-- BUSINESS CALENDAR
Dec. 4: Luxury-home builder Toll Bros., three weeks after disclosing a 41% drop in fourth-quarter revenue, releases full results for the past quarter.
Dec. 5: Bank of America shareholders vote on the company's purchase of Merrill Lynch.
Dec. 15-16: Federal Reserve Board holds its last meeting of the year.
Also, Best Buy reports third-quarter earnings (Dec. 16). The nation's largest electronics-store chain warned of sharply falling sales last month.
Dec. 23:Shareholders of Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank and shareholders of Cleveland-based National City Bank vote on PNC's takeover of National City.
CHECK IT OUT
For Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs gs, the hard part is just beginning. The 139-year-old Wall Street firm countered a threat to its survival in September by changing into a commercial bank. A wrenching transformation may be in the offing, warns Bloomberg Markets in the December edition.
The investment banking model of relying on capital markets is busted, Bloomberg says. Goldman is going to need the stability of a large deposit base to compete with the likes of JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, the magazine says.
What's more, Blankfein must lead at a time when the bank's "fierce partnership culture, high levels of compensation and trading acumen" must adapt in a rapidly changing industry.
Fortune magazine asks the question: Who is heir to the CEO post at Apple aapl? Since Steve Jobs' "frightfully skinny and pale" appearance at a company event in June, writes Adam Lashinsky in the Nov. 24 edition, the blogosphere has spun full tilt wondering about their hero's health.
Jobs is a pancreatic cancer survivor, and the mere hint of another health scare can knock billions of dollars off Apple's market value. It happened in October when a false Web report about a Jobs heart attack lopped $10 billion off the market cap.
Excitable investors should relax, Lashinsky says. There's a capable replacement in the wings.
That would be Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer and its interim CEO for two months in 2004, when Jobs was recovering from cancer surgery.
Cook has essentially been running Apple for years, Lashinsky says.
John Connors, a Seattle venture capitalist, calls Cook the "Gen. Petraeus of the corporate world, the kind of guy who lets his results speak for themselves."
By Gary H. Rawlins, USA TODAY
WATCH, LISTEN & READ
On TV ...
Fox, premieres Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET
We've seen poor people get rich on reality shows. Now, we get to watch rich people pretend to be poor.
On Secret Millionaire, real-life millionaires are disguised as unemployed drifters and embedded among unsuspecting people living in downtrodden areas such as Watts in Los Angeles or a Pennsylvania mining town. The millionaires get minimum-wage jobs and experience "real life" alongside the people who live it every day.
The philanthropic twist is the millionaires will give at least $100,000 of their own money to community members they deem most worthy of their largess.
The concept seems ripe for exploitation, but executive producer Greg Goldman says the show was an incredible, life-changing experience for everyone involved.
"Most of the millionaires went above and beyond (the minimum $100,000 commitment), were incredibly generous, not only financially, but just in terms of spirit and time and services and continuing to return to the communities that they visited," Goldman said.
In one of Wednesday's back-to-back premiere episodes, millionaire Todd Graves, who founded a chicken-finger restaurant chain in Baton Rouge, and his wife go undercover in a Louisiana community still reeling from Hurricane Katrina. After filming, Graves said, "The three people we gifted to lived in FEMA trailers for, like, 2½ years after the storm while they were building things for other people: community centers, volunteer centers, houses," Graves said. "That was such a humbling experience."
The Money Chase
Inside Harvard Business School CNBC, Dec. 17, 10 p.m. ET
What makes Harvard Business School so special? A book out last summer by an alumnus chronicled life as an HBS MBA candidate, and now CNBC's Carl Quintanilla takes a camera crew into the venerable, 100-year-old program. He follows a first-year candidate (one of the fortunate 900 accepted out of 8,600 applicants) on her first day as she expresses concern about finding balance. "They say out of work, sleep and play, you have to pick two," she says with a nervous laugh.
Quintanilla also interviews HBS dean Jay Light and several high-profile alumni, including General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman and Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore, among others.
Life a House Built
The 25th Anniversary of the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project PBS, Dec. 22, 9 p.m. ET; repeats Dec. 25 10 p.m. ET (check local listings or pbs.org)
This documentary about Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's association with Habitat for Humanity puts the holiday season in perspective. Filmed in 2008 — when hundreds of Gulf Coast homes were built or restored — the show also revisits the first Carter Work Project in New York.
Antiques Roadshow: Trash to Treasure
PBS, Dec. 15, 8 p.m. ET (check local listings or pbs.org)
In this, the season of family gatherings, it's always nice to have something on the TV in the background like Antiques Roadshow, where experts assess the value of objects brought in by everyday Americans. The show wraps up its 12th season with a series of specials, including this one featuring items that were almost thrown out.
On DVD ...
A Hole in a Fence
First Run Features, Dec. 9, $19.95
In 2006, director D.W. Young originally set out to make a documentary about an abandoned lot in gritty Red Hook, a Brooklyn "residustrial" neighborhood that juts into New York Harbor. Though rusty metal fencing cloaked the lot from the street, Young could access the lot by the titular hole in the fence, unveiling a vast space that was once a haven for graffiti artists, the homeless, decaying shipping containers and, improbably, a Cornell architecture student.
Thought-provoking interviews with Red Hook residents, artists and preservationists — including those angling to save a doomed dry dock — highlight the price of progress, for better or worse.
By Michelle Archer, Special for USA TODAY
5 QUESTIONS WITH EUGENE LUDWIG
Eugene Ludwig is a former Comptroller of the Currency and former board member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., where he oversaw the Resolution Trust Corp. during the savings and loan crisis two decades ago. He's now CEO of Promontory Financial Group, which offers products and services to banks and other financial firms.
Q: How does the nature and scope of the current crisis compare with the S&L crisis you helped resolve?
A: This problem is much, much larger. It's been allowed to fester for so long that we're dealing with a crisis that makes the S&L crisis look like a peanut. We've already appropriated $700 billion, and it's not going to be enough.
Q: How much do you think the financial system rescue will ultimately cost, and how long do you think it will take to determine whether it works?
A: Trillions of dollars, certainly if you count the (federal economic) stimulus. And it will take one to three years. One year is optimistic. At the end of the day, how long it takes will depend on what the new Obama government does. I feel they will take the right steps.
Q: Do you think Troubled Assets Relief Program funds should be used to help non-financial sector industries such as automakers?
A: That's certainly part of what Congress intended. The key thing here is we have got to show compassion. The people who are building the cars, the people who are losing their homes, the people who are going to be affected — they didn't cause this problem. We owe it to them to show a great deal of compassion. And if we help them out, we're going to help the economy out, and we're going to get the economy started again.
Q: What's the most important lesson financial regulators should draw to avoid future crises like this?
A: They've got to be tougher in good times. In this case, they allowed the party to go on too long. What a regulator's job is, it was once said, is to take the punch bowl away just as the party gets going. And that's what they didn't do.
Q: What do you think of the agreement to shore up Citigroup?
A: The outlines of what they're proposing for one bank is in essence what they ought to be doing for all banks. They're taking on the responsibility of the bad assets while putting in some capital. The only thing I haven't seen yet, but I think it will emerge, is they're going to work hard to keep people in their homes.
By Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY