Chattanooga chamber board starts search for new CEO and more business news

Chattanooga Chamber searching for new CEO

The executive committee of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors has selected the consulting firm Waverly Partners to help in the search for a new chamber chief executive to succeed Christy Gillenwater, who announced last month she is leaving the Chattanooga chamber after five years to head the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.

Waverly Partners will work with the chamber's search committee to develop a profile with the experience and leadership characteristics of the chamber's preferred candidate. Waverly Partners consultants Eric Peterson of Cleveland, Ohio, and Debbie Galbraith of Kansas City, Missouri, will work with the search committee in the recruitment and evaluation of candidates from the local, regional and national marketplace.

Tom White, who recently retired from Unum as a senior vice president of investor relations who served as the chamber's chairman in 2009, will lead a seven-member CEO search committee, according to a chamber's announcement Monday.

"I'm pleased to announce our Chattanooga chamber president and CEO search committee and our decision to work with Waverly Partners, a highly respected national search firm," Janelle Reilly, president of CHI Memorial Hospital and chairwoman of the Chattanooga chamber, said in the statement. "It's important that we share with members the broad strokes of the search process, which aligns with our continued commitment to our mission to champion member businesses and promote regional economic growth."

In addition to White and Reilly, the search committee will also include Jim Haley, a lawyer with Miller & Martin and immediate past chairman of the Chattanooga chamber; Paul Leath of Chattanooga Gas Co., vice chairman of the Chattanooga chamber; Dalya Qualls of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee; Sarah Morgan of The Benwood Foundation, and Chandra Chambers of Chambers Welding & Fabrication Corp.


Jack Daniel's barks at toy dog parody

The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear a dispute over a dog toy that got whiskey maker Jack Daniel's barking mad.

Jack Daniel's had asked the justices to hear its case against the manufacturer of the plastic Bad Spaniels toy. The toy mimics the Jack Daniel's bottle and label but is a parody. While the original bottle has the words "Old No. 7 brand" and "Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey," the parody proclaims: "The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet." Instead of the original's note that it is 40% alcohol by volume, the parody says it's "43% Poo by Vol." and "100% Smelly."

Lawyers for the toy's maker, Arizona-based VIP Products, told the high court that Jack Daniel's can't take a joke. They said Jack Daniel's has "waged war" against the company for "having the temerity to produce a pun-filled parody" of its bottle. The toy retails for about $13 to $20 and the packaging notes in small font: "This product is not affiliated with Jack Daniel's Distillery."

Jack Daniel's lead attorney, Lisa Blatt, made no bones about the company's position in her court filing.

"To be sure, everyone likes a good joke. But VIP's profit-motivated 'joke' confuses consumers by taking advantage of Jack Daniel's hard-earned goodwill," she wrote for the Louisville, Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corp., Jack Daniel's parent company. Blatt wrote that a lower court decision provides "near-blanket protection" to humorous trademark infringement.


FTX owes $3 billion to largest creditor

The failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX owes more than $3 billion to its largest creditors, the company disclosed in a court filing over the weekend.

The list of the top 50 unsecured claims against FTX gives the public a first glance into the amount of money Sam Bankman-Fried's companies may owe his customers. The top claim was more than $226 million. The names, addresses and other information about the claims was redacted by the court.

Bahamas-based FTX filed for bankruptcy Nov. 11 after the exchange acknowledged it had used customer funds to cover bad bets by Bankman-Fried's trading arm, Alameda Research. Since it went into bankruptcy, the lawyers tasked with sorting through the aftermath have described in court filings a company that had few risk controls and would use company funds to pay for personal purchases of its employees.

"Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here," said John Ray III, the new CEO of FTX, in a court filing.

FTX's lawyers will appear in bankruptcy court Tuesday for the first hearings.


Investor speaks against Fox, News Corp. merger

An activist investor escalated its pressure on News Corp. on Sunday, asking it to reconsider a proposal by Rupert Murdoch to combine the two parts of his media business, News Corp. and Fox.

The investor, Irenic Capital Management, said in a letter to News Corp., which was viewed by The New York Times, that it might vote to oppose the merger, arguing the proposed deal is likely to undervalue News Corp. Irenic owns about 2% of News Corp.'s Class B shares, according to the letter.

Last month, Irenic urged News Corp. to explore splitting its online real estate listings unit from its other businesses, including The Wall Street Journal, HarperCollins and The New York Post. It said in its letter on Sunday that it also wants News Corp. to consider spinning off its Dow Jones media properties. The firm contends that News Corp.'s stock, now trading at $18 a share, could be worth $34 a share.

The letter is aimed at putting pressure on the special committees that both Fox and News Corp. have appointed to evaluate Murdoch's proposal. The Murdoch Family Trust, which Murdoch controls with his eldest children, commands roughly 40% of the vote at both Fox and News Corp. But any deal requires the approval of a majority of investors who are not part of the Murdoch trust.

Staff and wire reports