P.E.I. POTATOES ARE BROKEN-HEARTED
When Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital bought H. J. Heinz for US$28 billion earlier this year, they said they were taking a long-term view on profits outlook, not unlike 3G’s 20-year turnaround of AB InBev. But factors beyond their control are starting to make that look like a difficult proposition. The long-term strength of the Canadian dollar has hurt the country’s manufacturing sector and, by association, the export business. As a result, Heinz recently announced cost-cutting measures that will see it close its plant in Leamington, Ont. The closure, along with previous cuts made in August and two additional closures in the U.S., will see 2,000 Heinz employees out of work. For Ontario, the move will see the loss of 740 jobs, an end to 104 years of proud ketchup (and maybe even some catsup) manufacturing in Leamington, and a future generation having absolutely no idea what the hell Stompin’ Tom is talking about in “The Ketchup Song.” To make matters worse, as reported in last issue’s Winners & Losers, Heinz has also lost a longtime partner in McDonald’s, which announced recently it would no longer be serving Heinz ketchup in its restaurants, due to the fact that Heinz is now being run by former Burger King CEO Bernardo Hees. Those little ketchup packets may look small, but they can add up to a lot of tomatoes—and a lot of lost green for Berkshire and 3G.
WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE THEIR NEW SALUTE
Regular readers of Winners & Losers know that intentionally associating your brand with Hitler has been something of an, albeit minor, trend of late. But more baffling is that some people still manage to accidentally associate their brand with Hitler. The Manchester United football/soccer club recently found itself apologizing after sending out a promotional e-mail with a logo resembling a swastika (it’s even unfortunately tilted like the Nazi swastika, just in case they wanted to try the “it’s the good kind of swastika” defence). The fact that the promotion, publicizing the club’s new players, carried the headline “New Order” would be comical under almost any other circumstance.
LYING TO YOUR SPOUSE IS ONE THING
A Toronto woman is suing Ashley Madison, the dating website for adulterers, after claiming to have hurt her wrist while employed to type up hundreds of fake profiles for a Portuguese-language version of the site. The now-former employee, who is suing for $20 million, says she thought making up fakes profiles was a regular business practice in the online dating industry, and was shocked to find out she’d been deceived. The woman said she never would have accepted the job had she known the site was lying to the customers who trusted it, apparently not understanding that lying to people who trust you is a pretty crucial element of what Ashley Madison is all about.
It’s usually General Mills that likes to sprinkle its breakfast cereal with a dash of guilt and greed, depriving that silly rabbit of the much-sought-after Trix to which he lends his likeness (not to mention all the attempted Lucky Charms thievery Lucky the Leprechaun is forced to thwart). But now Kellogg’s is getting in on the action. The cereal company’s U.K. division recently gave its Twitter followers an ultimatum: you must retweet a Kellogg’s message so that a “vulnerable child gets breakfast.” Failure to do so presumably would leave children starving—and Snap, Crackle and Pop in a very awkward position. Kellogg’s has since backtracked on its offer.
BIG MAN ON E. 79TH ST.
Until now, hatred of Michael Bloomberg’s nanny state health policies has been limited to the U.S. But a recent chain of events allows that hatred to spread south of the U.S. border. Having failed to ban big soda in New York, Bloomberg has set his sites on Mexico, spending millions there to lobby his stance. It seems to have worked: what locals now refer to as “the Bloomberg tax” was recently passed by Mexico’s government, and will see about 8¢ added to the price of unhealthy snack items. It remains unclear whether U.S. and Canadian hipsters who import Mexican Coca-Cola for its use of cane sugar over corn syrup as sweetener will be exempt. If not, Bloomberg will have succeeded in annoying an entire continent.
PRICES SO LOW, EVEN WALMART EMPLOYEES CAN AFFORD THEM
Online shoppers found Walmart offering never-day low prices on Nov. 6. A computer glitch on the company’s website saw electronics marked down to prices well below even Walmart’s price-slashing comfort level, with treadmills going for $33 and LCD monitors for $9. The store has said it will not honour the accidental sale, but will offer shoppers who tried to take advantage (as it were) of the price drop a $10 gift card.
THAT’S A SAD APOLOGY ALL RIGHT
Lately, women haven’t been feeling a lot of love from what is supposedly the world’s most female-friendly clothing store. A Lululemon outlet in Dallas recently posted a window sign mocking a local women’s shelter. Reading, “We Do Partners Yoga, Not Partners Card,” the sign was seen by many as mocking the charity discount card offered by the Family Place violence-prevention organization. After several days of complaints, the store removed the sign and apologized, saying it hadn’t intended to offend anyone, which kind of seems impossible. To make matters worse, Lulu founder Chip Wilson inflicted an inner kind of hurt when he appeared on Bloomberg TV and blamed women and their damned imperfect bodies for complaints that Lulu pants pill and are in some cases see-through. “They don’t work for some women’s bodies,” he said. Wilson posted a YouTube video shortly thereafter saying he was “sad for the repercussions” and looked desperate to make himself cry. (It didn’t work.)
BIG, BIG MONEY (BBM)
It turns out there actually is a way to make money off of BlackBerry: take a turn as its CEO. On the downside, you’ll be hated by shareholders for not turning around a company that’s long past the point of no return in terms of regaining its popularity and market share. Plus, you’ll come off as a bit of a doofus every time you stand onstage to introduce the company’s latest saviour product, and the job probably won’t last very long. But you’ll also walk away with a big wad of shareholder cash, just like out-going CEO Thorsten Heins (potentially up to US$56 million) and new CEO John Chen ($3 million a year, plus shares), so who cares what people say? They’re just jealous of your success.
TOMORROW’S NEWS YESTERDAY
You read it in Canadian Business first (four years ago in fact). The once dominant video chain closed its remaining 300 (!) stores on Nov. 9, the victim of a lazy, impatient culture that doesn’t have the time, desire or energy to get up off the couch and walk to the video store in the age of streaming. The final movie rented from Blockbuster was, fittingly titled This is the End. No word on where the renter will have to return the movie, or for how long Blockbuster will rack up the late fee if he doesn’t.
THE DAIRY QUEEN WAS NEVER THIS MEAN
Lee, co-founder of Pinkberry, the apparently popular frozen yogurt chain, was found guilty of beating a homeless man who flashed him a tattoo of two stick figures having sex. Whereas some people might drive away to calm down after such an altercation, Lee apparently drove away to get a tire iron before returning to accost the panhandler. Lee faces up to seven years in jail, where frozen yogurt is probably a very rare treat, and inmates have much scarier tattoos.