Saturday, February 28, 2009

If You Have Traveled Around the World, the Next Sojourn should be Outer Space

Have you ever thought about being an astronaut, but thought it was impossible? Now it is possible. A company called Space Adventures offers suborbital space flights, orbital space flights, and are even planning a lunar mission to the general public. This isn't a fly-by-night company; they have been around since 1998, and Google (GOOG) Co-Founder Sergey Brin is a Space Adventures' Orbital Spaceflight Investor. One of their customers is planning on returning on a second flight.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Icahn Increases Ownership of Lions Gate

Billionaire Carl Icahn, who is an activist investor increased his ownership of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. to the tune of 200,000 shares, giving him 14.5% ownership of the company.

Antigua Distressed by Billionaire Sir Robert Allen Stanford

Sir Robert Allen Stanford has been accused by the U. S. Government of an $8 billion fraud. Although he is from Texas, he owns two banks, two restaurants, a newspaper, and a cricket stadium in Antigua. This to the dismay of the residents of this small island nation.

Russian / NYC Billionaire Buying Real Estate

It's not a recession for some individuals. The Russian born Len Blavatnik, who made his money in oil and lives in New York City, has been buying real estate in Florida, Nevada, California and Texas.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Russian Billionaire Decides Not to Buy Most Expensive House

Russia's richest billionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov, has backed out of buying the world's most expensive house, the Villa Leopolda, on the French Riviera near Nice. The sales price would have been $633 million.

Auction of First Postage Stamp

Sotheby's is planning an auction of the first public postal system adhesive stamp, known as the "Penny Black". Queen Victoria appears on the stamp, showing a portrait of her when she was 15. The stamp was released in 1840.

Unique Second Home: A Cave House

If you like to collect houses, you need to take a look at the cave home that is up for sale. Don't let the cave reference scare you away. The cave house has hardwood floors, fancy bathrooms, and no cooling or heating equipment needed. The price is a very reasonable $300,000.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Guest Article: My Business Success Philosophy

My Business Success Philosophy
by Larry Underwood

author of the book Life Under the Corporate Microscope: A Maverick's Irreverent Perspective
Underwood started out his career working behind the counter renting cars to people at Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and worked his way up the corporate ladder, eventually becoming a multimillionaire earning almost $4 million per year, and retiring before the age of 49

I was fortunate enough to have worked for a company, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, that believed in rewarding their managers for "bottom line" performance, with an incentive based pay plan that paid me millions for running a (highly) profitable operation for the company. As one of its top executives, I was also afforded the opportunity to run my operation with a great deal of autonomy; to stick to the company's core values as far as not only taking care of customers, as well as employees, in an honest and straightforward manner, but to carry out my responsibilities in a manner as I saw fit.

Having the autonomy to make decisions quickly, without interference from the corporate office, I feel was the key to my long-term success; I spent over 26 years with Enterprise, and not only knew the business very well, I knew how to manage my employees very well; my operation covered all or parts of six western states and I had four top-notch managers reporting to me, who had fairly equal slices of territories to run in the field.

I also had an administrative staff reporting directly to me who handled other facets of the business, from business management, to remarketing of our rental cars taken out of service, along with other divisions of the company, like fleet services and retail car sales.

I was fortunate enough to have quality people working for me, so managing them was a fairly routine task. I gave them plenty of autonomy, didn't micromanage, but was right on top of any problems or challenging issues that might crop up; and there were things that went astray from time to time; but these matters were dealt with swiftly, and with good business logic.

I firmly believed in keeping an upbeat, positive attitude with not only the people who reported directly to me, but more importantly perhaps, with the entry level employees in the field, who really did most of the difficult work but were typically paid on the lower end of the spectrum. I knew that having happy and motivated employees was absolutely critical to the long term success for my operation, so I frequently would travel to the cities in my "Group" (operation), and mingle with some of the young kids in the field and find out what some of their issues were and try to find out ways to make their jobs easier and more rewarding.

That style of management seemed to work. Generally speaking, our employees outperformed most other Groups in the company, and that meant happy customers and employees alike, who stuck around to make Enterprise a long and rewarding career.

The employees in "the trenches" knew specifically what they needed to do to advance, and that simply meant generating nice profits for the company, expanding the business, and keeping the customer service ratings high; higher than corporate averages. Accomplishing those benchmarks successfully, meant our employees would keep moving up the ladder, in a similar fashion to what I had achieved.

If I may digress; as I mentioned, I spent 26 years with the company, had accomplished a great deal of success throughout my career, and retired going out pretty much "on top" in my profession. I was known throughout the company for my humor, my easy going but decisive management style, and my development of many individuals into high ranking and successful positions.

In fact, I had such an interesting career, I wrote a book about it, and it was published at the end of last year. It's called, "Life Under the Corporate Microscope", and if the title suggests I eventually had challenges in dealing with a once friendly corporate hierarchy, as the company grew to mammoth proportions (overtaking Hertz for the top spot in the industry), that would be correct. Suffice to say, when you're a guy making close to $4 million a year, and you have a somewhat irreverent, fun-loving attitude while you're making all that money, you're going to have detractors; that's just life in big business.

I never wavered in my commitment to excellence in how I ran my operation, and the results certainly reflected that mind set. When a company decides to save money by carving up an existing operation into smaller pieces, and farming those pieces out to managers on significantly lower pay plans, that's simply business as usual in corporate America. The experience did inspire the book, which so far, has been selling at a brisk pace in the early going. Actually, writing that book, getting it published, and now marketing the book, has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my entire life; I may write another one soon, as a follow-up story.

The bottom line; I achieved great success with a company that started out small, and eventually grew to become a multi-billion dollar corporation. I stayed on top of my game at all times, worked literally around the clock for most of that time, excelled at sales and marketing, was generally well liked and respected, and absolutely loved what I did for a living. Work never felt like "work". To me, it was a thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable experience, I enjoyed every minute of it, and I put a great deal of passion into my profession. To be truly successful in any endeavor, you've got to be committed to excellence and committed to constantly trying to perform better every day, at least just a little bit, than the day before. I think I accomplished that.

Life Under the Corporate Microscope: A Maverick's Irreverent Perspective is available through Amazon. You can also see a review of the book at

Friday, February 13, 2009

Nude Photo of Madonna Sold for $37,500

A black and white photo of Madonna in the nude when she was 20 years old sold for over $37,000 at Christie's in New York last Thursday. The photo was taken by Lee Friedlander, and had a high auction estimate of only $15,000.

Five Most Expensive Homes for Sale

According to Zillow, there are five houses for sale for over $300,000,000. Here they are:

San Juan Bautista, CA $879,000,101

Queen Creek AZ 85242 $500,000,000

Black Mountain NC 28711 $460,000,000

Hope Hull AL 36043 $399,900,000

Newport Beach CA 92657 $329,500,010

Friday, February 6, 2009

Santonio Holmes Super Bowl Gloves to be Sold

Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver who had the game winning touchdown, is auctioning off the gloves that he used to catch the ball with. Proceeds will go towards the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America Inc. The gloves have a buy-it-now price of $1 million.

Buy Lincoln's Victory Speech

You can purchase Abraham Lincoln's handwritten Victory Speech at an upcoming Christie's auction on February 12. Estimated sales price is expected to be between $3 million to $4 million.

Monday, February 2, 2009

State of Mississippi Jet to be Auctioned

If you are looking for a good deal on a jet, watch for the upcoming auction of a jet owned by the State of Mississippi, which had been used to fly around the Governor and other state officials. The jet is estimated to sell at about $3.7 million. The jet may be auctioned off on eBay. Speaking of eBay, the Bernie Madoff stock certificate still hasn't sold yet.