Welcome to the May 20 edition of the top-secret, always confidential Monday Business Briefing.
This is your private business intelligence briefing, with Insider Louisville staff and contributors vetting tips collected during the past few days and hours.
A few of which are NOT double-verified as with our daily reporting.
This is the news about business and trends you’ll be reading about in the coming days in the conventional media.
As always, we have a number of scoops … including an ice cream scoop.
• Talk about hiding in plain sight. For the past few weeks, we’ve heard incessant chatter about where downtown Angel’s Envy will build its urban bourbon distillery. The consensus is the Vermont American Building on Main Street across from Slugger Field, according to our econ-dev sources.
Then, we ran across a pretty powerful hint on the Luckett & Farley website. The Louisville-based architectural firms is one of three submitting plans. Call us crazy, but it sure looks like the Luckett & Farley renderings are for the Vermont American building. And if the Angel’s Envy facility ultimately looks anything like the Luckett & Farley pitch, Angel’s Envy may be the the brand to beat in this developing race.
A race that could re-define Louisville as a tourist destination.
Rather than keep you in suspense, the Luckett & Farley design did not get the nod. Instead, Joseph & Joseph Architects will build the new downtown distillery and entertainment complex, said Kyle Henderson.
Kyle Henderson is the grandson of Lincoln Henderson, the former Brown-Forman master distiller who’s created the small-batch bourbon brand, and part of the family ownership. Kyle Henderson said he would neither confirm nor deny that Angel’s Envy will go into the Vermont American Building. But he added Angel’s Envy executives expect to have a major announcement May 29 or May 30, when they expect to close on the mystery property. Henderson did confirm the family chose Joseph & Joseph based on the firm’s work on the Brown-Forman campus at 18th Street and Broadway. That work includes the conversion of whiskey warehouses into elaborate open plan office buildings, which you can see here and here.
Unfortunately, Joseph & Joseph doesn’t have their Angel’s Envy proposal posted on their website. So we can’t compare it to Luckett & Farley’s vision. Henderson promised a project that would be a dramatic addition to Louisville’s tourism offerings, “not to mention the jobs.”
• Porter Bancorp, the publicly traded holding company for PBI Bank, is once again the subject of scrutiny in the banking community. It started early last week when a number of IL stories from 2012 about PBI’s issues with federal bank regulators started getting hundreds of views. We made the calls including ones to PBI executives, who never called back. Banking insiders told us initially that PBI had stopped trading on the NASDAQ exchange. Which proved to be false. Then we heard PBI would be sold. But executives at Louisville’s healthy banks assured us they wouldn’t be buying it. Then, we got other tips telling us to look at the stock price, then look at the NASDAQ warning to de-list the stock. The last time PBI shares traded above $1 was March 1, when the stock closed at $1.04 per share. Since then, shares have had a pretty linear trip to where they closed Friday, 83 cents per share. Back in late December, bank executives got a deficiency letter from NASDAQ staff, notifying them that during the previous 30 consecutive business days, the closing bid price failed to maintained the minimum $1 per share as required for continued listing on The NASDAQ Global Market. Porter Bancorp also was warned the bank’s market capitalization – the value of all outstanding shares times share price – had dropped below the $5 million mark NASDAQ requires for the bank to be listed on the electronic exchange.
At that time, Porter Bancorp executives had 180 days to rectify both situations. Through the magic of share dilution, the capitalization is back to $10 million. But during the passing four months, shares have traded below $1. If PBI is de-listed, then what? The bank is still losing money to the tune of $524,000 for the first quarter, 2013. But one of our favorite news releases of all time is the Porter Bancorp release titled, “Porter Bancorp, Inc. Reports $6.5 Million Improvement over Fourth Quarter 2012.” The release celebrates the fact that a half-a-million-dollar loss “represents a $6.5 million improvement compared with the $7.0 million loss reported in the fourth quarter of 2012.” You can’t make this stuff up.
• A second big source of conversation was, “What’s up with David Fenley?” Fenley sold a home off Blankenbaker Lane for about $600,000, according to Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator records. He’s selling an 80-acre farm in Oldham County, which last sold for about $1 million. That’s all we know ….
• For all you ice cream lovers, here’s an interesting opportunity … you can be Comfy Cow’s landlord on Frankfort Avenue for a mere $725,000. Which considering what Comfy Cow is willing to pay in rent, is a pretty good deal, with a capitalization rate of 5. PRG Investments is listing broker for the two-building complex at 2221 Frankfort Ave. that Comfy Cow owns. As we told you back in February, Comfy Cow owners are raising money on the way to franchising the ice cream parlors. Don Doyle (former president of KFC, CEO of Rally’s Hamburgers and former Qdoba franchisee in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee) and Chip Hamm, former director of franchise development for KFC, are advising Comfy Cow owners Tim and Roy Koons-McGee. The 4,600-square-foot building is partly new, built where Ginny’s Diner used to be. The rest started life as an old Victorian home. Suffice it to say, the whole historic zoning issues that ended up putting Ginny’s Diner owner Frank Faris in jail a few years ago is too complex to go into here. But the end result was a swell business in a cool building. Comfy Cow is proposing a triple-net, 10-year lease. Be interesting to see who gets the building.
• Luxembourg-based Regus is on a tear in Kentucky. The temp-office giant, which has floors in both the Marion E. Taylor downtown and in a Forest Green building in eastern Jefferson County, has just bought Lexington-based Office Suites Plus for an undisclosed amount. Though much smaller than the global Regus, Office Suites Plus is a pretty significant player. It has operations in Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and Maryland. In Louisville, we hear Regus is looking for a third building – this one in either eastern Jefferson County, or in southern Jefferson County.
• Back in 2008, legendary Louisville-based restaurant investor Neal Harding sold a number of his Hooters franchises in four states to an Australia-based company, South Pacific Partners Ltd. But our restaurant insiders say Harding is just now finalizing the deal after five years. The final deal includes Harding’s Louisville-based RMD Corp. selling all its units in Canada, including a number of stores in Toronto. His World Wide Wings at one time owned Hooters in Canada, England and the Caribbean. Depending on who you talk with. Harding was the original Kentucky franchisee, opening the first Hooters in 1988. But he’s sort of a mystery guy everyone has heard of, but no one has actually met ….
• Guaranteed Rate is about to enter the Louisville market. The Chicago-based mortgage giant claims to be the eighth largest retail mortgage company – the largest independent – in the country with 150 offices and about 3,000 employees. The company has leased space in the Forest Green Corporate Office Park at North Hurstbourne Parkway and Ormsby Station Road. Guaranteed rate made more than $14.7 billion in home loans last year. So, what do these guys know about our housing market?
• Another PRG deal that we hear is nearing the end is the sale of prime real estate out in Prospect off Rose Island Road. PRG is the listing agent for about 100 acres in two parcels, parcels that were going to be Rivers Landing, a big housing development on the river back about 2007, before the recession. MBB had a long segment about this last summer. This was a Hinton McGraw project – owned in part by Bill Hinton, who was part of HFH and other companies. The firm filed for Chapter 11 reorganization back in November 2011. Now, someone – wish it were us – is going to make a lot of money. The property is partially developed, and includes its own marina and 33-acre lake.
• Will Louisville ever have light rail? We could … the money has always been there, with the Feds picking up the bill. But this is, with Ford’s two giant assembly plants, a car town. That said, the executive director of TARC told our Steve Kaufman there’s a feasibility study for a light rail line connecting Ft. Knox and downtown, parallel to Dixie Highway. More this week …