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    Published on: August 31, 2020

    KC has an example of a business feature that used to make sense in a quaint, 20th century way, but no longer does.  It is, he says, a terrific metaphor to which retailers should pay attention.

    Published on: August 31, 2020

    Content Guy's Note:  Last week, Michael Sansolo wrote a column about people who include in their online signatures notations like "he, his, him" or "she, hers, her" or "they, them" - designed to tell the reader how they identify in terms of gender.  At a time when a number of people do not identify with the gender that they were assigned at birth, perhaps being in transition or nonbinary, this can be helpful in terms of conversation.

    The column and, I think, some of the conversation here that followed, prompted this email from an MNB reader.  To me, it is the very definition of an Eye-Opener, and so I wanted to share it with you in this space….

    I’ve been trying to sort out my feelings on Michael’s column for a few days now as this column really hits home for me.

    I’m a grocery lifer. It’s pretty much been all I’ve known and wanted to do since my father purchased our business when I was five.  We’ve grown a lot since then with multiple stores and other ancillary businesses but my day to day is at the stores and I work closely with our team.

    I also happen to be a transgender woman in transition.

    I’ve faced many roadblocks in my way that were designed to keep me from getting to the point of giving in to the truth I’ve always known. I am a woman no matter what others see and what the mirror reflects.  Some of those roadblocks were related to our industry. As I grew up in this business, I looked around and always saw a bunch of old, white men running things.  I always felt like I only had one option…. Be the person others saw me as, or give up my dreams and my business.

    If you think Michael’s column is simply about pronouns, you’re missing the point.  It’s about encouraging visibility and representation. It’s about giving your people a place they can be themselves.  It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about their gender identity, sexual orientation, race, etc. Visibility gives people the opportunity to thrive and bring more value to your team. The visibility of other transgender people living successful lives is a big reason I was finally able to take steps to live my life as who I really am. If putting a pronoun in your bio creates that opportunity for someone like me to thrive then what is the downside?  What did you have taken away from you by doing that?

    One of my motivations for writing this is to put a real “face” on this subject. This issue is not just an HR exercise or an industry think piece.  These issues have real people behind them.  Real people that just want to exist without having others making them feel like they are being imposed upon by being visible. To hopefully show people such as the commenter who lamented that “treating everyone respectfully and equally” is no longer enough that NO, it is not enough. The world has always seen me as a white male.  I have every advantage you can have in this country and for 43 years I did not feel like I could share with anyone who I really was without losing EVERYTHING.  It’s not because people didn’t treat me with respect and as an equal, it’s because I didn’t feel like I would be given the chance to be respected and equal. There is a difference between not being exclusive and being inclusive.

    The road ahead will not be easy for me. As a retailer we don’t get to choose who comes through our door. As anyone who has dealt with mask issues of late knows, customers can be downright nasty when they choose to be. I know that at some point I will encounter people who don’t think I have a right to exist. I also know that I will have many customers who will support me and embrace who I am. I’ve come to realize how fortunate I am. I can control my fate.  I don’t have to rely on others to create a place for me to exist. That is rare. You may have people in your life relying on you to create this place for them. I have a favorite quote from a business partner of ours.  “We love you for who you are. Bring that. Tell us who you are”.  That is the embodiment of being inclusive. They are doing a great job of building a better company by embracing everyone for whomever they may be.  Their leadership and example changed the course of my life.  It is my hope that someday that my example will provide the same opportunity to others.

    Postscript from the Content Guy:  More than you know, I appreciate you being willing to tell your story here, and to make clear that this is not just about pronouns.  Michael and I both wish you luck, understanding, and most importantly, love from all the people around you.

    Published on: August 31, 2020

    From the Washington Post:

    "Long-term unemployment helped define the Great Recession. Countless networks, relationships and skills that bound employee to employer were ripped apart in the global financial crisis. It took about eight years for the unemployment rate to recover from that brutal dislocation.

    "Now economists fear it’s happening all over again. The devastating surge in unemployment in March and April was supposed to be temporary, as businesses shuttered to avert the greatest public health crisis in more than a century. Most workers reported they expected to be called back soon.

    "But nearly half a year later, many of the jobs that were stuck in purgatory are being lost forever. About 33 percent of the employees put on furlough in March were laid off for good by July, according to Gusto, a payroll and benefits firm whose clients include small businesses in all 50 states and D.C. Only 37 percent have been called back to their previous employer."

    KC's View:

    One line from the Post story that strikes me as particularly important:

    "The gap between the optimistic and pessimistic scenarios is large, and the path we choose ultimately depends on whether the coronavirus can be contained."


    I think that concerns about these trends need to be top-of-mind for retailers, though, because an extended economic crisis is going to make it a lot easier for the likes of Aldi and Dollar General, which are engaged in aggressive expansion strategies and are highly focused on the value segment.

    This is not to suggest that every retailer in every market has to pursue the value sector.  But the retailers that are in the middle - not really offering great values or any sort of differentiated brand proposition - could find themselves in deep trouble, with structural weaknesses accelerated in a way for which even a heightened need for toilet paper and paper towels can't compensate.

    Published on: August 31, 2020

    Yahoo Finance reports that a decade-long battle in California over whether coffee products should be labeled as having a cancer-causing toxin has come to an end, with the California Superior Court tossing a lawsuit originally filed in 2010 by the Council for Education & Research on Toxics (CERT).

    CERT, the story says, "argued that a chemical called acrylamide should be included in product warnings, based on research showing that it causes cancer in laboratory animals … The compound is found in roasted, brewed coffee, as well as other commonly cooked foods that are rich in carbohydrates and sugar, such as baked bread, cookies, and especially potato chips. However, the question as to whether coffee poses a risk is unsettled science, as meta-analysis showed no increase in the incidence of cancer in people that consume large quantities of coffee."

    According to the story, "the judge agreed that a recent regulation from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) exempted the companies from having to warn of the risk under the state’s Proposition 65."  The decision "relied on the OEHHA’s determination that the link between java and cancer was not significant enough to require cancer warning labels."

    KC's View:

    One of the arguments against labeling is that too many labels about carcinogens actually serve to desensitize people to them, which subverts the entire law.  Which is interesting, though I don't entirely buy it … it is built on a presumption that too much information is a bad thing.  That's a dangerous rationale, though one far too common in our culture.

    I'm much more in synch with the argument that there isn't enough information to reach the conclusion that coffee can be a carcinogen.  

    To which I can only add, thank goodness.

    Published on: August 31, 2020

    Portland, Oregon's iconic independent bookstore, Powell's Books, announced yesterday that it no longer will sell books via Amazon's third-party Marketplace.

    CEO Emily Powell made the announcement on Independent Bookstore Day.

    In an email to customers, she wrote:

    "Amongst us book lovers, there’s almost a special code when you meet another reader — we talk about our favorite bookstores. This year’s celebration of Independent Bookstore Day feels especially weighty, as a result, as so many independent booksellers around the country fight for their survival and wonder what their future may hold. No one goes into the book business expecting an easy path, and each year typically brings its share of surprises and challenges. This year, of course, is like none other in memory. We are all climbing the mountain ahead of us, but the outcome is uncertain.

    "Powell’s, we have decided to mark this year’s Independent Bookstore Day by announcing that we will no longer sell our books on Amazon’s marketplace. For too long, we have watched the detrimental impact of Amazon’s business on our communities and the independent bookselling world. We understand that in many communities, Amazon - and big box retail chains - have become the only option. And yet when it comes to our local community and the community of independent bookstores around the U.S., we must take a stand. The vitality of our neighbors and neighborhoods depends on the ability of local businesses to thrive. We will not participate in undermining that vitality."

    KC's View:

    I admire this.  I'm not entirely persuaded that it is the best business move, especially at a time when Powell's, like so many businesses, has been hurt badly by pandemic-induced shutdowns.  But it is a statement of principle, and as someone once said, principles are only principles when they cost you something.

    I think it is important not to feather the competition's nest.

    The email reminded me of one of my younger sisters, Amy.  (I'm the oldest of seven.)  She works in an elementary school as a library media specialist/teacher librarian, but she's a devotee of independent bookstores, would love to own one someday, and once made it her goal to visit 50 independent bookstores around the US in a single year - and has continued the quest to the point where she has visited far more than that.

    I actually felt guilty the other day - it was Amy's birthday, I wanted to send her a book (Michael Lewis's "The Fifth Risk"), but the only way I could get it to her on time was to order it via Amazon Prime.  I hope she forgives me … while I am not as dedicated an indie bookshop shopper as she is, I am a huge fan of Powell's and often visit independent mystery bookstores when traveling around the country.

    Published on: August 31, 2020

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are dealing with it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the US, we now have had 6,175,008 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 187,227 deaths and 3,425,814 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 25,410,278 confirmed coronavirus cases, 850,914 fatalities, and 17,720,172 reported recoveries.

    •  From the Washington Post:

    "The rolling average for new daily cases trended slightly downward nationwide over the past week, and hospitalizations fell by about 9 percent. But the country is still consistently reporting more than 40,000 new infections per day — nearly double the number reported daily in May and June — and states across the Midwest and the South continued to report spikes … The country has reported at least 1,000 deaths per day for most of the past six weeks, pushing the U.S. death toll far beyond what officials optimistically predicted in the early stages of the pandemic. California, Florida and Texas still regularly tally more than 100 deaths daily, even as those states have reported progress in slowing the spread of new cases. Some smaller states, including Georgia, Arizona and Louisiana, have added several dozen deaths per day on average over the past month."

    •  From The Hill:

    "Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a new interview that he is willing to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine before clinical trials are complete if it is determined to be 'appropriate'."

    The story quotes Hahn as saying, "“It is up to the sponsor [vaccine developer] to apply for authorization or approval, and we make an adjudication of their application.  If they do that before the end of Phase Three, we may find that appropriate. We may find that inappropriate, we will make a determination."

    The Hill notes that "the comments came as drug manufacturers around the world work to develop a vaccine to protect people from the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 6 million people in the U.S and accounted for more than 182,000 deaths.  Firms including Moderna, AstraZeneca and Pfizer have developed candidates that are now in phase three clinical trials. Novavax, a firm based in Maryland, began phase two tests earlier this month after early trials showed positive signs."

    •  From CNN:

    "When a coronavirus vaccine comes on the market, people will likely need two doses, not just one -- and that could cause real problems.

    "Some of the potential problems are logistical. Difficulties procuring test kits and protective gear throughout the pandemic point to supply chain issues that could also plague distributing double doses of vaccines for an entire country.

    "Other potential concerns are more human. Convincing people to show up to get a vaccine not once, but twice, could be a formidable undertaking."

    •  From the Washington Post:

    "The toll the coronavirus has taken on the long-standing flow of days of the weeks, weeks of the month, is like tectonic plates pushing together to alter topography. New traditions emerge … 

    "Gone, for now, are taco Tuesdays, wine Wednesdays and even non-alliterative traditions such as girls’ night out and date night. But Friday night takeout and delivery is gaining steam, the rhythm of weeks syncopated by the arrival of plastic-wrapped cutlery and plastic foam clamshells.

    "Market research firm Technomic confirms a spike in off-premises dining in the second quarter of this year, essentially doubling for Friday and Saturday night, says David Henkes, Technomic’s advisory group senior principal. Based on data collected quarterly from 27,000 chain restaurants, off-premises meals on Friday and Saturday nights accounted for 24 percent of overall sales in the second quarter of this year, about double the second quarter last year."

    •  The Boston Globe this morning has a story about how "the coronavirus pandemic, a rapid shift to working from home, and mass confusion at the colleges and universities that drive so much of the city’s housing demand have combined to give tenants a rare upper hand over landlords.  Rents are down by more than 3 percent, compared with this time in 2019, according to one report."

    The Globe goes on:  "Concessions granted to renters are up, with landlords and brokers sweetening deals with a month or more’s rent, no broker fees, and even a window air conditioner if it will land a tenant. But despite the perks, more than 13,000 apartments in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville remain available in advance of the traditional Sept. 1 move-in frenzy.  Even in a market with roughly 250,000 rental apartments, that’s a huge number of vacancies…"

    While there seems to be general agreement that eventually the housing market will be revived, the debate is over what "eventually" means.

    •  From the Brevard Times:

    "Florida shoppers will notice that the next time they are in a Publix supermarket, the one-way directional arrows have been quietly removed from the aisles.

    "Publix implemented the one-way aisles in April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic."

    Too soon?  Personally, I think so … I hope I'm wrong, but I think so.

    •  Here's a stark reminder of the costly impact that the pandemic has had on one business sector.

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Pinterest has decided to cancel its already contracted lease on 490,000 square feet of new office space in San Francisco that was to be constructed near its headquarters, citing the shift to at-home working that has made the new space unnecessary.

    The cost of terminating the contract:   $89.5 million.


    One interesting note from the Chronicle story points to the broader impact that current trends could have on the Bay Area's economy:  "The change in working life may also trigger a change in Bay Area demographics. In an anonymous survey of 4,400 tech workers, two-thirds of respondents said they would consider leaving the region permanently if allowed to work from home."

    Like I said.  Yikes.  

    •  From the Associated Press:

    "Telehealth is a bit of American ingenuity that seems to have paid off in the coronavirus pandemic. Medicare temporarily waived restrictions predating the smartphone era and now there’s a push to make telemedicine widely available in the future.

    "Consultations via tablets, laptops and phones linked patients and doctors when society shut down in early spring. Telehealth visits dropped with the reopening, but they’re still far more common than before.

    "Permanently expanding access will involve striking a balance between costs and quality, dealing with privacy concerns and potential fraud, and figuring out how telehealth can reach marginalized patients, including people with mental health problems."

    And more:

    "In the depths of the coronavirus shutdown, telehealth accounted for more than 40% of primary care visits for patients with traditional Medicare, up from a tiny 0.1% sliver before the public health emergency. As the government’s flagship health care program, Medicare covers more than 60 million people, including those age 65 and older, and younger disabled people.

    "A recent poll of older adults by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation found that more than 7 in 10 are interested in using telehealth for follow-ups with their doctor, and nearly 2 out of 3 feel comfortable with video conferences."

    •  Axios reports that "colleges are attempting to control partying by taking steep disciplinary measures against students who gather … Northeastern sent warnings to 115 freshmen who said in an Instagram poll that they plan to party. The university went as far as to threaten to rescind admissions.

    "Purdue and Syracuse have both suspended students who have been caught partying, and UConn has evicted them."

    Some experts say that "universities that are reopening without substantive testing and tracing strategies can't just point fingers at the students," the story points out, and I agree.  I'm getting really tired of people in positions of responsibility - you know, the people who are supposed to be the adults in the room - who refuse to act like it.

    •  United Airlines announced over the weekend that "it will permanently scrap fees to change domestic flights, a big bet that more flexible policies will win over much-needed customers as the pain from the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on air travel continue to mount," CNBC reports, adding, "United’s announcement that it will no longer charge travelers the $200 fee comes as airlines are scrambling to find ways to revitalize their businesses, which have been battered by the pandemic."

    “Following previous tough times, airlines made difficult decisions to survive, sometimes at the expense of customer service,” said United CEO Scott Kirby in a news release. “United Airlines won’t be following that same playbook as we come out of this crisis. Instead, we’re taking a completely different approach – and looking at new ways to serve our customers better.”

    It is called taking friction out of the experience … which ought to be every business's goal.

    •  From the Associated Press:

    "The 124th running of the Boston Marathon finally gets underway next month, but virtually — meaning real runners will do the hard work, and an interactive mobile app will help augment their not-quite-authentic experience.

    "Rather than lining up in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and making the long trek to Boston, athletes will run this year’s marathon solo because of the coronavirus pandemic. A weeklong TV special and the new mobile app will showcase their stories as they go the distance on their own."

    The story notes that "the marathon normally is run on a Monday in April, on Massachusetts’ unique Patriots Day holiday, but was postponed to mid-September because of the pandemic. Then, at the end of May, it was canceled altogether — the first time in its 124-year history that the storied race in its traditional format was scrapped.  Instead, registered runners are being encouraged to complete the 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) distance by themselves - wherever they are in the world - and share accounts of their preparation, motivation and execution."

    Published on: August 31, 2020

    USA Today reports that "a growing number of U.S. companies are pledging to give workers time off to vote in the presidential election this November, an effort that’s gaining steam despite the government’s reluctance to make Election Day a federal holiday."

    In addition to Starbucks, which made its announcement last week, "Walmart says it will give its 1.5 million U.S. workers up to three hours paid time off to vote. Apple is giving workers four hours off. Coca-Cola, Twitter, Cisco and Uber are giving employees the day off."

    Also, the story says, "Six hundred companies, including Lyft, Airbnb and Paramount, have signed on to, which asks companies to give employees time off to vote or distribute information on voting, including how to obtain main-in ballots. It is not clear how many of those 600 are allowing time off versus distributing voting information … Time to Vote, another corporate voting initiative, was formed ahead of the 2018 elections by Levi Strauss and Co., PayPal and Patagonia. A little over 400 companies participated last time; Time to Vote says 700 have joined so far this year."

    KC's View:

    I've long believed that as a nation, we ought to have Election Weekend … it would start at 12 midnight eastern time on Saturday and run to 11:59 pm eastern time on Sunday … and the entire country would vote during the same 48 hours.

    That would be especially appropriate this year, when people are going to be cautious about lining up at the polls because of the pandemic.  Me, I'm going to get my ballot by mail and will drop it off at the local board of elections as soon as possible.

    Published on: August 31, 2020

    •  The New York Times has a second-day story about Walmart's decision to throw in with Microsoft's effort to acquire the US business of short-form video app TikTok from its Chinese owners, a sale that has been made necessary by the Trump administration's call to ban TikTok because of national security concerns about the data being collected about users.

    The Times writes that a deal "would allow the world's largest retailer to quickly compete with Inc, Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google for eyeballs on social media, reaching customers across virtual and physical sales channels."  And, it adds, "Walmart does not break out revenue from sponsored ads for products sold on its website. But online ads yield much higher margins than product sales, and ad revenue is growing as the retailer boosts investments in the area.

    "It has been more important than ever for Walmart to find new ways to win market share from its closest e-commerce rival, a fast-growing ad platform, as customers increasingly shop online."  

    Published on: August 31, 2020

    •  Western New York-based Tops Friendly Markets announced that it is introducing Tops Shop + Scan, described as "a new, convenient way to shop at Tops! Simply use your phone to scan, and then bag your items as you shop. While shopping, the user will see a running total, and watch their savings and rewards automatically apply."

    After shopping, customers "simply visit the designated pay station for a fast and easy check out."

    Tops says that "while this is being piloted at one location in Amherst, NY, the intent is to expand the technology to other locations in the coming months."

    Published on: August 31, 2020

    •  Interesting piece in USA Today about a new trend - eating steaks made from dairy cows.

    "While beef cows, such as the Angus breed, are often slaughtered young, dairy cows live to five or six years or longer," the story says.  "As a result, dairy meat has more flavor but a different texture than beef cattle. Detractors say it's tough, while others say it has a 'longer chew'."

    USA Today writes that "some customers have been excited to have the opportunity to eat local food, organic American beef in particular, because most of the organic beef sold in grocery stores is shipped from places such as  Uruguay.  Others have experienced mature beef in places such as Spain and France, where mature beef is part of the food culture, and are excited to experience the flavor again."

    You can read the piece here.

    •  Fresh Thyme Farmers Market is changing its name - to Fresh Thyme Market - as it also changes its logo.

    In a statement, the company explains:

    "In this year of rapid consumer change, Fresh Thyme has continued to change as well, ensuring that their name and logo match up with customers' needs and expectations. The new logo encapsulates this change for the Fresh Thyme brand and its purpose. With clear and authentic messaging, Fresh Thyme aims to provide support for those looking for real solutions for wellness. The new design drives straighter towards who Fresh Thyme really is and the retailer's promise to customers."

    •  From the New York Times:

    "The beer business in America is overwhelmingly white. Although Black people are about 13 percent of the nation’s population, they comprise less than 1 percent of brewers, according to a survey by the Brewers Association, a trade group that represents more than 5,400 small, independent brewers in the United States.

    "But as voices rise in protest of racial inequality, the industry is taking some first steps to address those disparities, both the country’s and its own."

    The story goes on:

    "'We want to make the brewing industry represent the real world,' said Kevin Blodger, a founder of Union Craft Brewing, in Baltimore, and the chairman of the Brewers Association’s diversity committee. In 2018, the association hired its first diversity ambassador, Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, and this month it announced a new code of conduct for member breweries aimed at eliminating workplace harassment, bias and discrimination."

    In addition, the story says, "several companies are creating educational programs or apprenticeships to bring more Black people into brewing."

    You can read the story here.

    •  The Los Angeles Times reports that "California lawmakers on Sunday sent the governor a bill that would require greater diversity on corporate boards in the state, saying the shortage of people of color on the panels is a hurdle to racial justice.

    "The Assembly approved a measure that would require publicly held corporations headquartered in California to have at least one director from an underrepresented community by the close of 2021 … The legislation would require corporate boards to include at least one board member by the end of next year who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

    "The measure also requires corporate boards, by the end of 2022, to include a minimum of three directors from underrepresented communities if the board has nine members or more. If a board has five to nine members, it must have at least two directors from underrepresented communities."

    Expect this to be challenged by opponents who will argue that the measure is unconstitutional.  Stay tuned.

    •  CNN reports that "Coca-Cola will cut thousands of jobs and reduce its number of business units as it faces declining beverage sales in the pandemic.

    "Coke said Friday the job cuts would come in the form of voluntary and involuntary reductions. It plans to first offer buyouts to 4,000 employees in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico and then offer a similar voluntary program in other countries. The number of people who take the buyout will reduce the number of involuntary layoffs, the company said.

    "Coke did not say how many jobs could be lost in total, but said global severance expenses could range from $350 million to $550 million."

    Published on: August 31, 2020

    •  Chadwick Boseman, who in just the past decade embodied a number of real-life African-American heroes as well as one of comic book fiction's most prominent African heroes, passed away on Friday of colon cancer at the age of 43.

    His biggest hit, of course, was Black Panther, in which he played the eponymous superhero T’Challa, who ruled the highly advanced African nation of Wakanda;  he also played the role

    in Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame - all of which, apparently, he acted in after receiving his colon cancer diagnosis.

    Boseman also played baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson in 42, musician James Brown in Get On Up, and civil rights lawyer and future Associate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in Marshall.

    Published on: August 31, 2020

    Responding to an email exchange from last week that was prompted by an MNB Sports Desk item about athletes refusing to play as a way of drawing attention to social injustice, systemic racism and violence against Black Americans, one MNB reader wrote:

    I read the readers response on your views and your answer.   And while I am in no way condoning the brutal shooting of Mr. Blake I think the readers point in part which wasn't recognized is that the media did not and has not in general stated what Mr. Blake did or did not do prior to the shooting.   We only had the salient part of the story which is not objective journalism.   I am totally against excessive force and am aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement but what can't be ignored is failure to comply with an officers request to stop and fleeing can lead to these situations.  However the officers if properly trained can take steps to bring those into custody without taking these brutal and criminal tactics.   

    I would agree that most journalists pay the most attention to the most salient part of the story - but since "salient" means "most important," I'm okay with that, and thought it was largely reported objectively.  I felt informed about the facts of the case - but of course, I don't get my news from social media.  

    In one way, I'm old fashioned - I get my news from multiple newspapers.  In others, I'm reasonably modern - I read the newspapers online.

    Another email, from MNB reader Curt Alpeter:

    I just wanted to say great job with the host of the political and social rebuttals you have had lately. You do such a great job making very appropriate points to some highly charged topics. I use them as a model for the occasional time I jump into the fray… Damn, these are challenging times and your clear, concise, real and thoughtful responses to these issues is so refreshing. I WISH more folks subscribed to your approach to being human, treating people with respect, and not making every dang issue a you-are-with-me or against-me stance.


    Published on: August 31, 2020

    Apparently, hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen is once again on the precipice of buying the New York Mets.  And this time, one of the people in his investment group as a minority owner is Marc Lore, who sold to Walmart for $3.3 billion and continues to run Walmart's US e-commerce businesses.

    The New York Post reports that Cohen "is in exclusive talks to buy the Mets in a deal that is rumored to be in the ballpark of $2.4 billion, a figure that would be roughly $200 million less than what the $14 billion man offered the last time he agreed to buy the team, all the way back in December 2019."  One source tells the Post that "Cohen’s bid was at least $100 million more than the next closest bid submitted by former Yankee Alex Rodriguez and entertainer Jennifer Lopez, who announced they had pulled out of the process in a statement."

    Last time around, Cohen's negotiations with the owning Wilpon family fell apart because the Wilpons wanted to continue running the team for five years even after selling it.  

    The Wall Street Journal provides some context on Cohen:

    "Mr. Cohen is a lifelong Mets fan, and the team’s fans cheered the idea that a deeply connected billionaire might take over the team. He would become baseball’s wealthiest owner, with a net worth of about $14.6 billion, according to Forbes.

    "But he comes with a different kind of baggage. His former firm, SAC Capital Advisors LP, one of the era’s most successful firms, pleaded guilty to insider trading in 2013 and agreed to pay a record fine of $1.8 billion.

    "Mr. Cohen later reached a civil settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that restricted him from serving as the supervisor of a registered fund until 2018. He didn’t admit or deny wrongdoing as part of the civil settlement. Mr. Cohen’s firm is now known as Point72 Asset Management LP."

    KC's View:

    I don't generally find myself rooting for hedge fund billionaires, but I am totally on board with Cohen owning the Mets, who haven't won a World Series since 1986.  The Wilpons got involved with Bernie Madoff, and since that disaster have been unable or unwilling to spend money on players like their cross-town rivals the Yankees.  Cohen almost certainly will rectify that.

    As for Marc Lore … If he helps bring a championship back to Queens, I'll take back everything negative I ever wrote about him.  And in the future, I'll add the following line - "he helped save the Mets" - to all MNB references to him.