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57 Varieties Of Challenges


In Business This Week: HEADLINER: WILLIAM JOHNSON

57 VARIETIES OF CHALLENGES

William Johnson is about to be handed a very full plate. H.J. Heinz's chief operating officer and heir apparent will head up a companywide restructuring that was to be unveiled on Mar. 14. The plan, which Heinz sources say involves thousands of job cuts and more than $500 million in charges, is expected to return central control of Heinz's businesses--from tuna plants in Ghana to baby food factories in India--to headquarters in Pittsburgh.

Johnson's top challenge may be Heinz's $1.5 billion Weight Watchers unit. Johnson and CEO Anthony O'Reilly are putting Weight Watchers, which is earning only about $10 million in the U.S., on a diet. To shed $50 million in costs over two years, Weight Watchers will close 258 storefronts and move meetings back to rented spaces in churches and schools. Also, there's a new marketing campaign featuring Sarah Ferguson, former Duchess of York.

Weight Watchers has underperformed since 1990. If it stumbles again, Johnson may want to cross it off of Heinz's menu.By Stephen Baker EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top

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TWO BROKERS TIE THE KNOT

MARSH & McLENNAN & Johnson & Higgins: It's no law firm, but the latest consolidation in the property-casualty industry. On Mar. 12, 152-year-old J&H, the No.3 U.S. insurance broker, agreed to be acquired by No.2 Marsh & McLennan for $1.8 billion in cash and stock. The merger follows Aon's January acquisition of Alexander & Alexander. The consolidation among brokers, say industry analysts, stems from mergers among property-casualty insurers. The last few years have seen many such deals, including Travelers' buying Aetna's P&C business and the CNA-Continental Insurance merger. Brokers must seek efficiencies to live off shrinking commissions pegged to rates that have fallen for a decade.EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top

CAN IBUPROFEN STOP ALZHEIMER'S?

IT'S NOT JUST FOR ACHES AND pains. A new study shows that ibuprofen, the active ingredient in American Home Products' Advil and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Nuprin, may help prevent Alzheimer's disease. In a 14-year study at Johns Hopkins University, people who used ibuprofen over that period reduced the chance of getting Alzheimer's up to 60%. Higher levels of the drug seemed to offer more protection. But don't rush to the drugstore: Researchers warn that potential side effects, such as stomach pain and bleeding, are too serious to recommend widespread use.EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top

IT'S A LITIGIOUS WORLD AFTER ALL

MICHAEL EISNER AND Jeffrey Katzenberg will meet in court in Los Angeles on Nov. 18. Katzenberg, Walt Disney's former studio chief, says he's owed $250 million. Disney says Katzenberg's contract waived the disputed payments and asserts it will win when "all the facts are made public, minus the spin doctoring." Katzenberg lawyer Bertram Fields says he's eager to get Eisner on the stand and that former President Michael Ovitz' $96 million severance package after 14 months "may be of some interest" to jurors judging the value of Katzenberg's decade-long tenure.EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top


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