Thursday, November 25, 2004

FTD seeks to bloom again as a public firm... BUT....

FTD seeks to bloom again as a public firm

By Rob Kaiser
Tribune staff reporter
Published November 25, 2004

Like a spurned suitor returning with an armful of flowers, FTD Inc. is seeking to win its way back into investors' hearts.

The Downers Grove-based flower delivery service--which saw its FTD.com shares plunge after going public in 1999 and went private earlier this year--filed papers this week to return as a publicly traded company.

Now owned by the Los Angeles-based private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners, FTD is seeking to raise as much as $180 million. The company did not disclose how many shares it plans to sell or the price of the shares being offered.

The financial documents filed this week show a growing company saddled with sizable debt.

FTD posted revenue of $397.1 million in the 12-month period ending June 30 and a net loss of $6.1 million.

The company did have $13.7 million in income from operations in the period, but that was wiped out by $16.4 million in interest payments and other expenses.

As of Sept. 30, FTD had assets of $581.3 million and $428.6 million in debt. It had $1.2 million in cash.

The high debt is a result of the private equity firm's acquisition of the company.

FTD plans to use money it raises from the public offering to buy back preferred stock issues.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the public filing.

FTD sells flowers to consumers through its Web site and toll free number, generating more than 3.5 million orders annually that are filled by the 20,000 FTD member florists.

In the 12-month period that ended June 30, consumer sales brought in $216.8 million, more than half of FTD's revenues. The company makes the remainder of its money by providing technology, services and merchandise to the FTD florists.

FTD's first foray into the public markets was in September 1999, when the company spun its online unit into the inflating Internet bubble. Following the dot-com burst, FTD.com was reconnected with its FTD parent in 2002, and the two entities were fused into one public company.

An investment fund run by Leonard Green & Partners bought FTD in February, and took the company private.

Michael Soenen, a 34-year-old who had been at the helm of FTD.com when it went public, returned to the company in May as FTD's president and chief executive.

Selling directly to consumers has been a growing area for the company.

Revenue from consumer orders grew from $154.1 million in fiscal year 2002 to $191 million the following year to $216.8 million in the most recent year. During the quarter ended Sept. 30, the consumer segment generated sales of $36.4 million, up 14 percent from the year-earlier quarter.

FTD plans to continue its growth in this area by expanding its marketing partnerships and specialty gift offerings and by offering lower-priced flower arrangements to younger consumers, according to the filing.

Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune

Thursday, November 18, 2004

CRTC approves Fox News for Canada
Last Updated Thu, 18 Nov 2004 19:07:38 EST

OTTAWA - The conservative-leaning Fox News Channel will soon be coming to Canadian digital television channels.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved an application Thursday to bring the Fox News Channel, one of the highest-rated news channels in the United States, onto Canadian digital airwaves.

The Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association (CCTA) applied to the broadcast regulator in April.

Canadians already have access to the main Fox network, but not the right-leaning, 24-hour news channel, with its trademarked slogan of "fair and balanced."

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) opposed the application, saying it would discourage foreign broadcasters from partnering with Canadian broadcasters.

However, in its decision, the CRTC said Fox News offers little Canadian coverage and is not "partially or totally competitive with any Canadian pay or specialty service." It added that the channel would "significantly boost digital penetration in Canada" and increase the availability of digital services in the country.

The CRTC also approved the NFL Network, a 24-hour "lifestyle and entertainment" channel for football fans. It doesn't carry live games, with the exception of a few exhibition games.

Past application rejected

The CRTC rejected a CCTA application to bring Fox to Canada last November because Fox News U.S. and Winnipeg-based Global Television were planning to create Fox News Canada, a combination of U.S. and Canadian news.

However, in March, a Fox U.S. executive said there were no plans to create the combined channel.

The CRTC was thrust into the spotlight in July after giving conditional approval to the digital broadcast of Arab television station al-Jazeera.

The commission said Canadian carriers had to keep an "audio-visual recording" of the controversial network's broadcasts. It told Canadian distributors to monitor the broadcast 24 hours a day, giving them permission to "alter or curtail" programming to keep out abusive commentary, especially of an anti-Semitic nature.

No Canadian distributors carry al-Jazeera.

Fox was launched in 1996 by a former Republican advisor, Roger Ailes. It's a subsidiary of News Corp. Ltd., which is controlled by right-wing Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Diana fund officals face fresh new suit

Diana Fund officials face fresh US court appearance
By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter
(Filed: 14/11/2004)

The officials of a charity set up to honour Diana, Princess of Wales will face public scrutiny in a United States court despite settling a £14 million legal action from an American souvenir company last week.

The Franklin Mint is continuing to sue the American law firm that represented the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, The Telegraph learnt yesterday.


A Franklin Mint Princess Diana doll and plate
Andrew Purkis, the fund's chief executive, will be called to give evidence. However, the trustees, including Diana's sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale, will probably be spared court appearances.

The hearing is expected to take place in California next month when Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, a Los Angeles law company, will be sued for $25 million (£14 million) for its role in the "malicious prosecution" of the Franklin Mint. An official close to the Franklin Mint said yesterday: "We will be asking Dr Purkis to explain the circumstances in which the American law firm was hired in the first place." The law company, which is contesting the action, had advised the fund that it should sue the company for selling memorabilia bearing the Princess's image and name. Unsuccessful legal actions against the Franklin Mint have cost the fund £6 million in legal fees.

Dr Purkis said yesterday: "If I am summoned, I will simply tell the truth about the events as they happened."

The fund had hoped to avoid further scrutiny of its decision to begin legal action against the Franklin Mint which was intended to try to protect its "rights" to the late Princess's name and image.

The Mint and the fund last week reached an out-of-court settlement on the eve of a hearing in Los Angeles. The fund agreed to pay £14 million to charities chosen by both sides, and each side has agreed to pick up its legal costs - an estimated £2 million each.

The fund was set up in 1997, after the Princess's death, and has given more than £50 million in charitable gifts worldwide. However, in July last year, it announced that it had frozen further gifts worth £48 million because of the legal action.

The fund first sued Franklin Mint in 1998 but lost the case four years later at a cost of £4 million in joint legal bills. The Mint then counter-sued for "malicious prosecution".

Its owners, Stewart and Lynda Resnick, who have given £25 million to charity in the past eight years, claimed that their reputation and that of their company was unfairly maligned by the fund and its former US lawyers.

The couple were incensed by accusations that they were "stealing" the Princess's name and likeness.

Court papers filed by the Mint blame the US law firm for publicising the fund's law suit to "further their own business plan to generate similar litigation". They say the publicity was "filled with inflammatory allegations designed to damage the Mint's sales efforts . . . and sully [the Mint's] reputation and charitable endeavours. The lead allegation was that the plaintiffs [the Mint] were akin 'to vultures feeding on the dead' ".

A spokesman for Manatt, Phelps & Phillips said yesterday: "We believe strongly in our moral and legal position and that we will prevail in this case. Our trust in the justice system gives us confidence that judge and jury will agree we acted responsibly and with integrity."

Friday, November 12, 2004

Charities Win in Settlement of Suit Against Diana Fund

By Debora Vrana, Times Staff Writer

A memorial fund for Princess Diana agreed Wednesday to earmark $25 million for charitable causes to settle a lawsuit brought against the fund by Franklin Mint — a commemoratives marketer owned by Los Angeles businessman Stewart Resnick and his wife, Lynda.

Funds from the court settlement, reached just days before the case was to go to trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court, will be funneled to humanitarian projects chosen by both sides in the dispute and geared toward causes favored by the late princess, such as land-mine removal, according to a joint statement from the Franklin Mint and the London-based Princess of Wales Memorial fund.

Resnick, a corporate farmer, philanthropist and art collector who bought the Philadelphia-based Franklin Mint in 1985 for $167 million, could not be reached for comment.

The legal battle began in 1998, when the memorial fund filed a trademark suit to stop the Franklin Mint from selling memorabilia of Princess Diana, who died the year before in a Paris car accident. The items included a commemorative plate, a Princess of Diana purse and the Princess Diana Porcelain Bride Doll, currently priced at $195 on the Franklin Mint website. In its suit, the fund accused the Resnicks of "profiting from the death of Diana."

That suit was later dismissed. But in 2002, the Resnicks and the Franklin Mint filed a suit alleging that the memorial fund and the executors of Diana's estate, including her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, had acted maliciously by initiating the trademark action.

Settling the 2002 lawsuit will allow the memorial fund — which was set up as a clearinghouse for the millions of dollars in donations that flowed in after Diana's death — to resume distributing humanitarian grants after having its funds frozen for two years during the legal battle.

In Wednesday's statement, Andrew Purkis, the memorial fund's chief executive, said the settlement was the best way to honor the princess' memory.

Lawyers for the two sides could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

November 11, 2004

Court deal saves Diana fund from bankruptcy
From Chris Ayres in Los Angeles

A LAWSUIT brought by a billionaire Beverly Hills couple against the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund is to be dropped after the two sides agreed to embark on a “mutually agreed programme of humanitarian work”. The settlement will save the fund from bankruptcy.

The Los Angeles lawsuit had been brought by Lynda and Stewart Resnick, owners of the Franklin Mint souvenir firm.

The Resnicks’ claim dated back to 1998, when the fund sued them in their home state of California for cashing in on the Princess’s death with a commemorative plate and other memorabilia. The fund accused the couple of being “vultures feeding off the dead”.

The lawsuit was dismissed by a judge, who said that because the Princess was English, her image could not be protected by California’s publicity rights law. He also said that the vultures claim was immaterial and impertinent.

The dismissal allowed the Resnicks to sue for malicious prosecution. The couple, who supported John Kerry’s failed presidential campaign, claimed £13.5 million in damages. They said they would donate any money they received to charities supported by the Princess.

But in a joint statement yesterday, the two sides said they were “pleased to announce that they have agreed to resolve their differences with an out-of-court settlement”.

The fund and the Franklin Mint agreed that the “energy and resources” needed for a court battle would be better spent on charitable work in honour of the Princess.

The settlement will save the fund the embarrassment of having to call several British aristocrats as witnesses. As part of the settlement, the fund will pledge £13.5 million over five years to causes including HIV/Aids, landmines and care for the terminally ill.

Andrew Purkis, the fund’s chief executive, said: “We are immediately resuming our grants programme to support projects that aim to change the lives of some of the most vulnerable people.”

In July 2003, the fund had frozen its £48 million of uncommitted reserves because of “the unquantifiable nature of the liability arising from the case”.

The fund’s reserves came from public donations after the Princess’s death and money raised by Sir Elton John’s Candle in the Wind single, as well as other licensed products.

Since 1998, the Franklin Mint, which also sells Gone With the Wind figurines, Star Trek chess sets and an Elvis Presley commemorative revolver, has closed its company museum and shut its retail operations. The Pennsylvania firm now sells its goods through an internet site.

According to the statement, neither the fund, the Franklin Mint nor the Resnicks made any money from yesterday’s settlement. The Resnicks’ main business is now farming: they own the world’s largest supplier of pistachios and almonds, based near the singer Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch in Los Angeles.

Yesterday’s settlement was made only hours before a jury was about to be selected in the case. The Resnicks’ lawsuit had claimed that the Diana fund, including Lady McCorquodale, the Princess’s sister, acted “maliciously, wantonly . . . and with the intent to oppress”.

The Franklin Mint has withdrawn that claim. The malice allegation has been abandoned “in recognition of the fact that the fund’s trustees acted in good faith”.

Cheap Martha Stewart sends bill to her company!

Martha Stewart sends legal bill to her company

FROM ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — Martha Stewart is asking the company she founded to reimburse about $3.7 million (figures U.S.) of the legal fees she incurred while on trial earlier this year for obstruction of justice and other charges, according to a regulatory filing late Tuesday.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. made the disclosure in its quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission after markets closed Tuesday. The filing said Stewart submitted the claim pursuant to the company's bylaws.

The New York-based media and housewares company didn't say whether it planned to honour Stewart's request.

Stewart was convicted in March of lying to investigators about her sale of ImClone Systems Inc. shares. She is serving a five-month prison sentence in West Virginia that began Oct. 8.

After her release, the domestic diva, who owns about 60 percent of the company's shares, will be serving another five months of house arrest. She is appealing her case.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Jury Selection Postponed In $25M Lawsuit Involving Princess Diana

POSTED: 10:16 am PST November 8, 2004
UPDATED: 10:29 am PST November 8, 2004

LOS ANGELES -- Jury selection -- set for Monday -- was postponed to Wednesday in the Los Angeles trial of Franklin Mint's $25 million malicious-persecution lawsuit against a charitable memorial fund set up in honor of the late Princess Diana.

The reason for the postponement was not immediately available.

Princess Diana's estate sued the Mint in 1998, claiming the collectibles company violated its "exclusive rights" to her name and image by putting out a "Limited Edition Commemorative Plate" of the princess following her death in a 1997 car crash.

In 2002, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously found that the trustees of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and the executors of her estate had no basis for the claims they filed against the Mint.

The judges found, among other things, that the law of Great Britain, where Princess Diana lived, does not recognize post-mortem right of publicity claims.

The memorial fund, which was established to accept donations for various charities with which Princess Diana was associated during her lifetime, announced in July 2003 that it would have to suspend its charitable donations as a result of the costly legal battle.

Representatives for the Mint have said the lawsuit is not about money and that any damages would be donated to charity after collecting court costs.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Multi-million pound claim will 'waste' Diana memorial funds
By Sally Pook
(Filed: 08/11/2004)

A multi-million pound legal battle which friends of Diana, Princess of Wales, say should never have reached court opens in Los Angeles today.

The Franklin Mint, an American company which makes souvenirs including Diana dolls, is suing the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund in a case described as "savage and punitive" by one British charity.

Princess Diana doll and plate
Franklin Mint Princess Diana doll and commemorative plate

The action originated six years ago when, with the advice of its lawyers, the fund sued The Franklin Mint, alleging it was illegally selling Diana dolls, plates and jewellery. The fund lost and was left with a £4 million legal bill.

The Franklin Mint then counter-sued. Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the owners of the company, claim their reputation was damaged by the fund, which said they were "vultures feeding on the dead".

The Franklin Mint's case of malicious prosecution, described as groundless by the defendants, has angered charities and friends of the princess, who say money which should have gone to charity is now being wasted on legal fees.

The company is claiming nearly £14 million but has pledged that any money it receives will go to charity. If it wins, and the damages exceed what's left in the fund, the trustees, including Diana's sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale, will be liable.

Rosa Monckton, a close friend of the princess, said: "This is a case that should never have happened. Obviously I hope the fund wins. It would be appalling to see yet more money that people have donated going on legal fees.

"But I think it was very misguided of the fund to get their lawyers to sue in the first place. I don't know what they were thinking of." The fund has defended its orginal action, saying it had an obligation to protect the image of the princess. The fund was allegedly advised by an American legal firm that it had a strong case against the company.

A spokesman for the fund said yesterday: "The fund believes that time and energy is being wasted on a groundless lawsuit which could be put into supporting good causes around the world."

The fund was established in 1997 with £20 million of public donations following the death of the princess. It raised an additional £45 million from donated products and £35 million from licenced products. It has committed £50 million to more than 400 humanitarian initiatives, however the fund froze £48 million last year when the Franklin Mint began legal action.

Response International, a British charity established to support victims of violent conflict, was one of those affected by the freezing of the fund's assets.

Philip Garvin, chief executive, said: "This has set us back hugely. I believe the Franklin Mint is being punitive and savage. The legal fees will hurt everybody."

Saturday, November 06, 2004

How just wrong this is!!!!!!

How wrong is this process? Totally wrong with no respect to the Veterans of Canada and also the people of Canada. What's also bad is Tim Hortons has horrible coffee and tasteless flat donuts now days.

What’s next from Canadian Mint?

The Royal Canadian Mint had a brilliant idea when it decided to use brand new technology to paint a red poppy in the centre of the Canadian quarter in honour of Remembrance Day. The idea is brilliant in its simplicity. Collecting coins is easy and inexpensive and the link between Canadian money and patriotic pride is a natural one. A 25 cent coin in general circulation just before Remembrance Day would serve as an appropriate tribute to our war veterans.

But the coin is not in general circulation. It is not available at financial institutions in Canada. The coin was made available exclusively to Tim Hortons (and Legions that wanted to participate).

This is preposterous. The Canadian Mint has taken a national symbol of pride and remembrance and reduced it to a gimmick to sell coffee and donuts. What do we have to look forward to next from our national mint—a Canadian flag coin available only at McDonalds when you order a Big Mac, large fries and a coke?

Don’t get us wrong, Tim Hortons makes great coffee, but to trivialize and cheapen the emotional impact of the poppy by tying it to the purchase of fast food is insulting, deflating, demoralizing and just plain wrong. Our national currency should never be allowed to be used to promote private enterprise.

Canadians, especially our veterans, deserve an apology from the Canadian Mint and a promise to never ‘play’ with our money in this way again.

E.R.A. -Huntsville Forester