Bankrupt Dallas Billionaire Sam Wyly Can't Possibly Make Ends Meet on $120,000 Per Year

Categories: Biz

Sam Wyly
Erstwhile billionaire/current Dallasite Sam Wyly has fallen on hard times. The serial entrepreneur, who with his late brother Charles founded Green Mountain Energy and turned Michael's into a $1.6 billion craft-store empire, was recently dinged for around $300 million for illegally hiding financial transactions in offshore trusts to sidestep U.S. regulators and the IRS. This week brought news that the case had forced Wyly to file for bankruptcy. Poor guy.

Now, adding insult to injury, the feds now want Wyly, a man accustomed to burning through $45 million per year, to live on a paltry $10,000 per month.

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Energy Future Holdings Is Fighting to Give Executives at Least $20 Million in Bonuses

Categories: Biz

W.A. Parrish Coal Power Plant
As Brantley Hargrove extensively reported for Unfair Park over the previous two years, Energy Future Holdings, the largest electricity generator in Texas, is a mess. Facing $40 billion in debt, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April and is in the process of selling off one of its most valuable assets, an 80 percent stake in Oncor, the electricity delivery service. EFH was created after TPG Capital, KKR & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. exercised the largest leveraged buyout in history against what was then TXU.

See also: Energy Future Holdings, Texas' Biggest Power Generator, May File for Bankruptcy This Month

As EFH has made its way through the Chapter 11 process in a Delaware federal court, it has faced strong opposition to its request to pay more than $20 million, and potentially as much as $40 million, in bonuses to executives.

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Ebola: Horrible for People, Great for Business

Categories: Biz, Healthcare

Pfc. Crystal Madriz
All dressed up and ready for a night in Uptown.

Dallasites like to shop. We really, really like to shop. So when one of the world's deadliest viruses appears within the confines of our city, we do what comes naturally. We buy things.

Several emergency equipment suppliers say now that sales of hazmat suits were through the roof last week. CNBC reports that Amazon experienced a jump of 131,000 percent for full-body suits, and an 18,000 percent gain for masks, by Wednesday of last week. (The report didn't have actual sales figures.)

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Dallas Pays More for Electricity than Austin or San Antonio. Thanks, Deregulation.

Categories: Biz

Dallas is the light blot up top. The expensive-looking one.
There exist, floating around the Internet and stuffed into the filing cabinets of public-interest watchdogs, an trove of eminently credible reports and white papers explaining in painstaking detail why and how Texas' decade-old experiment with electricity deregulation has failed. But there's an easier way to show how the free market has screwed over the state's electricity-using humans: compare rates in the small number of Texas cities (Austin, San Antonio, San Marcos) that own their electric utility and thus weren't directly affected by deregulation with rates in the large number of cities (Dallas and pretty much everyone else) that were.

That this comparison can be made is a historical fluke. Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen says Texas' municipal and cooperatively owned electric providers tend to be in Central Texas, "where historically they were settled by German utopians and populists. There's a long tradition of community ownership of assets." This, and a push for economic development, drove Austin to establish a public electric utility in the 1890s. San Antonio's came later, after it took over a private provider that went bankrupt after World War II, unable in peacetime to handle the debt incurred it had incurred serving the city's military boom. Dallas and Houston, by contrast, have always had private utilities.

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Urban Orchard Market, Downtown Dallas' Only Grocer Folds After Less Than a Year

Categories: Biz, Development

When Urban Orchard Market opened to moderate fanfare last October, there was hope that maybe, finally, Downtown Dallas was grown up enough to support a grocery store.

It's not. Ten months after opening, the jaunty "Now Open" banner still hanging above the door, the market has quietly closed. A downtown resident who identified himself as Dennis arrived at the storefront off Jackson Street on Thursday morning to find the doors gated and locked. He had planned to pick up a loaf of bread.

"Now," he declared with mild regret, "I have to buy CVS bread."

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Same-Sex Marriage Would Pump at Least $182 Million into the Texas Economy

Categories: Biz

Ernst Vikne
People getting married usually spend money to do so.

From the realm of obvious stuff that is interesting nonetheless comes a study by UCLA's Williams Institute that shows the simplest economic effect marriage equality would have on Texas. The study takes a look at the number of same-sex couples in the state and the effect their being allowed to marry would have on the wedding business. Shockingly, profits for the businesses involved would increase considerably if the prohibition were rolled back.

"Allowing gay couples to marry here would give an economic boost to caterers, florists, event venues, and others who make a living through wedding planning," Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, said in a press release announcing the study.

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Dallas Service Workers Can't Wait for the Notoriously Bad Tippers of Mary Kay to Leave

Categories: Biz, Crime

This is your waiter, not your eyeshadow guinea pig.
The Mary Kay convention has been gracing Dallas for the last 40 years, and by now the lipsticked ladies have become a staple of the Dallas summer, known for pumping millions into the local economy.

The money just doesn't spill into servers' wallets. Over the decades, the Mary Kay attendees have acquired a reputation for getting severe alligator arms when the tabs are settled at downtown restaurants and, less frequently, bars. Reports of abysmally low tips, no tips at all and cloying non-tip tips leave local servers frustrated and broker than usual.

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Strip Clubs Lose Another Round In Fight Against Texas' "Pole Tax"

Categories: Biz, Legal Battles

Your friendly neighborhood strip club, it's safe to say, is no fan of the $5-per-patron "pole tax" the Texas legislature saw fit to levy in 2007. Its displeasure has been expressed in two ways: by refusing to pay (the tax has so far raised less than a third of the projected $44 million, prompting Comptroller Susan Combs to publicly urge 200 or so establishments
to pay up) and, through the Texas Entertainment Association, the industry's Austin-based lobbying arm, by engaging the state in a protracted legal fight.

That fight may be coming to a close. On Friday, a state appeals court rejected the TEA's claim that the fee violated the Texas Constitution, which requires that a quarter of revenue generated by an "occupation tax" has to be used to fund public education. Revenue from the pole tax, by contrast, is set aside to provide resources for sexual assault victims (all of the first $25 million raised) and low-income health insurance.

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Atmos Has Dallas Over a Barrel, Is Raising Your Gas Bill Again

Categories: Biz, City Hall

Atmos Energy, via Facebook
It's a wonderful time to be an Atmos Energy shareholder. The gas distributor's profits -- and dividends -- keep going up.

It's much less wonderful to be an Atmos Energy customer, who is fueling those profits through increasingly large bills.

Despite its profitability and despite getting six rate hikes out of the city in seven years, Atmos is asking Dallas residents to pay a bit more: $8.7 million total per year (a 12.3 percent increase) or about $2.75 more more per customer per month.

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REI Is Moving Into Dallas Proper, Next Door to Half Price Books' HQ

Categories: Biz

A year ago, Half Price Books made the rather unexpected announcement that it would be dipping its toe into real estate development.

The decision, executive vice president Kathy Doyle Thomas told us at the time, was less about finding an alternative revenue stream than about boosting the decaying area surrounding its Northwest Highway flagship, where it's building its first (and possibly only) shopping center.

Now, Half Price Books has its first tenant: outdoor equipment retailer REI.

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