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The Biz Roundup January 12

It’s about bloody, friggin time!

William Watkins, ousted Monday at Seagate Technology LLC, is the sixth CEO of a publicly held company to be replaced in just the last eight days. His exit follows the departures last week of CEOs at Tyson Foods Inc., Borders Group Inc., Orbitz Worldwide Inc., Chico’s FAS Inc. and Bebe Stores Inc.

CEO turnover “doubles in bad times,” said Dirk Jenter, an assistant finance professor at Stanford University’s business school, who recently analyzed 1,627 CEO changes between 1993 and 2001. Mr. Jenter found that CEOs are most vulnerable in a downturn when their employers’ shareholder returns lag rivals.

(“CEO Firings On the Rise As Downturn Gains Steam ,” Wall Street Journal, January 13) You need a professor at Stanford to tell you this? For Prof. Jenter’s next trick, he will show that prison breakouts double when the doors are left unlocked. As I said in a previous post, when “rational” and “sane” are news, then things are very, very, very bad.

Didn’t think they’d sue, did’ja? So when you guys review Shoestring Venture on Amazon, make sure it’s a good one, or else.

A pediatric dentist in Foster City has sued the review site Yelp and two individuals, accusing them of libel over a negative review of her practice that was posted on the site.

On Friday, a San Francisco chiropractor, Steven Biegel, settled a libel case he had filed against a former patient, Christopher Norberg, after Norberg posted a review complaining about Biegel’s billing practices.

(“Another negative Yelp review, another lawsuit,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 12) I’m a fierce, unflagging advocate of allowing consumers to go as public as possible with bad customer service, overbilling, or downright fraudulent practices. I’m also opposed to tort reform. But no joking here: we need to make it impossible, I mean, impossible, to sue customers who post negative reviews. Even if those reviews are not true. The only instance in which a business should be able to sue a reviewer is if the review is put up in bad faith, for instance, if a rival posts a bad review dishonestly. I have no sympathy for Dr. Wong. She deserves the review she got.

What happens when God goes out of business? The sequel.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn proposed Monday to close at least 14 of its elementary schools as part of a reorganization that officials said they hoped would stem a steady decline in enrollment that has plagued Catholic school systems nationwide for decades. . . . If the proposed closings are carried out, the diocese will have shut down nearly one-third of the elementary schools it had just half a decade ago. .

(“14 Catholic Schools May Shut Down,” New York Times, January 12) I know many, many veterans of Catholic schools, including my dear wife. They all came out of the experience well-educated, disciplined, and totally motivated never to be a practicing Catholic again.

Let’s recap. The news is going out of business. God is going out of business. California is going out of business. What happens when Europe goes out of business?

Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency, said Spain’s top-notch triple A credit ratings could be downgraded because of pressure on its public finances after it entered what is likely to be a deep recession in the fourth quarter. On Friday, Greece and Ireland were also warned by the agency that their ratings could be downgraded as economic conditions worsen. The warning is likely to help drive up borrowing costs for those countries.

(“Spain hit by public finance warning,” Financial Times, January 12) So where’s the stimulus going to come from now? How do you bail out the bailer-outs? And is that a word?

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