This past Sunday's New York Times magazine summed up the decline and imminent death of Sears. It's worth a read, though long-time readers of this blog know it's an old story.
The cashing-out consolidation of craft breweries continues with today's surprise announcement that Japan's Sapporo Holdings will acquire San Francisco's Anchor Brewing:
According to Keith Greggor, Anchor’s president and CEO, the move was a year in the making and the result of speaking with “many, many” larger breweries all over the world to find the right fit.
Anchor Brewing Co. is considered the leading pioneer of the craft beer movement, and is credited with reviving and modernizing some of today's most popular American beer styles. The price of the deal was not disclosed. Anchor Distilling, which produces spirits such as Junipero Gin and Old Potrero whiskey, is not involved in the deal and will become a separate company.
Anchor Brewing management said it did not specifically plan for a complete acquisition. However, to support the brewery’s long-term future and further international expansion (it currently distributes to 20 countries), it needed to relinquish full ownership to Sapporo.
When asked whether this deal jeopardizes Anchor’s “craft” designation, a commonly accepted definition dictated by the Brewers Association, the brewery’s executives did not seem concerned about that imminent debate, due to the brewery’s long history.
Well, yes, it jeopardizes the "craft" designation for the simple reason that Anchor won't be a craft brewer anymore, by definition. So, another one bites the dust. That leaves only about 5,300 other craft brewers in the U.S. Time to get drinking.
Scottish authorities are making it difficult for Donald Trump to expand his money-losing golf course outside Aberdeen:
Two Scottish government agencies—the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage, a conservation agency—say they will object to the Trump Organization’s plans to build a second 18-hole golf course at Aberdeen, known as the Trump International Golf Links. If they succeed in killing this expansion, it will be a major setback for Trump and raise doubts about the future profitability of the whole venture.
Industry experts say the value of many of Trump’s golf resorts is not in the daily management of the course itself but rather in the development and sale of housing. And according to the 2008 master plan that Trump convinced local planning officials to accept, he needs to build two courses before he is allowed to break ground on the profitable housing development.
But with the Trump Organization back to trying to get the second golf course built, Scottish regulators are making the case that Trump apparently doesn’t fully understand the development limitations. According to the Guardian, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is objecting to the Aberdeen expansion on the grounds that the Trump Organization’s plans for managing sewage are inadequate. Scottish Natural Heritage, meanwhile, says the company’s expansion plans don’t take into account the fragility of the nearby dunes and how they may affect the course as they shift—already a recurring problem on the first course, where greens are strafed by mini-sandstorms.
It turns out, Scots are really hard to bully, and (as the headline above says), they really do not like him.
I just saw a comment on a review site listing the following as a "con" for a particular Web-based product:
I really feel like this company doesn't fix problems that only affect a couple of customers. Instead they prioritize fixes that affect the whole system and only fix specific problems when they have time.
Yes. Also, you might be interested to learn that businesses try to make profits by selling things for more than it cost to obtain them.
On behalf of the company in question—a small business in Chicago whose principal constituents are non-profit organizations with budgets under $1m—you're either new to this whole "commerce" thing or you have a magnificently droll sense of humor. Either way, good day to you, sir. I said good day!
While I'm trying to figure out how to transfer one database to another, I'm putting these aside for later reading:
Back to database analysis and design...
The Tribune reported yesterday that Dev Bootcamp, an immersive software-development school, is shutting down after their next class graduates in December:
Dev Bootcamp’s final cohort will start classes this month and graduate in December. Campuses officially close on Dec. 8, according to the email, signed by Dev Bootcamp President Tarlin Ray. Graduating students will also get “at least six months of career support,” the letter said.
“(D)espite tremendous efforts from a lot of talented people, we’ve determined that we simply can’t achieve a sustainable business model without compromising our mission of delivering a high-quality coding education that is accessible to a diverse population of students,” the letter said.
Dev Bootcamp was never profitable, Nishimura said. The Kaplan acquisition [in 2014] gave Dev Bootcamp flexibility, but ultimately, faced with the prospect of cutting back full-time instructors and raising tuition, the company decided to shut down.
I have four co-workers who have ties to Dev Bootcamp, including one who wrote parts of the curriculum. They report that Kaplan's aggressive expansion into markets outside Chicago and San Francisco drew resources away from existing programs, driving students and faculty away. For example, one intriguing offering, "Engineering Empathy," which sought to teach budding coders how to work on teams and with clients, got cut during the rapid-expansion phase.
The three alumni in my office are some of the best coders I've ever met. So I'm sorry to see Dev Bootcamp go. I hope that in future someone creates a program as effective as theirs.
Last week's Economist had a semi-serious "letter from the CEO" on Plan C:
When I left the White House yesterday, after another two-hour round-table with the president, I knew in my gut that it was time to put in place “plan C” for this great company. The boxer, Mike Tyson, had a point when he said “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” But so did Winston Churchill when he observed that “plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” We owe it to our investors, customers and 131,000 employees globally, to have a reset.
It is now clear that dysfunction at the White House and in Congress means plan B is off the table. The markets agree. Sure, equity prices are still up. But after the election, bond yields soared in anticipation of an economic boom, only to give up half of their gains. The “Trump Bump” has faded. Yet life won’t return to normal. Our firm faces many risks. We have to fight back.
That calls for plan C, which has three elements: winning, tackling and the future. I like to use the acronym “WTF”. For a start we have to win profits from our proximity to power.
But plan C also requires us to recognise new dangers coming at us hard and fast. They need to be tackled—stopped and brought down. One of the Wall Street bankers I know likes to say that the president has three personalities: chairman, showman and con man. It is the last two we need to worry about.
If companies are thinking anything like this columnist believes, we should expect economic stagnation for the next couple of years.
A group of 800 breweries—including Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada—has joined an initiative to differentiate their brands from the big guys:
The initiative, which was spearheaded by the trade group for independent craft brewers, is intended to differentiate "true" craft beers from those made by the likes of MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch and Heineken.
To qualify to use the seal, breweries cannot be more than 25% owned or controlled by any alcohol company that's not itself a craft brewer. Its annual production also can't exceed 6 million barrels.
Distribution contracts frequently allow major beer brands to dictate where their beer is placed on shelves, for instance. And Big Beer has successfully driven independent beers out of some stadiums, music venues and chain restaurants by asking distributors to stock their craft brands instead of independents.
Brewers say these concerns have only been exacerbated by Big Beer's incursion into craft. The acquisition of independent breweries, they argue, has eroded the few advantages the indies had: higher-quality beers in different styles and a cooler, vastly less corporate brand.
Since 2011, Anheuser-Busch has bought Goose Island, Blue Point, Karbach, Golden Road, Devil's Backbone, Elysian, Ten Barrel, Breckenridge, Four Peaks and Wicked Weed. MillerCoors now owns Terrapin; Heineken has Lagunitas; and Constellation owns Ballast Point Brewery.
We'll see how this initiative fares. Most of the beer I drink qualifies as independent, but Lagunitas still makes some pretty good brews.
Via Bruce Schneier (again), Fortune takes a look at Google's security project:
Google officially formed Project Zero in 2014, but the group’s origins stretch back another five years. It often takes an emergency to drive most companies to take security seriously. For Google, that moment was Operation Aurora.
In 2009, a cyberespionage group associated with the Chinese government hacked Google and a number of other tech titans, breaching their servers, stealing their intellectual property, and attempting to spy on their users. The pillaging outraged Google’s top executives—enough so that the company eventually exited China, the world’s biggest market, over the affair.
The event particularly bothered Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Computer-forensics firms and investigators determined that the company had been hacked not through any fault of Google’s own software, but via an unpatched flaw in Microsoft Internet Explorer 6. Why, he wondered, should Google’s security depend on other companies’ products?
I have mixed feeling about it. The project does great work, and the Internet has benefited enormously from these efforts. But as long as it is embedded inside Google, it has to deal with accusations that it targets Google competitors.
On the other hand, as Schneier's commenters point out (and as he has suggested in the past), better Google exposing the bugs than the NSA losing control of them.
Sears, which CEO Eddie Lampert has very nearly murdered, will have only one retail store left in its home town Chicago this fall:
Sears Holdings Corp. is closing 20 more stores, including a Sears in Chicago's Galewood neighborhood, in mid-September.
Those closings — including 18 Sears and two Kmart stores — follow 150 stores Hoffman Estates-based Sears shuttered in the first quarter of this year and another 66 expected to close by early September.
The latest 20 are among the 235 locations Sears sold to its real estate investment trust spinoff, Seritage Growth Properties, in 2015. Seritage reported the closings in an SEC filing Friday.
Remember, Lampert is destroying the greatest retailer in American history so he can sell its parts for scrap. When historians write about this era centuries from now, Lampert will be regarded as we think of Nero. But as a nihilist Ayn Rand disciple, he really doesn't care.