Welcome to the February 4 edition of the top-secret, always confidential Monday Business Briefing.
These are biz tips Insider Louisville staff and contributors have collected during the past few days, a few of which are NOT double-verified as with our daily reporting.
As always, we’ve made multiple calls/text message inquiries on these tips, which come from sources who are not merely insiders, but who have direct knowledge of the deals.
Still last week, the most-talked about developments remained Lynn’s Paradise Cafe and Kentucky Kingdom.
We got word of frantic maneuvering and feuds over the defunct Lynn’s Paradise. We heard theories on how Ed Hart will finance the rebirth of Kentucky Kingdom.
But this week, there are more pressing issues in need of our attention:
• Source tell us we should find out this week whether real estate magnate John Lenihan gets back his mansion, or Mark Bidner lives happily ever after in Lenihan’s Glenview mansion. The former appears far more likely according to legal filings. The story started last March when Bidner, former CEO of RecoverCare, bought a Glenview mansion for $4.4 million from Lenihan, who owns the Sotheby’s International real estate franchise here. We believe it was Louisville’s largest residential real estate deal for 2012. Bidner put about $2.16 million down, then signed a promissory note to deliver the balance – $2.24 million – last Friday. Which apparently didn’t happen. The questions is, will the courts give Bidner a grace period since this wasn’t a conventional mortgage? Or will Lenihan get back the house? There’s far, far more to this deal, including Bidner putting a $2.5 million mortgage on the property, all part of a story too long and meandering to tell here. But the Lenihan v. Bidner story was one of IL’s best read sagas of 2012 because of both men’s society page profiles.
• In what we believe is a related development, insiders tell us a number of IT execs were laid off at RecoverCare last week. This was always our main interest: What do Bidner’s exit from RecoverCare back in 2012 and his ensuing financial issues mean for the company he and investors created out of the roll up of a Louisville firm and a Pennsylvania firm?
• Last week, we told you the macro story. This week, we have the details. Insiders at the University of Louisville are telling us Dr. Eugene Krentsel will be the new assistant VP of Research and Innovation, in charge of commercialization at Nucleus Innovation Park. Krentsel was assistant VP, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships at Binghampton University in Ithaca, N.Y. Our sources describe Krentsel’s personality as a rare combination of both analytical and engaging. “This guy is sooo smart,” says one sources. “He completely understands the commercialization space.”
From his LinkedIn bio:
In his current role, Dr. Krentsel leads the University’s efforts in Entrepreneurship, Intellectual Property Management and Licensing, and Innovation-Based Economic Development. This newly established office combines under one roof all the activities previously coordinated by the Office of Technology Transfer and Innovation Partnerships and the Office of Economic Development and Outreach Programs.
Sounds like just what the doctor ordered for what we’re being told is a foundering project. And we’re being told from inside that Nucleus CEO Vickie Yates Brown will report to Krentsel, not directly to Dr. William Pierce, Jr., executive vice president for Research and Innovation. Our sources told us weeks ago how U of L would name a new executive vice president of Research and Innovation. We tried to talk to U of L execs about Krentsel’s arrival, but no takers. Apparently this – like most things at U of L – will be released on a need-to-know basis. Krentsel will get a brand new, $20 million spec building that will be mostly empty. It’ll be interesting to watch what happens after his arrival.
• This could be very, very cool. We understand there are talks under way between Shepherdsville-based Internet retailers/fulfillment giants including Zappos and Gilt Group and economic development officials about the possibility of pop-up stores along Fourth Street. Are we naive to wonder whether this really happens – and happens during, say, Kentucky Derby week – could we finally have our breakthrough for downtown retail. At long last?
• Envision: Design That Works, Inc. of St. Peter, Minn. is working with Greater Louisville Inc., a relationship that could – we hear – lead Envision to moving to Louisville. Last year, Envision execs came to town to work with the Muhammad Ali Center, helping the champ’s museum to rebrand and update its web presence. We hear when Envision executives, who are located about one hour southwest of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metroplex, grooved on Louisville’s amenities, not to mention the fact that compared to Minnesota, winter here comes on a Tuesday. So they may decide to decamp for the Blue Grass.
• Speaking of advertising and marketing firms, Kevin Lippy – who, along with Rankin Mapother helped put Halbleib, Beggs (now Red7e) on the map back in the 1990s – is now at Darkhorse Creative. Lippy and Gretchen Bush, ex-Creative Alliance, both joined the new firm, according to a news release. Lippy is a 30-year veteran of advertising, working with clients including McDonald’s and United Airlines during a stint at Leo Burnett in Chicago, and later running his own agency in Louisville. He’s also well known in Louisville’s arts community, with shows at Galerie Hertz and other galleries. Other than it is two years old, we don’t know much about Darkhorse. But we plan to find out more.
• Sources are telling us – have told us for months, actually – to watch Faulkner Real Estate … that the Louisville-based commercial, residential and retail developer is about to announce three major apartment complex projects. One includes Westport Road just outside St. Matthews on property owned by the Palmer-Ball family, another in far eastern Jefferson County by Southeast Christian Church and a third in the South End near Iroquois Park. It’s no secret there is a shortage of quality apartments in all sections of Louisville. We did a quick check, and we found units at Steve Poe’s new River Park Place on River Road just east of downtown priced at $1,100 for 850 square feet, one bedroom. At Waterford Place in St. Matthews, apartments are $1,200 for a 1-bedroom. What really surprised us is big apartment complex owners are adopting airlines-style optimization pricing methods where quotes are only good 48 hours. Ask a price, and the people on the other end of the phone at the complexes owned by CRA, for example, say, “Depends.” Prices can rise or drop by $300 in a brief period, depending on demand.
•We’re hearing more chatter about River Ridge Commerce Center in Jeffersonville, where Amazon just opened, being on the verge of announcing five new major tenants.
• Last week, we told you the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. lifted its consent order against Town & County Bank and Trust Co. in Bardstown. Which it did. But what we didn’t realize until multiple sources pointed it out is the original consent order was replaced with a modified consent order, which stated essentially the issues as the two-year-old decree. T&C execs have to write off bad loans, bring in better management and not issue new shares unless they reveal to prospective investors the (shaky) condition of the bank. We thought the numbers look essentially unchanged since the bank started on its downhill descent back at the end of 2009.