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    Sunday, March 24, 2013

    Reuter site - U.S. oil billionaire’s divorce is no private affair

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    U.S. oil billionaire's divorce is no private affair

    Fri, Mar 22 14:37 PM EDT

    <strong>By Christopher Swann</strong>
    <em>The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.</em>

    American oil billionaire Harold Hamm's impending divorce is not simply a private affair. Investors swiftly stripped half a billion dollars from the market value of Continental Resources on Thursday following news that founder and 68 percent owner Hamm and his wife are splitting. That may not do the threat justice. Any division of the tycoon's $11 billion fortune leaves Continental exposed to hefty stock sales or a feud at the top.

    Business leaders, even prominent ones, normally escape the scrutiny of their private lives that is reserved for politicians or celebrities. Hamm is an exception. That's not because he dabbled in politics, as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's energy adviser. Rather, it is because of his stranglehold over the oil company he took public in June 2007. Since then, Continental has surged fivefold in value, making Hamm one of America's richest men. It has also given minority holders in the $16 billion driller a legitimate interest in his personal affairs.

    The divorce settlement is set to be a whopper. Sue Ann Hamm, who married Harold 25 years ago, is a corporate lawyer who held top executive posts at Continental and can make a plausible claim to have contributed very directly to her husband's success. A lengthy court battle creates uncertainties.

    Continental seems to have avoided many of the governance issues that plague the oil patch. But Sue Ann is likely to be aware of any lapses. If the Oklahoma courts award her a big chunk of her husband's Continental stake, the result would most likely be an overhang of stock as she winds down her holding.

    Worse still, the company could be left with two large stakeholders at loggerheads. That could be far more damaging than the pinprick investors have so far inflicted on Continental's share price. Shares in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, for instance, dipped about 10 percent in the week after his separation from his second wife Anna was revealed in April 1998 and again a few months later after divorce proceedings began.

    Any pain for Continental's existing shareholders would create winners too. The company's small free float has made it harder for outsiders to get a taste of the fast-growing business at a reasonable price. A bigger fall in the stock price and a larger float would provide that opportunity. In the meantime, investors would be wise to follow the courtroom drama almost as closely as Continental's financial releases.</p>
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    Reuter site - Maybe “Gucci” didn’t work. But “Kering”: really?

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    http://mobile.reuters.com/article/reutersBreakingviews/idUS79708305120130322

    Maybe "Gucci" didn't work. But "Kering": really?

    Fri, Mar 22 13:06 PM EDT

    <strong>By Quentin Webb</strong>

    <em>The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.</em>

    It sounds like caring, there's a hint of Breton, and it comes with an owl. PPR is becoming "Kering". Renaming the parent company will hardly deter buyers of the French group's illustrious brands, such as Gucci or Bottega Veneta. But this latest corporate offence against language hints at worrying groupthink within PPR &#8211; sorry, Kering &#8211; HQ.

    Perhaps PPR was due a rebrand. Boss Francois-Henri Pinault has focused the 22-billion-euro company on luxury and sportswear, shedding the "Printemps" and "Redoute" in an outfit whose initials used to stand for Pinault Printemps Redoute. But, still: Kering … Take a deep breath. Ker means home in Breton, reflecting PPR's roots, while "-ing", as a verb ending, expresses movement, we're told. An owl on the logo bestows vision and wisdom. Of course.

    There have been uglier reincarnations: think of PwC Consulting's "Monday" or Royal Mail's "Consignia" (both quickly scrapped) or Yell becoming "hibu" (almost an owl, in French at least). The obvious alternatives for the French luxury-and-sneakers maker, Pinault or Gucci, would have linked the listed vehicle too closely either to the controlling family or to the flagship brand.

    Still, business is already ill-served by its own empty talk of "key takeaways" to adopt "going forward", while thinking outside the box. This cloaks bad ideas. Kering is a reminder of just how readily executives also fall for the slightly cooler moonshine of branding gurus. ("We believe in Create Generously", says Dragon Rouge, PPR's adviser here.)

    Should investors care? Numbers speak louder than words. But for this clunker to get approved suggests top brass at PPR all drink the Kool-Aid (assuming that has not also been rebranded). If that extends to financial decisions, yes, they should care.</p>
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