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.

Analyst: Walmart-Anthem cooperation makes Humana merger less likely

An announcement about closer cooperation between Walmart and Anthem on providing consumers over-the-counter medications is cooling the chances for other health care industry mergers, including those rumored to involve Humana, an industry analyst said.

Walmart and Anthem said this week that they would work together to lower health care costs by providing consumers with greater access to OTC meds and services to improve their health.

The program, which will launch in January, will allow Anthem’s Medicare Advantage customers “to use OTC plan allowances to purchase OTC medications and health-related items, such as first aid supplies, support braces, and pain relievers at Walmart’s 4,700 stores and on Walmart.com,” the companies said.

Leerink analyst Ana Gupte said the announcement “modestly (dampens) the likelihood of a near-term Humana deal or joint venture with Walmart,” according to an article on Barrons.com.

Humana shares had jumped in early April after reports that the Louisville-based insurer was in early-stage merger discussions with the retail giant.

Late last year, Gupte said that Humana was a takeover target based on various steps the company had taken, including changing policies that raised the severance amount for executive by millions of dollars in the event of a change in control, such as a merger or acquisition.

Humana just this week updated its employment agreement with CEO Bruce Broussard to increase, among other items, his compensation if he were let go after a merger or acquisition. —Boris Ladwig

Local barbershop wants to join new trend

The barbershop opened in 2016. | Courtesy of Elite Society’s Facebook

Elite Society Barber Studio near the University of Louisville is filing an application with the state in the hopes of becoming the latest barbershop in the city to join a new trend — serving beers and stylish male haircuts.

Since the dawn of salons and barbershops, such businesses have been places of socialization for people to improve their look, and during the past several years, businesses owners have tapped into that further by offering beer or wine as an amenity. Customers can sip on a drink while waiting for a chair to open up or afterward while they enjoy their new cut and chat with others.

“It’s just a trend I’ve been seeing across the industry, and I didn’t want to be left out,” said Vontess Farris Jr., co-owner of Elite Society Barber Studio.

If the barbershop’s application to serve beer is approved, Elite Society Barber Studio will offer a mix of domestic and craft beers. Farris Jr. said he wants to be “on the front lines” of the trend.

Beards & Beers, located at 514 S. Fifth St. downtown, and Gentlemen’s Cut, located at 3592 Springhurst Blvd., also serve brews. Gentleman’s Cut’s website notes customers can practice their putting on a small green as well. —Caitlin Bowling

Bowling Green company opens new warehouse in River Ridge

Third-party logistics provider Bluegrass Supply Chain Services announced that it is leasing a 252,515-square-foot warehouse at River Ridge Commerce Center in Southern Indiana.

“This new facility will play a key part in providing sequencing and value-added warehousing services to our customers,” John Higgins, president of Bluegrass Supply Chain Services, said in a news release. The company was awarded a contract with Ford Motor Co. to pack and ship electronic components to Ford factories such as the one in Louisville.

Bluegrass Supply Chain Services is leasing the property at River Ridge from America Place, a real estate investment and management firm that owns about 250 acres at the business park and more than 640,000 square feet of industrial and office buildings.

“This lease supports our confidence in the River Ridge Commerce Center and Southern Indiana as the place to be (or for businesses to be),” Jim Karp, CEO of America Place, stated in the release.

Founded in 2002, Bluegrass Supply Chain Services works primarily with automotive and food manufacturing companies, providing value-added warehousing, e-commerce fulfillment and light assembly, among other services. —Caitlin Bowling

After a three-year wait, Michter’s to release Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon again

Welcome back, Toasted Barrel. | Courtesy of Michter’s

As a bourbon journalist, we’re supposed to be unbiased toward every brand, and most of the times, that’s the case because we honestly do love and respect products from every single distillery in Kentucky.

However, every once in a while, a release will come along that knocks us off our bar stool (we actually get knocked off often — occupational hazard). Three years ago, that was Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon, and we haven’t had a sip since. In fact, we’ve only sampled less than an ounce of it, yet it remains an elusive unicorn.

The good news is, Michter’s is releasing more Toasted Barrel Finish in September to coincide with National Bourbon Heritage Month. It’s been three years since it last hit the market due to the bourbon shortages the Louisville distillery has had.

“Because of the goods situation, we debated whether to do this release,” Michter’s President Joe Magliocco said in a news release. “In the end, we made the decision to make some Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon for our loyal customers who have been clamoring for it.”

The product is made with Michter’s US*1 Bourbon that is aged for an additional time in a second heavily toasted, not charred, barrel. That added time spent in the second barrel does amazing things to the bourbon.

“I can’t remember the last tasting I led where someone didn’t ask me when we’re bringing back the Toasted Bourbon,” distiller Dan McKee said in the release.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel will be sold at 91.4 proof and retails for $60 (if you can find it).

Speaking of Michter’s, the downtown Fort Nelson Distillery should be wrapping up soon and opening this fall. We’ll keep you informed on the opening date. —Sara Havens

Former news anchor Renee Murphy named JCPS communication chief

Renee Murphy

Former news anchor Renee Murphy is Jefferson County Public Schools’ new chief of communications, the district announced Wednesday.

After working at WHAS for several years, Murphy joined JCPS as a parent outreach generalist in July. She will start on Monday.

“I came to JCPS because I believe in the mission of this district and the opportunities ahead for all of our students,” Murphy said in a news release. “It is an honor to help guide communications and keep our families and the community informed.

Outside of more than 20 years in the journalism field, Murphy has worked with multiple local nonprofits including Kentucky Youth Advocates, Louisville Urban League and Maryhurst.

“Renee is a skilled communicator, trusted community advocate and JCPS parent who will be a tremendous addition to our leadership team as well as our strong communications team,” JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said in the release. “Her commitment to the public, her integrity and her positive energy will all be great assets to JCPS as we continue communicating important information to families and stakeholders and promoting key priorities such as our JCPS Backpack of Skills initiative and racial equity policy.” —Olivia Krauth

Secretariat’s Derby shoe fetches more than $80,000 at auction

That’s one sexy shoe. | Courtesy of Lelands

Carrie Bradshaw’s Manolo Blahniks can step aside because Secretariat’s stylish and historic footwear just fetched $87,736 in a Lelands.com sports memorabilia auction on Aug. 16.

It set a world record for the price of a horseshoe, and it more than doubled the previous record.

Eighteen bids were placed on the shoe that Secretariat wore during his one-minute-and-59-seconds race around Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby in 1973.

He went on to win the Triple Crown that year as well. Secretariat’s trainer, Lucien Laurin, presented the shoe to the Chenery family soon after his Derby win.

“We anticipated a high level of interest in Secretariat’s Derby shoe,” Mike Heffner, president of Lelands, said in a news release. “However, watching it more than double the previous record was a wonderful surprise. We suspect this impressive price will attract more interest from sports memorabilia collectors to any original Secretariat-related artifact as well as to the sport of racing in general.”

Currently, there’s a Secretariat Summer Auction running now at Secretariat.com, and all proceeds go to the Secretariat Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by Penny Chenery to assist the thoroughbred industry in research, rehabilitation, retirement and recognition. —Sara Havens

UK bests UofL in Forbes top colleges list

Twelve Kentucky colleges and universities are among the top 650 schools in the country, according to the latest Forbes Top Colleges List, which was released Tuesday.

Centre College grabbed Kentucky’s highest spot at No. 193, followed by Transylvania University at No. 289.

In terms of public schools, the University of Kentucky, which achieved the No. 323 spot, bested the University of Louisville at the No. 429 spot. Bellarmine University also beat out UofL at No. 412.

Berea College (No. 443), Asbury University (No. 520), Murray State University (No. 598), Georgetown College (No. 609), Western (No. 624), Northern (No. 640) and Eastern (No. 647) also made the list.

Forbes looked at alumni salaries, student debt, student experience survey, student retention rates, academic success, graduation rates and alumni success as measured in their American Leaders List to determine the rankings.

Overall, Harvard University grabbed the top spot, followed by Yale, Stanford, MIT and Princeton. —Olivia Krauth

In Brief

Matthew Barzun, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, is buying Louisville Magazine and Louisville.com from Dan Crutcher, the parties announced this week. Financial details were not disclosed. The handoff is scheduled for Aug. 31.

Louisville physician Bruce Scott, an ear, nose and throat specialist, will be installed as the 168th president of the Kentucky Medical Association this weekend at the group’s annual meeting in Louisville, this year themed “Forward Focus: The Path to Physical and Fiscal Health.” Speakers will include security and fraud expert Frank Abagnale Jr., who was played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2002 film “Catch Me If You Can.”

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