Archive for May, 2009

Profiles in Business: Carl Icahn

Friday, May 29th, 2009

“That I’m not going away…That I’m comin’ here, I’ve done it, and there’s no way I’m leaving till they do something,” are the words of the well-known corporate raider Carl Icahn. Ever since his 1985 takeover of TWA, he has cemented his reputation as one of the biggest and serious players in the investment arena. Particularly opinionated, he stands today as a champion for “shareholder democracy,” and is even dubbed Forbes 400’s richest “shareholder activist.”

A New Yorker to the core, Carl Ichahn was born in Brooklyn but was eventually brought up and studied in Far Rockaway, Queens. Upon gaining admission to the prestigious Princeton University, Carl Icahn decided to major in Philosophy from which he graduated in 1957. For two years, he also attended the New York University School of Medicine, but realised his passion lies elsewhere. After serving some time with the army, he came back to New York and hit the ground running with his career at Wall Street.

The year 1961 saw Carl Icahn with Dreyfus & Company as a registered representative. Harnessing his expertise in building businesses, securities arbitrage and buyouts, he secured a New York Stock Exchange seat a mere seven years after. It was in the same year that brokerage firm Icahn & Co. Inc. would be created. In 1978, Carl Icahn began strategically serving critical top positions in several enterprises such as: RJR Nabisco, Western Union, Viacom, Marvel, Phillips Petroleum, Kerr-McGee, Time Warner and Texaco.

Among Carl Icahn’s most prominent roles include chairing Bayswater Realty & Capital Corp. (1979), ACF Industries Inc. (1984), American Railcar Industries (1994), ImClone Systems (2006), and Federal-Mogul (2008). Presently, he is also Icahn Enterprises’ chairman. With all his financial success, he emerged as the 20th in rank for Forbes 400 Richest American in 2008 with his $12 billion net worth.

Carl Icahn has also been actively involved in other worthy causes through Icahn Charitable Foundation, Children’s Rescue Fund, and Foundation for a Greater Opportunity, which he and wife Gail built. Philanthropic milestones such as establishing three charter schools in the South Bronx, sponsoring Choate Rosemary Hall’s Icahn Scholars Program, and New York City’s homeless shelter, Icahn House East, are among Carl Icahn’s contribution to the local community.

Other recipients of his generosity include Lincoln Center, Mount Sinai Hospital’s Icahn Medical Institute, and Randall’s Island Sports Foundation. From 2002-2006, he donated a total of $77 million and in 2007-2008, he added another $7.8 million to that sum.

Sean King on Taiwan and Obama

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Watching Barack Obama’s victory on television left many Taiwanese in awe and jittery. Sean King, Park Strategies LLC’s vice president, echoed the sentiments of many Taiwanese when he expressed concerns about Obama’s plans regarding the United States’ military support for the island. Taiwan’s de facto independence from China rely mainly on the support of the United States, and as President-elect Obama has yet to voice out his thoughts and plans regarding this issue, many in Taiwan, including Sean King, are anxiously awaiting whatever developments that will arise out of this political shift.

The U.S. has promised to help Taiwan in terms of arms and training to help fight off possible attacks from the Chinese. Despite the general feeling of unease, though, the people of Taiwan see Obama’s victory as a symbol of equality of opportunity.

“I don’t think (Obama) has thought much of Taiwan,” Sean King said. “He’s not a child of the Cold War…he doesn’t have defining moments that drive home for him the dangers facing the free world.”

Sean King has been with Park Strategies LLC since February of 2006. Park Strategies is a firm based in New York that deals with providing government and business advice while also functioning as a lobbying firm. It was founded by former Senator Alfonse D’Amato.

Prior to joining Park Strategies, Sean King was with the United States Department of Commerce for five years, where he worked as Senior Advisor for Asia in the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. At a certain point during his service with the commerce department, King worked with former New York State Governor George Pataki, former Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, and J.W. Marriott, Jr., chairman and CEO of Marriott Intl., Inc. Sean King assisted them in carrying out fact-finding missions to mainland China.

Sean King’s specialty is in the field of commerce and he is responsible mainly for developing Park Strategies’ business relationships and transactions with Taiwan and other Asian nations.

More information on Sean King and Taiwan:

Sean King Says Taiwan President Ma Win Will Help U.S. Companies in Asia.

Lockheed Martin Team Conducts Free-Flight Hover Test

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

An article from the International Business Times titled “Lockheed Martin Team Conducts Free-Flight Hover Test of MDA’s Multiple Kill Vehicle-L” reports that the Lockheed Martin team was successful in conducting a free-flight hover test of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Multiple Kill Vehicle-L (MKV-L) at the National Hover Test Facility at the Edwards Air Force Base located in California.

The team was glad to announce that the test met all the objectives. According to Rick Reginato, MKV-L program director from Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, the MKV-L represents major development of the earliest operational warhead that is intended for the destruction of multi-threat objects through a single missile defense interceptor. MKV-L works through the MKV-L and the Ballistic Missile Defense System data, dispensing and steering the kill vehicles to intercept and destroy multiple lethal targets.

This test was the first in a series of tests that would be conducted to prove the readiness of the payload for complex fight testing on board the ground-based interceptor of the Ballistic Missile Defense System located in Alaska and Southern California.

Lockheed Martin is an advanced technology corporation and a large multinational aerospace manufacturer based in Bethesda, Maryland. With about 140,000 employees worldwide, Lockheed Martin is engaged in the design, development, integration, manufacture, and research of advanced technology products, services, and systems.

Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest arms manufacturer and the world’s largest defense contractor by revenue, with the United States Department System and the U.S. Federal government agencies making up about 80% of its customer base.


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Trends Analysis: Talk Radio

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Talk radio shows in the United States have always been an interesting object of study. In its simplest definition, talk radio is a format that is centered around discussions on topical issues. Most talk radio shows feature a single host interviewing several guests on the shows. More often than not, the “talk” in talk radio is also supplanted by the numerous calls coming in from listeners either in the form of a question or a voiced opinion on the issue being talked about. In between segments, talk radio jocks often play music or advertisements, depending on the thrust of the station. Topics range from serious topics such as politics and current events, all the way to lighter subjects such as showbiz and sports.

There is a common misconception that talk radio is limited to the AM radio frequency band, due to the notion that AM broadcasts are generally centered on public information while FM broadcasts focus on entertainment. However, the talk radio format is also common in FM stations, although the range of topics can be very different. For one, talk radio shows on commercial stations (mostly found on the FM band) focus on using conversation and discussion for entertainment purposes. Other topics that US talk shows discuss are astrology, health, finance, and romantic advice.

Talk shows on the radio in the United States have undergone major paradigm shifts over the decades. The format reached the peak of its popularity in the United States in the 1990s. This was sparked by the repeal of the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) “fairness doctrine” that happened in 1987. This doctrine states that the stations must provide free airtime for (often controversial and off-color) opinions and responses to topics that were being broadcast. The revoking of this mandate now allowed broadcasters to engage in programming that leaned towards being partisan. Moreover, this event helped talk radio’s popularity because radio jocks such as Howard Stern could now utilize their “shock jock” routines for entertainment.

In terms of the listening populace, researchers found that 17% of the public listen to talk radio shows regularly, and it was discovered that most of this group are conservative, middle-aged males. Political leanings were also reflected in the studies on talk radio: among its listeners, 41% are Republicans while 28% are Democrats; 45% believed that they were conservatives, while 18% said they were liberal.

The top five U.S. talk radio shows are hosted by: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Howard Stern, and Michael Savage. Limbaugh calls himself “America’s Truth Detector” and “The Doctor of Democracy.” Limbaugh, Hannity and Savage are conservative political commentators. Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a conservative who often discusses pre-marital cohabitation, permissive parenting, and other practices in modern American culture that she considers immoral. Howard Stern is known for his non-political topics and his provocative, often offensive sense of humor.

New technologies such as the internet have also made the broadcasting of talk shows cost effective and wide-reaching. Podcasting technologies even allow amateur jocks to publish and “webcast” their shows online and make them available for download for those who missed the time slot. The global accessibility of these broadcasts has also widened the audience of talk show broadcasters in the United States.

Generally speaking, the popularity of radio in general has waned over the years, particularly because of newer media, but the format of the radio talk show continues to successfully integrate itself into the new media culture.

More news about talk radio:

Profiles in Business: Roni Lynn Deutch

Monday, May 11th, 2009

You may have heard of the Roni Lynn Deutch the “Tax Lady”, and seen her commercials on TV. One of the top tax litigators in the country, Roni Deutch has specialized in assisting clients with tax trouble, from paying back taxes to dealing with audits.

Roni Deutch grew up with a competitive spirit. At age 11, she became the first girl to play for an boys’ Little League team in California. The following year, she was selected as an Allstar player, and eventually continued playing baseball for the University of California, Berkeley. She settled on studying taxation law, where she discovered the devastating effects of being in debt to the Internal Revenue Service. Roni Deutch got a Masters of Laws and was also the president of the Student Tax Association at Western State University College of Law.

After law school, Roni Lynn Deutch focused her skills on helping clients with IRS back tax liabilities. Her first law office was a small one bedroom condo in West Sacramento, and she maxed out her credit card to air her first commercial. It wasn’t long before business began to pick up, and Roni Deutch had to expand her offices into larger space in Sacramento.

Roni Deutch’s firm at helped clients find tax debt relief through the IRS Offer in Compromise, which allows a taxpayer, under special circumstances, to settle with the IRS for smaller amount than what is owed. But Roni Deutch wanted to also serve people who did not qualify for an Offer in Compromise, but still needed tax help. She eventually expanded her services to help clients with Installment Agreements, which lets taxpayers pay back taxes in reasonable monthly payments. Roni Deutsch also added Tax Account Review, which provides a taxpayer with his or her status with the IRS, and Full Pay Service, which helps taxpayers make final arrangements to pay off their taxes. In 2007, Roni Deutch expanded her legal services to the Latino community by hiring Spanish speaking representatives.

Roni Deutsch made her tax firm one of the first law firms to use a dedicated IT department to keep up with the latest legal developments. With current software technology, the firm is able automate tasks for clients, greatly increasing efficiency. Roni Deutch eventually expanded her services to the web, and now Internet-based business accounts for the 40% of the firm’s revenue. Roni Deutch keeps a daily blog at RonisBlog.com, where she expounds upon her favorite topics and of course, the latest in taxation news.

Profiles in Business: Eric Schmidt

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Chairman and Google CEO Eric Schmidt was born on April 27, 1955 in Washington D.C. Schmidt went to Yorktown High School in Virginia then proceeded to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University in 1976. Two years later, he received his MS from University of California–Berkeley Campus and then got his Ph.D. in 1982. Schmidt taught as a part-time professor at the Stanford Business School.

Eric Schmidt’s involvement with the IT industry started with his stints with several big names in the game, including Zilog, Bell Labs, and Xerox’s famed Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). In 1983, he went to Sun Microsystems, spearheaded the development of its Java applications, and was eventually named as the company’s chief technology officer. Novell named Eric Schmidt as the company’s CEO in 1997.

Eric Schmidt joined Google in August 2001 as a member of the Board of Directors. By August of the same year, Google named him CEO. Together with founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt heads the company’s daily operations, mainly with the company’s legal responsibilities and management of the vice presidents and the sales organization.

In 2006, Apple elected Eric Schmidt to be one of the members of its board of directors. That same year, Forbes ranked him as the world’s 129th wealthiest person with an estimated net worth of $6.2 billion. Eric Schmidt shared the ranking with Onsi Sawiris, Alexei Kuzmichov, and Robert Rowling. For 2006, he reportedly received a total of only $1 for his salary.

Eric Schmidt is among those who became billionaires by basis of their stock options revenues received as an employee in a company where neither him nor a relative is a founder.

A strong supporter during Barack Obama’s presidential run, Eric Schmidt is now serving on President-elect Barack Obama’s transition advisory board. He has constantly supported the use of renewable forms of energies as a solution to all problems the country is facing.

Magazine PC World has recognized Eric Schmidt’s contributions to the development of the Internet and has cited him as the #1 Most Important People on the Web for 2007, along with Google creators Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Profiles in Business: Henry Kravis

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Henry R. Kravis, founding partner of New York-based private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), finished his economics major at Claremont McKenna College in California. After his high school graduation in 1967, Henry Kravis attended Columbia Business School where he earned his MBA (Masters in Business Administration) in 1969. He is regarded as one of the most successful investment bankers in history.

Henry Kravis’s first exposure in the field of business came when he became a staff member of Bear Sterns, together with his cousin George R. Roberts. Henry Kravis and George Roberts were placed under the supervision of Jerome Kohlberg, Jr., the company’s corporate finance manager. In a few years’ time, at the young age of 30 and 31, Henry Kravis and George Roberts became one of the partners at Bear Sterns. They developed a friendship and favorable working relationship with Kohlberg and formed KKR in 1976.

Credited for giving KKR some of its biggest and most significant corporate acquisitions, Henry Kravis’ most successful deal was the 1988 RJR Nabisco buyout which netted $24.88 billion.

Aside from dealing with business matters, Henry Kravis is also involved in several noteworthy charitable causes and is likewise a patron of the arts. In fact, in the New York social circle, Henry Kravis is known as an extremely generous donor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The New York City Investment Fund, of which Henry Kravis is founder and head, is intended to help New York City’s small inner city businesses by creating jobs. Some of his philanthropic activities involve board memberships in the Partnership for New York City, Claremont McKenna College, Mt. Sinai Hospital, and Columbia Graduate School of Business, among others. Henry Kravis also launched the prestigious Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership to honor the best in leadership in the nonprofit sector.

He is also an avid political activist. Henry Kravis formed the Republican Leadership Council together with Lewis Eisenberg.

Henry Kravis’ involvement in business, politics, and philanthropy is a perfect embodiment of a quote he once said: “If you build that foundation, both the moral and the ethical foundation, as well as the business foundation, and the experience foundation, then the building won’t crumble.”

Canada Hosts Obama’s First Foreign Trip

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

America’s northern neighbor was the setting for Barack Obama’s first foreign trip since taking oath as president. On February 19, the US president flew to Ottawa, Canada for an introductory meeting with the nation’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

The meeting involved talks about high-stakes topics for the two countries. Throughout the seven-hour visit, both leaders brought up sensitive topics like energy security, environmental conservatism, and war.

Even though no seminal negotiations are likely to arise from the recently concluded meeting, it may have covered the prospect of reopening the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The NAFTA is a hotly debated 1994 trade pact binding the economies of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

A more current subject that may have been in the agenda is the “Buy American” provision of President Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus bill. Canada is also contending with more restrictive American regulations regarding labels on imported food.

Presently, Canada is still the world’s largest importer of American goods next to China. Overall, Canada and the US make the biggest trading partnership in the world, with over US$1.6 billion in goods penetrating their shared borders every day.

For one, the US imports more oil and natural gas from Canada than any other country. It consequently brings to the fore a timely discussion on energy security and climate change. For this matter, President Obama brought along Carol Browner, his energy and climate coordinator.

Even during the campaign, President Obama has been oft cited to favor renewable energy.

In anticipation of the visit, green activists tried to steer the American President’s influence against Canada’s gigantic oil sands in Alberta. Recently, Greenpeace put up huge banners persuading the President not to buy oil sourced from Alberta tar sands. Scientists say oil extraction from tar sands emits dangerous greenhouse gases.

On another front, President Obama’s visit was expected to pitch a new strategy on Afghanistan, one with more diplomacy, to PM Harper. Earlier, Obama cajoled NATO members into his cause in Afghanistan, a war-ravaged nation facing resurgence in insurrection. The President is dispatching 17,000 additional combat troops to the country.

Canada, however, has had enough of the Afghan conflict, which has so far claimed the lives of 111 Canadians. By 2011, Canada will have yanked its 2,800 troops off Afghanistan.

President Obama’s visit somehow signaled a fresh start for both countries. For the United States, it became the first step in its efforts to rebuilding the image of the country. German Marshall Fund foreign policy director John K. Glenn believes that the President’s recent visit to the US’ closest neighbor is a good start.

Related News Sources:

The latest updates on President Barack Obama and other top-ranking US officials from the official White House blog.

Women Attorneys and Beermann Swerdlove

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Law is a demanding profession. Often, it requires extra hours in the office. For women, especially working mothers, this is something that has always been an issue. Allotting 2,000 to 2,400 hours a year for office work can become frustrating since balancing work and tending to the children and the home is a difficult thing to do.

Deane Brown, a Boston University Law School graduate, was one of these mothers. When her daughter was born in 1996, she had to work in the evening and on weekends to be able to catch up with the law firm’s billing requirements. Then she discovered Beermann Swerdlove, a law firm established in 1958 by Law graduates of DePaul University.

At Beermann Swedlove, Deane Brown discovered the joys of mixing parenthood and work. According to Miles Beermann, a partner in the firm, Beermann Swerdlove adopts a different work attitude. The firm realizes that attorneys, no matter how in demand they are, also have lives outside the office. This is why the firm sticks to its philosophy of requiring associates to bill only a minimum of 1,800 hours a year. Lawyers also have the option to adopt a flexible schedule or work from home. As long as the work is finished on time and they make their clients happy, Beermann Swerdlove does not object to their attorneys’ working preference. Although these lawyers do not get salaries that can rival those of others from the bigger firms, there are incentives that help bridge the gap.

Beermann Swerdlove is a Chicago-based law firm that offers excellent trial and appellate practice concentrating on personal injury representation, insurance coverage matters, real estate and construction litigation, business disputes and complicated marital dissolution. The firm has 30 attorneys, half of them women and 19 of whom are partners.