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.
But as always, we’ve made multiple calls on these tips, which come from sources who are not merely insiders, but who have direct knowledge of the deals.
You always want to start the year off with scoops, right? And we have inside dope on developments you’re going to be talking about during the year starting with ….
• City gov insiders are talking with a great deal of enthusiasm about a successful music/dining concept coming here from Philadelphia. We heard chatter about this concept more than a year ago as they looked at buildings along Fourth Street. Now, apparently, there is serious backing for bringing Philly-based World Cafe Live to Louisville. Why is this a big deal? Because depending on who you talk with, World Cafe Live may be one of the concepts going into Whiskey Row. In 2004, impresario Hal Real teamed with David Dye, host of the NPR show World Cafe to create the concept in Philly. They opened a second World Cafe Live in Wilmington, Del. in 2011. In Philly, Real’s deal is with WXPN, an NPR affiliate owned and operated by the University of Pennsylvania, a for-profit/non-profit partnership. If World Cafe Live comes, it would be a serious competitor to Fourth Street Live because the concept combines higher-end dining with a great music hall featuring top acts. Think Hard Rock, but with far more ambitious food and top regional acts. Which would make it perfect for the Whiskey Row concept, just east of KFC Yum! Center, which we’ve reported will have an Aloft Hotel, part of the W brand, in a partnership between Todd Blue and the Musselman family. (Back in April, 2011, Chester Musselman told us Musselman Hotels was in discussions with Todd Blue about becoming a hotel developer/operator on the Whiskey Row block.) This all raises many, many questions. Would World Cafe Live enter into some sort of partnership with WFPK? Will the city throw tax incentives at this? Should the city throw tax incentives at it? (Louisville Downtown Development Corp. is part of the effort to bring World Cafe Live to town.) Would Cordish Co. retaliate by doing something goofy at Fourth Street Live? Can you say, “indoor flea market?” Most importantly, shifting the entertainment district north to Whiskey Row presents some challenges in a city as small as Louisville. With urban bourbon centers up and down Main Street, a built-out Whiskey Row and NuLu, do we run the risk of Fourth Street Live becoming a low-rent after thought?
• Speaking of Fourth Street Live, the party is over at Angel’s Rock Bar, as it is at Mosiac Night Club and Lounge. But according to demolition crews working there Friday night, that’s not surprising. “They had a six-year run,” said a source who asked not to be identified. “That’s pretty good unless you’re Jim Porters or someplace.” Actually, Angel’s Rock Bar lasted four years, opening in February 2008. Mosaic only lasted eight months. They will be replaced by two bars … an upscale bar and a tavern, according to workers. Angel’s Rock Bar – where you went to get your picture in those endless CJ photo galleries (good times!) – replaced the Red Cheetah lounge, Parrot Beach and Palm Bar, all of which failed in record time when Fourth Street Live first opened in 2004. Since then, Baltimore-based Cordish has gone to great lengths to make certain the majority of Fourth Street Live tenants are subsidiary operations. Angel’s Rock Bar was at first represented as belonging to an independent entertainment company. Instead, the owners turned out to be a Cordish subsidiary run by New York-based John Sullivan. Though local Cordish spokesman Mike Leonard describes Maker’s Mark lounge as a local tenant, it also is controlled directly by Cordish, with the “Maker’s Mark” name licensed from Beam by Cordish Entertainment Concepts LLC. All of a sudden, Fourth Street Live has a lot of empty space with the closing of the Improv club last month and two bars this month. This all totals about 20,000 square feet, or about 10 percent of the total space.
• This is for all the Evangelicals who want to get into economic development. Ft. Wayne, Ind.-based Pro Resources is the firm trying to recruit Bob Fouts’ replacement. Fouts left last fall as director of the Bullitt County Economic Development Authority. At first, sources told Insider Louisville Fouts left the position– which pays $65k per year with no benefits, compared to the $36ok GLI paid Joe Reagan – for Salt River Electric after the county blew a mega deal to bring an Amazon distribution complex to the county. In July, 2011, we scooped the story that Bullitt County was slated to get a huge Amazon complex just south of Shepherdsville near Clermont, Ky., a deal estimated to be worth $400 million. But the deal blew up after it was protested by a church near the proposed site. Now, our sources are telling us Bullitt County Judge Executive Melanie Roberts not only forced out Fouts, she’s tying to abolish the development authority. Though the BCEDA is “independent,” it gets its $100,000 funding from county government.The story gets better. Our sources tell us Fouts failed Roberts’ “Come to Jesus” orthodoxy test. Several sources say Roberts believes only Evangelical Christians are qualified to run for office. Sounds like someone could use a good attorney.
• Very much out of the public eye, NTS (or at least the publicly traded part of NTS) is in the last stages of going private. (Though it started out doing office buildings, shopping centers and apartments, NTS has expanded into being the University of Louisville’s go-to developer, and now is leasing agent for the Nucleus downtown research park.) There was a deal announced very quietly last week. But now we hear NTS may stay in play, with an outside private equity firm bidding up an offer from an investor group formed by J.D Nichols and Brian Lavin.
Three days after Christmas, an insider sent us this release:
NTS Realty Holdings Limited Partnership (AMEX: NLP) announced today that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement with entities created and controlled by J.D. Nichols, the founder and Chairman of NTS, and Brian F. Lavin, the President and CEO of NTS. Upon consummation of the merger, all of the outstanding partnership units of NTS not owned by Messrs. Nichols and Lavin and their affiliates would convert into $7.50 per unit in cash.
The transaction results from extensive negotiations between Messrs. Nichols and Lavin and a Special Committee of independent directors of NTS Realty Capital, Inc., the managing general partner of NTS, formed September 12, 2012 in response to a “going private” proposal made on August 31, 2012 by Messrs. Nichols and Lavin to acquire all publicly held units of NTS for $5.25 per unit. The final price of $7.50 per unit represents a 43% premium above their original $5.25 proposal and a 144% premium above the closing price of $3.07 for NTS units on the last trading day prior to the publication of Messrs. Nichols and Lavin’s August 31 proposal.
On Friday, we hear a private equity firm has made an offer in the $10-to-$12 per share range.
Actual Monday Business Briefing briefs:
• LandCoast Insulation is starting a Louisville operation. The Iberia, La.-based company is a force in insulation and fireproofing, especially in the petro-chemical space, according to its website.
• Former Cabinet for Health and Family Resources Secretary Janie Miller is hiring for Kentucky’s health insurance exchange. A number of top executives are coming to Louisville from Ohio. Miller has $58 million from the feds to create the Kentucky Health Cooperative, mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
• Walsh Construction, the Chicago-based contractor building the downtown bridge and massive interchange, is opening at least four offices across the metro Louisville area. So far, Walsh executives have plans for offices on Witherspoon downtown near the KFC Yum! Center, River Ridge in Jeffersonville, Port of Jeffersonville and Distillery Commons.
• Some of the most powerful and connected people in Our Fair City are asking us, “What the heck is going on at Kindred?” Ladies and gentlemen, we wish we could tell you. But outside the CIA’s Special Activities Division, the NSA’s Utah Data Center and the Kidon directorate of Mossad, Kindred Healthcare is the single most secretive organization on Earth. Still, we’ve heard non-stop chatter for six months that some monumental announcement is coming. What we can tell you is, late last August, a handful of CEO’s from large and small long-term care companies met with Gov. Steve Beshear in his offices, asking for relief related to tort reform. That delegation included Paul Diaz, CEO of Kindred and Joe Steier, CEO of Signature HealthCARE. They did not go away happy.