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77 posts from October 2011


Regions Bank joins big banks in yanking debit card fees

Regions Bank says today it’s eliminating its monthly CheckCard fee for all accounts effective Nov. 1, and will refund CheckCard fees already incurred.

Regions Bank said it was making the move “in response to feedback customers.”

“We are committed to providing an exceptional customer experience and are continually adapting our products and services in response to the needs and preferences of our customers,” John Owen, head of Consumer Services for Regions Bank, said in a release. “We have heard from our customers and are responding to their feedback by eliminating the monthly fee for CheckCards.”

Customers who previously incurred a CheckCard fee will not need to take any action to receive their refund and it will be credited to their account on Nov. 4, the bank said.

Chase and Wells Fargo on Friday pulled back from their debit card fees.

- Scott Nishimura

Union Drilling reports earnings, plans to sell rigs

Union Drilling, based in Fort Worth, said Monday it earned $600,000 on revenues of $66.7 million in the third quarter, compared to a net loss of $4.4 million on revenues of $52 million in the same period a year ago. The most recent quarter included an $800,000, non-cash charge related to the pending sale of six drilling rigs.

Union said it plans to sell 31 rigs, which it said are smaller, older rigs in its fleet. As of Sept. 30 it had 51 rigs, not counting the rigs scheduled for sale in December. The company said it kept its rigs busy 59.4 percent of the time in the third quarter, compared to 54 percent the previous quarter and 53 percent a year earlier.

-- Jim Fuquay


International Bedding may close Cleburne plant

International Bedding Corp. says it’s trying to find a buyer or new financing, and shut down if those efforts aren’t successful.

The company has 76 employees at a plant at 400 Commerce St. in Cleburne, IBC told the Texas Workforce Commission in a letter.

“Over the past few years, IBC has been working aggressively to implement important changes such as adjustments in leadership, reductions in force and other organizational modiñcations, to reduce the Company’s debt and realign it with the current market,” the company said in the letter. “However, the ongoing economic downturn has not allowed IBC to realize fully the benefits of these initiatives.

“As such, we are considering a sale of the company and are currently in active negotiations with interested parties. Every effort is being made to find a buyer that values our employees as much as we do, as our hope is that any acquirer retains current IBC employees. Moreover, we are working to ensure that neither our customers nor vendors experience any disruption...If we are unable to finalize a sale or find an alternative financing solution IBC will  have no other option but to cease operations.

“The company has notified all of the affected employees...that operations may permanently cease 62 days after the date of this letter. To clarify, if we are required to take this course, all IBC plants and offices would be closing permanently,” the letter said.

- Scott Nishimura

Hertz outsourcing 219 D/FW Airport transporter jobs to Aramark

Hertz Corp. is outsourcing to Aramark the D/FW Airport work of 219 on/off lot and distribution transporters, and laying them off effective Dec. 26, Hertz is reportingt to the Texas Workforce Commission.

“Aramark is accepting applications for those who are interested in applying,” Hertz told the commission in a letter. “It is our hope that those options will lessen the impact of the mass layoff on individual employees and on the community as a whole.”

- Scott Nishimura

Worthington Hotel GM Jameson Fort Worth CVB's new chairman

Bob Jameson, general manager of The Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel, is new chairman of the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Jameson replaces Johnny Campbell, CEO of Sundance Square Management and chairman for the last four years.

“Johnny has done an extraordinary job helping to enhance Fort Worth’s reputation as a superior destination,” David Dubois, the CVB’s chief executive, said. “Hosting the 2011 Super Bowl certainly was a highlight of his leadership. We are fortunate to have Bob as our next chairman. He is passionate about Fort Worth and his commitment to our city runs deep.”

Scott Nishimura


BizPress CEO Rich Connor on the hunt for more newspaper acquisitions

Just got off the phone with the former Star-Telegram publisher Rich Connor, who said Friday he’s stepping down as CEO of MaineToday Media on Dec. 31, four years after he bought the media company with investors.

Connor, 64, who also is chairman of a media company that owns the Fort Worth Business Press and Collin County Business Press and is publisher of The Times Leader newspaper in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., said he’s on the hunt for more acquisitions.

"I’m looking at newspapers almost as we speak," he said. "I’m going to buy something else."

Connor said he expected to retain his investment in MaineToday, which owns the Portland Press-Herald in Maine and other newspapers and web sites.

"We’ll have to see how they run the company," said Connor, who was the Star-Telegram’s publisher from 1986 to 1997.

He said he was ready to move on from MaineToday, after leading an overhaul of the newspaper to focus on online. MaineToday recently reported its first increase in paid circulation in nearly five years.

"I’m tired," he said. "I’m literally the CEO and the editor and publisher."

He and his wife Deborah, who have a young daughter, have homes in Fort Worth, Pennsylvania, and Maine, Connor said.

Peter Brodsky, MaineToday chairman, said in a release that Connor’s "long experience in the newspaper industry provided a critical start to the reshaping of these newspapers."

Connor said he visits Fort Worth typically once a month, for 3-5 days, but now tries to avoid the summers.

- Scott Nishimura

Connor says he remains "significant investor" in Maine media chain

Here's MaineToday Media's statement today on Rich Connor's departure from the company:

Richard L. Connor, CEO of MaineToday Media and the MTM Board of Directors announced today that Connor will step down as the head of the company on December 31, 2011.

MaineToday Media owns the Portland Press Herald, The Kennebec Journal, The Waterville Sentinel, and the weekly Coastal Journal.

Connor said he will be helping the company transition to new leadership over the next two months and then will continue to work on media acquisitions and other media-related projects.

He successfully led the acquisition of the former Blethen Maine Newspapers in June of 2009 after working over a year on the acquisition. He assumed leadership of the company at that time.

"My work on this project began late in December of 2007, and since then, I have led a significant transformation of this company," said Connor. "We just reported the first increase in paid circulation in almost five years. The Portland Press Herald was recognized as the Best Daily Newspaper in Maine by the Maine Press Association two weeks ago. Our websites and online products have been totally revamped, and a digital division was started two months ago. Our website traffic is now the highest in the state. Those achievements indicate the dedicated work of all of the employees of this company, and they have marked a milestone for me. All of our newspapers have become much better content providers, and we are now literally a new media company with an emphasis on online. We centralized printing, moved into new offices at two papers, and repositioned the company. Now the company needs to leverage the new foundation into the next phase. After four years of work with a schedule that has been around the clock, seven days a week, it's time for change for me personally, my family, and for the company. I remain a significant individual investor in the company and I believe in its future."

Board Chairman Peter Brodsky thanked Connor for his service to the company and said the MTM board will immediately begin seeking a replacement.

"We will be recruiting leadership for these properties with strong ties to emerging media technologies that continue to shape the future of this industry. Rich Connor's long experience in the newspaper industry provided a critical start to the reshaping of these newspapers. Future management will build on that foundation. MaineToday Media looks forward to continuing its role as the leading source of news and quality journalism in Maine."

- Scott Nishimura

Fort Worth Business Press chief Rich Connor out at Maine paper chain

MaineToday CEO Richard Connor, chairman of DRC Media, which owns The Business Press in Fort Worth, is out as CEO of a media chain in Maine.

- Scott Nishimura

Energy Future Holdings has third straight quarterly loss

Energy Future Holdings Corp., the Texas power company taken private in 2007 in the largest buyout in history, reported its third consecutive quarterly loss as interest costs rose and sales fell.The loss before adjustments was $710 million, compared to $2.9 billion a year earlier, which included a $4.1 billion write-down in the value of assets stemming from low wholesale power prices, the EFH said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Sales fell 11 percent to $2.32 billion as it lost customers at its TXU Energy retail electricity unit.Interest and related costs rose 50 percent to $505 million.After adjustments, Dallas-based Energy Future said it lost $76 million compared with profit of $17 million a year earlier. Those adjustments included a $321 million charge related to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which EFH has said will force it to idle two generating units and reduce its lignite mining.

Last month, Energy Future sued the EPA, saying it would cost $1.5 billion through 2020 and at least 500 jobs to meet the new rule. Energy Future owns Oncor Holdings, North Texas’ principal power distribution utility, TXU Energy and Luminant, the state’s largest power generator.

-- Bloomberg News



Sardines discarding Italian, re-inventing self as 80's-style supper club

Star-Telegram's Barry Shlachter reporting this today:

The owners of Sardines Ristorante Italiano are saying goodbye to its signature dishes and longtime piano player Johnny Case as they reinvent the Fort Worth Cultural District landmark – founded in 1978 – as an 80’s style supper club to be called Studio Eighty.

Italian food will be served through Sunday evening. Then the kitchen will be torn out, but the bar remains in business during the transition, which Jacobini says should be no more than a month.

"And during happy hour, we will be selling drinks at 1980’s prices – $2.50 for a cocktail," co-owner Louie Jacobini said Thursday. When the kitchen is restored, the club will of over-sized appetizers and desserts.

Jacobini said that the new manager is Jeff Murtha, who has had considerable experience running adult-oriented bars like the Club House in Dallas. Jacobini says that he remains majority owner with Sardines founder and Maui resident Sal Matarese holding a minority share. Murtha will have no equity stake, he added.

- Scott Nishimura


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