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.

Brown-Forman shares jump sharply on Q2 report

Bourbon barrels are charred in the Brown-Forman Cooperage. | Photo by Boris Ladwig

Brown-Forman shares jacked up 6.5 percent after the Louisville-based distiller raised its earnings outlook for the second consecutive quarter.

CEO Paul Varga said improving economies in emerging markets and strong demand for Herradura tequila and Jack Daniel’s and other bourbon brands helped boost second-quarter net sales by 10.1 percent, to $914 million. Operating income, at $346 million, was up nearly 19 percent.

Net sales in the U.S. and in developed markets through the first six months of the fiscal year are up 6 percent and 5 percent, the company said. In emerging markets, net sales have spiked 15 percent.

Brown-Forman said that net sales in its largest emerging markets, Mexico and Poland, rose by about 10 percent, thanks in part to solid demand for the Jack Daniel’s brand. Net sales in other emerging markets rose at about 20 percent, the distiller said, “as economies and currencies have stabilized.”

The distiller said it now expected sales to improve 6 percent to 7 percent this fiscal year, and operating earnings to rise 8 percent to 9 percent. The distiller said that it projected to report diluted earnings per share of $1.90 to $1.98, up 2.1 percent from the forecast it issued in the first quarter, which had been up 2.7 percent from the projection it made in fourth quarter.

Shares on Wednesday closed at $65.85, up 6.5 percent. Brown-Forman’s shares are up nearly 50 percent for the year. Boris Ladwig

Building permit issued for Dave & Buster’s

The restaurant, bar and entertainment venue geared toward adults includes bowling, billiards and arcade games. | Courtesy of Dave & Buster’s

The city has issued a building permit allowing work to begin anytime on Dave & Buster’s.

Insider broke the news this summer that the entertainment complex and restaurant company plans to open a location at Mall St. Matthews above the Forever 21 store. Dave & Buster’s is basically the adult version of Chuck E. Cheese with alcohol and without the weird animatronics band.

According to the building permit, the company plans to occupy 47,000 square feet and spend $2.54 million renovating the space in the mall.

The Dave & Buster’s is expected to open in 2018, according to David Jacoby, general manager of Mall St. Matthews, but it is unclear what season or month.

“Because the opening is so far out — we cannot comment on the opening date at this time,” the chain’s national marketing manager Alex Dubois said in an email.

Jacoby told Insider that the timeline will depend on when Forever 21 makes its own alterations. The youth clothing store will shift from a two-story shop to a first-floor-only retailer.

There is no set timeline on when the Forever 21 will reopen either, he said. “We have people asking all the time about them.”

Insider reached out to Forever 21’s corporate office but did not hear back by press time. —Caitlin Bowling

Community Foundation of Louisville hits major milestone

The Community Foundation of Louisville is now among the top 40 largest community foundations in the United States.

The foundation has surpassed $500 million in assets, up from $485 million at the end of 2016.

“We would not continue to be such a growing and vibrant foundation if not for our generous donors and board of directors, which include hundreds of business and civic leaders who believe in the power of philanthropy to change the world,” said Susan Barry, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Louisville, in the news release. “Their dedication and prudence has ensured that we preserve and grow our charitable assets for the long-term benefit — doing the most good today while honoring the responsibility that comes with being a permanent community endowment.”

During the past 33 years, the foundation has awarded more than $780 million in grants to nonprofits. It also has given out $17 million in college scholarships through its Give For Good Louisville 24-hour day of giving campaign since 2014. —Caitlin Bowling

KentuckyOne Health parent signs merger agreement

Jewish Hospital’s downtown campus

Catholic Health Initiatives, the Denver-based parent company of KentuckyOne Health, has signed a definitive agreement to merge with San Francisco-based Dignity Health. The two nonprofit health systems had said in October of last year that they were exploring a union because health care was “at a turning point in our nation.”

The new, combined Catholic health system “will build a stronger operational and financial foundation to expand access to quality care, build upon complementary resources and capabilities, and reinvest in critical areas to accelerate improvements in care delivery,” the health systems said in a joint statement.

The new entity will be based in Chicago. Its name will be chosen in the second half of next year.

CHI operates 100 hospitals in 17 states and generates annual revenue of $15.5 billion. Its Kentucky unit was created by the merger of the former Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare and Saint Joseph Health System. Almost since its inception, the nonprofit health system struggled financially, racking up losses of about $300 million in fiscal years 2010 to 2014, according to IRS records.

Late last year, KentuckyOne and the University of Louisville said they were ending their troubled joint operating agreement for University Hospital. In May, CHI cited “significant challenges” in the health care industry when it announced plans to sell Jewish Hospital and other Louisville facilities to as yet unknown buyers. The nonprofit said recently that it expected the sales to be completed by next summer.

Dignity operates in 22 states and employs more than 9,000 physicians. It reported revenue in fiscal 2017 of $12.9 billion. —Boris Ladwig

Forecastle Festival releases limited amount of pre-sale tickets today

Just in time for the stuffing of stockings, Forecastle Festival will release a limited allotment of general admission weekend passes to the annual music festival today at 10 a.m. If you know you’re going to attend no matter who headlines, it’s a good time to pick up a ticket, as this will be the cheapest you can get ’em.

Organizers wouldn’t say how many will be released, but they’ll be available at the Forecastle website and on Ticketmaster for $129.50 (plus fees) starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 8. Forecastle will be held July 13-15 at Waterfront Park. The headliners will be announced in early 2018. —Sara Havens

Hikes Point residents make claim for land to halt car wash development

The office building at 3000 Breckenridge Lane | Courtesy of Jefferson County PVA

The El Conquistador Condominium Association has filed a lawsuit against Louisville-based Bayside Properties, which owns the property at 3000 Breckenridge Lane.

The association claims it owns a portion of the property because it has maintained the grass and paid to keep up the roads and parking areas for more than 15 years.

The lawsuit was filed in response to potential plans to transform an existing office building into a car wash, according to an email from Dannah Prather, who is leading an effort called “Hikes Point Wipe Out the Wash.”

More than 150 people have signed a petition against the development of the car wash, which would be situated between El Conquistador condominiums and Casa Granada condominiums. The petition says the development should not move forward because of traffic congestion, noise pollution and safety concerns for residents, many of whom are seniors.

Without a favorable ruling in the suit, some El Conquistador residents will find the driveway of the car wash about seven feet from their door. Additionally, several parking spaces and landscaping will be lost if the development proceeds,” Prather said in the email.

Bayside Properties owner Marvin Smith, who has owned the property since the 1980s, said he could not comment on the court case but noted that he is not the one trying to develop the car wash. He is looking to sell the property and said he’s been approached by multiple potential buyers with different ideas for the land, including a car wash. —Caitlin Bowling

Arena authority completes refinancing of Yum! Center bond debt

KFC Yum! Center

The Louisville Arena Authority announced on Wednesday that it had completed the process of refinancing the construction bond debt of the KFC Yum! Center, a complicated effort that began last year once key stakeholders finally conceded that it was on pace to default on debt payments by 2020.

Last month, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s gave the authority’s newly proposed bonds an investment-grade rating, citing additional annual payments from the UofL Athletic Association – the arena’s main tenant – and the state extending the life of the arena’s TIF district. The authority announced Wednesday that it had sold the bonds to “individual investors across the United States and to individuals in Kentucky,” successfully refunding its outstanding debt on the old junk bonds.

In the press release, Mayor Greg Fischer congratulated the arena’s team for a successful bond sale, “which will result in savings of many millions of dollars for our community.” Louisville Metro Council approved a plan to increase the city’s financial obligations to the arena, though it could end up paying less if the arena’s new bonds are paid off early.

On Monday, arena managers AEG announced that Yum! Center general manager Dennis Petrullo was no longer employed and had been replaced by an interim GM, declining to state a reason for the change. In a report on the proposed Yum! Center bonds posted the next day, a Moody’s analyst stated they did not expect the change in personnel to have any material impact on the arena’s future success. Joe Sonka

Construction work begins on Waterfront Botanical Gardens

View of the entrance to the Waterfront Botanical Gardens | Courtesy of Botanica

Workers have started clearing the brush and debris along Frankfort Avenue, Beargrass Creek and on the site of the future 23-acre Waterfront Botanical Gardens this week.

Following the clearing work, construction workers will install utilities and build the road and pathways. Contractor T&C Contracting is overseeing the site construction.

The nonprofit Botanica has raised $7 million of its fundraising goal of $10 million for Phase 1, which will include the Graeser Family Education Center, a path to Beargrass Creek and its overlook, four gardens and a pollinator meadow. The center will offer educational programming and a 250-person event space; it is slated to open in mid-2019.

The Waterfront Botanical Gardens, which is bounded by Frankfort Avenue, River Road, Beargrass Creek and Interstate 71, is expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors per year. —Caitlin Bowling

In Brief

CenterPoint HR and HR Affiliates have merged, according to an announcement, which said they would now operate as HR Affiliates LLC, headquartered in Louisville. Jennifer Wheatley, former president of CenterPoint HR, will continue with the organization as vice president overseeing the HR Managed Services Division. Paul Gordon and Blair S. Gordon, of HR Affiliates, continue as managing members.

Omni Louisville is actively seeking to hire 29 people, and most of the positions are for assistant managers. The hotel company will advertise and interview for roughly 350 full- and part-time positions at a job fair at some point in January. In total, the Omni will employ about 400 people.

Louisville steakhouse chain Texas Roadhouse declared a quarterly dividend of $0.21 that will be paid out on Dec. 29 to shareholders of record at the close of business on Dec. 13.


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