Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Quick, sacrifice a Day Planner

The calendar gods have not been kind to Yum! Brands these last few months. The December morning after the world learned of an E. coli outbreak within the company’s Taco Bell chain, executives had to meet with financial analysts at Yum!’s annual investment conference, having set the date months earlier. Then, last Friday, even primitive tribes in the Rain Forest were watching YouTube replays of rats dancing the big production numbers from “West Side Story” inside a Taco Bell-KFC combo unit in New York City. Two business days later, Yum! officials were once speaking into a microphone before a roomful of investors and portfolio managers, this time at the Bear Stearns investment conference. It was held in New York, about two miles from the affected store.

And, just to keep life interesting for the Yum! team, their appearance came as the stock market was starting its steepest slide since 9/11.

It’s all of course just an unfortunate coincidence. But on the day of Yum!’s next analyst conference or earnings call, I may dine with one of its competitors.

A stray tidbit of gossip from the Bear Stearns conference, which concludes Thursday: Among those in attendance was Dan Snyder, whose private-equity fund is in the process of buying the Johnny Rockets retro-diner chain. Snyder also owns the Washington Redskins, theoretically a football team. It was unclear if he was scouting for the Redskins, trying to learn the restaurant business, or hunting for other acquisition candidates.

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