Into the frying pan? John Dasburg's unexpected jump from the cockpit of Northwest Airlines to Burger King fulfills his long-held desire to return to Miami. That's where the 58-year-old executive and his wife grew up, attended school, and where Dasburg held his first jobs, including delivering The Miami Herald.
But given Burger King's problems--the chain has been losing market share to smaller competitors for years--Dasburg admits his homecoming will be short. "In the broadest sense, Burger King is in need of a turnaround," says Dasburg, a flamboyant sort remembered by former colleagues for belting out arias as he walked the halls.
One of Dasburg's biggest challenges will be winning over Burger King's franchisees. They run more than 90% of its 11,150 restaurants--and have been openly critical of what they consider to be neglect by Diageo, the British conglomerate that acquired the chain in 1989. "We're going to have to bring peace to the family, if that's possible," admits Dasburg. Next time you feed a buck into a Coke machine, don't be surprised if a Procter & Gamble product such as Sunny Delight juice drink or Pringles potato chips pops out. On Feb. 21, Coca-Cola and P&G unveiled plans to create a yet-unnamed venture combining both companies' juice and snack businesses, brands such as Minute Maid, Fruitopia, Pringles, and Sunny Delight, which have largely been laggards in their categories. The partnership allows Atlanta-based Coke to tap into P&G's knowledge of the fast-growing juice category, in keeping with Coke CEO Douglas Daft's strategy to diversify the company beyond the soda business. In turn, P&G gains access to Coke's proprietary global distribution network. In another coup for its rapidly growing energy outsourcing business, Enron nabbed Quaker Oats as its latest customer. As part of the 10-year, multimillion-dollar pact announced on Feb. 21, subsidiary Enron Energy Services will supply electricity and natural gas and manage the energy infrastructure for 17 Quaker facilities in the U.S. and Canada. Enron, the nation's largest wholesale marketer of gas and electricity, signed $16 billion worth of similar outsourcing deals last year. How much is music file-swapping worth? Evidently, more than $1 billion over five years. That's the amount that Napster (page 51) has offered to pay major music labels that want to shut down its free online music distribution site. Napster says it could launch a new service by July requiring users to pay monthly fees for downloads and even more to copy music on to MP3 players or CDs. With that money, it's offering to pay $200 million a year to major labels such as Sony, Universal, and EMI, and independent artists. But the U.S. recording industry says it's owed much more for copyright infringement facilitated by Napster. Chalk one up for the little guy. On Feb. 20, a federal jury in Miami ordered Exxon Mobil to pay $500 million to more than 10,000 station owners who claim the world's largest oil company overcharged them for gasoline from 1982 to 1994. The legal battle began in 1991, when dealers who took part in Exxon Mobil's "discount for cash" program filed a class action. They argued that they were promised a discount on their wholesale gasoline purchases if they charged less to customers who paid cash than to those who used credit. The plaintiffs claim they never got those discounts. Eugene Stearns, an attorney for the station operators, says interest costs could push the verdict to $1 billion. Exxon Mobil says it will appeal. The Y2K bug may have been a dud, but it's still nagging Mountain View (Calif.)-based Intuit. The maker of finance and accounting software for individuals and small businesses cited weaker-than-expected sales in its second-quarter results. The culprit: a slowdown in upgrade purchases of the QuickBooks line. More than half of its 3 million customers upgraded in 1999 due to Y2K fears. Still, Intuit had a respectable quarter thanks to more customers using its software on the Net. Revenues rose 7.5% from the year before, to $457.6 million, while profit grew 82%, to $104.2 million, excluding investment losses and merger-related costs. -- Home Depot Co-Chairman Arthur Blank, 58, in a surprise move, said he is retiring.
-- Wal-Mart beat Wall Street expectations with fourth-quarter earnings of $2 billion.
-- Coke will spend $150 million to promote Warner Bros.' upcoming Harry Potter movie. Sybase's 2001 stock surge ended abruptly after the enterprise software maker agreed to pay $325 million in stock for e-commerce software company New Era. Sybase needs new markets to survive in the shadow of Oracle. But investors doubt help will come from New Era, which lost $58 million last year on sales of $188 million. Feb 21, the day after the New Era deal was announced, Sybase shares dropped 19%, to 19 15/16.