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Lewis E. Platt: The Grapes Of Platt


In Business This Week: Headliner

Lewis E. Platt: The Grapes of Platt

A votre sante! When Lew Platt stepped down as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, he intended to stay off future CEO hot seats. Then Gerard Roche, chairman of headhunter Heidrick & Struggles, came to him with a tasty offer: running Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates. "Gerry ran it by me on a lark, but the more I thought about it, the more interested I got," says Platt.

On Nov. 16, it was official. A serious oenophile, Platt will move, with his 2,500-bottle wine collection, from Silicon Valley to be closer to Kendall-Jackson's headquarters in Santa Rosa. "Drinking wine and being in the business are very different things," he admits. But he figures some of the skills honed during his 33 years at HP will come in handy. He'll be able to help the private company with its plans to expand globally, and maybe go public. Still, it's a big transition from the challenges of HP, which was struggling to keep up with an industry that's evolving at Internet speed. It takes years to produce a good cabernet.By Peter Burrows in San Mateo, Calif.; Edited by Mark FrankelReturn to top

Three Carriers in Priceline's Corner

Priceline.com, the name-your-own-price Web site, added three of the largest U.S. carriers to its airline ticket program on Nov. 17. The addition of United, American, and US Airways will give priceline access to leisure tickets covering up to 90% of the U.S. market. United and American will get 5.5 million shares each, while US Airways will get 1.1 million. Before securing the deal, priceline.com founder Jay Walker and Chairman Richard Braddock paid $125 million to buy more than 2 million priceline shares from its original airline partner, Delta Air Lines, to help balance each carrier's stake. priceline will also take a $1.1 billion charge to cover the accounting costs of issuing warrants to its eight domestic air partners, for a total of 20 million shares. priceline, which claims to sell 50,000 tickets weekly, says the deal will double its available inventory.Edited by Mark FrankelReturn to top

Pfizer Stays Focused

Pfizer chairman William Steere is digging in his heels on his hostile bid for Warner-Lambert. On Nov. 16, the company filed an amended complaint in Delaware opposing Warner's proposed merger with American Home Products. On the same day, Pfizer told analysts that its drug pipeline was robust and that the Warner bid was not a sign of weakness. Still, Pfizer's stock fell 2.5%, to 34 1/8. If Pfizer's stock price doesn't climb soon, independent analyst Hemant Shah says, "They'll have to raise their offer."Edited by Mark FrankelReturn to top

Things Go Pricier with Coke

You can say goodbye to those 79 cents two-liter bottles of Coke. In a shift in strategy, Coke's dominant U.S. bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises, sounded a retreat in the Cola Wars on Nov. 15. Instead of chasing volume growth in the grocery aisles, the company says it will now try to boost profits by raising prices in the supermarket channel. The shift marks a reversal for the soda giant, which has long held down prices in hopes of pumping up the volume.Edited by Mark FrankelReturn to top


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