Sunday, February 14, 1999

TIPSHEET


Miss Chiquita to hit runway in new outfit

        She might not be as sexy as Cindy Crawford, but Miss Chiquita might just steal the show at this week's glamorous 7th on 6th fashion show in New York.

        About 30 designers, including notables Betsey Johnson, Nicole Miller and Pamela Dennis, will present their version of the Miss Chiquita ensemble at a runway show celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Cincinnati-based fruit and produce company.

        Chiquita is using the occasion to unveil an updated version of its official mascot that symbolizes Chiquita's namesake banana brand.

        The banana babe's new blue-and-yellow flamenco-style costume will replace her original red-and-yellow ensemble. Company officials are keeping photos of the new Miss Chiquita under wraps until show time Tuesday.

        Miss Chiquita and her catchy advertising jingle “I'm a Chiquita banana” were created in the mid-1940s to teach consumers how to eat and store the tropical fruit. Chiquita the company traces its roots to 1899, when Boston Fruit merged with three other banana importers and incorporated as United Fruit Co.

        — Ursula Miller

Between rock, hard place
        Cincinnati's Great American Life Insurance Co. is in the middle of a Texas showdown between a group of unpaid building trades firms and the landmark Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin, Texas.

        A unit of Great American, which bought the 112-year-old hotel in 1995, has been renovating the 200-room hotel for a reported $20 million.

        But last month, about half a dozen project subcontractors filed liens against the hotel claiming they hadn't been paid several hundred thousand dollars. Subcontractors picketed the hotel at least twice — once during Gov. George W. Bush's inaugural gala — to call attention to their plight.

        Larry Knippa, a Houston attorney hired by the hotel, said the subcontractors' dispute over payment is with the general contractor, JLR Builders Inc., not the hotel.

        But Jimmie Randall, owner of JLR, the latest in a string of general contractors on the project, said the hotel still owes him about $400,000.

        Mr. Knippa said he's still trying to sort through the various claims. Mr. Randall said the hotel has had documentation on all bills since November.

        In the meantime, another contractor has been retained to complete the renovation.

        — Mike Boyer

End of "bull' predicted
        After several years of crying “bear,” market newsletter writer Dan Seiver proclaims 1999 “IS the year the bull market ends.”

        The Miami University economics prof and avid investor points to the Internet stock craze as a prime example of the market's excessive optimism. It's also true that traditional measures have been flashing warning signs of a market top for at least two years.

        “We came pretty close to a (brief) bear market last year, and almost half of all stocks lost ground in 1998,” Mr. Seiver rightly reminds readers in his February newsletter.

        But Mr. Seiver's miscalculations underscore the elusiveness — and pressure — of stock market forecasting. He includes a disclaimer in the latest newsletter.

        “The success of (my) system does not require highly accurate annual forecasting of the economy, stock market or exchange value of the dollar,” he says. “Nonetheless, a reasonable and consistent annual forecast can improve our stock timing and selection decisions.”

        — Ursula Miller

Money, love connection
        Love might be more important than money this Valentine's Day — but love still isn't cheap.

        Intuit's Quicken.com survey of more than 500 Internet users found that 51 percent of respondents hardly ever argue over money, 17 percent ended a relationship over money, and 12 percent dated someone because they had a lot of money.

        But, apparently, that money could be handy. Edelman Financial Services Inc. estimated the cost of an all-out romantic package at $2,320. That includes a card, chocolates, roses, spa day, lingerie, jewelry, dinner, hotel room and a long weekend escape.

        Ain't love grand?

        — Amy Higgins

        Items for Tipsheet are gathered by Enquirer business reporters and compiled by Lisa Biank Fasig of the business staff.

       



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