published Friday, August 1st, 2014

Business Briefs: Red Lobster gets new owner

Red Lobster gets new owner

The $2.1 billion acquisition of the Red Lobster restaurant chain on Monday by the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital included a $4.93 million purchase of the Red Lobster in East Brainerd near Hamilton Place Mall and a $3.2 million purchase of the Red Lobster in Hixson near the Northgate Mall. Darden Restaurants Inc., spun off the Red Lobster chain, which has more than 700 restaurants, to focus upon its other restaurants, including Olive Garden.

"All of our restaurants will remain as they are today, company owned and operated, and we still plan to deliver great seafood and a great experience for our customers," Red Lobster spokeswoman Erica Ettori said Thursday.


Causeway unveils its first challenge

Causeway, the Chattanooga-based crowdfunding organization for hyper-local charities and causes, today will unveil its first Causeway challange, a competition in which the best idea can receive a $2,500 grant. The group's first challenge centers around the concept of connectivity, an intentionally vague theme designed to solicit a wide variety of ideas, said Heather DeGaetano, Causeway's interim executive director.

"So far, we've heard ideas ranging from hosting a neighborhood-wide potluck dinner in-between the streets to giving high-school students a better way to find volunteer work they're interested in," DeGaetano said. The group offers applications at its Patten Parkway office for the competition, which ends Aug. 29.


Gasoline prices continue decline

Gasoline prices in Chattanooga continued to decline Thursday to 6 cents a gallon below where they were a week ago and 18 cents per gallon below where they were a year ago.

The AAA fuel gauge survey of local stations found the average price of a gallon of regular fuel in Chattanooga on Thursday was just below $3.16 a gallon. A year ago, gas was priced in Chattanooga at a average of nearly $3.34 a gallon.

The decline in July fuel prices was the largest decline for the month in six years with the average U.S. price dipping 16 cents a gallon during the month.

"Falling gas prices are nearly the opposite of what we usually see this time of year," AAA spokesman Avery Ash said Thursday. "Refineries are running at full title and there is more than enough gasoline in the market, which has helped bring down prices despite multiple overseas conflicts."


Luken adds Phoenix station

Luken Communications continues to operate under court-supervised bankruptcy protection while attorneys argue over a costly jury verdict, but the Chapter 11 reorganization isn't halting the expansion of two of Luken's television networks.

Luken, based in Chattanooga, announced Thursday that television station KOHE in Phoenix will begin carrying Luken's Retro TV and PBJ networks, starting today.

Retro TV includes a variety of vintage shows, ranging from comedy shows such as The Lucy Show and The Joey Bishop Show to classic dramas, including I Spy and Bonanza. Retro TV is scheduled to launch Doctor Who on Monday.

PBJ, launched in 2011, offers popular programs such as The Archies, Lassie and Mr. Magoo.

"Luken offers quality programming and we know our viewers will embrace both networks," said Brian Jackson, president of Minds Gate Communications, which owns KOHE in Phoenix.

Luken Communications, which operates a handful of broadcast TV networks as well as a chain of low-power TV stations across the country, is locked in legal combat with Randy Rice, a bankruptcy trustee from Arkansas. Rice won an unprecedented $65.9 million verdict against Luken Communications earlier this year after a jury found Luken's 2008 purchase of the bankrupt Equity Media Holdings Co. was a "constructively fraudulent transfer." Unable to pay the verdict, Luken Communications filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition this spring.


Mediation ordered in Pilot lawsuit

A federal judge has ordered mediation in a lawsuit targeting the truck-stop chain owned by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

The suit claims Knoxville-based Pilot Flying J fraudulently withheld fuel rebates and discounts from customers. Pilot earlier settled similar claims in a class-action lawsuit for $85 million. A few companies opted out of that settlement.

Some plaintiffs' attorneys this week objected to the ordered mediation. They said they need to take discovery first to determine what was stolen from their clients.

A Pilot attorney disagreed, saying an audit provided by the company gives an "absolutely full picture" of the damages.

Pilot also recently agreed to pay a $92 million penalty to avoid criminal charges against the company.

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