"Michelangelo and da Vinci, all of them were float builders, so I'm in pretty good company," he says, with characteristic humility. Listening to the monologue is Barry Kern, Blaine's 52-year-old son, who does not share his dad's propensity for self-revelation. Asked about some outrageous antic of his father's, Barry usually shrugs and says, "That's just Blaine being Blaine." ... But Barry wasn't so sanguine in 2010, when he started slapping his father with lawsuits in a spat that nearly destroyed their venerable company and threatened to derail New Orleans's most beloved--and lucrative--tradition. ... The elder Kern built his first float in 1947 and has since helped make Mardi Gras in New Orleans a world-renowned event through his artistry, luck, and relentless self-promotion. Barry quietly turned what is now called Kern Studios into a more professional operation after he became its president in 1994, quadrupling revenue to $40 million and expanding the business with theme park attractions in Las Vegas, Europe, and Asia. ... Today's high-end floats sport dazzling visual effects and can cost $1 million.
A veritable prince of the realm in Korea and supremely well connected among the global elite, Lee, who has a net worth of around $8 billion, nevertheless is not widely known outside his native land. At home, Lee’s life as a single dad and the next-generation leader of Samsung makes him a boldface name. Even in Korea, however, it isn’t well understood exactly what he does. That’s partly because he has long been overshadowed by his larger-than-life father, Lee Kun-hee, chairman of the Samsung Group. ... The younger Lee’s profile is about to grow dramatically. In recent months he has made himself more visible, implicitly acknowledging that he is now the leader of the Lee clan and its business interests. The elder Lee, age 73 and Samsung’s chief for nearly 30 years, suffered a heart attack 14 months ago. He has been hospitalized ever since—at the same Samsung-owned facility where the MERS crisis began—and his condition is believed to be so grave that he cannot communicate and isn’t expected to recover. In other words, the man who built Samsung into a global powerhouse in everything from semiconductors to TVs to mobile phones has all but left the scene. And he has been succeeded—in actions, if not yet in title—by his relatively untested only son. ... A sense of healthy paranoia pervades Samsung that an insular mentality and a reliance on commodity products won’t serve it as well in the future as they have in the past. Samsung executives frequently reference the downfall of once-powerful Japanese electronics rivals such as Sony and Sharp.
When Paul Newman died, in 2008, he left his Newman’s Own food empire, and the charitable foundation it supports, in the hands of his adviser Robert Forrester. But, his eldest daughter says the family believes their father’s principles are being betrayed. ... “The stuff” was Newman’s soon-to-be-famous salad dressing, which he had bottled for years and given away. Newman and Hotchner tied ribbons around the wine bottles, gathered their kids, and went Christmas caroling, distributing the bottles along the way. One of Newman’s neighbors then was a young caterer named Martha Stewart, who held a blind taste test. Newman’s was voted No. 1. Calling it Newman’s Own, Newman allowed his face to be put on the label. In 1982 the dressing went on sale in local gourmet shops and groceries. ... Recalled Hotchner, “To our absolute disbelief, we banged quite a profit that first year”—$920,000, in fact. “Paul said, ‘We can’t be in the business of making money off of it! You’re a writer and I’m an actor and this isn’t what we do. Let’s give it all away to charity.’ ” ... The truth of what Paul Newman wanted may have to remain a mystery, said Stern, who was also extremely close to Joanne Woodward. “Like all great heroes, Paul was flawed. Some of those flaws have been appearing in the lives of people who were left behind in the swirl of his going. He would share everything and absolutely nothing, and it was the nothing part that was so very, very, very confusing, even to his best of friends…. He was enigmatic to a degree that I have never experienced with anybody else…. I don’t know and nobody knows precisely what the whole thing is in terms of Paul’s wishes or settlements.”
"Our interest is in technology and engineering and design, and as a family business, we are able to keep the focus and philosophy there. We’re able to think very long-term, to develop technology that might be 20 to 25 years away. We can afford to do it. We can afford to make mistakes without anyone being sacked. We can take a long-term view of everything." ... Last year, the company broke ground on a more than $400 million technology campus adjacent to the Malmesbury headquarters. When it is completed next year, it will house 3,000 designers and engineers. Already, the company has brought in hundreds of software and computer hardware specialists and tripled the size of its engineering staff. The company currently funnels $2.5 million into R&D every week ... In coming months, the technology campus will serve as a launching pad for a range of new verticals, some of which Dyson has disclosed (robotics), some of which seem imminent (the Sakti3 investment appears to indicate a further interest in household electronics), and some of which are entirely classified. ... In the 15 years Dyson spent painstakingly perfecting the 360 Eye, a range of autonomous floor cleaners have entered the market, including iRobot’s Roomba and several models from Samsung. Dyson says that the 360 Eye will offer better suction, more advanced sensors, and longer-lasting battery life than its competitors. Still, in a sense, the device is illustrative of the challenges Dyson faces as it attempts to expand into categories already thick with deep-pocketed rivals: What happens when a company accustomed to being hailed for its innovations decides to play catch-up?
What Pyrex-maker Corning is to glass, CoorsTek is to ceramics. Name any big American manufacturer and it probably buys CoorsTek parts. ... CoorsTek makes over 1 billion tiny parts for cars each year, used in brakes, air bags, mirrors and headrests. Its parts are on NASA’s space shuttles; its valves are used in the fountain machines at McDonald’s; its bulletproof armor protects U.S. soldiers; and its fake knees are helping an aging population keep moving. ... With sales of $1.25 billion, CoorsTek is the largest engineered-ceramics manufacturer on the planet. It is also one of the most profitable, with estimated cash flow margins of 27%. ... tapping into the vast clay deposits surrounding Golden to form a pottery company that first made dinnerware and then labware during World War I; the Germans had dominated that market beforehand but were embargoed from selling to Americans during the war. Thomas Edison was an early customer. ... The ceramics business helped to keep the family fortune afloat for nearly two decades. ... Another factor that makes CoorsTek different from most industrial giants is that it can completely change its product offerings year to year without checking in with a public board of directors or worrying how investors will respond. Three of its largest markets–armor and defense, semiconductor equipment and oil and gas–are roller-coaster industries, so it must constantly shift its focus.
Most CEOs would have had their assistant set up another line minutes after the show aired. Not Shoen. Not only did he not change his number, but eight years later he still claims to respond to every call–although sometimes via e-mail or text–and now insists that all U-Haul general managers post their cellphone numbers in their stores and on the perimeter gates and print them on their business cards. (Don’t believe us? Call him at 602-390-6525.) He credits the direct line with such innovations as a box designed for flat-screen televisions, 24/7 access to U-Haul’s storage units and printed instructions for customers on how to safely connect and disconnect trailers. ... Frankly, a few calls from enraged customers in the middle of the night are nothing compared with what Shoen has already endured for this company. His family and U-Haul–which his father, Leonard Samuel (a.k.a. “L.S.”), and mother, Anna Mary, founded in 1945–have been at the center of one of the messiest family feuds in American history. Having lost faith in his father’s ability to run the business, Joe wrested away control of Amerco in 1986, unleashing a torrent of litigation and reputational warfare ... All of the distractions should have driven U-Haul into the ground. And they nearly did, hindering the company’s ability to borrow money, attract talent and forge partnerships. But Joe held firmly on to control and kept U-Haul alive by concentrating on the mundane, day-to-day details of its core self-moving business. ... As of fiscal year 2015 (calculated from March to March) it had 135,000 trucks and 107,000 trailers on the road, 17,000 more than the year prior. Rival Avis Budget last reported 22,000 truck rentals in 2014, down 5,000 from the previous two years. Penske rents out approximately 15,000 trucks on a local or one-way basis, plus another 25,000 commercial trucks on a local basis.
With a trial about to begin, lurid and alarming details of the billionaire’s condition and the scheming around him continue to emerge. Many questions will arise in the courtroom—and control of CBS and Viacom could ultimately hang in the balance. ... Redstone is a man who, for decades, dominated those around him. Now diminished, by some accounts a wraith, he is not expected even to be in the courtroom at a trial that centers on what condition he’s in. He will be questioned by each side for 15 minutes at home (the videotaped deposition will be shown only to the judge). Even that small amount of testimony might be too much for him. ... What’s beyond dispute is that this fight has sent shock waves through Redstone’s vast empire. It was this tawdry case—and not a planned corporate succession or steps taken by either board—that forced his belated departure as chairman of the two companies in February, despite his repeated vows that he’d never step down. (He also claimed he’d never die.) It has focused attention on the business woes at Viacom, where profits are faltering, the creative and digital strategies seem suspect, and the stock has dropped 39% in the past year. And it has prompted CBS chief Leslie Moonves to start quietly maneuvering to get out from under the Redstone family’s thumb altogether, according to a Reuters report. ... This account is based on interviews with dozens of people, including Herzer, current and former high-ranking executives of Viacom and CBS, people close to Redstone and his family, witnesses to events at his mansion, and lawyers in the case, as well as hundreds of pages of court records and documents. ... In the end, Redstone’s corporate affairs fell into disarray because he stubbornly refused to put his house in order—scoffing at succession plans, appointing pliant boards, and running his $40 billion enterprise like a family grocery store. ... Christine Peters, a Hollywood producer and onetime Redstone flame, recalls sitting down for dinner at a restaurant in Hawaii with her daughters and the mogul, then about 80, when his steak arrived overdone. Redstone summoned the chef to their table, stuck his fork in the meat, and flung it at him. “Why are you so mean to people?” she recalls asking him. “I don’t care,” Redstone replied. “I’m going to hell anyway.”
Over its 118-year history, Bechtel has arguably changed the face of the physical world more than any other company, anywhere. Here’s a short list of its signature projects: the Hoover Dam (completed in 1936), the Trans-Arabian Pipeline (1950), the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (1976), NASA’s Space Launch Complex 40 (1992), the Channel Tunnel (1994), and the Athens Metro (2004), not to mention Jubail in Saudi Arabia, where Bechtel has been overseeing the construction of one of the world’s largest industrial cities for over 40 years. It recently completed the Hamad International Airport in Qatar, which is built to eventually handle more than 50 million passengers a year (matching the traffic at New York’s J.F.K.). And with BrightSource Energy, it constructed the Ivanpah solar electric complex, a landscape of 350,000 heat-generating mirrors in California’s Mojave Desert that’s the largest solar-thermal plant on the planet. ... Bechtel is currently overseeing a major portion of Crossrail, the largest infrastructure installation in Europe—a network of tunnels and rail links in London that will connect the city to the outer suburbs. And the company has developed the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in the continental United States. ... The parade of projects has made Bechtel one of the half-dozen largest privately held companies in the U.S., with $40 billion in 2015 revenue, outranking the likes of chocolate giant Mars and grocery chain Publix. ... In an increasingly competitive environment, the company needs to be able to attract the best engineers and managers to thrive. Today those elite recruits demand to understand the values of the companies that are wooing them. “Ours is a people business that depends on fielding the most capable project teams in the world,” he says. Like many other major private companies, Bechtel’s leaders feels they can no longer afford to hide behind its closely held status and let others control the narrative about its business. ... Bechtel must win on competence, not contacts. It’s all about a company’s ability to deliver a job on schedule and on budget, at the lowest cost.
The brothers oversee an enviable collection of businesses — a movie studio, cable channels and a publishing house worth a combined $62bn. But that does not mean they have nothing to worry about. Their newspapers have been walloped by an industry-wide collapse in print advertising, while Fox’s television networks are grappling with the “cord-cutting” phenomenon — the cancellation of pricey cable subscriptions by a generation that prefers binge-watching on demand. For owners of channels such as Fox that means fewer viewers and pressure on advertising. ... The competition is also beefing up. Time Warner, one of Fox’s main rivals and the owner of HBO, CNN and Warner Bros, has agreed a blockbuster $85.4bn sale to AT&T, which will create a giant that dwarfs Fox. If it is cleared by regulators, the combined company will be able to deliver Time Warner movies and TV programming direct to more than 160 million AT&T customers around the US — something Fox is currently unable to do. ... Add these challenges to the scrutiny and opposition that their Sky deal will generate and the younger Murdochs find themselves in a challenging environment. Their father overcame considerable obstacles to become the world’s most influential media mogul, battling political establishments on both sides of the Atlantic and making risky bets along the way, buying The Sun, launching Sky and Fox News, to name but three. The question now facing James and Lachlan is this: do they have what it takes to fill his shoes?
This is the Tata long familiar to Indians and business watchers around the world: a group that tied itself to the principles of public service and humane treatment of workers and communities, a century before “corporate social responsibility” became a buzzword. ... Since Jamsetji set up his small trading company in 1868, it has expanded into a major name in global business, with annual turnover exceeding $100bn. Even amid this huge growth, it retained a name for stable leadership: in the first 144 years after it was founded in Mumbai, the group had only five leaders, all drawn from Jamsetji’s descendants. ... But this carefully guarded reputation for ethics and stability, a source of pride for Tata’s 660,000 employees and India itself, is now threatened by an unprecedented crisis. The upheaval began in October last year when Cyrus Mistry, the first chairman drawn from outside the founding family, was suddenly dismissed without explanation, exposing seething tensions between him and his predecessor Ratan Tata.
The main goal isn’t simply to maximize revenue from advertising—the strategy that keeps the lights on and the content free at upstarts like the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Vox. It’s to transform the Times’ digital subscriptions into the main engine of a billion-dollar business, one that could pay to put reporters on the ground in 174 countries even if (OK, when) the printing presses stop forever. To hit that mark, the Times is embarking on an ambitious plan inspired by the strategies of Netflix, Spotify, and HBO: invest heavily in a core offering (which, for the Times, is journalism) while continuously adding new online services and features (from personalized fitness advice and interactive newsbots to virtual reality films) so that a subscription becomes indispensable to the lives of its existing subscribers and more attractive to future ones.
In February he was installed as chairman of Tata Sons, the private holding company that controls TCS and hundreds of other businesses that make up the Tata Group, India’s largest and most venerable conglomerate—one that owns Western brands such as Land Rover and Tetley Tea. His appointment as chairman (which at Tata is essentially the CEO role) followed an abrupt board decision last October to sack Tata Sons’ previous chairman, Cyrus Mistry, a scion of the family that remains Tata’s largest private shareholder. ... Colleagues and investors hope Chandra can transfer to the rest of Tata some of the digital magic he sprinkled on TCS, where he tripled sales and profits during his seven years as CEO. But, as one might expect of a relentless marathoner, Chandra himself suggests that whipping Tata into shape will involve some grueling workouts. ... In an April town hall with executives from Tata companies, he stressed the importance of group unity and collaboration with a slide deck touting the virtues of “One Tata.” But in other meetings, that message has been twinned with a warning that the group must have clearer lines of accountability, and that Chandra will establish detailed metrics to evaluate the performance of the various operating companies.
In some Asian markets, white fruit is coveted, and Driscoll’s has conducted commercial trials in Hong Kong. But although the company has been breeding whites for fifteen years, it has yet to introduce any to U.S. grocery stores; Americans, accustomed to an aggressive cold chain, typically fear underripe fruit. “I brought these to a wedding, and all the parents were telling their kids not to eat the white ones,” a Joy Maker remarked. Lately, however, Driscoll’s focus groups have shown that millennials, adventurous and open-minded in their eating habits, and easily seduced by novelty, may embrace pale berries. With these consumers, unburdened by preconceived notions of what a white berry should look or taste like, Driscoll’s has a priceless opportunity: the definitional power that comes with first contact. Before that can happen, though, the berries must conform to Driscoll’s aesthetic standards. Stewart held a 21AA176 up to his face and inspected it carefully. ... Driscoll’s, a fourth-generation family business, says that it controls roughly a third of the six-billion-dollar U.S. berry market, including sixty per cent of organic strawberries, forty-six per cent of blackberries, fourteen per cent of blueberries, and just about every raspberry you don’t pick yourself. ... Produce is war, and it is won by having something beautiful-looking to sell at Costco when the competition has only cat-faced uglies. In the eighties, beset by takeover ambitions from Chiquita, Del Monte, and Dole, Driscoll’s embarked on a new vision: all four berries, all year round. ... For the shopper, the only impression that matters is the Driscoll’s name, and the red berries, as uniform as soldiers or paper valentines.