Let’s Do Launch

South Texas is one step closer to becoming the home of the world’s first “commercial Cape Canaveral” this week after legislators pushed forward a bill that helps clear the way for construction of a spaceport on the Gulf Coast. On Wednesday the Senate Committee on Administration voted in favor of House Bill 2623, which would allow the temporary closure of a beach at the state’s southernmost tip for companies to launch private spacecraft, the Brownsville Herald reports.

The move comes as state officials are trying to woo Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) to build an orbital launch site in Texas. Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston, had stalled the bill earlier this week over concerns that giving companies control over public beaches could set a bad precedent. Whitmire later withdrew his objections, and the measure is now heading to the full Senate.

The Bottom Line: SpaceX is considering several other locations for its spaceport, including Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico, according to the Herald. USA Today describes Texas as the frontrunner—but earlier this week the company signed an agreement to move the test site for its Grasshopper reusable rocket program from Texas to New Mexico’s Spaceport America, Engadget reports. 

Out of Fashion

The owners of Neiman Marcus appear to be planning an exit strategy. The private equity firms TPG Capital and Warburg Pincus LLC, which acquired the Dallas-based retailer eight years ago, are now “exploring a sale or public offering” with a target of $8.1 billion, Bloomberg reports. TPG and Warburg are still in the early phases of interviewing potential buyers, and if the firms “don’t find a buyer and demand for an IPO is weak, they may consider a dividend recapitalization” instead. 

The Bottom Line: Neiman Marcus is gradually bouncing back from a sales slump that accompanied the recession, and it has recently found success online, boosting web sales and launching a new international e-commerce platform, Bloomberg reports. 


A group of equity firms reached an agreement this week to acquire Houston-based BMC Software in a deal worth $6.9 billion, the Houston Business Journal reports. Bain Capital and Golden Gate Capital are heading up the consortium that plans to buy the company, which makes internal business software, for $46.25 a share.

The activist hedge fund Elliott Associates LP, which owns nearly ten percent of BMC, has been pushing for a deal for almost a year. According to the HBJ, investors “argued that BMC’s management was neglecting an opportunity to expand into Internet-based business software.” 

The Bottom Line: Assuming shareholders and regulators approve this week’s deal, it would be on track to close by the end of the year. The agreement also gives BMC a month to “solicit alternative proposals from third parties.” 

Winner of the Week: Jeffrey Skilling

Attorneys of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling secured a deal this week that could spring the disgraced executive out of jail a decade earlier than expected. Skilling was originally sentenced to 24 years in prison in 2006 for “19 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, insider trading and lying to auditors,” the Associated Press reports. But legal technicalities have kept the case in limbo for years, preventing the government from paying out about $40 million in restitution to victims harmed by Enron’s implosion.

Wednesday’s agreement would finally close Skilling’s case and reduce his jail time to between 14 and 17.5 years, according to the AP. A federal judge will review the deal in June.

Loser of the Week: Austin Businesses on F1 Weekend

A City of Austin report released this week found that while the city’s inaugural Formula One Grand Prix race last fall was a “resounding success” overall, the event was not so well received by local businesses. Nearly half of the small-business owners surveyed for the report “said business during F1 week was worse than they had expected, while 43 percent said that business, particularly among local customers, was actually slower than in 2011,” the Austin American-Statesman reports. 

There were some establishments that fared better, though: About a quarter of owners reported a bump in customers compared to prior years, and nearly twenty percent said business was better than expected. The report recommends improved communications between business owners, race organizers and city officials for this year’s race.