Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.

Bellarmine Dean of Business School reportedly dismissed, interim named (UPDATED Oct. 14, 12:21 p.m.)

Sources say that Dr. Robert L. Brown, dean of the Bellarmine W. Fielding Rubel School of Business, was dismissed last Friday. When asked for more information Thursday, a spokesman at Bellarmine, Jason A. Cisell, said that, “By policy, I can only confirm that he’s no longer with the business school.”

On Friday, the school issued a statement about the leadership transition, saying instead that “Robert Brown has stepped down,” adding: “He has recently been appointed to two positions in international business, and wants to pursue those opportunities.”

Dr. Sharon Kerrick, who joined the school this summer as the assistant dean, has been named interim dean.

Dr. Robert Brown | Courtesy of Bellarmine University
Dr. Robert Brown | Courtesy of Bellarmine University

Dr. Brown was appointed in January 2015 by University President Joseph McGowan and started work that June. His hiring came after an international search that involved prominent local business leaders, faculty, administrators and six trustees of the university, working with a professional search firm.

In addition to serving as an instructor at Bellarmine since 2000, Brown also served as a practicing attorney at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP. According to his Bellarmine bio, Brown holds seven degrees from three continents, including two Ph.Ds.

Dr. Kerrick came to Bellarmine from the University of Louisville School of Business this summer, where she was associate director of the Forcht Entrepreneurship Center, taught in the entrepreneurship MBA program and led the undergraduate entrepreneurship minor that she created in 2008.

She is an Enterprise Angels Fund investor and in 2014, Kentucky’s Small Business Administration named her the Kentucky Veteran’s Small Business Advocate of the Year. Kerrick has served on the board of the Louisville Better Business Bureau since 2011 and is currently chair-elect. She will become chair of the Louisville BBB in June 2017. –Melissa Chipman

Feds: Aetna/Humana misconduct allegations a baseless ploy to dodge evidence

Accusations by Aetna and Humana that the U.S. government is withholding documents to weaken the insurers’ merger defense are a “ploy” to dodge undesirable evidence, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

In filings with the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the Justice Department this week said that the companies’ request that the court sanction the agency amounts to a “transparent attempt to derail the United States’ merger challenge before the (court) ever hears from a single witness or reviews any evidence.”

The companies had asserted on Oct. 4 that the government had engaged in “serious and prolonged discovery misconduct” by dragging its feet in providing documents that they deemed critical to their merger defense.

The Justice Department has sued the companies to stop their proposed $37 billion merger. The companies said the merger would allow them to provide better care at a lower cost. The DOJ believes it would reduce competition and harm especially seniors. A trial is set for Dec. 5.

The case hinges in part on how the court defines the market that the companies serve. While the government is arguing that Medicare Advantage is a distinctly different product from Medicare in general, the companies believe they can show that the customers can — and do — switch from one to the other, meaning they are essentially competing products in the same market.

Medicare is the traditional health care program for the elderly, managed by the federal government. With Medicare Advantage, the benefits are provided through a private health insurer.

humana logoThe companies had said that even if they get the requested documents now, they will not have enough time to analyze them before the trial. Therefore, they said, the court should impose sanctions, including prohibiting the Justice Department from introducing certain evidence and calling certain witnesses from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The DOJ described the requested sanctions as “extraordinary.”

The companies’ efforts “must be viewed as nothing more than a ploy to shield themselves from evidence that Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage are not part of the same relevant product market and that the merger is unlawful,” the DOJ wrote.

The Justice Department also said that the companies themselves requested an expedited trial schedule and “should not be permitted to exploit the rapidity of the discovery process that they demanded or advance specious claims of misconduct and harm as supposed bases for sanctions so broad, unwarranted, and potentially preclusive of the public interests this suit was brought to vindicate.”

“There is simply no evidence of any misconduct, much less flagrant misconduct, or indeed of any prejudice, here,” the DOJ said. “Although (the companies) spend 39 pages attempting to concoct a narrative that supports their claims of ‘deliberate’ misconduct and the resulting prejudice, (their) rhetoric cannot mask the overwhelming evidence of the United States’ good faith conduct throughout the extraordinarily accelerated discovery process or the fact that (the) claimed prejudice is illusory.”

As of Thursday evening, the court’s document filing system indicated that the judge had not issued a ruling on the companies’ request for sanctions. —Boris Ladwig

Jim Beam workers may strike

Jim Beam Stillhouse in Clermont | Photo by Jim Natsis
Jim Beam Stillhouse in Clermont | Photo by Jim Natsis

The rumors are true, but we wouldn’t rush out to buy up all the Beam from store shelves just yet. If Jim Beam and its union employees at its Clermont and Boston, Ky., facilities don’t come to an agreement on contract negotiations by midnight Friday, the employees will go on strike.

From an article in The Kentucky Standard, it appears each side has been going back and forth to reach a compromise, but on Tuesday, more than 200 votes from members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 111D were cast to reject Beam’s offer.

Jim Beam is owned by Suntory Holdings of Japan, which also owns Maker’s Mark. However, this strike would only involve the employees from the two distilleries/facilities mentioned above.

The New York Post picked up the story Wednesday and talked with local bourbon expert and author Fred Minnick about what a strike might mean to Beam’s bourbon supply. He surmised that if a strike were to last a couple of months or longer, “supplies could be diminished.”

We doubt it will come to that, as typically, bourbon companies strive to keep their employees happy and satisfied, as what they do is reflected in the quality of the product. We’ve got until midnight to see if Beam steps up in the name of compromise. —Sara Havens

Jefferson’s Reserve bourbon plays well with rum

oldrumcaskfinish-x650xA few years back, Jefferson’s Bourbon founder Trey Zoeller was handed some rum to try — but not just any rum, Bermuda’s Gosling’s Family Reserve Old Rum, which had been aged 16 years in used bourbon barrels. He loved the taste and feel of the dark, thick rum, but like anyone who happens to own a bourbon brand, he thought it might be improved by adding in some Jefferson’s Reserve.

“Not being a rum drinker, I poured a little Jefferson’s Reserve and topped it off with the Gosling’s Old Rum and loved it,” he said in a press release. “I immediately asked Malcolm (Gosling) if I could get a hold of his Old Family Reserve Rum cask.”

Thus, Jefferson’s Reserve Old Rum Cask Finish was born, and it’s slated to hit store shelves this month. Zoeller and his crew took eight-year-old whiskey, put into the used Gosling’s barrels — which had already held bourbon for four years and rum for 16 years — and aged it for an additional 15 months.

The 90.2-proof whiskey appears slightly darker than regular Jefferson’s Reserve, as the flavors and spices from the rum mingled with the whiskey. The feel is also thicker, and you can definitely detect some hints of banana that complement the vanilla and caramel undertones.

The whiskey is in limited supply, and it retails for $79.99. —Sara Havens

And … Woodford Reserve flirts with brandy in latest Master’s Collection release

wfr_f16masters_frntbtlwhite_sm-x650xWe just heard that this year’s Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection, which will be released in November, is a whiskey that’s been finished in brandy casks. Apparently they’ve known this for a while, as the fully matured Woodford Reserve bourbon has been hanging out inside used brandy casks for nearly two years.

Although we haven’t had a chance to try the product yet, we’re guessing the brandy will accentuate Woodford’s fruity characteristics, because brandy is distilled from, well, fruit. Master distiller Chris Morris backs up our assumptions.

“I’m extremely proud to say we’ve yet again done something very special,” he said in a press release. “Among Woodford Reserve’s many flavors include fruit and spice notes, which the brandy casks emphasize. Both products showcase rich, intense vanilla notes from their barrel maturation, making the combination of the two a true success.”

Woodford Reserve Brandy Cask Finish will be available in limited supply in November, and the 90.4-proof whiskey will retail for $99.99. —Sara Havens

Coqui’s Cafe leaving tiny New Albany diner 

Coqui's Cafe in downtown New Albany is a Valentine diner. | Photo by Kevin Gibson.
Coqui’s Cafe in downtown New Albany is a Valentine diner. | Photo by Kevin Gibson.

The cramped diner at the corner of East Market and Bank streets is a staple in New Albany.

The building, which has a dozen seats if you pack people in, was home to Little Chef’s for nearly 60 years before it closed, and Coqui’s Cafe, a Puerto Rican diner, opened in its place.

For just less than two years, Coqui’s Cafe operated out of the tiny space, but now owners Elvin Torres and Stephanie Torres have outgrown it.

On its Facebook page, they wrote:

Coqui’s Cafe is taking a winter break. We will continue to take orders for flan and coquito and we WILL DELIVER!
Thank you to all of our customers for all of your support over the past year and a half.
We have outgrown our little diner on the corner of Bank and Market. Sunday was our last day at that location. We have “passed the torch” to another family that will reopen the diner around the end of the month with their own menu.
Coqui’s Cafe will reopen in the spring in a new BiGGER location. STAY TUNED FOR DETAILS!

In its comments, the Torres noted that they will be looking for a space outside of downtown New Albany, which already has a few breakfast hotspots.

There is no outward sign of what will come next for the little diner, so as the Torres said, stay tuned for details. —Caitlin Bowling

Food Network show to feature Martinez family restaurant

This burger requires more than two hands to take down. | Courtesy of Mussel and Burger Bar
This burger requires more than two hands to take down. | Courtesy of Mussel and Burger Bar

Next Friday, the Food Network will be at Mussel & Burger Bar filming an episode of its new show “Ginormous Food.”

The show, which is in its first season, is hosted by comedian Josh Denny and highlights yummy and large food around the United States. It is unknown what menu item Mussel & Burger Bar will whip up for the segment, though a burger wouldn’t be a bad guess.

“I’m not at liberty to say what we’ll be cooking up yet, but it’s going to be a real treat,” restaurateur Fernando Martinez said in a news release.

Martinez is co-founder of Olé Restaurant Group, which owns Mussel & Burger Bar, Mercato Italiano, El Taco Luchador, Red Barn Kitchen, Guaca Mole Cocina Mexicana and Artesano Vino Tapas Y Mas.

The restaurant is seeking people to pack the Jeffersontown store, at 9200 Taylorsville Road, during the filming. Seating will be first come, first serve, and filming will take place from 5 to 8 p.m., the release states.

Earlier this year, Martinez and Mussel and Burger Bar were featured on the Food Network’s “Burgers, Brew & ‘Que.”—Caitlin Bowling

Delta Dental continuing to grow as it celebrates 50 years in business

Delta Dental of Kentucky is 50 years old this year. | Courtesy of Delta Dental of Kentucky
Delta Dental of Kentucky is 50 years old this year. | Courtesy of Delta Dental of Kentucky

Delta Dental of Kentucky is marking a couple of milestones: The nonprofit dental benefits organization recently hit more than 700,000 members, and this year it celebrates its 50th year in business.

In Kentucky, 90 percent of the licensed dentists accept Delta Dental coverage. During the last decade, Delta Dental has added more than 400,000 members, and this year, it is on pace to make a $5 million profit.

“Today recognizes the hard work and 50 years of service that Delta Dental of Kentucky has provided in our state and celebrates our future work,” Dr. Cliff Maesaka, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Kentucky, said in a news release.

Delta Dental is the oldest and largest organization of its kind operating in the state.

The organization also runs a charitable initiative Making Smiles Happen that provides access to dental care for those who can’t afford it. Delta Dental of Kentucky has donated more than $6 million and 3,056 staff volunteer hours to the Making Smiles Happen initiative and given out 280,000 donated toothbrushes. —Caitlin Bowling

Al J. Schneider Co., Galt House Hotel announce new hires

Sandy Heydt is chief marketing officer at The Al J. Schneider Co. | Courtesy of The Al J. Schneider Co.
Sandy Heydt is chief marketing officer at The Al J. Schneider Co. | Courtesy of The Al J. Schneider Co.

Louisville-based real estate investment firm The Al J. Schneider Co. and its property the Galt House Hotel both added new management staff.

The Al J. Schneider Co., which this year has been embroiled in a family dispute, just hired Sandy Heydt as its chief marketing officer. She previously worked on the transition of The Four Seasons Philadelphia into The Logan Philadelphia hotel and helped the Eau Palm Beach Resort shift from a Ritz Carlton brand hotel to an independent resort, according to an announcement about her hiring.

“Sandy’s passion in building brands, strategic marketing, team empowerment, and collaboration will be an enormous asset for our properties,” Scott Shoenberger, president and CEO of The Al J. Schneider Co., said in the announcement. “Her knack for introducing new and engaging brands to a target customer base will be instrumental as we move forward.”

The position is new to the company. Heydt was likely brought in to improve the image of The Al J. Schneider Co. following the family tussle and position the company’s properties, including the Galt House Hotel, for sale.

Meanwhile, the Galt House Hotel has a new general manager Nick Briner, the hotel announced.

Briner spent 20 years at the four-diamond Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas in positions including hotel manager and regional director of food and beverage, the announcement stated. He also oversaw a $150 million renovation of the Hilton Anatole Hotel. —Caitlin Bowling

WaterStep jumps in to aid hurricane-ravaged Haiti with new product

Local nonprofit WaterStep has been working with partners in Haiti since 2007 to help bring clean water to the region. When Category 4 Hurricane Matthew hit the island, it left more 1,000 dead in its wake and a cholera epidemic has followed.

For the past two years, WaterStep has been working to create a portable bleach maker that can make the disinfectant out of cheap and easy-to-get products. This week, the nonprofit was able to ship six of the machines that create bleach using electrolysis. All users need is water, salt, and a 12-volt car battery.

“We all know safe water and health go hand in hand,” says Mark Hogg, Founder and CEO of WaterStep. “Our experienced and creative design team listened to these needs from the field to create an inexpensive device that makes effective disinfectant on demand — something that will empower health clinics, schools, orphanages and private homes so they can fight dangerous germs and disease. After years in the making and many months of testing, we’re ready to share and celebrate this impactful product.”

The device has already been successfully field tested in countries in Africa, South and Central America. It was initially developed at Hack2O, a water-themed volunteer hack-a-thon partnership between WaterStep and First Build.

Bleach is needed at hospitals and clinics and to disinfect cooking areas, cooking equipment, and clothing. –Melissa Chipman

Butcherlu? Location for Flying Axes confirmed

146
146 N. Clay St. | Photo via Google Maps

At the November Venture Connectors Luncheon, Zack Pennington of the Flying Axes introduced the audience to the competitive axe-throwing venue. Pennington didn’t drop much more info than IL’s September article. We knew that the founders are Forest Giant partners Dave Durand, Jon Shaw and Jesse Lucas, and LEAP Creative Director Mike Brown. They were looking for a building to house the venue and had engaged Gant Hill to find a place, hopefully in Butchertown.

Hill now confirms that the business has found a home at 146 N. Clay St. Is that Butchertown? Is that NuLu? Hard to say.

It is not an attractive building, but you’d better bet that by the time the guys from Forest Giant get done with it, it will be hip and classy as all get out… if you consider lumberjack sports classy.

Pennington also shared the impressive roster of investors who have signed on, including Durand. There is Steve Huey, a wildly successful investor and serial entrepreneur, who is CEO at Capture Higher Ed. Also, Rob May, who moved his startup, Backupify, to Boston in 2012 and sold it to Datto for an undisclosed amount, which was a pretty penny. He’s still in Boston doing cutting-edge work in machine intelligence.

Let ’em fly, guys! –Melissa Chipman

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