Thursday, March 22, 2018
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Monday, March 19, 2018
10 hrs ·
PLEASE SHARE! The primary election is Tuesday, March 20, 2018, from 6 AM to 7 PM. I would appreciate your vote of support by filling in the oval and writing in my name. Please know that you are allowed to VOTE FOR JUST ONE CANDIDATE if you so choose. Thank you. William Randall
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Bon-Ton Stores: More Store Closures Coming Soon
Struggling department store operator Bon-Ton Stores (NASDAQ: BONT) filed for bankruptcy last month, after a desperate attempt to organize a voluntary debt restructuring failed. Since then, management has continued to pursue a turnaround plan that could keep most of the company intact.
However, Bon-Ton is running out of options for keeping the lights on. Its best chance of survival now appears to be a bid by a group of vendors for a portion of the company's stores. This would entail a significant number of additional store closures. The alternative is an outright liquidation of the company.
Sharp sales declines forced Bon-Ton Stores to file for bankruptcy last month. Image source: Bon-Ton Stores.
Either way, it's good news for rivals like Macy's (NYSE: M), J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP), and Kohl's (NYSE: KSS), which are poised to capture some of Bon-Ton's lost revenue.
Dreadful results force downsizing
During the first three quarters of fiscal 2017, Bon-Ton's revenue plunged by more than 7%, as mall traffic continued to decline.
Macy's, Kohl's, and (to a lesser extent) J.C. Penney have been able to offset some of the recent weakness in store traffic with strong e-commerce sales growth. By contrast, Bon-Ton is a laggard in e-commerce, largely because it has had a meager investment budget for years.
Not surprisingly, the big sales declines at Bon-Ton caused a sharp erosion in profitability, despite aggressive cost cuts. As a result, in conjunction with the Q3 earnings report, management announced plans to close at least 40 of the company's 260 stores during 2018.
In late January, Bon-Ton Stores published a list of 42 locations that will close in April. It has also closed six other stores since the beginning of the calendar year. This will leave Bon-Ton with 212 stores by the end of next month.
Bon-Ton is closing about a dozen stores under the Carson's banner. Image source: Bon-Ton Stores.
Additional store closures are inevitable
In recent months, Bon-Ton has been seeking a capital infusion -- potentially from a private equity firm -- to finance a comeback attempt. This effort appears to have failed.
However, a number of vendors are considering banding together to bid for roughly 150-175 of the company's stores. Their interest makes sense, as Bon-Ton serves a lot of smaller markets where it is the only high-quality department store. If it disappears, brands that don't want to sell to the likes of Kohl's and J.C. Penney will lose visibility in some parts of the country.
A successful vendor-led bid would salvage the majority of Bon-Ton's stores. Still, if the endgame is to keep 150-175 stores operational, roughly 50 additional locations would need to be closed, aside from the 48 already announced.
Yet even this rescue plan may be unrealistic. With Bon-Ton's sales and earnings in free fall, stores that are profitable today could be losing money within a year or two. Furthermore, for Bon-Ton to be a viable stand-alone business, the remaining stores would have to generate enough profit to cover corporate overhead costs and fund investments in e-commerce and omnichannel capabilities.
A windfall for rivals?
Despite its steep sales decline in 2017, Bon-Ton Stores still brought in roughly $2.5 billion of revenue last year. At least a third of that revenue will be up for grabs in 2018, assuming that vendors manage to save 150-175 stores. There's also a good chance that liquidators will end up winning the bankruptcy auction, in which case all of the stores would be closed.
Rivals like Macy's, J.C. Penney, and Kohl's are all likely to pick up a slice of Bon-Ton's revenue. Kohl's could get the biggest piece, because it has a broad store footprint and very few of these locations are in malls, where they might suffer from traffic declines as Bon-Ton shutters stores.
J.C. Penney has the most stores in malls where Bon-Ton Stores also operates. This should drive solid market-share gains, particularly where mall owners are able to find good substitute tenants for Bon-Ton. Meanwhile, Macy's doesn't have much physical overlap with Bon-Ton anymore, but the two companies carry many of the same brands. Thus, Macy's e-commerce business is likely to gain sales from some former Bon-Ton customers.
The bankruptcy auction is set for April 9, so we will learn soon enough whether Bon-Ton Stores will be radically downsizing in 2018 -- or if it will disappear entirely.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaBon Ton.
The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc.
1898 (120 years ago)
Number of locations
267 (Q3 2016)
Bon-Ton Branded locations = 59 (2018) 
William Tracy President & CEO
Nancy Walsh EVP & CFO
Clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and housewares
$2.834 billion (FY 2016)
Number of employees
The Bon-Ton is a department store chain headquartered in York, Pennsylvania, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There are 267 stores, which includes nine furniture galleries and four clearance centers, in 26 states. Other brands operated by The Bon-Ton include Bergner's, Boston Store, Carson's, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's, and Younkers.
Dems meddle against Illinois governor ahead of GOcP primary
By Reid Wilson - 03/17/18 12:34 PM EDT 23
© Getty Images
CHICAGO –– A conservative state representative mounting a longshot bid against Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) is getting some unexpected help from Democrats.
Just days before Illinois voters head to the polls in next week's primary election, the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) launched a new advertisement labeling state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R) as "too conservative for Illinois."
"Meet Jeanne Ives. She's been rated as one of the most conservative in the state," the DGA advertisement says. The ad ties Ives to President Trump on immigration, cites her high ratings with the National Rifle Association and her opposition to abortion rights.
The advertisement has all the appearances of a negative spot, but coming right before a Republican primary, it might as well be a positive spot meant to introduce Ives to GOP voters fed up with Rauner.
The DGA is spending $337,000 on the advertisement, according to Advertising Analytics, an independent firm that tracks the ad market. That's not much compared with the nearly $12 million Rauner has already spent on advertising, though it could make a difference with some Republican voters.
The DGA also rolled out a new ad against Rauner, though they are spending far less on that spot than they are on the spot meant to introduce Ives to Republican voters.
The tactic is reminiscent of those of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who used paid advertising in the days and weeks ahead of the 2012 primary to effectively pick her own opponent that year.
McCaskill's campaign rolled out three late advertisements attacking each of the three main Republican candidates -- businessman John Brunner, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and Rep. Todd Akin. The ads against Brunner and Steelman barely aired, but the spot highlighting Akin's conservatism, a thinly veiled effort to help his underfunded campaign reach conservative voters, ran in heavy rotation.
Akin, by far the weakest general election candidate, won the Republican primary by about 37,000 votes. He later made comments about "legitimate rape" during a television interview. McCaskill won reelection by 15 points.
This year, Democrats would much rather face Ives than Rauner, a wealthy businessman who has underwritten his own campaign to the tune of more than $50 million.
There are signs that the incumbent governor isn't running away with the race for renomination. He angered conservatives by signing a bill to allow the state Medicaid program to cover abortions, then made a public show last week of vetoing a gun control bill.
And on Friday, Rauner's campaign launched an ad highlighting the DGA's advertising.
"Liberals are hijacking the Republican primary in Illinois," the new Rauner spot says.
Sam Salustro, a DGA spokesman, said of the Democratic ads: "Jeanne Ives and Bruce Rauner's failed policies are a disaster for middle-class Illinois families." Jared Leopold, the chief DGA spokesman, declined to comment on the strategy behind the anti-Ives advertising.
Democrats have their own competitive primary, though the front-runner is another wealthy businessman, J.B. Pritzker. Pritzker has dumped more than $60 million into his campaign so far, a jaw-dropping sum that sets the race on pace to become the most expensive ever.
Jon Thompson, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, said the Democratic ad was tantamount to admitting Rauner is the favorite in November.
"The DGA's efforts to meddle in GOP primaries failed in 2014 and 2016, leading to historic losses, and it appears that the DGA still hasn't learned from their mistakes," Thompson said in an email Saturday.
Rauner's campaign said the advertising was a transparent attempt by Democrats to interfere in the Republican primary. In a statement, campaign spokesman Will Allison tied Ives to Assembly Speaker Mike Madigan (D), a common Rauner foe and the most powerful politician in the state.
"Washington Democrats have teamed up with Mike Madigan's favorite Republican Jeanne Ives because they know they can't beat Gov. Rauner in November," Allison said in a statement. "Gov. Rauner's message of growing jobs, cutting taxes and rooting out corruption in Illinois has Democrats running scared."
Kathleen Murphy, a spokeswoman for Ives's campaign, tied Democrats to Rauner.
"Jeanne Ives wears attacks from the radical left as badges of honor whether they come from leftists at the DGA or the leftist, fake Republican Bruce Rauner," Murphy said. "The DGA is correct that Illinois is worse off than we were when Rauner was elected, but that's because Rauner pursued the big-government, tax-borrow-and-spend policies combined with extreme leftist social policies that the DGA otherwise supports."
Here Is Andrew McCabe’s Full Statement. Everyone Should Read It.
Mar. 17, 2018 3:19 AM
Donald Trump fired former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe today. Technically, of course, it was Jeff Sessions who did the firing, but I don’t think anyone believes that it was anybody but Trump who was really at the controls. After all, it’s Trump who made up the inane conspiracy theory that McCabe was a Hillary Clinton mole during the 2016 campaign. It was Trump who panicked when McCabe testified that he could corroborate James Comey’s incriminating account of his conversations with Trump. And firing McCabe two days before his retirement in order to attack his pension—well, that kind of petty vengefulness has Trump written all over it, doesn’t it?
This whole affair has been contemptible from the start. Trump knows perfectly well that he won the election solely because of the FBI’s interference. This is something he finds intolerable, so he has invented a fantasy in which that never happened. In fact, he’s spent the entire past year spreading the preposterous lie that the FBI actually helped Hillary. Then he went about defaming and firing all the people whose very existence was a continuing rebuke to his election triumph. McCabe is one of them.
It’s possible, of course, that McCabe actually did something wrong and deserved to be fired for it. But the rushed nature of the whole thing, combined with the default assumption that Trump lies about everything, suggests otherwise. Speaking for myself, I don’t believe it for a second. This is a plain old Trump vendetta, pure and simple.
Under the circumstances, it’s worth giving McCabe’s full statement wide and prominent publication. Here it is.
I have been an FBI Special Agent for over 21 years. I spent half of that time investigating Russian Organized Crime as a street agent and Supervisor in New York City. I have spent the second half of my career focusing on national security issues and protecting this country from terrorism. I served in some of the most challenging, demanding investigative and leadership roles in the FBI. And I was privileged to serve as Deputy Director during a particularly tough time.
For the last year and a half, my family and I have been the targets of an unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country. Articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegation against us. The president’s tweets have amplified and exacerbated it all. He called for my firing. He called for me to be stripped of my pension after more than 20 years of service. And all along we have said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the FBI by addressing the lies told and repeated about it.
The investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has to be understood in the context of the attacks on my credibility. The investigation flows from my attempt to explain the FBI’s involvement and my supervision of investigations involving Hillary Clinton. I was being portrayed in the media over and over as a political partisan, accused of closing down investigations under political pressure. The FBI was portrayed as caving under that pressure, and making decisions for political rather than law enforcement purposes. Nothing was further from the truth. In fact, this entire investigation stems from my efforts, fully authorized under FBI rules, to set the record straight on behalf of the Bureau and to make it clear that we were continuing an investigation that people in DOJ opposed.
The OIG investigation has focused on information I chose to share with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor. As Deputy Director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the Director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter. It was the same type of exchange with the media that the Deputy Director oversees several times per week. In fact it was the same type of work that I continued to do under Director Wray, at his request. The investigation subsequently focused on who I talked to, when I talked to them, and so forth. During these inquiries, I answered questions truthfully and as accurately as I could amidst the chaos that surrounded me. And when I thought my answers were misunderstood, I contacted investigators to correct them.
But looking at that in isolation completely misses the big picture. The big picture is a tale of what can happen when law enforcement is politicized, public servants are attacked, and people who are supposed to cherish and protect our institutions become instruments for damaging those institutions and people.
Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey. The release of this report was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate former Director Comey’s accounts of his discussions with the President. The OIG’s focus on me and this report became a part of an unprecedented effort by the Administration, driven by the President himself, to remove me from my position, destroy my reputation, and possibly strip me of a pension that I worked 21 years to earn. The accelerated release of the report, and the punitive actions taken in response, make sense only when viewed through this lens. Thursday’s comments from the White House are just the latest example of this.
This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally. It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel’s work.
I have always prided myself on serving my country with distinction and integrity, and I have always encouraged those around me to do the same. Just ask them. To have my career end in this way, and to be accused of lacking candor when at worst I was distracted in the misty fo chaotic events, is incredibly disappointing and unfair. But it will not erase the important work I was prevailed to be a part of, the results of which will in the end be revealed for the country to see.
I have unfailing faith in the men and women of the FBI and I am confident that their efforts to seek justice will not be deterred.