"We will not allow you to litter the Information Superhighway with e-mail trash." -- California Governor Gray Davis, signing the country's toughest anti-spam law The words "early retirement" and "severance" hardly excite workers. Except at FedEx' (FDX) largest division, air express. There, more than 20% of 14,000 salaried workers are expected to snap up early-retirement or severance packages before a Sept. 30 deadline. "The word on the street here is that everyone's real excited about the offer," says Mason Kauffman, a former FedEx exec and a shipping consultant in Memphis.
The early-retirement package lets workers in their 50s get full pensions and medical benefits as if they were retiring at 60. The severance package offers $10,000 plus four weeks' pay for each year of service, up to a maximum of 72 weeks. "It's a heck of a kiss goodbye," says analyst Donald Broughton of A.G. Edwards & Sons. FedEx won't disclose how many workers have signed on, but it says: "The acceptance rate has been quite good."
FedEx can afford such largesse because technology-driven productivity has soared. Customers can now track packages online, for example, rather than asking FedEx to do it. Broughton figures the offers will shave up to $190 million in costs annually -- and give new life to area bingo halls. With the recall election back on, it's a good thing Arnold Schwarzenegger collected nearly $30 million to reprise his Terminator role. That's because Hollywood's A-list money is not supporting his gubernatorial bid. Instead, Arianna Huffington seems to be raking in Hollywood dough.
Left-leaning Huffington is more palatable for Hollywood Dems than GOP Arnold. Among her backers: Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein and producer Lawrence Bender both gave the legal limit of $21,200. Lesser amounts have come from Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman, among others. Why back a long shot? In a town where relationships are key, the people you know may be more important than the chances of winning the election. "I always support my friends," Weinstein says.
Arnold isn't being snubbed completely. Jerry Perenchio, chairman of Univision Communications, and Hollywood lawyer Jake Bloom gave at least $20,000. And on Sept. 21, director Ivan Reitman hosted a fund-raiser -- but no stars showed. Will Arnold snub those who stiffed him? "He's a big star," says Tom Pollock, former Universal Pictures chairman and Arnold backer. "People still will do business the way they always have." -Ron Grover For dirty pots and pans, old-fashioned elbow grease is out. Procter & Gamble (PG) has come up with a motorized scrub brush to tackle after-meal messes. Dubbed the Dawn Power Dish Brush, the 11.5-inch gizmo is topped with rotating bristles and takes four AA batteries. The $8 brush appears on Oct. 6.
The Dish Brush comes from the inventors who dreamed up the Crest SpinBrush, now the best-seller in its class, with nearly $200 million in annual sales. Dawn brand manager Ernesto Levy calls the Dish Brush "a breakthrough innovation."
Veteran dishwashers are skeptical. Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean, says buyers will tire of a gadget that has to be cleaned after the dishes are done. "It will get shoved to the back of the cupboard," she says. Mark Lopez, who loads the dishwashers every night at The Palm restaurant in New York, says: "I don't see why you need this.... Just press a button to use the dishwashing machine." And that's from a man who knows. Forget about puffed-up job titles and phantom degrees. The latest ruckus in r?sum? land: a new caginess about age. In this foul market, more managers are doing a kind of r?sum?-plasty, lopping 10 years of job experience off here and nipping dates of degrees there, say employment experts.
Why? Job seekers are scared of being seen as too experienced (expensive) or too old (40-plus). What's ironic is that the educated young have been the ones hit hardest. Since April 2000, employment among the 55-to-65-year-old set has jumped 6%. Gen X's rate has dropped 3% -- more sharply than any other group since the Korean War. Cost accounting, mergers, acquisitions -- and sub-zero survival? Add the last to management guru Michael Useem's list of things every budding CEO should know. The Wharton prof -- known for his offbeat leadership exercises -- is taking 18 MBA students to Antarctica in January for a physically grueling, 10-day exploration trek. "We are a kind of experiment in leadership," says Useem.
He promises "after-action reviews" to help participants apply their Antarctic lessons at the office. The thinking: Exposing MBAs to decision-making under duress and comparing their experiences with those of explorers such as Ernest Shackleton clarifies how to take action back home.
Filmmaker David Stone is in talks with Public Broadcasting Service to develop a five-part program based on the South Pole exploits and on past Useem adventures. They may be entertaining, but time will tell if they're of much use in the corner office. In looking to buy Vivendi Universal (V) NBC (GE) says that one of the properties it covets most is Universal Studios' movie library. No wonder. Sales and rentals of DVDs have become a great way for Hollywood to dust off the classics and boost the top line. U.S. sales and rentals of DVDs are set to hit $14 billion this year, vs. $9.4 billion in box-office receipts, predicts PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Much of that is coming from the studios' film catalogs: 1,200 movies made before 1997 have been released on DVD so far this year, vs. 351 new movie, according to the newsletter DVD Release Report. "DVDs have become a collectibles business," says Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Video.
Hollywood's recycling efforts are now generating nearly as much hoopla as the original premieres. To help promote the Sept. 30 release of the 20th-anniversary DVD of Scarface, a cult favorite among hip-hoppers, Universal Studios threw a big bash in New York attended by star Al Pacino before re-releasing the flick in theaters in 10 cities. "The disks are breathing new life into catalog films that nobody was buying on videotape," says Ralph Tribbey, editor of DVD Release Report. What better sequel for Hollywood? Wall Street is starting to hang out "Hiring" signs again after two dismal years that squeezed 39,000 jobs out of the securities industry. Stocks have rallied, and retail investors are finally coming back. The Securities Industry Assn. expects industry earnings to double this year, hitting $15 billion.
But the job rebound isn't across the board. Firms "are hiring selectively," says compensation consultant Alan Johnson, of Johnson Associates. The cheaper the hire, the better. Fresh college grads are in demand to do grunt work for bankers and analysts. Some banks are bulking up in growth segments, such as Citigroup (C)'s job additions in its retail arm.
The new hires could put firms in a better position to grab business. Lehman Brothers (LEH) and Bear Stearns (BSC) traditionally strong in bonds, have added equity staff. "They should be poised to take advantage of any increase in activity," says Anton Schutz, manager of Burnham Financial Services Fund. If they do it right, the nimble hirers could see a rise in market share and stock price.