Who local bigwigs are backing for president

Plus: BBSun? SunTrust&T? How to name a new bank; More Chick-fil-A traffic woes; Review of what you missed last week

The Charlotte Ledger

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Good morning! Today is Monday, April 22, 2019. Here are today’s big stories in Charlotte-area business news:

The 2020 presidential race: Here are Charlotte’s donors

The 2020 presidential race is heating up, with more than 20 challengers announcing they will take on President Trump. Last week, the announced candidates had to file financial disclosure forms for the first three months of 2019 — and there are plenty of Charlotte business people who forked over money to support their candidates.

The Ledger reviewed the records and found no Charlotte mega-tycoons who donated to presidential candidates — no Hugh McColls or Johnny Harrises. But there were still plenty of recognizable names. Here are some of the Democratic presidential candidates and the notable Charlotte folks who donated to them:

Cory Booker, U.S. senator from New Jersey:
  • $355 in the first quarter from Greg Hoff, vice president of risk management for Electrolux North America.

  • $100 in March from Russ Sizemore, a partner with law firm Moore & Van Allen.

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind.:
  • $1,350 in the first quarter from Mary Ellen Player, Google Fiber’s city manager for Charlotte.

  • $250 in March from Anne Tompkins, the former U.S. attorney in Charlotte under President Obama. She’s now a partner at the law firm Cadwalader.

Tulsi Gabbard, congresswoman from Hawaii:
  • $250 in January from Tom Gabbard, CEO of Blumenthal Performing Arts.

Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. senator from New York:
  • $1,000 in March from Clark Kinlin, executive vice president of Corning Inc.

Kamala Harris, U.S. senator from California:
  • $750 in the first quarter from Kiran Mehta, a partner at the law firm Troutman Sanders.

  • $500 in March from Stuart Schnider, a family practice physician whose company owns A Preferred Women’s Health Center in the Grier Heights neighborhood. It is an abortion clinic that is the site of regular protests. (Also donated to Elizabeth Warren.)

Amy Klobuchar, U.S senator from Minnesota:
  • $1,000 in February from James McDermott, a doctor with Carolinas Pathology Group

Beto O’Rourke, former Texas congressman:
  • $1,000 in March from Amy Grissom, who owns a $3.2M house in Eastover.

  • $1,141 in March from James Hamalainen, who lists his occupation as chief risk officer with Brighthouse Financial. That Charlotte firm was spun off from MetLife in 2017.

  • $500 in March from Stephanie Druley, an ESPN executive VP who lives in Charlotte. She oversees event and studio coverage of ESPN’s major sports, including the NFL, NBA and college football and basketball.

Bernie Sanders, U.S. senator from Vermont:
  • Bernie didn’t have too many big Charlotte donors in the first quarter, but if we expand the net farther out to the Triangle, one notable donor is South American playwright and Duke professor Ariel Dorfman, who gave Sanders $1,000 in February.

  • $250 in February from Andrea DeSantis, a family medical doctor with Atrium Health.

Elizabeth Warren, U.S. senator from Massachusetts
  • $750 in the first quarter from Stuart Schnider, a family practice physician whose company owns A Preferred Women’s Health Center in the Grier Heights neighborhood. It is an abortion clinic that is the site of regular protests. (Also donated to Kamala Harris.)

Andrew Yang, California tech entrepreneur:
  • $1,000 in February from Michael Garcia, president of Domtar’s pulp and paper division in Fort Mill, S.C. Garcia is also a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Charlotte branch.

If you’re a fan of other Democratic candidates — John Hickenlooper, anybody? Julian Castro? — well, sorry, but there are no notable local donors.

Donald Trump

Since his election in 2016, Trump also has hauled in some cash from local business figures and political action committees. Some of the money can be used for the Republican National Convention, to be held in Charlotte in 2020. Local donors to Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, include:

  • $155,000 from Wendy and Michael Khan. Michael Khan owns the Charlotte Checkers and is a minority partner in the Carolina Hurricanes. (Donations here, here, here, here, here and here.)

  • $85,000 from Ken Gill, founder and CEO of CPI Security Systems. (Donations in February 2018 and September 2017).

  • $35,000 in September 2017 from LendingTree PAC. LendingTree CEO Doug Lebda donated an additional $10,000 in October 2017.

  • $25,000 in May 2018 from Nucor CEO John Ferriola. This was roughly the same time that the Trump administration imposed tariffs on foreign steel. In the same month, Nucor’s PAC also kicked in $20,000 (in two donations, here and here), and four other Nucor execs donated a total of $17,500.

  • $16,800 from Afshin Ghazi (in three donations here, here and here). Ghazi is a real-estate developer whose company developed the EpiCentre.

  • $15,000 from Julie and Art Fields in September 2017. Art Fields is the former CEO of development company Crescent Resources.

  • $10,000 in October 2017 from Roddey Dowd, CEO of Charlotte Pipe & Foundry.

  • $5,400 in September 2017 from Michael and Ann Tarwater. Michael Tarwater is former CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System (back when it was known as “Carolinas HealthCare System”). He’s chairman of the board of trustees of Queens University of Charlotte.

Expect more donations between now and November 2020 as the dust settles on the Democratic side.

Name that bank

Some of the best minds in marketing are no doubt slaving away as we speak to devise a new name and logo for the new bank that emerges from the SunTrust-BB&T merger. It will be headquartered in Charlotte.

SunTrust CEO William Rogers said last week that the banks would reveal the new name by the end of June, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He also added a bunch of marketing-speak gobbledygook (see if you can decipher this):

“With regard to our new brand, we’re using this as a culture building process for our teammates and associates,” Rogers told securities analysts in a conference call. “We just finished a brand attribute bracket-based process, and both of our respective organizations identified the same four core and aspirational brand attributes we desire for our new company.”

Common sense indicates that they have two options:

  1. Keep one of the names, or create a hybrid between “SunTrust” and “BB&T.” This can get messy and produce nonsensical names, such as the mash-up of Third National Bank and Fifth National Bank into Fifth Third Bank.

  2. Come up with something totally new. Sometimes companies outthink themselves here, like when Columbus Bank & Trust rebranded itself to “Synovus” last year. (The name is Latin for “new.”)

American Banker last month delved into the topic:

Lenders are occasionally lucky enough to find a name that uses real words and has positive connotations. … Whatever the new organization decides, [Wake Forest marketing professor Roger] Beahm said it should follow a few particular rules. The new name should be short, ideally three syllables or less. It should be memorable and free of negative connotations. And it should be easy to pronounce.

What do you think? What would be a good name for the combined bank? Share your ideas to editor@cltledger.com. We will run some of the ideas in a future edition of the newsletter.


Last week in review

If you were out of town last week — it was CMS spring break — you didn’t miss much on the local business scene. A lot of people were out of town. Traffic was light. The markets and some businesses were closed Friday for Good Friday.

Here are some of the top stories from last week:

  • Map this: MapAnything, a Charlotte tech company that helps companies use location data to become more efficient, is being bought by Salesforce for an undisclosed price, according to TechCrunch.

  • Another uptown office tower? Developer Lincoln Harris has filed paperwork with the city that suggests it wants to build a third office tower at Legacy Union, the former Charlotte Observer site at South Tryon and Stonewall streets, the Biz Journal says.

  • Yep, still growing: New population figures released last week show Mecklenburg County’s population rose by 1.5% between 2017 and 2018, to about 1,094,000, the Observer said. York County led the region by growing by 3%.

  • Record BofA profit, but…: In announcing first-quarter earnings, Bank of America said profits rose 6%, to $7.3B. But the stock slumped because investors became concerned about net interest income, which could signal a slowdown ahead, CNBC said.


In brief:

  • The N.C. Court of Appeals sided with Duke Energy last week in a dispute over the utility’s efforts to cut down a 57-foot-tall redwood tree that threatened power lines in Wake County. A homeowner had tried to prevent Duke from cutting down the tree, which was growing in an easement, by refusing to give Duke access to the property.

  • Traffic around Charlotte’s Chick-fil-A restaurants is continuing to pose problems. The Chick-fil-A at W.T. Harris Boulevard near UNC Charlotte is kicking in $60,000 to the city to improve traffic lights in the area, according to tonight’s City Council agenda. This follows the approval in February to tear down and rebuild the Chick-fil-A near Park Road Shopping Center to improve traffic

  • Cheslie Kryst, an associate with the law firm Poyner Spruill in Charlotte, will represent North Carolina next week in the Miss USA pageant, N.C. Lawyers Weekly reports.

  • The restaurant that’s replacing Lake Wylie’s T-Bones on the Lake, in South Carolina across the Buster Boyd Bridge, gave a sneak peak to the media last week. It seems as unremarkable as any other restaurant opening, except for the name: Papa Doc’s Shore Club. Amid photos of oysters and a mac-n-cheese burger, Charlotte Agenda says the name was chosen as a tribute to an old South Boulevard dive bar but then solemnly notes: “Papa Doc is also the nickname of brutal Haitian dictator François Duvalier, who ruled from 1957 to 1971.” He’s thought to be responsible for the deaths of as many as 30,000 Haitians. It makes you wonder if the owners passed on other ideas aimed at customers with historical amnesia — like, say, Mussolini’s Italian Opera Grille. Or Pol Pot o’ Noodles, a Cambodian-Chinese fusion concept. Or Stalin’s New Soviet Kitchen, a Ukrainian farm-to-table joint.


Taking stock

Unless you are a day trader, checking your stocks daily is unhealthy. So how about weekly? How local stocks of note fared last week (through last week’s close), and year to date:


Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.comand let me know.

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The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.