investigators are continuing to try to sort out the cause of the April 17 explosion, this Reuters report details some troubling information about the plant’s recent history of lax security. The perimeter wasn’t fenced, and there were no burglar alarms or security guards. “It was a hometown-like situation. Everybody trusts everybody,” said McLennan County Chief Deputy Sheriff Matt Cawthon. Police received reports of 11 burglaries and five ammonia leaks there during the last 12 years. Some of these leaks were attributed to thieves siphoning off gallons of anhydrous ammonia, a liquid gas that can be used to cook methamphetamine. However, anhydrous ammonia has been ruled out as the cause of the blast, so Heisenberg can probably be ruled out as a suspect.
Victory Park to Get a Reboot. The owners of the still-troubled development around the American Airlines Center know that they need to make some big changes if they hope to see its largely empty retail space filled. Their solution involves building even more retail and office space, rejiggering some of the streets, and changing the look of the storefronts, signs, and landscaping. “Some of what is there now is very cold and monochromatic and doesn’t add energy,” said one of the planners of the redo. “We want that street to feel like a linear park and look more inviting.” Reminds me of something Patrick Kennedy wrote in D about the fixes needed at Victory: “Real places don’t have hard edges.”
Sen. Ted Cruz Denies Presidential Aspirations, Sort of. There have been reports that our freshman senator is prepping a 2016 White House run. Here’s what he told the media before a dinner for the Institute For Policy Innovation last night in Dallas: ”My focus is entirely on the U.S. Senate. That’s where the battlefield is. I can’t help what the media choose to write about or don’t write about.” Seems that leaves plenty of wiggle room for entering the race.
Last Night Ridiculously Cold For May. Don’t worry. Should be warmer today and this weekend. You might need the A/C again by Tuesday.
I know many of you have likely already beat me to reading the latest edition of Workforce magazine — the publication devoted to important trends for human resources professionals — but I want to mention anyway that there’s a piece that follows up on Baylor Health Care System’s policy of not hiring anyone who uses tobacco products.
That ban went into effect in January 2012. Previously Baylor had required that employees who were smokers pay a surcharge for their health care insurance, an extra $25 a pay period. When I discussed the change with Baylor CEO Joel Allison shortly before it was made, he said “We’re in the healthcare business, so we want people to practice good health” and noted that ”Five percent of the population uses up about 50 percent of the health care cost.”
Well, how has it worked out for Baylor? According to the article:
Anyone with a preliminary employment offer goes through drug screening, which includes nicotine screening. The test will detect any kind of nicotine product, including cigarettes, a nicotine patch, nicotine gum and e-cigarettes. So far, 69 of about 400 offers have been rescinded, she says, and there is no evidence Baylor is losing out on top-notch talent because of the screening.
Testing is possible because nicotine users are not a protected legal class in Texas. Currently 29 states and the District of Columbia offer legal protection to smokers, according to the American Lung Association.
Employees already working for the company weren’t required to quit smoking to keep their jobs, but they continue to pay the surcharge.
According to a report by the American Lung Association, employees who smoke cost employers an average of $1,429 more in health care costs than nonsmokers.
Yesterday’s New York Times Magazine ran a short feature pitting “disgraced former J.C. Penney C.E.O.” Ron Johnson against Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. The Times said each man has his own “seminal work,” for example. Johnson’s seminal work was The Genius Bar; Hubbard’s was Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Each also has his own “divine creator.” Johnson’s was Steve Jobs; Hubbard’s was Xenu. (According to Scientology doctrine, Xenu was the dictator of the Galactic Confederacy who brought billions of people to earth 75 million years ago in a spacecraft that looked very much like a DC-8.) In the end, the Times says, the competition’s winner is Scientology’s Hubbard.
The UK outpost of Wired magazine today cited research by SMU computer science professor Tyler Moore, which found that 45 percent of online exchanges that change hard currency into the online currency Bitcoins end up closing.
More than that, if an exchange somehow gets large enough to justify staying in business, it soon becomes a prime target for cyberattacks.
The study said: “Exchanges handling 275 Bitcoins’ worth of transactions each day have a 20 percent chance of being breached, compared to a 70 percent chance for exchanges processing daily transactions worth 5570 Bitcoins.” Moore and Christin estimate that the median lifespan of any Bitcoin exchange is 381 days, with a 29.9 percent chance that a new exchange will close within a year of opening.
An extra risk for customers is losing their money from exchanges closing. Of the 18 closed exchanges, there was evidence that only six reimbursed their customers. Five did not, while there was not evidence enough to make a judgement regarding the remaining seven.
Anyway, yeah, maybe don’t trade in all your greenbacks for Bitcoins.
Then, on Wednesday, Exxon recaptured its position as the world’s most valuable publicly traded company, after shares of Apple Inc. dropped below $400. “Whatever that means,” Tillerson said with a laugh during a private reception before his talk. “They’re more volatile than we are. Day traders must love that Apple stock. We try to stay steady, while they go up and down. We’re good for long-term investors like pensions.”
In his formal remarks, Tillerson had his mind on the long-term as well. In contrast to the “old ways” of thinking about oil and gas in terms of rationing scarcity, he said, new technologies mean North America is enjoying and will enjoy an abundance of affordable, environmentally safe energy for decades to come. Thanks to techniques like fracking and horizontal drilling, North America is now the world’s fastest-growing hydrocarbon region, he said, providing jobs for rural areas, boosting U.S. industrial competitiveness, and pumping tens of millions of dollars in revenue into government coffers every day. At the same time, Tillerson stressed, CO2 levels have fallen to their lowest levels in decades, even as the population has grown. (more…)