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High-end BT eatery is caught in a crisis

Add Restaurant BT to the growing list of dicey shopping center landlord/tenant disputes.

The highly rated French Vietnamese restaurant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to stave off eviction after five years at Old Hyde Park Village in Tampa.

"They gave me no choice," said B.T. Nguyen, who owns the restaurant that earned a spot in the Florida Trend Golden Spoon Hall of Fame and a solid Zagat rating. "The landlord (New York-based Vornado Realty Trust) never even responded to letters asking for rent relief or a smaller store. Then I got the notice Friday to pay in full or be out in three days."

Like many high-end restaurants, her sales collapsed 25 percent in 2009. She made partial payments on her $14,500 a month rent, but fell behind. She cut staff from 50 to 35 and has taken no salary in 18 months.

Executives with Madison Marquette, which recently took over village management for Vornado, declined comment because of litigation.

"But there is another side," said Paul Harnett, senior vice president for the southeast.

• • •

For the first time Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in 2009 generated more business selling groceries than everything else. Wal-Mart sold $258 billion in food in the United States, or 51 percent of the discount giant's revenue.

• • •

As the Tiger Woods Inc. redemption tour tees off this week at the Masters, TNS Media Intelligence tallied just how far the pro golfer's image fell while losing four of his seven top endorsement deals.

Ad spending for all Tiger-related products and endorsements dropped from $131 million in the last full year to a puny $1.4 million in the four months since his domestic troubles hit the headlines Thanksgiving weekend. Woods still has deals with Nike, TAG Heuer watches and Electronic Arts video games.

• • •

Online retailers are making it harder to stop their e-mail pitches. Today 39 percent of online stores require three or more mouse clicks to unsubscribe, up 7 percentage points from 2008, says research firm Responsys. And 30 percent launch one or more e-mails after you opt out, up from 26 percent.

• • •

Now that HSN has its mojo back, the TV shopping pioneer's lit-up stock price may play a role in keeping it independent from QVC owner Liberty Media Corp.

John Malone's Liberty owns 35 percent of HSN and appoints two of its independent directors. But restrictions that kept Liberty from buying more of the St. Petersburg TV shopping network expire in August.

Liberty has said that it is the most logical buyer of HSN, despite executives at both networks doubting there are enough synergies to justify merging the two. Plus Malone is not known to pay top dollar for acquisitions.

HSN shares hit $31 a share, or a pricey 24 times earnings, up 50 percent since Jan. 1. Securities analysts at Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. just bumped their 2011 target price to $39 a share.

"That's based only on the earnings growth potential of HSN, nothing Liberty may or may not do," said analyst Nancy Hull.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

High-end BT eatery is caught in a crisis 04/05/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 5, 2010 9:35pm]
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