A rather costly but disappointing thrill ride at Hard Rock Park is all but over for one of the attraction's financial backers.
Africa Israel Investments has decided to write off its entire $10 million investment in the struggling Myrtle Beach destination to zero. In a statement issued last week, the Tel Aviv-based real estate investment firm headed by billionaire diamond magnate Lev Leviev blamed the move on "liquidity difficulties the park is experiencing."
"It clearly signals a lack of confidence and a lack of optimism concerning future prospects," Coastal Carolina University finance professor Robert Burney told the Myrtle Beach Sun News. "It's clear that they don't intend to receive any return at all."
The $400 million attraction, which opened in April charging $50 per head, was slightly over optimistic when it projected it could accommodate as many as 30,000 roller-coaster-loving guests a day. But coming out of the gate the rock-'n'-roll theme park has struggled mightily on the attendance front, as the U.S. economy has slowed and gas prices have risen.
In response, management have scaled back operating hours, trimmed ticket prices and reduced payroll.
Park executives and their investors can only hope that attendance figures — and the economy — will improve next summer.
She's on. She's off. She's on again.
Charleston native Sallie Krawcheck is back among the business world's female power elite — at least in the eyes of Forbes magazine. After a one-year absence, the analyst-turned-Citigroup Inc. honcho climbed her way back on to the publication's annual ranking of the 100 most powerful women, securing the 64th spot. That places the Porter-Gaud grad squarely between news celebrities Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer.
Krawcheck, who joined New York-based Citigroup in 2002, was elevated to chief financial officer in 2004, making her one of the most influential players on Wall Street and a would-be contender for the top job at the financial services giant. She then went on to skyrocket to the No. 6 spot in Forbes ranking back in 2006.
But as her employer struggled to boost its stock price, Krawcheck was reassigned as head of the company's private banking and brokerage businesses last year, a lower profile gig that Forbes apparently didn't view as potent enough for its 2007 power list.
What's happened since then to restore Krawcheck's clout?
Part of the answer is that Citigroup, like many big Wall Street banks, has been rocked by the subprime mortgage crisis. As a result, CEO Vikram Pandit has been relying more on his key profit-making centers, including hers, which is the world's second-largest wealth manager with $2 trillion in client assets. Seems like a powerful enough reason.
South Carolina Electric & Gas is seeking to issue tax-free debt through a state agency to help finance emission improvements at its coal-fired power plant in Goose Creek.
In documents filed recently with the Public Service Commission, an affiliate of the utility said it is seeking to borrow $50 million tax-free industrial revenue bonds through the S.C. Jobs-Economic Development Authority to install pollution "scrubbers" and other equipment at the A.M. Williams Generating Station in Berkeley County.
SCE&G also is seeking to borrow another $35 million in tax-free debt to help finance similar improvements at Wateree Generating Station in the Midlands town of Eastover.
SCE&G hopes to float the bonds in late December.
The Columbia-based utility announced earlier this year that it will spend $370 million to install scrubbers at the two plants as it rushes to comply with tightening federal air-emission rules. The generators produce enough juice to power roughly 670,000 homes.
Once in place by the end of next year, the scrubbers will siphon off about 95 percent of the plants' sulfur dioxide, a major cause of acid rain. They also will capture large quantities of mercury, a neurotoxin that accumulates in fish.
SCE&G owner Scana Corp. needs to reduce its emission of both compounds to comply with Environmental Protection Agency rules that take effect in 2010.
Giving it up
Generous mirror on the wall, who has been the most philanthropic of all? After sifting through a list of Lowcountry residents' charitable givings, the Association of Fundraising Professional's local chapter has determined that Charles and Andrea Volpe and Baker Motor Co. deserve recognition this year for their generosity.
Charles Volpe, a Simpsonville native, worked as president and chief executive officer of Upstate-based Kemet Electronics before retiring. The Volpes have given money to the arts, educational causes and health-related organizations. In 2005, the couple pledged $3 million to the College of Charleston's School of Education.
Baker Motor, led by president Tommy Baker, has supported an equally wide range of causes, including the arts, community-focused charities and medicine ventures.
An association press release that announced the honors didn't list specific charities that the two donors have given to, and it didn't put a value on their contributions.
The honorees will be formally recognized in November at the group's National Philanthropy Day luncheon.
For more information on the event, visit www.afplowcountry.com.
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