Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Fri, April 27, 2012

News alert: Negotiations break down; Lombardi is out

Negotiations regarding a retirement settlement with LSU System President John Lombardi have fallen through, sources tell Daily Report, and a vote will be taken at the 1 p.m. Board of Supervisors meeting to effectively let Lombardi's contract expire at the end of the year—but immediately remove him from the role of system president. Former LSU System President and LSU Chancellor Bill Jenkins will be named interim president, sources add.

Lombardi out as LSU System president; Jenkins likely in

The LSU Board of Supervisors is expected to announce the departure of system President John Lombardi during a meeting this afternoon. It is not known officially whether Lombardi will resign or be terminated, or if some type of "retirement" announcement will be made. While other media outlets have reported Lombardi will be "fired," several sources tell Daily Report the "situation is still fluid." The only fact that's certain right now is that there is an item on the board's agenda to discuss "presidential succession planning and action(s)." When asked to comment, system spokesman Charles Zewe would only say, "The agenda item speaks for itself." Depending on how the matter plays out, multiple sources indicate former system President Bill Jenkins will likely be named as an interim replacement. Lombardi left his job as chancellor of the University of Massachusetts–Amherst to take over as system president in July 2007. Six months later, LSU Chancellor Sean O'Keefe resigned, apparently under pressure; an official reason wasn't announced, although some insiders speculated O'Keefe's disagreements with Lombardi were at least partly responsible for his ouster. Lombardi has been controversial at times, sometimes ruffling feathers with a management style perceived as abrasive. The structure of the LSU System has been a hot topic lately, with some prominent LSU supporters promoting the idea of consolidating the positions of president and chancellor and reorganizing the system under the flagship campus.

LaPolitics by Maginnis: Despite double deficits, rainy day fund not an easy option

Even for legislators who have grown numb to annual revenue shortfalls, the double whammy of deficits recognized this week was hard to take. The Revenue Estimating Conference not only forecast a $303 million shortage of funds for the next fiscal year, it also said the current year budget, which ends June 30, has a $211 million hole in it. A ready answer lies in the state's Budget Stabilization Fund—commonly known as the "rainy day fund"—which held $647 million as of April 11. State law permits up to one-third of the fund, or about $216 million, to be tapped when the official forecast is lowered within a fiscal year. But Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, is not ready to draft a resolution to use the fund because he doubts two-thirds of the House would go along to send the measure to the Senate. "A number of Republicans won't vote for it," he says, and some Democrats would also withhold support "to spite the governor." Yet other legislators doubt there is that much entrenched opposition. "I think we should look at it," says Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, a leading fiscal hawk.

—The speculation over what's next for Scott Angelle, R-Breaux Bridge, a hot topic last year, is warming up again. The latest word from some close sources is that he is considering running for the Public Service Commission this fall against incumbent Jimmy Field. The Natural Resources secretary did not return a phone call for comment. The PSC District 2 would be attractive to the former St. Martin Parish president because 57% of it is on his side of the Atchafalaya, with Field's smaller base in the mostly white precincts of Baton Rouge. Already declared is former Lafayette TV weatherman Ed Roy, a former councilman, who has enlisted the fundraising help of respected oilman Paul Hilliard.

They said it: "We continue to make Mr. Benson a ward of the state." —Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, opposing a tax break bill for the New Orleans Hornets, now owned by Tom Benson, who also owns the New Orleans Saints

(John Maginnis publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com.)

Today's poll question: Do you think legislators should use the rainy day fund to fill the $211 million budget deficit for the fiscal year ending June 30?

CVS buys land at Airline and Pecue for new pharmacy

A new CVS pharmacy will be built on a 1.7-acre tract at Airline Highway and Pecue Lane, says Mark Hebert of Kurz & Hebert Commercial Real Estate, who helped broker the deal. The land—which went for roughly $1.8 million, or $25 per square foot—was sold by All Star Pecue Development LLC, whose registered agent is Matt McKay, president of All Star Automotive Group. It is a part of roughly 24 acres the development group purchased in May 2005 for $2.4 million. Outside of about 2.5 acres that were donated to the city-parish for the relocation of Pecue Lane as part of its Green Light Plan, just one other parcel of land has been sold at the site. IberiaBank also paid about $25 per square foot for a 55,000-square-foot parcel in December, with plans for a new branch. "They're not going to do any speculative building," says Hebert of the remaining acreage. "We've had inquiries on everything from grocery stores and apartment complexes to pediatric clinics, but so far we've only sold these two pieces." Roughly five acres of the land is being reserved for an All Star Automotive dealership, but Hebert says a franchise has not been signed and there's no timeline for development. Hebert says he has no details on CVS's specific plans for the new pharmacy, as he represented only the seller in the deal. The land purchased is located directly across from the new Woman's Hospital campus, slated to open this summer. —Steve Sanoski

'225 Dine': Link up with Curbside's new truck

What goes hand-in-hand with burgers? Hot dogs, of course. But the ones served up at the brand-new Curbside Links truck aren't ordinary hot dogs. Instead, Curbside owner Nick Hufft has been spending the last several months experimenting with handmade hybrid sausages—from alligator chorizo to house-made Polish and bratwurst blends—and devising a menu that will pair these unique links with tasty toppings that "push the boundaries of what we can create," he says. When Curbside launched two years ago, Hufft says, the intention was to sell sausages and burgers but that limited space made this aim impossible to realize. Its new truck, however, has been built from the ground up to do one thing: execute perfect sausages. With a menu that includes Italian sausage with marinara, mozzarella and fresh basil; Polish topped with Tin Roof Perfect Amber chili, cheddar and onion; and more handmade sauerkraut than you can shake a cabbage head at, it's a truck that should fly to the top of your must-try list. Opening Saturday at Perkins Palms, 7248 Perkins Road., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Read the rest of this week's 225 Dine e-newsletter here. —Rachael Upton

Stanford investors seek liquidators pact on claims process

A group of Stanford International Bank Ltd. depositors have asked a U.S. judge to order the receiver he appointed and rival bank liquidators selected by a Caribbean court to collaborate on a process to pay victims of R. Allen Stanford's $7 billion fraud scheme, Bloomberg reports. The depositors and other creditors of the Houston-based Stanford Group Co. securities firm filed their request Thursday with U.S. District Judge David Godbey. The judge on Wednesday described as "mind-boggling" the continuing dispute between Dallas lawyer Ralph Janvey—whom Godbey appointed in February 2009 to collect and liquidate Stanford assets to pay off creditors—and the two Grant Thornton accountants asked to do comparable work by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court for Antigua and Barbuda. "Something is terribly wrong here," the Stanford depositors and creditors told Godbey in the filing. "This simply should not have been that hard." A federal jury in Houston in March convicted Stanford, 62, of leading a $7 billion international banking fraud scheme centered on the sale of certificates of deposit by his Antigua-based bank. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 14. Read the full story here.

Influential Women in Business tickets on sale

Tickets for Business Report's 2012 Influential Women in Business Awards luncheon, set for Tuesday, June 5, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, are now on sale and can be purchased online. The luncheon will feature internationally recognized speaker and author Lisa Johnson, who helps organizations accelerate growth by applying the latest techniques in storytelling to common business challenges including leadership, sales, innovation and marketing communications. Tickets are $40 each, or a table of 10 for $400. Get yours here. This year's honorees have yet to be announced, but will be featured in the May 29 issue of Business Report. See a list of all the past winners here.

News roundup: Pair of B.R. financial firms announce merger … Forensic investigators enter La. market with office in Baton Rouge … Broussard business named sixth-fastest growing women-owned company in U.S.

Come together: Baton Rouge-based McMakin Financial and a Baton Rouge branch of LPL Financial have merged and will operate under the name Altus Wealth Management. The firms have been working on the merger for several months, representatives say. McMakin Financial's Wally McMakin and Ronnie Brown say they've teamed up with LPL's Mickey Guidry, Jesse Daigle, John Stewart and John Reeder to expand services offered to their existing and future clients. Denver-based Geneos Wealth Management Inc. will serve as broker/dealer for Altus Wealth Management, which will operate offices in Gonzales and Crowley in addition to Baton Rouge.

Moving in: Forensic investigation services firm Donan Engineering Co. announced this morning plans to open an office in Baton Rouge on May 1, marking the firm's first location in Louisiana. Donan specializes in forensic engineering investigations, as well as investigations into fire origins and causes, explosions and structural engineering. "Donan has spent the past couple of years expanding into the neighboring states of Arkansas, Texas and Mississippi, with the ultimate goal of also having a major presence in Louisiana," says Kevin Abell, Donan Engineering's chief sales and marketing officer. Donan was founded in 1947 in Madisonville, Ky. The Baton Rouge office is its 43rd throughout 26 states.

Tasty growth: Doerle Food Services, a Broussard-based food distribution company owned by Carolyn Doerle, has been named the sixth-fastest growing women-owned/led company in the United States by the Women Presidents' Organization and the small business division of credit card firm American Express. Doerle has seen her 62-year old local company's gross revenue grow from $257 million to nearly $321 million in just the past two years, and has hired 423 additional employees during the expansion.

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