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VOL. 123 | NO. 192 | Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Daily Digest

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Construction Loan Filed For 5 Acres in Bartlett

A new limited liability company called Yale Road Properties LLC has bought 5.42 acres along Yale Road in Bartlett for $310,000, subsequently filing a $1.2 million construction loan for the property. The group bought the land from First Tennessee Bank NA and financed the purchase and construction through First Citizens National Bank.

The land is 5.42 acres in the Fletcher Park Outline Plan, on the north side of Yale Road between Saint Valley Street and Brother Boulevard. The Shelby County Assessor of Property’s 2008 appraisal is $107,700.

Dudley Kelso signed the trust deed as managing member of Yale Road Properties, and Dean Klug, Douglas O’Dea and Jimmy Tabb signed as members of the group. The group filed LLC papers in August.

Kelso is a part of North Internal Medicine in Raleigh; a call to Kelso’s office for comment on plans for the property was not immediately returned.

Source: The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports

Design Review to Discuss Peabody Place Banners

The Center City Commission Design Review Board today will discuss a proposal to replace 14 existing banners and wraps at the Peabody Place Entertainment Center at 150 Peabody Place.

SunTrust Bank also has a proposal going before board members at today’s meeting. The bank wants to install two sign faces and two LED message centers on an existing marquee sign at is Union Avenue location.

The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. at CCC, 114 N. Main St.

FedEx Shareholders Keep Chairman, CEO as Same Role

FedEx Corp. shareholders at the company’s annual meeting this week struck down a proposal that would have separated the role of chairman and chief executive officer.

Both roles currently are held by company founder Fred Smith. Shareholders had pushed the proposal as they argued for more board independence amid issues including the ongoing fight over its independent contractor model.

The measure also failed to pass at the package delivery company’s 2007 annual meeting.

Another proposal that would have allowed shareholders more control over executive compensation also failed.

Bill Heard Enterprises Files for Bankruptcy

The nation’s largest Chevrolet dealer has filed for bankruptcy protection against a “perfect storm” of woes including soaring gasoline prices, declining demand for big vehicles and the nationwide credit crunch.

Bill Heard Enterprises Inc., the Georgia-based firm that operated in seven states before it shut down last week, reported that its 14 dealerships were losing from $2 million to $5 million a month because of a drop in sales coupled with a lack of available credit.

Bill Heard had a dealership off Houston Levee Road in Collierville.

The bankruptcy petition was filed Sunday in federal court for the northern district of Alabama.

Meanwhile, two employees of the company’s dealership in Huntsville, Ala., filed a lawsuit claiming they were wrongly terminated when Bill Heard unexpectedly shut down its lots last Wednesday. Attorneys asked a judge to certify the suit as class action and include all Bill Heard workers.

A spokesman for the dealership declined comment on the employee lawsuit.

The company began in 1919 as a single dealership in Columbus, Ga. As it grew, Heard adopted the slogan “Mr. Big Volume,” focusing on big stores, high-volume sales and deals that included loans for people with shaky credit histories.

The business model fell apart as gas prices soared and demand waned for big vehicles such as Chevy pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles. At the same time, credit dried up for many customers as finance companies tightened their lending rules.

The company posted revenue of about $2.5 billion a year at its peak, but it said it began to lose money starting in mid-2007.

In the bankruptcy filing, Bill Heard Enterprises reported that it owed $229 million total to GMAC, BMW Financial Services and JPMorgan Chase Bank, which financed its inventory.

The company cited another $7 million in unsecured debt, including $3.2 million in estimated sales taxes it owes in the states where it did business: Nevada, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Alabama and Tennessee.

Consumer Confidence Rises Unexpectedly

Americans’ confidence in the economy unexpectedly improved in September, but the reading still hovered near a 16-year low and does not fully reflect the financial meltdown that has rocked Wall Street and Main Street in recent days.

The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index is now at 59.8, up from a revised 58.5 in August. Economists surveyed by Thomson/IFR expected a reading of 55.5.

The level remains about half of what it was a year ago and near the lowest since the index registered 54.6 in October 1992 when the economy was coming out of a recession.

The cutoff date for responses to the survey was Sept. 23 and doesn’t capture Monday’s stock market plunge that wiped away $1.2 trillion in the value of retirement funds, mutual funds and individual stock holdings.

The Presentation Index, which measures shoppers’ current assessment of the economy, decreased to 58.8 from 65.0 in September. The Expectations Index, which measures consumers’ outlook for the next six months, however, increased to 60.5 from 54.1 in August.

Consumer spending represents about two-thirds of all economic activity.

July Home Prices Tumble By Sharpest Rate Ever

A closely watched index released Tuesday showed home prices tumbling by the sharpest annual rate ever in July, but the rate of monthly declines is slowing.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city housing index fell a record 16.3 percent in July from the year-ago month, the largest drop since its inception in 2000. The 10-city index plunged 17.5 percent, its biggest decline in its 21-year history.

Prices in the 20-city index have plummeted nearly 20 percent since peaking in July 2006. The 10-city index has fallen more than 21 percent since its peak in June 2006.

No city in the Case-Shiller 20-city index saw annual price gains in July, the fourth straight month that’s happened.

However, the pace of monthly declines is slowing, a possible silver lining. Between May and July, for example, home prices fell at a cumulative rate of 2.2 percent – less than half the cumulative rate experienced between February and April.

But there’s “no evidence of a bottom,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P.

Las Vegas prices plunged the most at nearly 30 percent, with Phoenix diving 29 percent and Miami 28 percent. Prices in the seven cities in the Sunbelt all fell between 20 percent and 30 percent from a year ago.

Only seven cities showed positive or flat returns from June to July, down from nine that showed month-over-month gains in June. Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver and Minneapolis all posted positive returns for three months or more.

More Tennesseans Have Health Coverage

Fewer Tennesseans are without health insurance, according to a study by the University of Tennessee.

The study released Monday was conducted by the school’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

The study found that the estimated number of state residents without health insurance dropped to more than 566,000, or 9.3 percent of the population. That’s down from last year’s estimates of more than 608,000, or 10 percent of the population.

The study credits the decline, in part, to the growth of Cover Tennessee, a state health care program that began in 2007.

‘Native Son’ Author’s Life To Be Celebrated at U of M

The life of Richard Wright, author of the bestselling novel “Native Son,” will be celebrated Thursday and Friday as part of the University of Memphis’ community conversations series “Strangers … Neighbors … Aliens,” which examines what defines community.

Wright’s daughter, Julia, will give the keynote address Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Then on Friday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., she will participate in a question-and-answer session. A panel of scholars will discuss Wright’s literary work Friday at 1:30 p.m.

A theatrical performance, “Performing Richard Wright,” will be at 6:30 p.m.

Wright was born in Mississippi in 1908 and lived for a time in Memphis. He described his struggles to escape poverty, fear and racism in his critically acclaimed memoir “Black Boy.” He later lived in Chicago and then in self-imposed exile in Paris. He reported on Pan-African and Third World struggles before his death on Nov. 28, 1960.

All events for the Wright Centennial Celebration will be held in the Fogelman Executive Center at the University of Memphis and are free and open to the public.

PROPERTY SALES 92 480 7,835
MORTGAGES 115 551 8,785
BUILDING PERMITS 325 1,167 17,068
BANKRUPTCIES 39 311 5,159