Here's a riddle: What does no one want, but everyone's pouring money into? Need a hint? Lizzie Goth's inheritance hangs on it. Elizabeth Goth, granddaughter of the late Hugh Bancroft, is heir to the ever-shrinking Dow Jones & Co. fortune. And as widely reported, she-along with most industry analysts-is none too pleased with the poor management decisions driving the company, chiefly the recent decision to dump $650 million down the Telerate drain, which has been experiencing such poor perception in the marketplace that it's been renamed Dow Jones Markets (now we all know that the term "reengineering" has been watered down, but it's not yet synonymous with "renaming" the company).
Many in the industry would like to see "Markets" cut loose; not the least of whom are some of its more recent investors like Michael Price, president of Franklin Mutual, whose svp of U.S. Equities, says of Franklin's Dow investment, "We felt that there are values substantially in excess of where the stock is trading, and basically the stock is trading where it is because they continue to pump money into Telerate, which is way behind." So should Dow sell Telerate? "We probably think that's a good idea."
Some have even suggested prospective buyers, notably that Bloomberg News or CNBC would be natural fits. But these folks don't seem too keen on the idea. "I understand why they would want us to be interested," says Michael Bloomberg. "I cannot figure out why I would be interested. We are the natural buyers for them, but they are not the natural sellers for us, thank you."
Rumor has it that CitiBANK is
trying to thaw its cool relationship with the public-though relationship may be too strong a word for John Reed-via two retooling efforts. First, the CEO is pushing to put a better spin on the bank's image, reports a source. "Reed has brought (Jack) Morris in because their P.R. was really disastrous. (getting) them to talk is a grievous pain in the ass," he says. Second, the bank is overhauling its customer service department. And for anyone who has ever had to interface with its acrimonious call centers, the effort should be applauded. Ironically, however, it's the credit card division that has hired Price Waterhouse to enact this customer-friendly retooling-not the retail bank. Never mind that it's the retail bank that has arguably sold out customer service for the acquisition of state-of-the-art direct banking technology. The credit card division has been and continues to be a customer service success story.
George Carlin has a comic rou- tine in which he discusses how society attempts to de-stigmatize words and phrases by replacing them with more "clinical" terms. He says, for example, soldiers used to get "shell shocked;" and now they suffer from "post-traumatic stress disorder." The same can be said about banks, or commercial financial services providers.
In fact, Jacksonville, FL-based Barnett is so uncomfortable with being identified as a bank, its executives have removed the word from its logo in an attempt to further the marketing efforts of its financial services investment management arm.