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A fresh start at Cumberland Farms

Ari Haseotes.Chris Morris for The Boston Globe

Ari Haseotes says he’s returning his company to its roots.

The Cumberland Farms CEO says his recent sale of Gulf Oil enabled Cumby’s to get out of the wholesale business and focus exclusively on retail. That brings Cumby’s more in line with how it was run by its founders, Haseotes’ grandparents, in the early years of the nearly 80-year-old business.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine that his grandparents could envision back then what the company would be like today, with hundreds of stores throughout New England, eastern New York, and Florida.

The sale in December enables the family-owned company to devote more resources to remodeling its stores and revamping its Westborough distribution center. Haseotes says the company has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into those efforts in the past five years, and there’s more work to be done. One focus: bringing more fresh, ready-to-go meals to the stores — the company now sells sandwiches made every day in Westborough.

Another big change looms on the horizon. Cumby’s is preparing to relocate its headquarters, from space it has leased in Framingham since 2009, to the Westborough complex, which the Haseotes family owns. Haseotes says he expects the transition to take place during the next year: About 400 people work in Westborough, while roughly 300 work at the Framingham office.


Haseotes says private ownership allows him to offer stronger benefit packages to his roughly 8,000 employees than a comparable public company could. Cumberland Farms, he says, can also do more for the communities it serves — as exemplified by the $130,000 worth of scholarships he just handed out to 130 graduating high school seniors.

“Being private has afforded us the ability to think in decades instead of years, or what’s more common, quarters,” Haseotes says. “We’re able to make investments that may take many, many years to pay off.”



Hancock isn’t laughing

Talk show host John Oliver has taken financial firms to task on his weekly HBO show, from debt collectors to payday lenders. On Sunday he tore into the retirement industry and Boston-based John Hancock Financial.

During “ Last Week Tonight,” Oliver dropped John Hancock as his show’s retirement plan provider, criticizing its high fees and its brokers.

“We’re going to be leaving both Hancock and the broker and I’m guessing that after they see this show, they are going to be happy to let us go,” Oliver said.

He focused on the commissions brokers earn for steering consumers to certain, higher-cost, retirement plans. The US Labor Department announced rules in April requiring brokers to consider the best interest of their clients, and not their own fees, before recommending investments.

The example he used was his show’s retirement plan provider: John Hancock.

Oliver said the show’s producer, Avalon Television, had set up 401(k) retirement plans for the show’s workers with John Hancock. But the show’s researchers discovered that Hancock charged 1.69 percent in fees for the plan, on top of other charges, he said. And the broker, who helped the show set up its plan, was in line to earn over $1 million from a portion of fees over 30 years.

John Hancock on Monday called Oliver’s analysis “flawed and misleading” and said its services were competitively priced.

“We believe in the value of the services we provide and feel they add to the success of the plan in helping participants for retirement,” the company said in a statement.



Kraft effort gets co-director

When Robert Kraft donated $20 million to advance the growing field of precision medicine last November, he chose not a medical school but Harvard Business School.

The idea was to bring a more business-like focus to precision medicine, an approach in which patients receive personalized medical treatments based on their genes, lifestyles, and other factors.

That’s in line with how Kathy Giusti has spent her career. Giusti is a cancer survivor who founded and ran the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation of Norwalk, Conn., and still sits on the foundation’s board.

Now Giusti, who’s also a veteran of the pharmaceutical industry and an HBS alum, is co-chairing Kraft’s precision medicine initiative.

Giusti said she’s working on a three-year plan that lays out specific goals for what’s now called the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator. The initiative was launched to find ways to reduce the costs of clinical trials for personalized treatments, and to foster collaboration between researchers and the pharmaceutical industry.

Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, said in a news release: “the promise of precision medicine will only be realized if we abandon a siloed approach to research and work collaboratively toward a greater good.”

The initiative kicked off with its first big meeting at HBS this week, where attendees included Kraft and his son Jonathan, HBS leaders and professors, and representatives from several research institutes.



Call it Nutter. Just Nutter

Sometimes, even the oldest law firms in Boston need a new look.

Just talk to the lawyers at Nutter, McClennen & Fish. The official name of the 150-attorney firm hasn’t changed since the 1920s. But to most people, that name is now considerably shorter.

The law firm just unveiled its new, more modern-looking logo – it’s just the name “Nutter,” with a flag hanging over the “N” – and its new slogan, “uncommon law.” They were developed with KHJ, the Boston branding company. Nutter managing partner Deborah Manus says an ad campaign is being planned for the fall, but the firm hasn’t yet picked an outside partner.

Manus says McClennen and Fish were actually dropped in a previous logo change, about 15 years ago. But she says Nutter is going to significantly emphasize the shorter name now, even though the firm will keep the longer name for legal purposes.

Manus confirms her firm did discuss the issue of doing business in the United Kingdom with the Nutter name, which happens to be British slang for a crazy person. In the end, tradition won out.

“It’s something we’ve talked about internally but we don’t have any problem giving away the swag (in the UK),” Manus says of the various and sundry Nutter-branded items the firm hands out. “So I think it’s OK. … There’s such an enormous amount of goodwill built into that name. To change that would really be to give something up.”


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