"Brands do not conquer markets. They don't have armies. They are citizens of the world." -- Marc Gob?, president of consultant Desgrippes Gob?, saying U.S. brands can thrive despite antipathy to U.S. foreign policy One year after he was hired to save Tyco International (TYC), CEO Edward Breen is close to wiping away the most obvious emblems of Dennis Kozlowski's opulent reign. Later this summer, Breen will move Tyco's U.S. headquarters from its swank Manhattan setting to a building near Princeton, N.J. Kozlowski's lavish offices in Boca Raton, Fla., will be carved into cubicles for Tyco's Fire & Security unit. And the former headquarters in Exeter, N.H., has been sold to Bentley Pharmaceuticals (BNT).
Tyco's fleet of 13 airplanes and helicopters is down to two planes and one chopper. Two of the multimillion-dollar corporate apartments have been sold, and a third is on the block. Pending legal actions against Kozlowski -- whose trial on criminal corruption charges starts Sept. 29 -- have delayed Tyco from selling his much-buzzed-about Fifth Avenue pad.
Breen also has replaced the corporate staff -- some 70 people. As a result, he says, "it's not like everyone is around the water cooler talking" about Kozlowski's trial. It's almost as if the institutional memory of the former CEO has been wiped clean. British netizens know where to buy new cars: Virgin Cars, the brainchild of billionaire Richard Branson and auto industry consultant Ian Lancaster. Despite initial resistance from carmakers, Virgin has sold 12,000 vehicles -- from Fiats to Audis -- since the Web site began in 2000.
That's just the start. In May, Virgin also launched the world's first auto department store that sells competing models side by side. It offers discounts of up to 30% and a no-haggle guarantee. Buyers snapped up 150 cars in the first six weeks, and sales could rise 50%, to $136 million, this year, says Lancaster. He plans 12 more stores over seven years.
As for dealers, the European Union has only lately let them sell rival brands. "We'll see a revolution in the distribution market for cars," says analyst Thomas Aney at Dresdner, Kleinwort Wasserstein in Frankfurt. No doubt. Browsing at a car supermarket certainly beats haggling at the dealer. Despite Microsoft (MSFT) decision to use stock rather than options to inspire employees, the stock-option culture is alive and well -- and living in Redwood Shores, Calif. On July 11, Oracle (ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison received a staggering 900,000 options, part of 5.9 million options granted to seven top execs. That's in marked contrast to Microsoft, where neither Bill Gates nor Steve Ballmer has ever received options.
Oracle defends the grant, saying it's Ellison's first pay since 1999, when he suspended his salary and bonus in exchange for 40 million options, many of which are now under water. Says Ellison: "900,000 sounds like a lot, but it's a tiny fraction of the company."
But governance experts say Ellison's latest grant is a classic misuse of options. They're supposed to be an incentive, not a substitute salary or a reward.
Ellison already owns one-fourth of Oracle -- with shares and options worth nearly $16 billion. If that doesn't provide a meaningful incentive for him to rev up the software maker a further 900,000 options certainly won't. "It boggles the mind," says Patrick McGurn, senior vice-president at proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services. "What in the world are you giving him incentive compensation for?" One year after the July 30 signing of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the law designed to clamp down on auditing firms has in fact made them richer. Audit fees are up 25% to 33% this year, says Paul R. Brown, a professor at New York University's Stern School of Business. Auditors are responding to the law with expanded reviews of corporate controls and greater efforts to discern fraud. "It is ironic," says Brown, who expects auditing firms to post record profits. "Some of the players who led to the problem are really benefiting."
This is just the start. According to a May survey by Financial Executives International, audit fees are expected to jump an additional 35% by mid-2004. That's when companies must assess their internal controls and then have their auditors attest to them.
As private partnerships, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche, KPMG, and Ernst & Young don't reveal their earnings. But they say audits have become pricier. They're also more time-consuming -- and riskier, given Arthur Andersen's demise. "What we're trying to make sure of is not that we're more profitable but that we stay in business," says Deloitte partner Greg Weaver. Sarbanes-Oxley is certainly helping. A.G. Edward & Sons (AGE) has been hit with a $950,000 judgment in the first arbitration ruling stemming from claims that a broker mishandled client accounts.
Last February, BusinessWeek chronicled how stockbroker William F. Gibbs Sr. persuaded as many as 90 workers at a Procter & Gamble (PG) plant in Augusta, Ga., to quit and transfer their pensions to him to manage. While Gibbs said he would invest only in blue chips, he shifted workers into risky tech stocks -- moves that cost some clients almost all of their savings ("Wiped Out," Feb. 24).
Many of the workers filed claims against Gibbs in arbitration. On July 8, the first panel ruled in favor of Wendell A. Gresham, who suffered nearly $265,000 in losses. A.G. Edwards was told to cover Gresham's losses plus $240,000 in legal fees. The panel also awarded $400,000 in punitive damages -- a big win since arbitrators award punitive damages in only 2% of all claims.
The ruling could foreshadow recoveries for others because Gibbs put many in the same stocks. A spokeswoman for A.G. Edwards says "we strongly disagree" with the decision. Gibbs deferred questions to his lawyer, Peter J. Anderson, who called the ruling "overblown" and is likely to file a motion to vacate the award. Enshrinement in Baseball's Hall of Fame is food for the soul of ex-big leaguers who have spent careers piling up wins or slugging home runs. The honor can also mean big bucks.
Hiring Gary Carter to appear at a sales meeting, for example, used to run about $8,000. Now, the ex-catcher, who enters the Hall on July 27 along with ex-Baltimore Orioles slugger Eddie Murray, charges $20,000 to $25,000. "It puts him in a different category," says Bob Williams, president of Burns Sports & Celebrities, which arranges corporate appearances.
The memorabilia market also can spike. The price of a Carter-autographed ball is up from $35 to about $50 at Kit Young Cards, a memorabilia retailer in San Diego. Murray, who rarely makes appearances, is hot, too. His signature on a ball fetches an extra 15% to 20%, to about $80. Not bad since thousands can be signed at one event.
It's not all about grabbing the green, though. Murray and Carter are donating some of their Hall of Fame spoils to charities.