Once a musician is described as a "bad boy icon," his 15 minutes of fame tend to be up. So why is EMI betting the farm on Robbie Williams, the British crooner and former "fat dancer" from Take That who has sold a respectable but unspectacular 692,000 records in the U.S.? Williams's new deal is estimated at around $90 million, the largest ever for a British artist. In part, EMI is playing to the global market; Williams has sold nearly 20 million records worldwide since 1996. But the company has been burned before: in 2001, it signed Mariah Carey for $100 million. After her first EMI release flopped, the company paid $55 million just to break her contract. But the agreement with Williams is "more than a record deal," says JP Morgan analyst Nick Henry-Stolz. "This deal is the first of its kind to integrate nonrecording activities such as touring and merchandising he's an enterprise." That's a big contrast to stars like Britney Spears, who usually contract with licensing agencies for these activities. CD sales fell 5% in 2001, largely due to downloading and piracy, or so the industry claims. But revenue from concerts and merchandise hit $1.6 billion, which is why this EMI deal may offer a new model. Williams is no longer just a recording artist, but a franchise that EMI can spin off into everything from T shirts to action figures. By buying into Williams's wider activities, EMI hopes to swing even when CD sales aren't winning.
"Opening The Lid" In Japan
Heizo Takanaka must have the most stressful job in Japan not easy in a country where train drivers have committed suicide for falling one minute behind schedule. Last week Prime Minister Junichiro Koizuimi fired Financial Services Agency chief Hakuo Yanagisawa, who opposed injecting capital into Japan's debt-laden banks, and named the reform-minded Takanaka to take the country's top economic post. Takanaka said he wants "to open the lid and see what's inside" the world's second-largest economy, which continues to act as a drag on the European and global recovery. By the FSA's conservative estimate, Japanese banks hold $420 billion in bad loans. That's over 8% of GDP four times the scale of the 1980s U.S. savings and loan crisis. Takanaka can bail out banks by buying loans and selling them for a loss or, more likely, by buying bank shares and giving the government enough control to change management. Either way, millions of workers could be sacked as loans to nonperforming companies are cut off. Looks like Tanakana won't be relaxing anytime soon.
Smart sold 116,000 cars in 2001, making DaimlerChrysler a proud parent. They're trying for a repeat in 2003 by releasing a Smart "sports car." But with its 3-cylinder engine, maybe it should be marketed as a "sport cute."
Six Continents moved away from its roots as a British brewer, splitting its pubs from its hotels group. Shareholders will get $1.1 billion cash back, plus stock in the new companies.
A Whole Lot Of Nothing
NTT DoCoMo will write down its foreign investments by $4.7 billion, including $878 million in KPN, valuing its 15% stake in the Dutch mobile company at zero.
Spain's second-largest power utility, Iberdrola, agreed to pay €1 billion over four years for the wind farms owned by Gamesa.
Pensions Without Borders
Pan-European pensions moved closer to reality as the European Court of Justice ruled that Rolf Danner, who lives in Finland, should receive the country's normal tax breaks although he pays into a German pension. The ruling is key for companies who want one scheme for all their E.U. employees.
On The Waterfront
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union went on strike, shutting down all 29 West Coast ports in the U.S. The strike halted $1 billion in revenues per day, hitting Asian Pacific economies especially hard as companies like Toyota and Nissan were forced to stop production or find other ways to ship products to North America.
Foes Fall Into Tough Love
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Harvey Pitt reached a truce with New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer in their battle to look toughest on corporate misdeeds. The two will jointly focus on separating research from investment banking
The Best-Laid Plans
A survey by the Business Council shows that 50% of the largest U.S. companies have changed their business plans this year because of market weakness, while 39% expect to cut capital spending further next year.
"I used to look up at the Imperial Hotel, now I stay at the Imperial Hotel. It's nice to see the working class doing well, isn't it?"
John Reid, Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary, on the success of the Labour government's policies
"I will not be ashamed to say in three years' time that I've done nothing."
Paolo Scaroni, Enel CEO, saying he won't turn the Italian utility into an empire
"I don't think a $100 billion tax on U.S. citizens is a good thing."
Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, on why U.S. Business Council members concluded that an Iraq war could damage the economy