So What's a Mogul Worth These Days?


By Olga Kharif The nation has exercised its franchise, Dubya has another four-year lease on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and TV's talking heads will need to find something other than the campaign trail to gabble about. In other words, Happy Post-Election Friday! Here's a hot stew of the doings of the rich and famous in business:

FAIR EXCHANGE. Vivek Paul, CEO of Indian outsourcer Wipro (WIT) and the highest-paid exec in India, says he is feeling rather poor. Here's why: Paul has lived in Silicon Valley for almost 25 years, although his outfit is based in India. And his 20 million rupees annual salary is nothing to write home about. In dollars, Paul's salary comes to a mere $441,000. And we all know how expensive California can be.

In fact, at the company's last board meeting, Wipro directors discussed the possibility of recording Paul's salary in dollars vs. Indian rupees -- just to silence his executive compensation critics.

Not that Paul is complaining all that much. His celebrity status has some odd perks, he observes wryly. "I've recently been telling my wife that, instead of being ambushed by screaming teenage girls, middle-aged men come to me at airports," Vivek tells BusinessWeek Online. He says he spends two-thirds of his time traveling to India and visiting customers all over the world.

That's no surprise. Wipro's business is growing at a 47% year-over-year clip. While it began offering call-center services, the company now offers specialized services for the insurance, energy, retail, and utility industries. Perhaps the board should give Vivek a much-deserved raise. Silicon Valley is expensive, dudes!

HANDS OFF THE DONALD. As Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts (DJTC.OB) battles financial woes, the Donald has a lot more on his mind these days than his reality TV series, The Apprentice (It's seems less "real," this season, doesn't it?)

So says Scott Butera, the company's new president and chief operating officer (and no, he didn't apprentice on the TV show). He and the Donald are working to recapitalize the outfit, upgrade casinos, and hatch plans for new ones in Las Vegas, Europe, and Asia.

So, what's Donald Trump really like? "He is a great person to work with," says Butera, who, obviously, has never been told, "You're fired." Also, Trump is "very creative, an extremely bright businessman." So fixing Trump Hotels & Casinos should be as easy as a handshake, shouldn't it? Oops, forgot: Germophobe Donald doesn't shake hands.

MOM'S THE WORD. What's up with Columbia Sportswear's (COLM) record third quarter, with revenue up 11.4%, to $415.8 million? CEO and President Tim Boyle thinks the leap shows his customers like fishing, skiing, hunting, golfing, and running as much as he does. Also, he adds, Columbia is making its gear fit just a little loosely. Turns out, as the company has discovered, that while Americans like body-hugging fashions, Europeans like a bit more room. Compromise was the result.

Boyle thinks family helps, too. Columbia's ads feature him and his chairwoman mom, Gert Boyle, pitching their wares and wears. Most customers think she is an actress, "like the Marlboro man," says the CEO. "Nobody is interested in me," he jokes.

LATHER OF INSPIRATION. Some people get their best ideas in dreams, others on long walks. Paul Jacobs, an executive veep at wireless technology powerhouse Qualcomm (QCOM) and son of its founder and current chairman and CEO, says he gets his best ideas in the shower. The water must have been running hot lately: On Nov. 1, Jacobs announced that maker of chips and software for cell phones will begin providing multimedia services.

Jacobs wants to create a special network allowing cell-phone users to watch video clips and listen to music on their mobiles. The Japanese can do that already over existing wireless networks, but the service can be sketchy. Jacobs wants to build a separate network, with gear installed on radio and TV towers. He thinks Qualcomm can provide such a service for as little as $10 a month per customer, and that would include everything from TV viewing to 3-D gaming.

Qualcomm is testing the idea in San Diego and plans to roll out the network in a few major markets in 2006. Isn't this a bit of a stretch for Qualcomm? Yes, Jacobs tells BusinessWeek Online, but potentially, the outfit could spin off the service-provider division.

RED ON BLACK. Qualcomm's Jacobs may get his ideas in the shower. Turns out Bob Metcalfe, founder of networking gearmaker 3Com (COMS) and a general partner at Polaris Venture Partners in Boston, gets his playing Solitaire. He wants to create a program that would analyze the popular card game and come up with winning strategies.

Metcalfe believes that moving pictures over the Internet will be the next big thing, with technology using Linux-based, high-performance clusters for super-computer-like simulation and calculation. Which explains his recent investment in computer builder SiCortex. Now, can SiCortex tell us how to win a game of Solitaire?

SO SORRY, SOROS. Few supporters of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry are feeling lower these days than George Soros. The billionaire financier poured more than $15 million of his money into the campaign to oust George Bush from the White House. He even went on a month-long October barnstorming tour across America to try to drum up support for Kerry. "Obviously, I am distressed at the outcome of the election," Soros wrote in his Nov. 3 blog, at GeorgeSoros.com. "I hope, but don't trust, that the second Bush Administration will have learned something from the mistakes of the first." Ouch!

After he returns from a European trip related to his foundation, Soros says he'll keep contributing to the blog he created to campaign against Bush. He's still mulling what he'll talk about, though. Losing can leave anyone speechless. Kharif is a BusinessWeek Online correspondent based in Portland, Ore.


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