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TALKING POINTS

Former CFO of Racepoint Global charged with embezzling $3.6m

Former CFO of Racepoint Global charged with embezzling $3.6m

The former chief financial officer of Boston public relations firm Racepoint Global has been charged with embezzling more than $3.6 million from the company. Edward J. Abell III, 44, of Gloucester, was charged with wire fraud and money laundering, and is scheduled to appear in Boston federal court on Thursday. The federal complaint says that between 2006 and 2016, Abell embezzled from Racepoint, transferring the money to Pinehurst Tax Associates, a company Abell owned. Federal officers have seized several of Abell’s assets, including a 2015 Porsche SUV, a 2015 Ford F-350 Super Duty, and an E*TRADE brokerage account. — HIAWATHA BRAY

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INDUSTRY

GE cuts back on use of its private planes

General Electric Co.’s cost-cutting plan is claiming a high-profile victim: the company’s corporate-jet fleet. Under new chief executive John Flannery (left), the manufacturer is turning the page on an era when it would hand top bosses the keys to its private aircraft. Starting Wednesday, flights will be scaled back and replaced as needed by charter services, the Boston-based company said in an e-mailed statement. GE intends to sell the jets, it said without providing fleet details. The straitened approach to air travel is part of GE’s plan to eliminate $2 billion in expenses by the end of next year, a target the company agreed to in March after talks with activist investor Trian Fund Management. Flannery, who took over for Jeffrey Immelt last month, is considering all options as he seeks to shore up earnings and reverse this year’s biggest stock slide on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. GE, like many other large businesses, requires its CEO to use the company’s aircraft both for business and personal travel for security reasons, according to its proxy statement. Immelt tallied up $257,639 for personal trips in 2016, his last full year on the job. That figure doesn’t include business travel. During the last three calendar years, top managers spent a combined total of $1.4 million on personal trips on company planes, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

TECHNOLOGY

Group led by Bain Capital to buy Toshiba’s flash memory chip unit

Toshiba Corp.’s board agreed to sell its flash memory chip unit to a group led by Bain Capital for 2 trillion yen ($18 billion), taking an important step toward ending a contentious bidding process that has stretched over eight months. The Bain consortium includes backing from Japanese and overseas companies, including Toshiba, which will reinvest 350.5 billion yen, the company said in a statement. Apple Inc., Dell Inc., SK Hynix Inc., and Japan’s Hoya Corp. will provide financial support, according to people familiar with the situation. The iPhone maker played a crucial role in swinging momentum in the tumultuous auction to the Bain offer. Toshiba is selling off its chips business to pay for billions of dollars in losses in its US nuclear business. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

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MEDIA

Murdoch’s Sky bid to get more scrutiny

The British government has referred Twenty-First Century Fox’s bid for satellite broadcaster Sky to competition authorities on public interest grounds, a move that sets up a six-month investigation into Rupert Murdoch’s takeover plans. The move was widely expected after Culture Secretary Karen Bradley told lawmakers last week she planned to refer the deal to regulators. With Murdoch (right) already owning the Sun and The Times newspapers, there are concerns about too much power concentrated in one company. Murdoch’s media group wants to buy the 61 percent of Sky it doesn’t already own. The takeover values Sky, which broadcasts Premier League soccer, at $25 billion. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

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REAL ESTATE

Home sales fell in August

US home sales fell 1.7 percent in August, pulled down by the effects of Hurricane Harvey and a worsening shortage of available properties. The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that sales of existing homes sank last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million. Would-be home buyers are being limited by a decline in the number of sales listings. The shortage has become a drag on sales and has caused prices to surge — factors that limit the strong job market’s benefit to the housing industry.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS

FAST FOOD

Head of Panera takes on McDonald’s

Ron Shaich (left), the outspoken leader of Panera Bread Co., is going after Happy Meals again. The executive is renewing his crusade against kids’ food at the biggest US burger restaurants — McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s — part of an effort to tout his own chain’s efforts to refine its menu. In his latest volley, Shaich called on McDonald’s chief executive Steve Easterbrook to eat Happy Meals for a week. Shaich has been critical of fast-food competitors for including sugary drinks and french fries with kids meals, while also using toys to market the food to children. Last year, in announcing that Panera had removed artificial ingredients from its kids menu, he knocked McDonald’s for touting that it had pulled artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets, a step he argues didn’t go far enough. McDonald’s recently swapped out the apple juice offered with its Happy Meals for an organic version that has less sugar. The company also noted that its popular McNuggets don’t have artificial flavors or colors. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

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EMPLOYMENT

Walmart rejects holiday hiring in favor of giving workers more hours

Walmart won’t be doing large-scale holiday hiring at its stores this year. Instead, like last year, it will offer extra hours to its current workers. The nation’s largest private employer says, however, that it will be taking on more temporary workers at its distribution centers. But it’s not giving a number yet for its planned holiday hires at the centers. So far, retailers have detailed mixed hiring plans for the holidays. Macy’s is increasing the number of temporary workers it’s planning to hire for distribution and warehouses. But overall holiday hiring will fall nearly 4 percent from last year. Target announced an increase of 40 percent in holiday hiring at its stores. The retailer also plans to hire 4,500 workers at its warehouses, down from 7,500 a year ago. FedEx says it plans to hire 50,000 people ahead of the holiday season, the same level as last season and United Parcel Service Inc. expects to hire 95,000 temporary workers this year to help it with the annual holiday surge, when daily shipments rise by more than half. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

E-COMMERCE

Amazon to review algorithms after directing users to bomb-making ingredients

Amazon said on Wednesday that it was reviewing its website after a British television report said the online retail giant’s algorithms were automatically suggesting bomb-making ingredients that were “Frequently bought together.” The news is particularly timely in Britain, where authorities are investigating a terrorist attack last week on London’s Underground subway system. The attack involved a crude explosive in a bucket inside a plastic bag, and detonated on a train during the morning rush. The news report is the latest example of a technology company drawing criticism for an apparently faulty algorithm. Google and Facebook have come under fire for allowing advertisers to direct ads to users who searched for, or expressed interest in, racist sentiments and hate speech. Growing awareness of these automated systems has been accompanied by calls for tech firms to take more responsibility for the contents on their sites. — NEW YORK TIMES

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