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.
SCALA updates roster; Mayor Fischer says he was never a member
The Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda (SCALA) released an updated membership roster to Insider Louisville, which listed six new members to the group of local CEOs but was missing nine members who were on the original roster SCALA released in February — including Mayor Greg Fischer.
However, the reason for Fischer’s departure from SCALA is not so clear, as his spokeswoman contends that he was never a member of the group — despite the mayor appearing on the original membership roster. Fischer also was identified as a member by SCALA founder David Jones Sr. in Insider’s January story that first publicly disclosed the existence of the group and in dozens of stories in the local media in the following months.
When first asked on Monday why Fischer is no longer on the SCALA roster, mayoral spokeswoman Jean Porter told Insider via email that “there has been no change in the Mayor’s involvement with SCALA,” as he supports the idea of the group and will continue to attend meetings when he is able to.
Told of this response, SCALA spokesman Michael Tierney informed Insider that Fischer’s name was inadvertently left off the updated roster, which would be corrected.
However, Porter then told Insider in a follow-up phone call that Fischer was never a member of SCALA, adding that “I’ve never seen him on a roster.” When told that Fischer was on the original roster that has been public for six months and reported on many times, Porter again said that she has never seen that.
After that call, Tierney wrote back that “the spokeswoman is correct. The mayor is not a member.” When asked again to clarify, he wrote: “He’s not a member and has not been (despite appearing on a list you’ve referenced).”
In addition to Fischer, those who are no longer on the updated SCALA roster include:
- Papa John’s founder John Schnatter, who left the group in March, Tierney noted in July, immediately following the fallout over the Forbes story about his use of the N-word
- Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs
- Stacy Griggs, CEO of El Toro
- Alex Rankin, board chair of Sterling G. Thompson Co.
- Mason Rummel, CEO of James Graham Brown Foundation
- Nitin Sahney, CEO of PharmaCord and UofL trustee
- Kent Taylor, CEO of Texas Roadhouse
- Vic Staffieri, the now-retired CEO of LG&E
When asked why these members are no longer on the SCALA roster, Tierney told Insider that he “can’t make any assumptions about why members elect to participate in the organization.” Carstanjen, Griggs, Rankin, Rummel, Sahney and Taylor have not returned emails and voicemails seeking comment.
The new SCALA members on the updated roster include:
- Barry Barker, executive director of TARC
- Russell Coleman, U.S. Attorney for Western Kentucky
- Dennis Heishman, regional CEO of Old National Bank
- Nate Morris, CEO of Rubicon Global
- Greg Pope, managing partner of EY’s Louisville office
- Paul Thompson, CEO of LG&E and KU Energy
Tierney said that SCALA does not have any meetings scheduled.
This summer, SCALA named Lantech CEO Jim Lancaster as its first president, in addition to adding 10 members to its board and naming co-founder Sandra Frazier, CEO of Tandem Public Relation, as its chair, and Mike Mountjoy, founding partner at MCM CPAs & Advisors, as treasurer and secretary. —Joe Sonka
CafePress shares spike following earnings
The company incurred a $1.4 million loss for the second quarter, though that was significantly better than results from a year ago when CafePress posted a quarterly loss of $3.2 million.
Total revenue, at $14.4 million, was down 19 percent compared to a year ago. Sales from the company’s website declined 32 percent, but they increased 22 percent through its partner channels, which include eBay, Amazon and Walmart.
The Louisville-based company said that revenue it is generating through the partner channels is making up for some of the slower traffic at CafePress.com.
“Although we continue to experience lower traffic and revenue through CafePress.com, we are seeing improved crawling and indexing rates on our U.S. domain and a slow, sequential rebound in traffic,” CEO Fred Durham said in an earnings report.
For months, the company has struggled with lower web traffic because of an aging website and because Google updated its search algorithm, which has resulted in Google searches relegating links to CafePress to the middle of the pack. For example, a Google search for “customizable T-shirts” will produce four links to advertisements and then 12 links to websites, the seventh of which links to CafePress.com.
“The new, modern website will ultimately result in improved search engine optimization and the return of revenue lost from lower traffic,” Durham said.
The company expects continued growth in its retail partner channels “as we build out existing channels and integrate new marketplaces,” he said.
Louisville gets LivingWell Health Clinic for state employees
A health clinic has opened at the L&N Building in Louisville to serve about 800 state employees who work there.
The Kentucky Personnel Cabinet opened the LivingWell Health Clinic, with help from the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), as a convenience to workers who need treatment for things like rashes and minor infections or who desire routine wellness and preventive care.
The clinic is being provided by the Personnel Cabinet’s Department of Employee Insurance as part of the wellness benefits package offered to state employees.
“This innovative, free worksite service is a great benefit,” CHFS Secretary Adam Meier said in a news release.
Managed by Premise Health and staffed by a board-certified nurse practitioner, the facility is the state’s fifth LivingWell clinic but the first in Louisville. Services include vaccinations and allergy shots.
“Through the use of the health clinics, and many of our other wellness benefits, employees are saving on out-of-pocket medical expenses, preserving leave balances, but, most importantly, they’re staying healthier,” Personnel Cabinet Secretary Thomas Stephens said in the release.
To get the clinic up and running, the state says it spent less than $85,000 on things like remodeling, clinic equipment and supplies, information technology and staffing. Some items, such as furniture, were brought in from other areas or offices. —Darla Carter
Woodford’s new Distillery Series offering is a barrel-finished rye
In 2015, Woodford Reserve launched its Distillery Series to highlight innovation and sell one-of-a-kind releases at its distillery gift shop. Since then, there have been a handful of the limited-edition releases, including our favorite, the Double Double Oaked.
The latest to launch is called Barrel Finished Rye, and it’s created by taking fully matured Woodford Rye and finishing it in a second lightly charred, heavily toasted new American oak barrel. In other words, they’re making a Double Oaked version of their rye — which does great things to the bourbon, so we can only imagine the flavors it enhances in the rye.
“It is a perfect example of Woodford Reserve bringing innovation not only to bourbon but the rye whiskey category,” Master Distiller Chris Morris said in a news release.
His tasting notes include warm baking spices, cedar, fruitcake and dark chocolate. Now, you’ve got our attention.
JCPS creates student scholarship fund
JCPS now has an employee-funded scholarship available to the district’s students, it announced Wednesday.
The fund will provide grants to disadvantaged students graduating from a JCPS high school to help with the costs of attending college or another postsecondary institution, according to a news release from the district.
JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio founded the “employee-sponsored, administrator-driven” fund, according to the release.
“We’re going to help send students to college,” Pollio said in the release. “As administrators and educators, we have the power to influence positive change in our schools and communities. This is one more way we can help secure brighter futures for our students while further establishing JCPS as a leader in public education.” —Olivia Krauth
Last week’s storms damaged the decorative lights on the Big Four Bridge. Its LED lighting system is down as a result, and consultants have been called in for repair. In the meantime, the lights will remain off, but there is still path lighting on the bridge for safety.
JCPS Chief Communications Officer Allison Martin is leaving the role after 2.5 years for a job at GE Appliances, a Haier company.
Apellis Pharmaceuticals said its second-quarter operating loss nearly tripled to $33.5 million, as research and development costs jumped to $27.5 million, up 164 percent from a year earlier. However, the pharmaceutical startup’s per-share loss narrowed to 61 cents, from $1.44 a year ago.
Churchill Downs announced that its second-quarter earnings rose by nearly 32 percent, to $103.1 million, as all three business units — racing, online betting and casino — reported higher revenue and profit. The company also said that its income taxes declined by $14.2 million, primarily because of the federal income tax reduction.