Texas Business Report: It’s Expensive to Die in Houston
Houston has some of highest funeral costs, Tesla Motors wants to sell electric cars directly to customers, J.C. Penney's embattled CEO was fired, and more.
I Put a Spill on You
As ExxonMobil continues its efforts to contain the damage caused by the March 29 rupture of its pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas, the company is now facing a lawsuit from the town’s residents. The homeowners filed the class-action suit late last week, seeking $5 million in damages, CNN reports.
Irving-based Exxon has pledged to cover all cleanup costs, estimating the spill released between 3,500 and 5,000 barrels of crude oil. However, the Mayflower lawsuit puts the figure at 19,000 barrels, referring to the accident as “the worst crude oil and tar sands spill in Arkansas history.”
The Bottom Line: In addition to the environmental clean-up effort, Exxon is also struggling to contain bad press. Mother Jones reported on the company’s attempts to use local law enforcement to keep reporters away from the spill. Meanwhile, Exxon’s problems also extended into the realm of social media: A parody Twitter account called @ExxonCares has been tweeting satirical media advisories for the last few weeks (now back online after being briefly suspended on Monday, presumably for impersonating company officials).
Ron Swan Song
J.C. Penney finally axed its embattled CEO Ron Johnson on Monday, following a year-long financial collapse that began shortly after he came on board. He will be replaced by his predecessor, former CEO Mike Ullman, and will take with him a severance package worth about $150,000, The Dallas Business Journal reports.
A retail consultant quoted by the newspaper called Johnson’s tenure “one of the worst performances, and one of the craziest, that I’ve ever seen in my life.” The Plano-based retail chain lost $985 million last year amid a failed campaign to revamp its retail and marketing strategies.
The Bottom Line: Analysts predict that Ullman will be a “placeholder leader” while the board seeks out a candidate who will head the company for the long term, according to the DBJ. Ullman’s six years at Penny were less than stellar—the company’s stock price dipped 14 percent in that time—but that seems like a success compared to Johnson’s tenure, when the price fell off by 52 percent.
You Musk be New Around Here
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is in Austin this week, pressing state lawmakers to allow his company to sell its electric cars directly to customers without having to go through dealerships. Reuters reports that in Texas, “new vehicles are generally required to be sold through dealers,” while all other states allow direct sales.
Legislators are considering a bill that would exempt electric vehicle manufacturers from that rule—a proposal steadfastly opposed by the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, according to Reuters. In a characteristically glib fashion, Musk asked legislators, “Is Texas a free enterprise state or not? In this particular area, it is the worst in the country.”
The Bottom Line: Despite the sharp words, Musk also made sure to cater to the tastes of his Texas audience. According to AOL’s Autoblog, the CEO hinted that if the vote on the bill goes his way, he would consider opening a plant in the state that would manufacture electric pickup trucks.
Winner of the Week: Nolan Ryan
It looks like The Ryan Express will remain in the station for awhile longer. After a month of speculation that he might give up his position as CEO of the Texas Rangers, Nolan Ryan announced this week that he will keep his post, MLB.com reports. The Hall of Famer was apparently displeased when the team’s directors appointed new presidents of business and baseball operations—areas that Ryan used to oversee.
After a meeting with Rangers owners Bob Simpson and Ray Davis, Ryan said on Monday that he is now satisfied with the new arrangement and that we will be “working closely with ownership” going forward. No details have been made public about how his role with the team might change.
Losers of the Week: Deceased Houstonians
If you think it’s getting expensive to live in Houston, just think about how much it costs to die there. The Houston Business Journal reports the Bay City is one of the most expensive markets in the country for funerals and other “end-of-life planning services,” with an average funeral cost of $5,485 (not including the casket). Cremation will set you back $2,145 in Houston—more than 30 percent higher than the national average of $1,600. Two Houston companies, Service Corporation International and Carriage Services Inc., are the largest death care providers in the U.S., earning a combined revenue of $2.5 billion last year, according to the HBJ.