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Wagner 0518080 max control sprayer:


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  • In this paint sprayer you can get a 20 foot high flex hose which can increase your paint range which will be too much good for you and it will be essential for a good result.
  • In this paint sprayer you can get 3 kinds of paint pattern which will be good for your paint work and you can get a good result.
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  • This paint sprayer price will be too much high for you and if you use this paint sprayer in high pressure then it can cause overspray which will be too much harmful for you.
  • If you use this paint sprayer for a long time then some of the devices and screws can be damaged which will be not good for you and also for your use.

Wagner Flexio 590 paint sprayer:


  • In this paint sprayer you can get too much thickened paint spray feature which will be good in your paint work.
  • If you can use this paint sprayer then you can get an X-boost power dial which increase your control and quality which will be good for you and also for your paint work.
  • Inside of this paint sprayer you can get two well designed nozzles and also can get paint cups which will be a good reason for choosing this paint sprayer.


  • Please do not forget that this paint sprayer can spray up to 8 gallons per hour which will be enough for you and for this reason you can paint too many materials in a short time.
  • In this paint sprayer you can get 3 patterns and easy control system which will be good for you.
  • You can clean this paint sprayer easily.
  • It will give you a great result in your paint work and also can save your money and for this reason you need to pick up this paint sprayer for your use.


  • In this paint sprayer you can get some problems like making lots of mess which will be too much harmful for you and also for your use.
  • Sometimes you can see that in this paint sprayer taping lots of paint which will be not good for you.
  • Sometimes you can see that it will heat the gun.


Favorable economic conditions led to the most rapid inflation-adjusted sales growth in nearly a decade for hardware and home improvement retailers.

In 1993, industry sales rose 9.8% to $113 billion, or 8% after adjusting for inflation.

Lower interest rates spurred new home purchases and mortgage refinancings. New and existing home owners increased their spending on home improvement products.

Home improvement retailers still faced many challenges. As the major warehouse chains continued to expand across the country, competition became more heated between all types of home improvement retailers.

For several players, increasing market saturation in the United States has led to a search for new markets beyond the U.S. border.

Chains Expand Size and Selection

The warehouse-style chains have “upped the ante” in terms of store size and selection.

Industry leader The Home Depot debuted a larger prototype store last year, known internally as Type-V. The 135,000-sq.-ft. store is approximately 6% larger than its predecessor and offers broader assortments in every merchandise category.

Also included are a 28,000-sq.-ft. garden center, greater emphasis on home decor and design-related products and services, and more special order options.

As a means of keeping customers in the store longer, Home Depot also introduced branded fast food to seven of its stores in the form of “Depot Diners.” These 1,200-sq.-ft. areas are run by experienced food service operators, like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Starbucks Coffee, and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs.

Home Depot opened three Type-V stores in strategically important markets during its 1993 fiscal year and plans to open approximately 14 more during the next fiscal year.

Eagle Hardware & Garden, a young company that competes with Home Depot in its home state of Washington, continued to differentiate itself with a “more of everything” merchandising strategy. Its 125,000-sq.-ft. stores offer over 55,000 skus, which is more than twice the average number offered by most home improvement warehouses and 25,000 more than the typical Home Depot store.

Eagle’s average store generated close to $30 million last year, second in the industry only to Home Depot. Richard Takata, Eagle’s president, has pushed the company to increase store productivity and has set a goal to reach $350 in sales per square foot–a big jump from the company’s $274 per square foot sales that it achieved during its 1993 fiscal year.

Wholesale Groups Get Tough

While home improvement warehouses have been fighting among themselves, independent retailers affiliated with wholesaler groups such as Ace Hardware Corp., Hardware Wholesalers Inc. and Cotter & Company (True Value) have been taking action.

These wholesaler groups have developed more aggressive marketing plans and have reduced costs by streamlining operations, consolidating product lines and developing new technology-based partnerships.

They then pass these cost savings on to the independent dealers in order to increase their competitiveness in the market.

Ace Hardware has taken this a step further in an effort to computerize its group of affiliated independent retailers. The company has begun offering a unique financing plan to help retailers purchase a $35,000 point-of-sale (POS) system to improve planning, inventory management and product reordering efficiency.

In addition, the company employs 26 “POS Advisors” throughout the country to assist retailers with system implementation, report development and information analysis.

The company is so committed to this system that it has guaranteed a full refund to any dealer unhappy with his system purchase. Approximately 2,300 retailers have adopted the system, and the company is looking to further increase the installation rate among the 2,000+ of its 4,800 retail affiliates that still do not utilize computer technology.

Leaders Make A Run For The Border

As market saturation in the United States continued and as trade barriers among North American countries were reduced, hardware and home improvement retailers began looking to Canada and Mexico for expansion opportunities.

Payless Cashways, based in Kansas City, Mo., plans to be the first U.S. home improvement warehouse retailer to enter Mexico. The retailer recently announced plans to open 25 Total Store home improvement warehouses later this year in partnership with Grupo Alfa of Mexico.

The Home Depot entered Canada with the strategic acquisition of a 75% stake in Aikenhead’s Home Improvement Warehouse in February 1994. When it was acquired, Aikenhead’s operated seven stores in Ontario and had three additional stores slated to open in other Canadian provinces later in the year. The new company has been named The Home Depot Canada and its stores are all expected to eventually carry the Home Depot banner.

The company also began preparations to enter Mexico by adding a vp and general manager to develop expansion plans. Dates and locations for potential Home Depot stores in Mexico have yet to be announced.

Eagle Hardware & Garden has also included Canada in its expansion plans. The company opened its first Canadian store in Edmonton, Alberta, in November 1993. It plans to open a second store in Edmonton as well as several in Vancouver, British Columbia, during its 1994 fiscal year.

Sears Expands Hardware Chain

Since 1983, Sears, Roebuck and Co. has experimented with freestanding hardware store concepts. Ten years after it began, the company introduced an expanded store format called Sears Hardware in several markets, including Columbus, Ohio, and Berlin, N.J.

The 20,000- to 25,000-sq.-ft. stores are located in neighborhood strip centers and carry hardware, lawn and garden supplies, power tools, and paint. They also offer a very limited number of skus in building supply categories like lumber.

Sears Hardware features Sears’ well-known brands such as Craftsman tools, Weatherbeater and Easy Living paint brands along with national brands such as Skil and Makita power tools, and Dutch Boy and Olympic paint. Major competitors will include neighborhood hardware stores like those operated by the Ace and True Value affiliates.

Major differences between the latest rendition and Sears’ earlier hardware store introductions include the size (the 1983 prototype was only 3,500 sq. ft.), merchandise assortment (the original store carried primarily paint and supplies) and brand selection (the earlier format carried only Sears private labels.) The company plans to open between 20 and 30 Sears Hardware stores across the country this year, which will bring the total number of hardware stores it operates to over 100.

Industry Outlook

The biggest problem for the home improvement industry is that the long-term fundamentals for rapid growth are not there. The recent interest rate hike has already impacted housing market activity, which will also impact near-term sales in the home improvement industry.

Management Horizons projects that sales at hardware and home improvement stores will grow at an annual rate of 4.4% in the next five years, or 2.6% after adjusting for inflation.

This growth rate is dramatically lower than the 7.6% annual growth in inflation-adjusted sales that the industry experienced during the mid-1980s.

Unfortunately, the set of circumstances which led to this rapid growth (especially the large number of baby boomers making first-time home purchases) will not be repeated.

The major players, however, will not let this impact their sales growth. For them, the path of least resistance to achieving growth will be to take market share away from smaller chains and independents.

Several executives in this industry have predicted that by the year 2000, the five largest warehouse-store retailers could control up to 80% of hardware and home improvement product sales. We expect, then, that competition will become much more heated as the major chains strive for market share growth.

Bill Cecil frets that Biltmore Estate’s growth strategy will compound his tax problems. It could end up solving them.

Entrepreneur William Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil looks south over the rooftops of Asheville, toward the outsized estate built by his grandfather 100 years ago. “Biltmore was always about being new,” muses Cecil, the estate’s current owner, explaining the logic behind the thoroughly modern business he has created there.

Biltmore Estate celebrates its centennial this year with special exhibits and its most elaborate Christmas festivities ever. Having turned his family mansion into a major tourist attraction – and a catalyst for regional economic growth to boot – Bill Cecil, 66, has moved into a new market. His strategy is to capitalize on the goodwill and glamour of the Biltmore name by selling everything from wine to furniture. Using catalogs, computer databases and other tools to leverage the power of the Biltmore brand, Cecil predicts the estate’s revenues will jump from $35 million a year to $100 million.

“This is a unique property, something not even Disney could build,” says Hugh Darley, corporate consultant at Viacom’s Paramount Parks in Charlotte. “They are in a league by themselves.” Darley, a Disney veteran himself and a former consultant to Biltmore, sees a lot of potential for Biltmore product lines. “The Vanderbilt name is a true part of Americana, known across all segments of population. It has an air of quality about it, and as long as they maintain it, they should do well.”

A strong brand name gives companies a kind of shortcut to their customers’ wallets. That’s one reason Wall Street loved brand-name products so much in the ’80s, when Forbes magazine put a $10 billion price tag on Philip Morris’ Marlboro brand. Biltmore is not in the league of the Marlboro Man, but Cecil does have a ready audience for his products. Some 750,000 visit his property each year, and most presumably are satisfied by the well-orchestrated experience. With that kind of goodwill built up, marketing costs are sharply limited, allowing the profits on each additional product to flow straight to the bottom line.

Already, Biltmore has pretax margins of about 12%, more than $4 million a year. But Bill Cecil is not motivated by profit alone. He loves Biltmore on a purer level, feeling a sort of, well, noblesse oblige about its continued existence. “We don’t preserve to make money, we make money to preserve,” he says of his efforts to open new sections of the mansion and grounds while maintaining a scrupulous level of quality and historical accuracy. “I’ve been enormously impressed,” says Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington. “There aren’t many places like Biltmore, not that many Bill Cecils. He has done a great job in terms of quality.” That quality, of course, can be viewed as an additional investment in brand building.

Cecil’s success has led to a problem, albeit a problem many companies wouldn’t mind facing. He fears that the tax man will take so much upon his death – inheritance taxes run as high as 55%, and the house has been valued at $30 million – that the Cecil family will no longer be able to operate Biltmore as a private company. That, Cecil believes, would destroy the special spirit that informs the place, wreck the delicate balance of commerce and culture he has created. “The more I do, the more I reinvest,” Cecil says. “And the more I reinvest, the more my problem grows.” Yet even as he lobbies the government for special treatment of historic properties, the increasing cash flow from Biltmore’s brands could solve his tax problem. “We’re land poor,” he says earnestly, but he may not be able to say so for long.

Bill Cecil is a big man, youthful-looking despite his gray hair, slightly owlish in his eyeglasses. He speaks in a plummy English accent, going into great detail on the finer points of wine making, family lore and the politics of historic preservation, lapsing occasionally into such Americanisms as “No way, Jose.” Born in the great house his mother, Cornelia, inherited from her father, George Washington Vanderbilt, Cecil is the product of two storied bloodlines. The Vanderbilts, of course, built one of the great American fortunes; the Cecils, the fanciest of British aristocrats, descended from William Cecil, Lord Burghley, who was lord high treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I.

But the genes that have done Bill Cecil the most good seem to have come straight from his maternal grandfather’s grandfather, “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt. Old Cornelius was no rich kid – he came up the hard way on Staten Island, working ferry boats in New York harbor. The Commodore’s genius was in recognizing and exploiting a new way of making money in the economy of his day: steam-powered transportation. His empire, based on steamships and railroads, became the stuff of legend. Bill Cecil while never poor, insists he had to work for a living. Grandpa George Vanderbilt spent much of his share of the fortune building and furnishing his great estate. Bill’s brilliance has been to capitalize on a lucrative corner of the modern economy: the willingness of people with leisure time and a little extra money to spend them on travel and tourism.

Cecil was educated in Europe and served in the British navy just after World War II. He came back to the United States in 1949 to attend Harvard, then went to work at Chase National Bank, a forerunner of Chase Manhattan. “I worked in New York, then took on more responsibility with a move to Washington,” Cecil says. He is emphatic that his job was not just a way to pass the time. “I needed to work to support myself.” But in time, the lure of Biltmore Estate proved too strong to ignore.

When George Vanderbilt began buying up land near Asheville in the late 1800s, eventually amassing 125,000 acres, he envisioned creating not only a magnificent house in the Blue Ridge Mountains but also a self-supporting estate. Architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the 250-room mansion, and New York’s Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted laid out its gardens. Vanderbilt opened Biltmore House with a gala Christmas celebration in 1895.

With its farm, lumber mill and plant nursery, the estate was productive through the early part of this century. But maintaining it was a massive job. After Vanderbilt’s death in 1914, his wife, Edith, began selling off land and operations. Son-in-law John Cecil, Bill Cecil’s father, opened the house to visitors in the ’30s, but not much came of it. Its most important use was as a storage place for paintings from the National Gallery during World War II. By 1960, around the time Bill Cecil returned to Asheville, the house was losing $250,000 a year. “It was seen as a white elephant,” he says. Though the house was made a national landmark in 1963, most of the revenues came from dairy farming. In 1979, Bill Cecil and his brother, George, split their inheritance, with George taking the farm and some land, and Bill holding onto the house and its grounds.

It was a slow process of renovation and expansion. “We could have gone cheaper on furnishings, but that’s not preservation,” Cecil says. Adds Senior Vice President Stephen Miller, “Each time we opened a new area of the house or estate, we could support a rise in the ticket prices.” Not that Cecil claims some great master plan for the business. “Nothing really prepares you for this,” he says. “It’s quite unlike other ways of making a living.”

Still, his strategy has paid off. By 1976, the great main-floor music room was finished. The downstairs, which holds the servants’ quarters and an indoor swimming pool, opened in 1980, the winery in 1985, the upstairs bedrooms and parlors in 1989. Audiotape tours and behind-the-scenes guides were added, and the price of admission climbed steadily to the current $24.95.

To add some value and keep the customers coming year-round, Cecil has developed special events at Biltmore. The Christmas festival and spring flower extravaganza are the most popular. Overall, gate revenue is about $17 million, compared with total revenues of $3.5 million in 1979. Other sources of income, including the estate’s restaurants, souvenir shops and winery, bring total revenues to almost $35 million, against expenses of some $30 million.

It’s a nice business, but one that’s just started to tap the wealth of the Biltmore name. “Our catalog brought in sales of a little over $1 million in its first year,” Miller says. “$10 million’s a realistic goal for our catalog sales, $15 million a real home run.”

The Biltmore catalog hawks reproduction artwork and bric-a-brac from the mansion. Visitors entranced by George Vanderbilt’s collection can buy a $48 filigree tea-bag caddy, $138 brass picture frames (“the look of a true antique,” the catalog says) or a $95 tobacco jar. A line of reproduction furniture will be available in future editions.

One new venture, which Miller heads, is a management company. “We’ll begin as a consultant this year,” he says. “A lot of historic properties, even museums, are afraid of funding cuts. We are deluged with requests for information on how we do what we do, so we’re going to market it.”

Miller, who grew up in Asheville and worked on the estate during summers, says the company is trying many ways to beef up its numbers. “We’re thinking about opening on summertime evenings, maybe involving one of the restaurants on the estate,” he says. “We’d like to have an attraction based on agriculture, which was such an important part of Mr. Vanderbilt’s original plan.” The estate has already built a herd of 500 cattle, raised as breeding stock. An agricultural exhibit would help lure a market segment underserved by Biltmore – families with children.

“We are trying to expand our appeal to people traveling with kids,” says William Cecil Jr., 36, president of the wine company, which sold 42,000 cases last year. Miller also hopes to increase international interest in the estate. Biltmore marketers are working with other regional attractions, such as Chimney Rock Park, and state government to create a tourism package.

“We don’t expect people to fly in just for us,” Miller says. “But we could be part of a travel plan. It’s not going to happen overnight, but 10 years from now we should be on the map. Even the Olympics in Atlanta could help on that score.”

But as always with the Cecil family, the matter is more complex than numbers alone. Diana “Dini” Pickering, 37, Bill Cecil’s daughter and senior vice president for reproductions and retail, sounds a note of caution when talk turns to numbers like a million visitors a year and $100 million in revenues. “I’m not sure about that $100 million,” she says. “I don’t like the way a lot of big companies operate. They’re too impersonal. I would hate to lose that family spirit we have here.”

Beyond the rewards to its owners, Biltmore Estate has proved a gold mine for Buncombe County and western North Carolina. “There’s no question that it’s an exceptional draw, one of the main attractions of this region,” says James S. France, vice president and general manager of another Asheville landmark, Grove Park Inn. “People used to close up the hotels for January, but there’s enough business now to keep them open year-round. We haven’t closed for several years.”

Biltmore’s $2.5 million advertising budget gives the whole region more visibility. Estate horticulturalists, for example, travel the South and Midwest holding talks and giving interviews. That helps draw in traffic that spills over to surrounding attractions.

Dick Trammell, who ran Asheville’s convention bureau from 1975 to ’83, says that’s part of Biltmore’s strategy. “When we would go after motor-coach tours, we had to give tour operators more options and attractions,” he says. “Biltmore was promoting things like Old Salem and the museums in Raleigh. For a long time, their advertising budget exceeded that of the state travel bureau.”

According to a study commissioned by Biltmore Co. and conducted by Clemson University’s College of Architecture, visitors to Biltmore Estate pumped almost $100 million directly and indirectly into local businesses in 1991. “[Biltmore is] as important as any industrial business in that region,” says Trammell, former director of N.C. Division of Travel and Tourism. “Biltmore draws people from up and down the East Coast, and when they come in on I-95 or I-85, their route across North Carolina on I-40 covers a lot of the state.”

Biltmore paid almost $600,000 in local taxes, licenses and fees last year. With numbers like that, Bill Cecil’s fight to keep Biltmore a going concern takes on more than a passing importance to his neighbors.

How strong is Bill Cecil’s case for putting off the tax man? How much sympathy can be mustered over the difficulties of transferring great wealth from one generation to the next? It’s true that an enormous tax bill, one that forces the Cecils to curtail their business, could be tantamount to the government killing the goose that lays golden eggs. But the same argument could be applied to all family-owned businesses forced to liquidate by inheritance or capital-gains taxes, from mom-and-pop restaurants on up.

Bill Cecil is lobbying for a change in the law concerning the inheritance of historic properties, which would allow heirs to carry on without paying the estate tax, at least until they or their descendants decide to cash out. He has spent time in Washington, arguing his case with politicians and preservationists.

But the Cecils reject the various solutions put forward for saving the estate as impractical or counterproductive. Why not fold all or part of the property into a tax-exempt entity? “That might work for a generation,” Bill Cecil says. “But it would kill the attitude of involvement so necessary to our growth.” Selling Biltmore off to developers or a big entertainment company is similarly unpalatable to the family. Cecil rejects the idea out of hand. “If I wanted to bastardize it, I’d do it myself and make a fortune,” he says. “I could go to Mr. Sotheby or Mr. Christie and say, ‘How much for this chair? I have a dozen of them.’ And we can build as many high-rise apartments on the property as we wanted.”

Cecil’s notion that outsiders might not provide the stewardship the family does carries some weight. “There’s a sensitivity to certain things because the family owns it,” Paramount’s Darley says. “It maintains the authenticity. Big companies don’t have the expertise to run something like this.” Adds Moe of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “There’s a certain culture and discipline that make Biltmore a success.”

What about loans or insurance policies to cover the tax bill? Bill Shobe, an assistant professor of economics at UNC Greensboro, takes the revenue-raising idea even further. “If a property is so valuable to the surrounding economy,” he asks, “why not sell some kind of development bond to keep the place going?” The Cecils pooh-pooh any big borrowing plan. “We don’t have that kind of cash flow,” Dini Pickering says. “We’re land poor,” Bill Cecil repeats. “The tax value of the house and the goodwill associated with the property aren’t income producers at the necessary level.”

Even the goodwill accrued to brand names is valued for taxation by the IRS. The more Biltmore grows its brand name, the more that intangible jewel is worth. “The tax policy is a disincentive to our growth plan,” Bill Cecil Jr. complains.

But they might have to cut out the poor-mouthing if their brand strategy succeeds. Already, the estate would seem to produce enough in profits to support a debt load sufficient to pay a hefty tax bill. A few years of growth from the catalog business would help pay even more.

It’s not like the estate is drowning in debt. “The house is paid for,” Bill Cecil Jr. says. The company has about $10 million in long-term debt, used to finance recent projects such as a visitors’ center, new restaurants and a parking lot. It also has about $3 million in revolving, short-term debt. “I’d think that any loan could be collateralized by the real estate.” That’s the not-so-surprising view of a commercial lender at a big North Carolina bank. “And if they get the cash flow up, they could easily service a $25 million loan.”

Bill Cecil Jr. and Dini Pickering both want to continue their father’s work at the estate their great-grandfather built so improbably in the shadows of the North Carolina mountains. Says Pickering, “We really are committed to this business. I have no intention of taking it in other directions. We hope to keep it in the family.” If the brand strategy pans out as well as looks possible, the Cecils should hold onto their house, with or without a break from Uncle Sam.

D-I-Y Industry Looks for 1997 Rebound Despite Flat Second Quarter

While retailers in other industries rang up a modest sales increase in June, home improvement retailers recorded a third consecutive month of flat or declining sales. Many of the industry’s retailers, including Lowe’s Cos., blamed poor weather for their weak performances.

Some analysts said the second quarter was a payback for the strong first quarter, when the industry recorded increases every month and posted sales that were up to 14 percent ahead of 1996. On a seasonally adjusted basis, June industry sales were $11.9 billion, only 3 percent ahead of 1996.

June sales in other industries suggest a modest revival in consumer demand, and most home improvement retailers predict renewed growth for the last half of the year.

Analysts are optimistic that strong job growth and rising incomes will lead to a recovery in spending. Part of the outcome will be based on moves taken by policy makers. With the continued absence of inflationary pressures, the Federal Reserve may choose not to adjust its interest-rate strategy during its meeting Aug. 19.

As industry sales have slowed, competitive pressures have come to bear on many retailers. Hechinger Co., Largo, Md., announced June sales were off nearly 11 percent and comparable-store sales were down 10 percent.

Even some of the nation’s most powerful retailers were not able to maintain their expected growth. While Lowe’s Cos., North Wilkesboro, N.C., reported a 14 percent June sales increase, comp-store sales were only up 1 percent from 1996.

In recognition of these sales results, Lowe’s management announced that it expected second quarter earnings to be 4 cents to 8 cents lower than analysts had been predicting. On the following day, nearly eight times the normal volume of Lowe’s stock was traded, and it lost nearly 9 percent of its value.

Analysts also noted that the next few months could be hard on Lowe’s, because it posted strong same-store sales increases in the third quarter last year. The company posted double-digit sales increases for these stores last summer.

Lowe’s said most of its recent problems were isolated to the Southeast and mid-Atlantic regions. It also noted that sales to professionals were down in June. Some reports indicate that much of the industry’s sales slowdown has been the result of a stagnating lumber and building materials market.

When HomeBase reported that June sales for comparable stores rose less than 1 percent compared to last year, the company noted that it was coming off a particularly strong 1996 June, when sales in seasonal categories were boosted by very hot weather and promotional offers.

The industry as a whole was growing strongly during the second quarter last year, which has made it difficult to post significant improvements this year. However, industry sales in the last half of 1996 were flat and only modestly above 1995 sales.

BMC West Corp., Boise, Idaho, faces problems similar to Lowe’s. It announced that it was expecting to report lower earnings than expected, even below 1996 earnings. “Sales have been slow, particularly in the state of Texas, due primarily to the effect of unusually harsh weather conditions on construction during the quarter,” said Ellis Goebel, vice president and treasurer. “In addition, overall building permit activity in the 10 Western states in which we have operations has been down, slowing the demand for building materials.”

In the Midwest, Wolohan Lumber reported a 6 percent increase in total and same-store sales, but earnings were down slightly. James Wolohan, president and ceo, said the drop was the result of a decline in gross margin percentage as the company has reacted to competition and continues to focus sales to contractors.

David Heider, president of the Minneapolis-based wholesaler United Hardware Distributing Co., said it is difficult to gauge sales at retail. However, he said sales to his retailers continues to remain strong and were up 8 percent for the year to date. Ace Hardware Corp., Oak Brook, Ill., also reported a 7 percent year-to-date sales increase.


                              12/31/96     7/15/97     % Change

BMC West                       $12 1/4     $12 3/8           1%
DIY Home Warehouse               4 1/4       3 1/2         -18%
Eagle Hardware and Garden       20 3/4      21 3/8           3%
Grossman's                       13/16        7/32         -73%
Hechinger                       2 1/16       2 1/8           3%
Home Depot                          33      46 1/8          40%
Lowe's Cos.                     35 5/8     34 9/16          -3%
National Home Center                 2     1 11/16         -16%
Payless Cashways                     2         5/8         -69%
Waban                               26    33 15/16          31%
Wickes Lumber                    4 1/8       5 5/8          36%
Wolohan Lumber                  12 1/2          13           4%

While final sales were not available from United’s buying market in late June, Heider expects to record a sales increase. He said retailers were clearly not hesitant about buying merchandise for the second half of the year.

Jim Weyrens, president of Our Own Hardware, Burnsville, Minn., echoed these sentiments by noting that June sales for his company were up 9 percent. “Our ad council met in early July, and these retailers are upbeat about the coming months,” he added.

Led by a plunge in food costs, wholesale prices across the nation fell for a record Sixth straight month in June. Hardlines wholesalers’ comments reflect the government reports. They say they have not seen unusual or excessive price increases.

The recent producer price report also showed there was little in the way of inflation in the pipeline. Analysts say the next six to eight months could see some stirring in these prices, but it should be nothing to cause alarm.

Joe Minott says he sometimes feels like a bit player in a remake of the B-movie classic “Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster.” On hot, sunny days, when a blanket of smog–a noxious mix of ground-level ozone and other pollutants–darkens the skyline near his Philadelphia home, Minott is loath to venture out. He suffers from an autoimmune disorder called sarcoidosis that affects his lungs. And when pollution is high, his ability to breathe is laid low. “No one wants to be stuck inside because it hurts to breathe the air outside,” says Minott, 53, executive director of the Clean Air Council, a Philadelphia-based environmental group. “We have to do a better job of cleaning up the air.”

Minott may soon be breathing a little bit easier. In March, the Environmental Protection Agency lowered the limit for the acceptable concentrations of ground-level ozone from 84 to 75 parts per billion. That’s still higher than the level of 60 to 70 parts per billion recommended by the EPA’s independent scientific advisory panel. “Based on the science and how best to protect health, we wanted a lower standard, period,” says Janice E. Nolen, assistant vice president of national policy and advocacy for the American Lung Association. “But this is a small step in the right direction.”

When it comes to health, ground-level ozone is a major threat. “The thing about ozone is that once you breathe it in, you can feel something is wrong almost right away,” says Dr. Herbert Wiedemann, chairman of the Respiratory Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. The gas is formed when sunlight and heat cause a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are emitted as gases from such items as dry-cleaned clothing, paints, aerosols and nitrogen oxide–pollutants that come mostly from coal-powered industrial plants and motor vehicles. Epidemiologic studies show that long-term exposure causes premature aging of the lungs and decreases in lung capacity and function. Though children, the elderly and those with heart disease or respiratory problems like asthma and emphysema are at particular risk, about 20 percent of otherwise healthy adults are unusually sensitive to ozone’s effects, experiencing symptoms like coughing, wheezing and pain when they breathe deeply in highly polluted areas.

Short of fleeing civilization, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and improve air quality, both outdoors and inside your home. The first step: check the Air Quality Index (airnow.gov). The site gives daily readings by state and region for ozone levels and particulate matter (a mix of soot and other pollutants). To see specific pollutants for your state or to drill down to a specific county, go to the interactive map at epa.gov/ air/data/geosel.html. See if your state and county get passing grades for ozone levels and particle pollution at the American Lung Association State of the Air: 2007 report (lungaction.org/reports/stateofthe air2007.html). For more information about outdoor air quality, go to the National Library of Medicine (sis.nlm.nih.gov/enviro/ outdoorairpollution.html). For more tips on how to protect yourself on high-ozone days (and expect more ozone alerts due to the EPA’s new standards) check out lungusa.org, epa.gov and cleanair.org.

When driving, avoid jack-rabbit starts and long idling. Choose air-friendly alternatives for home improvement, such as using a rake instead of a gas-powered leaf blower, trading in your gas-guzzling lawnmower for a manual model or planting shrubs to reduce the size of your yard. For more tips, go to sparetheair.com.

Don’t forget about indoor air quality, since it can be worse than outdoor air. First, don’t allow smoking in your home. VOCs can be a big problem indoors. Cut down on VOCs by cleaning up dust (which is a VOC magnet) and using low-VOC or water-based paints, nonaerosol pumps and sprays, and eco-friendly cleaning products. Simple strategies like keeping air conditioners and furnaces maintained; vacuuming rather than sweeping; running ceiling and attic fans, and opening windows to improve circulation and ventilation can help, too. Keep humidity in check to prevent mold growth. For more ideas, go to airqualitytips.com and healthhouse.org. Make sure you have a working carbon-monoxide detector (see lungdiseases.about.com/od/buyersguides/tp/ top_ codetectors.htm for a buyer’s guide). And consider radon testing (see epa.gov/ radon/pubs/citguide.html for more info).

The best advice: “Get off the couch, get involved and let officials know you want cleaner air,” says Minott. For ideas, check out cleanair-coolplanet.org/action or ww2.earthday.net. That way we can all breathe easier.

If you run a business that’s into renewable power, expect a presidential candidate to stop by. We profile four such companies on the cutting edge.

Presidential candidates used to get away with little more than plugging ethanol in Iowa and the requisite pledge to clean the air and water for the next generation. Not in 2008. With oil prices nearing $100 a barrel and public concern over global warming rising faster than Al Gore’s trophy pile, this year’s campaign cliche is “energy independence.” Along with health-care plans and strategies for Iraq, the candidates are churning out detailed proposals to slow climate change and wean the country from imported oil.

Last week in Iowa, Hillary Clinton announced a plan to increase U.S. biofuel production. Two days later, she popped up in New Hampshire with home-improvement expert Bob Vila to trade tips on energy efficiency. This weekend in Los Angeles, she and John Edwards will attend the first-ever presidential candidates’ debate on climate change. Not to be outgreened, Republican Sen. John McCain is pushing his bill to cap and trade greenhouse-gas emissions. New York City mayor (and potential independent challenger) Michael Bloomberg is calling for a carbon tax. Rudy Giuliani is pushing solar, wind and even nuclear power as “a matter of national security.”

The pols, it seems, have figured out what venture capitalists and entrepreneurs have known for years: green is Topic A. “It’s really smart to pull up renewable energy as a headline issue,” says Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ray Lane, who now invests exclusively in “cleantech” ventures, even though, he cautions, “I have not become a tree-hugger — or a Democrat.” Rather, it’s because the $6 trillion world-energy market, dominated for the past century by fossil-fuel interests, is being swarmed by thousands of entrepreneurs peddling game-changing technologies in solar, wind, geothermal and bio-energy, batteries, electric “smart grids” and plain-old efficiency. The technologies are moving from the lab to the marketplace just as political pressure mounts to force companies to curb their greenhouse-gas emissions. “It’s a perfect storm,” says Lane.

Lane’s firm, Kleiner-Perkins, now devotes one third of each new investment fund — about $200 million to $300 million every few years — to cleantech start-ups. Stars of the early computing era, including Sun Microsystems founder Vinod Khosla and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, have reinvented themselves as clean-energy investors. Nationwide, according to the Venture Capital Association, investments in cleantech nearly tripled from $497 million in 2005 to $1.45 billion in 2006.

Profit is not the only motive. For many renewable energy entrepreneurs, finding alternatives to oil, gas and coal is the biggest technological opportunity the world has seen since the birth of personal computing. “We are now where Bill Gates was before he left Harvard” in the 1970s, says Martin Tobias, a former Microsoft executive and digital-media pioneer, who launched Seattle-based Imperium Renewables, a biodiesel manufacturer in 2005. Imperium, which has filed papers to go public, last summer opened the country’s largest biodiesel refinery, on the Puget Sound. (The fact that Tobias is a Republican didn’t stop the state’s Democratic pols from showing up for the ribbon-cutting.)

Like the dotcom era, the cleantech boom is sure to produce its share of flops — and an investment bubble or two. The science is tough, and oil isn’t going away any time soon. None of that scares the entrepreneurs profiled below. NEWSWEEK has selected four privately held companies whose breakthroughs to replace fossil fuels seem especially promising.

Ausra; solar-thermal power

Say “Solar,” and most people think of the trendy photovoltaic panels popping up on the roofs of houses and office buildings around the country. But physicist David Mills knows that the power of the sun is best captured by gigantic fields of mirrors arrayed on the ground, which can generate enough electricity to run an entire power plant. Mills, a physicist, spent decades developing his technology — called a Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector — at the University of New South Wales in Australia. After his attempts to commercialize the process stalled, Mills, 61, thought about retiring. But two well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalists got to him first. Lane of Kleiner-Perkins and Vinod Khosla, the valley’s leading renewable energy evangelist, offered Mills a $40 million investment and a top management team to get him to come to California and start over.

Last week, Ausra signed a 20-year contract with Pacific Gas and Electric to provide electricity from a $500 million, 177-megawatt solar-thermal plant under construction in California’s Central Valley. The plant, which is set to go online in 2010, will be the world’s largest solar installation. The blueprint is disarmingly simple. Rows of flat mirrors that follow the path of the sun are arranged in a one-square-mile grid. The mirrors reflect the sun’s heat onto water-filled pipes above, creating steam that cranks a turbine in a nearby power plant. The electricity produced doesn’t emit a molecule of greenhouse gas. “Big solar,” as Ausra’s concept is known, is especially attractive in California, where public utilities are required to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2015.

The bigger the plant, the cheaper each kilowatt-hour produced. “A field of mirrors 91 miles square could power the entire United States,” Mills says. Though that field is unlikely to ever be built — strong-enough transmission lines don’t exist — the emerging solar-thermal industry has sparked a land rush in the American desert. The conference table at Ausra’s new offices in Palo Alto is littered with the maps of remote southwestern tracts and marginal farmland, bearing little flags where the company or its competitors have snapped up land to develop solar fields. “The hotter and nastier, the better,” says Mills of Ausra’s most desirable real estate.

Last year, solar-thermal sales tripled in the United States to $121 million, and demand is expected to soar as other states develop renewable power standards. With help from their venture-capital mentors, Ausra has a management team drawn from the normally change-resistant utility industry. “I don’t own a pair of Birkenstocks,” says CEO Bob Fishman, a former Navy engineer who spent decades in the natural-gas business before joining Ausra. “We are serious guys. And we are doing this because it’s a viable business, not because it’s a crusade.” In other words, lots of mirrors, no smoke.

Amyris; synthetic biofuels

The choice for microbiologist Jack Newman came down to making strawberry fragrance or changing the world. Sitting around a conference table last year at Amyris Biotechnologies in Emeryville, Calif., Newman and his colleagues were trying to figure out what to do following the success of their project (with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) to produce inexpensive anti-malarial drugs. The genetically engineered microbes responsible for their breakthrough showed tremendous promise in other areas. “We talked about flavors or fragrances or vitamins that would make a couple of million bucks,” says Newman. “Then we said, ‘Wait a second. A lot of people came [to the company] to change the world, so why not tackle a really big problem?”

The scientists, who met as postdoctoral fellows at U.C. Berkeley, decided to apply the knowledge they used to create their low-cost drug to develop a line of “no-compromise” biofuels. Competitive in price and performance with conventional fossil fuels, Newman says the Amyris products will cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 85 to 95 percent, making them far cleaner than ethanol. And unlike ethanol, the biofuels can be transported in existing pipelines, and can be engineered to work in gasoline, diesel or jet engines.

Amyris recently hired former BP executive John Melo, a native of Brazil, the world’s largest sugar-cane producer, as CEO, and the company is reportedly talking with Virgin’s Richard Branson about a future distribution network. Amyris will start test production next year and plans to mass-produce its first biodiesel by 2011. They got their start by doing good, but don’t be surprised if the scientists from Amyris end up doing extremely well in the energy market of the future.

A123 Systems; energy storage

Impressed by the 50 or so miles per gallon of the average Toyota Prius? Pop a suitcase-size battery pack from A123 Systems into the trunk and watch your newly converted plug-in hybrid shoot to 174mpg. “You fill your tank three times a year,” says CEO David Vieau. The Watertown, Mass., Company has won raves in technology and investment circles by figuring out how to overcome one of the biggest hurdles in the development of the electric car: huge, unreliable, expensive — and flammable — batteries. While current lithium-ion batteries work well enough for laptops and cell phones, scientists at A123 have replaced chemical components with extremely thin layers of nanophosphate, a conductive material that makes the new batteries smaller and quicker to charge than their predecessors.

Starting next year, A123 will sell its battery to hybrid owners who want to convert their cars to plug-ins — models that you recharge in the garage overnight. The estimated price tag of $10,000 for the conversion will be too steep for most individuals, so company executives expect their main customers will be government or corporate hybrid fleets. The next step will be factory-installed battery packs in a new generation of hybrid and electric vehicles, like the Saturn Vue and the Chevy Volt, scheduled to hit the U.S. market in 2009. The company has raised $132 million in capital from leading venture firms such as Sequoia Capital, as well as from GE, Proctor and Gamble, and Qualcomm, companies eager to apply the new batteries in their products.

A123 has drawn attention from politicians as well. Last week, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman dropped by. Earlier this year, Vieau was invited to the White House, where an admiring George W. Bush took a peek at one of the company’s plug-in hybrids. “He said he had been waiting for the day that a car could go 40 miles on electricity and not be a golf cart,” says Vieau.

Better PLC; vehicle power grid

Shai Agassi was cruising along in his software career, until, he says, he was asked an “annoying” question at last year’s World Economic Forum, the annual meeting of global elites: “What would you do to make the world a better place?”

What came pouring out was a 21-page manifesto on the end of oil — and a business plan to remake the world’s transportation infrastructure. Earlier this year, Agassi left his position as a top executive at the software giant SAP and launched “Project Better PLC” (Better Place), his company to build a network of battery-charging stations for electric vehicles. Owners of battery-operated cars will pull into a Better Place station and switch an empty battery for a charged one, eliminating one of the chief obstacles to electric-vehicle transportation: the limited travel range.

The “smart grid” Agassi envisions will also allow plug-in hybrid owners to sell their car’s energy back to the grid at peak hours. This “vehicle to grid” (V2G) concept is also being studied by utility companies, including Pacific Gas & Electric and Tesla, the electric-car manufacturer. PG&E chairman Peter Darbee envisions a day when customers will become suppliers. “After you drove to your office and parked at the appropriate receptacle, you could put in a sell order like you do today with stocks, so that if the price gets to say, 14 cents per kilowatt hour, your sell order goes through and we draw power on your car.”

While the development of a mass-market electric car has been slowed by battery problems, Agassi says it makes sense to start building the grid now, just as cell-phone carriers built transmission towers before everyone owned a cell phone. He plans to start testing cars next year. “If you build the network, they will come,” he says. Agassi has raised $200 million in venture capital so far, and while he is so far coy about where “Better” will build its first recharging stations, he has hinted that his native Israel, where gas costs around $6.50 a gallon and government policy promotes electric-vehicle transportation, would make a logical test market. Other “transportation islands” where exorbitant gas prices and favorable government policies make the cost of battery-operated cars more competitive include Singapore, Iceland, Denmark and Japan. No matter the language, Agassi is betting on a new way to say “fill ‘er up.”

Television is now dominated by a handful of giants that can do almost everything all by themselves. It’s called vertical integration, and it’s boffo for the companies. But is it bad for viewers?

Corporate-merger mavens love to talk about synergy, the mysterious way in which the whole can be more than the sum of its parts. And synergy certainly was what the Walt Disney Co.’s $19 billion purchase of ABC was all about–especially if you consider two interesting transactions that took place soon after the 1996 merger. In one, Disney’s movie studio sold its new ABC sibling the right to air “The Lion King,” the animated-movie megahit. It was a ratings success for the TV network. And it was all the sweeter since ABC didn’t have to pay some unrelated outside studio for the privilege of broadcasting the movie. In the second deal, Disney’s television studio, which owns the series “Home Improvement,” extended ABC’s license to carry the show for a sixth and seventh season. ABC had been home to the sitcom, one of TV’s most popular shows, before Disney bought the network. This time around, though, both the making of the series and its televising were entirely a Disney family affair. That, folks, is synergy, and it’s what being one of today’s handful of vertically integrated entertainment giants is all about.

But Jeffrey Katzenberg looked at Disney’s better mousetrap and smelled a rat. Katzenberg, Disney’s former studio boss, quit after a falling-out with Disney CEO Michael Eisner. After some litigation, he ended up with 2 percent of past and future profits on Disney movies and TV shows produced during his tenure. Now Katzenberg is trying to total up the millions he figures he’s due, and he’s particularly scrutinizing cases where Disney’s left hand sold something to its right hand. Newsweek has learned that he will claim Disney licensed films and TV shows to ABC on the cheap–for less than they would have fetched on the open market–thus depriving him of his maximum cut of profits. “We definitely contend there have been below-market sales,” says Katzenberg’s lawyer, Bert Fields. A Disney spokesman replies: “That sounds like wishful thinking on Bert’s part, with no basis.” Hollywood has long been notorious for the kind of magical accounting that could leave a writer or director with 3 percent of the net of nothing. But what Katzenberg has collided with is something altogether different–the new world order of the entertainment business. During the 1990s, the industry has come to be dominated by a clutch of vertically integrated behemoths –Disney, Time Warner, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and Sumner Redstone’s Viacom. Each is a vast, self-sufficient empire encompassing–to varying degrees–studios, TV and cable networks, syndicators, TV-station groups, Broadway theaters and retail chains. So they’re able to make and distribute their showbiz offerings while keeping the proceeds all to themselves. “I walk in the door each morning as a fully vertically integrated executive,” jokes Robert Iger, ABC’s president.

Increasingly, the rise of vertical integration is transforming the television business, influencing what shows get on the air and forcing the remaining stand-alone networks, NBC and CBS, into increasingly defensive postures. It’s also heightening turmoil in Hollywood, where independent producers contend that, as they’d predicted, the tightening stranglehold on distribution has all but driven them to extinction. Many Hollywood creative types decry vertical integration, seeing it also as a major reason for the decline in the quality of TV shows. “The more interesting, innovative shows aren’t coming from these big groups with so much already to protect,” says Gary Goldberg, a creator of the ABC hit “Spin City,” which the network partly owns. “You see this blandness and similarity to the shows. Consumers are the ones who get hurt.”

For the entertainment giants themselves, the benefit of vertical integration is clear: it keeps more of the money in the family. As “X-Files” winds through Murdoch’s News Corp. empire, for example, just that one hit will generate an estimated profit of $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion over the expected eight-season life of the show, figures Merrill Lynch’s Jessica Reif-Cohen (chart). That’s because the Fox-produced show runs first on the Fox network, reruns are syndicated by Fox and cable rights go to a Fox cable network. The domestic and foreign ad revenues, licensing and syndication fees and video and merchandise sales all go to Fox. And a feature film based on the series produced an additional $72 million or so. “Had the Fox network simply aired the show, without any ownership, its profits would have been a fraction” of what they’ll be this way, Reif-Cohen says.

If such are the rewards of verticality, NBC learned the price of independence in its fight to retain its biggest hit, “ER.” It ended up having to fork over a record $13 million an episode to Warner Bros., which owns the series. Although NBC is owned by General Electric, the world’s largest corporation, it isn’t part of a vertically integrated entertainment giant, as is Time Warner’s Warner Bros. Warner and NBC used to have a nice, uncomplicated supplier-customer relationship. Warner Bros. supplied the TV series. NBC licensed it. If it was a hit, NBC would continue the license for several seasons, all along collecting vast ad revenues all for itself. Warner Bros. would collect a licensing fee, but its real payoff would come from selling the reruns.

And that’s how the business generally worked. But in 1995, after years of stiff opposition from major studios, networks were relieved of regulation that effectively separated TV production from distribution. Worried that the networks would begin to supply themselves with shows, the studios felt they needed their own outlets. Warner Bros. launched a network, WB; Viacom’s Paramount studio started UPN; Disney bought ABC. In turn, the networks felt their sup-pliers–the studios–were now also their competitors, given their upstart broadcast networks. The newly complicat-ed relationship between Warner and NBC played itself out in the bidding for “ER.” NBC, facing a changed landscape with many new rivals, was desperate to hang on to its hottest show. For its part, War-ner was bargaining from strength because it had many other well-heeled potential buyers.

“ER” was a harsh lesson in the new realities of the television business, and it’s one that the traditional networks have taken to heart. In particular, the two vertically challenged networks, NBC and CBS, are racing to own the shows they air. Don Ohlmeyer, NBC’s West Coast president, says the “ER” episode “solidified” NBC’s program-ownership aims. “I think everyone took a step back and said, this is what we have to do. We aren’t going forward with programming unless we have some protections in terms of either a formula for license fees or an ownership participation. We’ve been very open and upfront about this.” NBC now owns all or part of shows filling 11.5 of its 22 hours of weekly prime-time telecasts.

CBS is also circling the wagons. “When four studios are partly in business to service their networks, it becomes a dangerous landscape for CBS,” says Leslie Moonves, chairman of CBS Entertainment. “There is no question that there are mandates at certain studios that one of their main jobs is to feed their own network.” So CBS, too, is becoming more self-reliant. Of its seven new prime-time shows, CBS owns all or part of six. In all, it has a stake in half of its weekly prime-time hours.

The networks unanimously insist their top priority is to put on the best shows no matter who the supplier. And studios and networks still do plenty of open-market trading. For example, “Felicity,” a new show generating major buzz, was licensed by Disney not to ABC but to the WB network. For a network to air a show solely because it has an ownership stake would be “stupid,” says Moonves. “The big upside is to have a hit show on the network side [that] can bring in a lot of money. It is more important than the ownership. But the combination of the two is the ultimate home run.”

For many in Hollywood, though, these new giants are producing strikeouts. One frequent crit-ic, producer Leonard Hill, complains about what he sees as cozy self-dealings among the production and distribution arms of the vertical-ly integrated giants, and describes the companies as “cancerous concentrations of power.” Few of the networks have any “interest in even considering projects in which they don’t own a financial interest,” he says. NBC’s Ohlmeyer, for one, dismisses such views as “complaints from people who aren’t selling projects” or who believe the industry is conspiring against them.

The industry changes are also sparking some high-profile lawsuits. In a case filed last February, actor Alan Alda and others associated with the 1970s hit “M*A*S*H” accused Twentieth-Century Film Corp. of “sacrificing ‘M*A*S*H’s’ continued financial success to benefit Fox’s own corporate interest” while harming Alda’s. Alda is entitled to residuals from reruns. Accusing Fox of “self-dealing” and “cynical manipulation,” the actor charged in the suit that Fox licensed the series to its sibling cable network, FX, at “below-market terms.” In so doing, the Fox empire retained in the form of cost savings and increased profits money that would have flowed to him, Alda charged. Fox won’t comment on pending litigation. Similarly, the producers of “Home Improvement” filed suit last year charging that Disney, which owns the series, licensed it to ABC at a discount. ABC also doesn’t comment on ongoing cases.

Whatever the outcome of the lawsuits, they’re a symbol of what life is like as today’s television business evolves into a few powerful, walled-off fiefdoms. How you view that trend depends largely on whether you’re inside the gates–or out.

RELATED ARTICLE: You’re a Top-to-Bottom Giant …

Since the 1980s, the television industry has evolved into a small club of titans. They dominate broadcasting, controlling the flow of shows from the studios to networks to cable TV

Chairman and CEO

* Michael Eisner


* Walt Disney Television (“Wonderful World of Disney”)

* Touchstone Television (“Home Improvement,” “Ellen”)


* ABC Network

* Buena Vista Television (makes shows like “Siskel & Ebert” and syndicates “Ellen” and other reruns)

* ABC-owned television stations

* Cable stations (Disney Channel, A&E)

Chairman and CEO

* Gerald Levin


* Warner Bros. TV (“Friends,” “ER”)

* Castle Rock (“Seinfeld”)

* Warner Bros. Animation


* WB Network

* Warner Bros.

Television Distribution (makes shows, including “Rosie O’Donnell Show” and “Jenny Jones,” and syndicates reruns of “Friends,” “ER”).

* Cable (TNT, TBS, HBO/Cinemax)

Chairman and CEO

* Sumner Redstone


* Paramount Network Televison (“Frasier”)

* Viacom Productions (“Sabrina”)

* Wilshire Court Productions (TV movies)


* UPN Network

* Paramount Domestic Television (makes shows like “ET,” and syndicates)

* Viacom Stations Group

* Cable stations (Nickelodeon, MTV)

… Or Not

To catch up, the networks are also creating shows.

Chairman and CEO

* Bob Wright

* Production

* NBC Studios (“Conrad Bloom”)


* NBC Network

* Cable (MSNBC)

* Chairman and CEO

* Michael Jordan


* CBS Productions (“L.A. Doctors”)

* Distribution

* CBS Network

* Cable (TNN, CMT)

TONIGHT SHOW WRITER DAVE RYGALSKI HAD A BRAINSTORM: LET’S ask the audience to email pick-up lines to next-day guest Sandra Bullock, who was shilling for The Net. Jay wasn’t sure about the bit at first. (“He doesn’t own a computer,” a spokeswoman said.) Then the responses poured in. Staff members sifted through 2,000 for the most smarmy. The best–“Do you prefer men with more money, more speed or more hard drive?” from Jim in Lexington, Mich.–never aired because Leno ran late. What questions did Jay broadcast? “How the hell did you look so ugly in Love Potion No. 9?” Luckily, Sandra giggled. Now more online tie-ins are planned.

Leno is learning what web crawlers have known for the past year–the most trenchant stuff is coming across your Sony monitor, not your Sony television. For example, Late Night with Conan O’Brien is lame. But Conan’s cybergroupies have created wacky home pages. Take the Conan O’Brien Fan Purity Test and answer the question: Which sketch sent Conan and Andy into the meat locker? Regarding Andy, the silent majority may not know him from Adam, yet he’s celebrated at Andy Freak Central. A photo shows Andy as the newest KISS member, and a bio states that his TV career began as a victim of John Wayne Gacy in a Hard Copy re-enactment.

Even popular shows are enhanced by net friends. A Friends fan asks that quintessential ’90s question, “What if Quentin Tarantino Wrote a Friends Episode?” and answers it online. On an unofficial Letterman home page, you can read the unbleeped transcript of Madonna’s most infamous guest turn. Even CBS’s official web site offers insight into the new series Central Park West. “The show is full of really good-looking characters, power, scandal, corruption, backstabbing and sex,” says creator Darren Star of 90210 and Melrose Place infamy. “It has all the stuff that makes TV worth watching.” Not unlike a typical Ricki Lake broadcast.

In fact, Lake’s show uses its web site to solicit panelists with such traumas as “We may be identical twins…but I hate your guts” and “Are you a gay male or lesbian gold digger?” At the other end of the daytime spectrum, Prodigy’s TV board produces the Genoa City News–a tongue-in-cheek, foot-in-mouth newsletter that makes a delicious satire out of The Young and the Restless soap opera. (“She dies–again!”) And curmudgeons for whom the sound of an “I love you, you love me” strain sets off a gagging reflex can seek solace at The Jihad to Destroy Barney on the Worldwide Web site.

Sure there’s a surfeit of seriousness at Vanderbilt University’s Television News archive online. Or the web site where that university philosopher claims that X-Files is “the most subvesive show to hit American television.” But wouldn’t you really rather be among the 31,000 visitors to 90210 star Tiffani-Amber Thiessen’s unofficial home page? “Why would someone go to the trouble of creating a virtual shrine to this person?” notes the fan who made it. “Your guess is as good as mine. She sure is cute though, isn’t she???”

Overnight, the home page has replaced the fan club. “We’re CyberFans and we’ve got more power,” declared an authorized site for Home Improvement. In the not too distant future, perhaps, the Nielsens may go the way of Atari. “Soon you’ll be able to see things online that you won’t see on television,” says NBC online honcho Josh Grotstein. Pssst, Mr. G., that time is now.


Frasier Arf to those video bloopers by that keen canine Eddie. The people aren’t bad, either. Have Dr. Crane say, “I’m listening,” or hear a putdown from Roz every time you boot up. And Niles will help plan your day to the millisecond on the electronic calendar.

Melrose Place So cool–the music, the mayhem, the video of crazy Kimberly, too. Let the day planner do lunch with Amanda. And count the number of affairs Michael has on file in the trivia bank. Yikes!

Baywatch Spend the winter with a tanned lovely as your companion. These California lifeguards don’t just save your screen; they save your sanity! Ask him nicely, and maybe David H. will make sure no one kicks sand in your face.

RELATED ARTICLE: Drama Engrossing drama may be a dying art on TV, but it’s alive and well online. ABC’s in-the-works web site (for now, ABC is only on AOL) {Keyword: Television} will highlight Steven Bochco’s newest series, Murder One, which traces a single murder case from soup to nuts. Look for heavy board action arguing the merits of this innovative but controversial format. You can revisit NBC’s E.R. {http://www.nbc.com} but CBS will heavily promote two new offerings — sexy Central Park West and sinister American Gothic on Prodigy {Jump television} or go to {http://www.cbs.com}.

RELATED ARTICLE: Sitcoms TV sitcoms are supposed to be funny, right? Well, not at the networks’ official web sites. What a snore. Mercifully, fans have come to the rescue. For genuine belly laughs, jump to a Friends home page {http://www.cen.uiuc.edu/”jr11296/friends.html}, where a guy with way too much time on his hands poses a hypothetical “What if Quentin Tarantino wrote a Friends episode?” He did–sort of. Actually, you can read a miniteleplay written by a Quentin wannabe. It’s called “The One Where They Get Medieval,” set on Thanksgiving. It has Chandler tossing off Travolta-ish lines like, “I don’t ever eat turkey ’cause it’s an unclean, filthy animal.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Cable Here’s a tip: First check the daily schedule on C-Span {http://www.c-span.org} so you can claim you were watching that riveting debate on Medicare. Then to to Comedy Central’s web site {http://www.comcentral.com/abfab/abfab.htm}, where Patsy and Eddie are featured in all their decadent splendor on Absolutely Fabulous. Besides annotated episodes, GIF pictures and sound clips (like the Pet Shop Boys singing the theme song), the web site has cool hot links to various London attractions, including an interactive map of the city and its subway system. (Hmmm, the girls must be low on farthings.) Need more quality time with Ab-Fab? Check out the 13 different home pages designed by the show’s fans {http://www.yahoo.com}.

THE OLD TV GRIPE WAS, THERE’S NOTHING ON. OF COURSE, MOST of the people who said that were logging 187 hours of TV time a week: they just wouldn’t admit it. Now we have a new problem: there’s too much on. Six networks. Those DirecTV dishes. How long before there’s a Hair Club for Men Channel? Twenty-eight new comedies are glutting prime time this fall–twice as many as last year. The confusing thing is, all of them are called “Friends.” The best of the 14 new dramas, ABC’s arresting courtroom serial “Murder One,” is going up against NBC’s “ER.” So much TV. So little time. We’re here to help.

What TV season would be complete without shameless ripoffs of last year’s breakout hit? “Friends” clones abound. But don’t forget that “Friends” was once accused of cloning “Seinfeld.” What this numbingly familiar fall slate really means is that all sitcoms are now basically clones of “Seinfeld” or “Roseanne.” They’re either about neurotic New York sophisticates with humorous obsessive-compulsive disorders–or blue-collar Middle Americans who actually work for a living.

NBC keeps pumping out more of what network entertainment president Warren Littlefield calls his “franchise.” He’s launching two Seinfeldian shows on Thursday night: “Caroline in the City” and “The Single Guy.” The word “city” in the title of the “Caroline” show is presumably code for hip repartee between wacky Manhattanites who drink too much cappuccino. But that post-“Seinfeld” slot sets high standards, and Lea Thompson’s Caroline is no Elaine. The erstwhile “Back to the Future” star is playing a “Cathy”-like cartoonist, which is a problem right there. If your heroine’s going to be a cartoonist, you want her drawing something cooler than a saccharine squiggle. Thompson is pleasant enough. Funny, she’s not. Neither is Jonathan Silverman, a.k.a. “The Single Guy.” How does a minimally talented actor go from a couple of “Weekend at Bernie’s” movies to his own network series? Turns out he plays on a celebrity baseball team with Billy Crystal! Crystal makes movies for Castle Rock. Castle Rock is producing “The Single Guy” for NBC. In Hollywood, it’s not what you know, it’s who you suck up to at a sporting event. The concept of the show is “Seinfeld” meets “Mad About You,” with a side order of “Friends.” Silverman’s character is, yes, single. His friends are married. Strangely, his doorman is Ernest Borgnine. Maybe the old guy plays a mean center field.

Even shows that get the “Friends” formula down don’t have the flavor. Fox’s perfectly competent “Partners”–created by a couple of ex-“Friends” writers–asks what happens between two single-guy friends when one of them decides to get married. Answer: the one played by Jon Cryer becomes a whiny third wheel. “Do you realize how huge this is for me?” he moans. CBS’s amiable “Almost Perfect” and “Can’t Hurry Love” feature single women (Nancy Travis and Nancy McKeon) who’d like to get married but can’t buy a date. It’s like prime time has become a giant personal ad. Wanted: single white female/male to pander to viewers in upscale 18-49 demographic. (Children, in case you’re wondering, have been banished to WB network dreck like “Kirk.”) Enough already with the “New York coffee crowd,” says ABC Entertainment president Ted Harbert. “I find myself wanting to slap some of those people.”

He would. ABC prefers the down-home folks Harbert dubs “real Americans,” like in “Roseanne,” “Home Improvement,” “Grace Under Fire.” Hence “The Drew Carey Show,” starring the self-consciously “real” stand-up comic Drew Carey. “The Jeff Foxworthy Show” is another ABC sitcom so darn real that its stand-up star has a Southern accent and calls himself a redneck. But the most frighteningly real of all is “Maybe This Time.” It stars Marie Osmond.

CBS has gone the most daringly downscale. With nothing to lose, the third-place network has cast Andrew Clay–the artist formerly known as Dice–in a “Honeymooners” update called “Bless This House.” Clay has dialed down the “Diceman” raunch that made him a pariah a few years back. He’s Fuzzy Dice now, but still packs enough charisma to liven up a so-so sitcom about a postal worker in Queens and his working-class family.

Only two new comedies refuse to be categorized as derivatively white trash or white collar. Fox’s “Too Something” has a too cute title but a refreshingly original voice. Created by Eric Schaeffer and Donal Lardner Ward (makers of a funny little indie movie called “My Life’s in Turnaround”), it’s the first true slacker sitcom. Two likable losers (Schaeffer and Ward) toil at mailroom McJobs. One wants to be a writer, the other a photographer. Both dream of one day being cool enough to have girlfriends. Tea Leoni could be that dream girl, except she’s on another network. The star of ABC’s “The Naked Truth” is everything you want in a sit-comedienne: bright-eyed, beautiful, happy to do anything for a laugh. “Lucille Ball meets Sharon Stone,” is how ABC’s Harbert describes her. Leoni held her own against Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in “Bad Boys” this summer: she was the movie’s leggy lust interest. In “Naked” she’s just divorced a rich husband but been refused alimony, forcing her to apply for work at a sleazy tabloid. Her first assignment: find out if busty tab queen Anna Nicole Smith is pregnant, even if it means putting on a hospital gown and stealing Anna Nicole’s urine sample. She gets the job. Let’s hope she keeps it.

Maybe because the safe money is in sitcoms–they’re easier to sell into syndication–dramas are where the biggest chances are being taken. Fox’s “Strange Luck” and “Nowhere Man” on UPN are “X-Files”-ish, but unexpectedly thoughtful and well rendered. The most bizarre departure is CBS’s “American Gothic,” a nightmarish melodrama set in a small Southern town run by a sheriff (Gary Cole) who may or may not be the Devil. (Shades of “Twin Peaks” and Stephen King.) A few frames from the pilot episode have already been cut because of complaints about their abject brutality. “Something I’ve always wanted to do is create characters that the audience really cares about–and then punish them,” says executive producer Sam Raimi. He does both. Raimi’s partner is former teen idol Shaun Cassidy, who delivered this idea from some dark place in his psyche when CBS asked him to write a supernatural/horror show that could lure “X-Files” fans on Friday nights. “It’s an adult fairy tale,” Cassidy says–one that may prove too Grimm for prime time.

The fascinating “Murder One” has a different set of problems. Following a single case for an entire season–a billionaire accused of raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl–could tax viewers’ dwindling attention spans. Creator/exec producer Steven Bochco says he got the idea back when he was doing “L.A. Law.” But the O.J. trial is clearly the news peg for this kind of serialized court TV. Former O.J. defense attorney Howard Weitzman is the legal consultant and will be making regular cameos. Star Daniel Benzali (a Kojak for the ’90s) played a mob lawyer on Bochco’s “N.Y.P.D. Blue” and he’s just as much of a pit bull here. His client (Stanley Tucci, superbly hateful) comes off as total scum. This is not feel-good television. Which is why it’ll have a tough time when it moves from Tuesday to Thursday against invincible and totally feel-good “ER.” “There’s an immediacy to this show that I don’t think ‘ER’ has,” says Bochco. “There are real elements of surprise to ‘Murder One’ week to week.” You don’t like these guys, but you can’t take your eyes off them. And you definitely can’t say there’s nothing on.

Here’s what you need to know before you pick up a brush

In many parts of the country, crisp autumn days offer perfect conditions for painting houses. You may be tempted to take on the task yourself, but is it worth the considerable effort? Here are five important questions to answer before you decide.

How long will it take? Veteran paint contractor Dana Childress, vice president of the M.G. Wright Co., in Houston, Tex., says that two professionals from his company can clean, prime, and paint an 1,800-square-foot, single-level house in about five days. “Homeowners generally take about three times as long as the pros to paint a house,” Childress points out. An owner painting a house for the first time could take more than two and a half weeks.

But if you were to pit an owner using brushes against Childress’s employees using sprayers (the norm today for many professional house painters), the time difference would be even greater. Much depends on how much help you have, your level of experience, the paint, the size of your house, and the weather – you can’t paint in the rain.

Will you be comfortable – and safe – on a ladder? Spokespersons at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in Washington, D.C., report approximately 143,000 serious injuries in ladder-related accidents a year. A surprising number happen on stepladders, considered by most people to be relatively safe. They generally are, as long as you don’t climb above the third rung from the top, a warning now posted on every new stepladder sold in America. Moreover, the CPSC logs in an estimated 65 deaths a year from electrocution when a power line is struck with a ladder.

Painting a two-story or larger house presents a greater risk. When painting a second-story level, rent or buy ladders with gripper “feet” and make certain the feet are solidly set on the ground. Also add a horizontal ladder brace ($18 to $25); shaped like an open claw, it attaches to a point approximately three-quarters of the way up the ladder, braces against the house, and prevents slipping. Under no circumstance should you lean over the top of the ladder so your upper torso is extended. Climb down instead and move the ladder.

Aluminum ladders are inexpensive – a 16-foot extension model costs about $40 and can safely carry a weight of some 200 pounds. A 16-foot fiberglass extension ladder, however, runs around $140 and bears an additional 100 pounds or so. Professional painters often erect scaffolding to paine above the first floor; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration strictly governs scaffolding assembly. And painting dormers is the most dangerous of all painting tasks. OSHA insists that professionals working on the roof wear a safety harness securely tied off.

Can you avoid sore muscles? Even if you’re in tip-top shape, it’s doubtful, since hand cramps, aching arms, and sore backs are endemic to any unfamiliar repetitive exercise. These aches and pains do, however, tend to heal quickly.

Will you really save money? If you compare the cost of paint and equipment against an estimate from a professional, here’s how it looks: For you to properly coat a 1,800-square-foot, one-level house, a sufficient quantity of quality primer and quality latex paint plus appropriate tools would run between $800 and $900, plus another $150 if you opt for another trim color.

There are also additional costs to prepare the house. For example, you need to pack the openings between window moldings and siding, along the joints between masonry and siding, around the joints between dormers and roofing, and around light fixtures, spigots, and vents with a quality silicone or acrylic caulk. This adds approximately another $40 to $60. Without your time and labor, the total cost approaches $1,100.

In comparison, professional painting contractor Danny Thomas, of Jack C. Thomas & Son, in Amarillo, Tex., might charge $2,500 for painting the same house. Bill Patterson, of Decor Painting, in Buffalo, N.Y., might ask for $3,500. These prices include newly painted siding and trim plus recaulking wherever needed. A two-story house in the same footprint would cost nearly twice as much.

If everything you do is perfect, you will indeed save money – no question about it. But consider veteran paint contractor Patterson’s experience: “About 40 percent of the homeowners in the Buffalo area try painting their own houses,” he estimates. “Every paint contractor in the area gets a few calls from owners who want a pro to finish the job. We get seven or eight calls every year. We also get a few calls from people some time after the job is completed,” Patterson adds. “They ask about stains they can’t cover or paint cracking six months or so after they have applied it.”

In the end, owners who do the job poorly or give up often end up paying more to have their houses painted than they would have if they had called in a reliable contractor from the beginning.

How can I do a professional-looking job myself? Start by reading books. One volume provides a good overview: House Painting Inside and Out, by Mark Dixon (Taunton Press; 1997; $19.95).

To lighten your workload, rent equipment. A power washer can drastically cut the time it takes to scrape and scrub the siding; you can rent the machine for between $50 and $80 per day. And choose equipment with attachments for bleach; the sprayer distributes small quantities of bleach, killing the mold, mildew, and algae attached to the siding while the spray loosens flaking paint. Before you start spraying, though, use a brush with soap and water to scrub the worst areas of mildew and grime.

You may be surprised at the strength of the spray from a power washer. Never point the spray directly at someone, and don’t angle the sprayer up when cleaning lap siding or shingles: Water could seep behind and damage the interior. Do spray stucco and masonry at an angle to avoid sending water through cracks. Never spray glass, which could shatter under the force of the spray. When the siding dries and all patches of flaking paint have been scraped clean, you’re ready to paint.

Are you up to using a paint sprayer like the pros? You can rent one for about $75 per day. It’s fine for water-based paints, though it takes some skill to do it right. It’s even possible to spray oil paints, but you’ll almost surely be asked to thin the paint significantly and clean the equipment thoroughly before you return it.

Every year the idea of saving a bundle of money lures many homeowners into painting the house. Sometimes entire families pitch in, young and old, and make certain the job gets done the right way. Some other homeowners, however, will start out with good intentions but will run into problems down the road. Weighing the pros and cons is up to you.



Paint when the temperature is between 50 [degrees] F and 90 [degrees] F, especially with acrylic-based paint. When it’s sunny, paint the north and west sides of the house in the morning, then the east and south sides in the late afternoon. Avoid painting on a windy day, as dust and bugs will land and stick in tacky paint. You can paint on overcast days, but never when it’s raining. And make sure that the surface is totally dry before you start.


To open a can, use a paint opener (don’t ruin your screwdriver), and then use a hammer and spike to make drip holes in the crevice where the lid sits. If you’re going to be moving around a lot, pour a small amount of paint into a portable bucket. When working with custom colors, “box” the paint before starting to ensure even pigmentation: Pour all the paint back and forth between the cans and an extra bucket, mixing thoroughly.


It’s worth the extra investment for high-quality brushes whose bristles won’t fall out as you’re working. For most siding, choose a four-inch brush; a two-inch angled one works well for most trim. When loading the brush, dip it only halfway into the paint, and press the brush against the inside of the rim to remove excess paint. On a panel or a piece of siding, continue your stroke all the way through; otherwise, the “stop” line will show.


Pads come in various naps, each one suited for a different surface. Line the roller pan with a disposable liner and fill the well with paint; immerse the pad in the paint and roll off the excess on the ramp.