For nearly a year, the question as to whether American Airlines will keep its headquarters in Fort Worth has loomed over city officials.
We’re sensing that the answer may be coming sooner rather than later, with expectations that the city’s biggest employer is staying put.
David Berzina, executive vice president of economic development for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, broached the topic at a chamber event last week, confirming efforts by other cities “trying to steal American Airlines’ headquarters from us.”
Irving has been “very aggressive” in its efforts to draw the airline a little to the east, he said.
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But Berzina said he “feels very good” that Fort Worth’s marquee company will stay and that an announcement could come soon.
The chamber and the city have been “working diligently” with American, he said.
American had not given any indication when it will announce a decision.
“We regularly give updates to the board of directors on where we are on our search for a new building or staying exactly where we are and they will get another update in October at their quarterly board meeting.” American spokesman Casey Norton said.
In November, CEO Doug Parker confirmed that the airline was reviewing its space needs and considering a number of options for its headquarters, including staying in existing buildings.
The airline has about 25,000 employees locally and two headquarters buildings on Amon Carter Boulevard, just south of DFW Airport, that house executive offices and thousands of workers. One was built in 1988, the other in 1990, and space is tight as the company has hired thousands.
The company has spent money remodeling the buildings, converting data center space into offices this year. Parker also remodeled the executive suites in 2014, taking out a private shower and bathroom.
This month, American will open a 149,000-square-foot Integrated Operations Center on the west side of Texas 360 about a mile from the headquarters building. The project received a 15-year, $6.5 million tax incentive from the city. The IOC is adjacent to the company’s flight academy and reservations office as well as across the street from American’s training facility.
Legal sharks circling Pier 1 Imports
Pier 1 Imports stock has been in the toilet since mid-February, when the company surprised Wall Street with an earnings warning and the abrupt departure of its longtime chief financial officer.
Now the legal sharks are circling.
A shareholder lawsuit was recently filed, seeking class action status, saying the Fort Worth-based company and its executives misled shareholders about the retailer’s prospects, leading investors to buy the stock at “artificially inflated prices.”
And at least a half dozen law firms nationwide have sent notice that they are trolling for plaintiffs.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Kathleen D. Kenney in U.S. District Court in Dallas a week ago, seeks class status for all persons or entities that purchased Pier 1 stock between Dec. 19, 2013, and Feb. 10, 2015.
It details numerous instances in that period when Chief Executive Alex Smith talked up the company’s prospects, touting the early successes of its revamped website and its “1 Pier 1 omni-channel initiative,” which allows shoppers to order goods online and pick them up at their neighborhood store.
By fall 2014, the company said its e-commerce business was expanding better than anticipated, and in December, Smith told analysts that the company expected “to be one of the most sophisticated and profitable omni-channel retailers,” the suit says.
But on Feb. 10, the company announced that it had flubbed its sales and expense forecasts, leading to the sudden resignation of Cary Turner as chief financial officer. The next day, the stock tumbled nearly 25 percent, or more than $4 a share, to $12.84. It closed Friday at $9.95.
Renegade Swish battle continues
It’s Round 2 in the fight between Renegade Swish and the former assistant house manager.
In June, Renegade, an entity owned by ex-Bass family financial wunderkind Geoffrey Raynor, sued Emily Wright, a former assistant house manager, accusing her of breach of contract and fraud for not doing her job. The suit sought at least $200,000.
According to the lawsuit, Wright, who was paid $60,000 a year, was known to abandon her post early when the family and the house manager were out of town. Not a good thing when you’re responsible for overseeing an 18,000-square-foot mansion valued at $8.4 million.
Renegade then said Wright had the “audacity” to tell other employees that the company owed her money, including a bonus, the lawsuit states.
Wright, whose father is an attorney from little ol’ Pauls Valley, Okla., didn’t take kindly to the accusations. She filed a counterclaim saying she was cheated out of $5,000 while she worked there. She also says she is due overtime pay under federal labor laws.
This month, Renegade decided to drop the whole thing, stating in court documents that it “does not believe that the time, expense and distraction of protracted litigation serves either parties’ interest.”
But Renegade should be ready for a continuing distraction. Records show that Wright and her dad plan to press their case and expand it to include Raynor and some of his other companies including Q Development, Q Security and Westside Maintenance.
— Max B. Baker
Railroad Commission race
It’s never too early to start a campaign.
Libertarian Mark Miller announced last week that he is running — again — for the Texas Railroad Commission in 2016. A petroleum engineer, he plans to run against Chairman David Porter. In 2014, he ran against Commissioner Ryan Sitton and lost.
Miller is touring the area touting his candidacy, saying that as a commissioner he promises to “transform the agency by bringing increased transparency and accountability” to the agency charged with overseeing the oil and gas industry.
He also plans to make personal liberty (read “eminent domain”) an issue.
Ironically, Miller’s announcements and complaints come the week the agency launched social media accounts — that would be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn — to boost visibility and communicate with the public and stakeholders about the RRC.
“Social media is a great tool to quickly and widely distribute information to the public and stakeholders, and we will use it to its fullest extent,” Porter said.
— Max B. Baker