Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Toys R Us to close 7 Chicago area stores

Adding to the recent announced closings by many other national retailers, toy store giant Toys R Us has announced that it is closing 180 stores, 20% of its total stores, over the coming months.  The Chicago Tribune reports that the closures include 7 stores in the Chicago area: Highland Park, Schaumburg, Vernon Hills, Matteson, Burbank, Niles and the Bricktown shopping center in Chicago.

According to the Tribune, the store closings will begin in February and the majority of the targeted locations will be closed completely by mid-April. At some Toys R Us locations that will remain open, Babies R Us stores will be combined with the Toys R Us stores.

Read more.

Photo credit: Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine - CC0,

Thursday, April 13, 2017

SpotHero Acquires Leading Competitor Parking Panda

Chicago-based SpotHero, the nation’s leading parking reservation service, announced today that it has acquired Parking Panda, the leader in event parking reservations in the United States and Canada. This move firmly positions SpotHero as the category leader across all major off-street parking verticals, including daily, monthly, business, event, and airport parking. On track to park 20 million cars in 2017 and offering nearly 5,000 parking locations across North America, SpotHero is a driving force in the parking industry's evolution as it embraces technology and focuses increasingly on customer experience.

“We’re thrilled to combine forces with Parking Panda to bring easy parking to more drivers faster,” said Mark Lawrence, co-founder and CEO, SpotHero. “We’ve long admired Parking Panda’s talented team and ability to drive product innovation. SpotHero’s consumer focus and great mobile experience are further strengthened by Parking Panda’s strong B2B technology and partnerships.”

Prior to the acquisition, Parking Panda established over 800 strategic partnerships, including event parking partnerships with numerous NHL, NFL, MLB, and NBA teams, as well as major convention centers, sports arenas, theaters, and municipalities. In 2016, the company leveraged this strength in partnerships and event parking to enter the Canadian market, quickly achieving scale. SpotHero will leverage Parking Panda's momentum in Canada to continue building holistic mobility solutions for drivers and parking companies in 47 major cities across North America. With what is already the largest network of connected garages in the United States and the broadest base of mobile-first consumers, SpotHero is positioned to replicate this success in Canada.

SpotHero also will accelerate its aggressive B2B product roadmap with the integration of Parking Panda’s robust suite of tools and technology, including unique SaaS offerings designed for the parking industry. For consumers, the expanded engineering team will mean rapid innovation to SpotHero’s award-winning platform with a heavy focus on driver convenience.

“This is the most natural progression for our company,” said Parking Panda CEO Adam Zilberbaum. “By joining forces, we will have a greater impact on the transportation landscape, making parking more convenient through technology. We’ve long held values similar to those of SpotHero, including putting drivers first, investing in our people, and building great products.”

SpotHero’s Co-founder and CEO Mark Lawrence will continue to serve as CEO, and Parking Panda’s leadership team of CEO and Founder Adam Zilberbaum and COO James Bain will remain with the company.

About SpotHero

SpotHero, the nation’s leading parking reservation service, empowers drivers with easy parking at thousands of garages, lots, and valets in major cities across the U.S. Launched in 2011, SpotHero has parked more than seven million cars. The company is headquartered in Chicago and has raised $27 million in VC funding.

Notably, in 2017 SpotHero launched SpotHero for Business, the first in-app solution to offer businesses and their employees tools to manage parking expenses and provide increased visibility. Also this year, SpotHero launched its Parking Developer Platform, enabling select websites, apps and connected or autonomous vehicle manufacturers to extend parking reservation functionality to their native interfaces. To learn more, visit

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

hhgregg files for bankrupcty under Chapter 11

(BUSINESS WIRE)--hhgregg, Inc. today announced that it has taken action to restructure its balance sheet and better position itself for future success by filing voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. This follows the Company's delisting by the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month and the  Company’s announcement on March 3, 2017 that it is closing 88 stores in 15 states and 3 distribution centers. The stores being closed include 5 in Illinois:  Schaumburg, Bloomingdale, Arlington Heights, Niles, Springfield and Champaign.

“We’ve given it a valiant effort over the past 12 months,” said Robert J. Riesbeck, hhgregg's President and CEO. “We have conducted an extensive review of alternatives and believe pursuing a restructuring through Chapter 11 is the best path forward to ensure hhgregg’s long-term success. We are thankful for the continued support of our dedicated employees, valued customers, vendors and business partners as we navigate this process, and look forward to becoming a stronger company in the coming months.”

The Company has signed a term sheet with an anonymous party to purchase the assets of the Company, which is intended to allow the Company to exit Chapter 11 debt free with significant improvement in liquidity for the future stability of the business. The Company expects a quick and smooth process through Chapter 11 with emergence in approximately 60 days.

“We have streamlined our store footprint and remain fully committed to the 132 remaining stores, and the associates supporting those locations. We have solidified our senior management team and everyone is dedicated to restructuring our business model for future profitability and growth,” continued Riesbeck. “Through these strategic steps, we plan to come out of this debt free and more agile as we serve our valued customers and vendor partners, and continue to be a dominant force in appliances, electronics and home furnishings.”

hhgregg's 132 store locations will operate in the ordinary course of business throughout the restructuring process. The 88 stores affected by the Company’s announcement on March 3, 2017 will continue to operate as previously disclosed in the coming weeks.

As it navigates the Chapter 11 process, hhgregg intends to continue:

  • Providing superior delivery, installation and customer service;
  • Providing wages, healthcare and other benefits to its associates without interruption; and
  • Paying suppliers and vendors for the goods and services it receives in the ordinary course of business throughout the restructuring process.
  • The Company has obtained a committed $80 million debtor-in-possession (“DIP”) financing facility underwritten by Wells Fargo Bank, National Association and GACP Finance Co., LLC.
Subject to Court approval, this DIP financing, combined with the acquiring party’s investment and the Company’s cash from operations, is expected to provide sufficient liquidity during the Chapter 11 case to support its continuing normal business operations and minimize disruption.

Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP and Ice Miller are serving as hhgregg’s legal advisors in the restructuring and Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Miller Buckfire & Co., and Berkeley Research Group, LLC are serving as financial and restructuring advisors.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

TurboAppeal raises $4 million Series A round

Backed by Guaranteed Rate, Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners, @Properties, Camber Creek, Garland Capital, Property Tax Appeal Startup Poised for Fast Growth

CHICAGO (October 3, 2016) – TurboAppeal, a leading technology firm that helps consumers and businesses appeal property taxes, announces today it has secured a $4 million Series A round led by Guaranteed Rate, Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners, Garland Capital and Camber Creek. Also participating in this round were Hyde Park Venture Partners, @properties and other strategic real estate technology investors.

“We have been very fortunate to have the support from these outstanding business visionaries and investors,” said Badal Shah, co-founder and CEO of TurboAppeal. “We are honored they believe in our vision of what we can accomplish in this industry.”

With its proprietary software and strategic partnerships, TurboAppeal is disrupting the multibillion-dollar real estate industry by combining big-data and property tax appeals. This funding round will help further TurboAppeal’s national expansion, and grow both its consumer and commercial lines of business by developing new products and services.

“We have seen first-hand how TurboAppeal’s technology and service are game-changers in the real estate industry,” said Thaddeus Wong, co-founder of Chicago-based @properties, the 11th largest brokerage firm in the U.S. by sales volume. “We’re excited to be a part of the team as they continue to grow and innovate within the industry.”

In 2016, TurboAppeal has opened an additional office in Miami and announced a strategic partnership with Paradigm Tax Group, the leading national real estate consulting firm, to revolutionize the commercial property tax appeal offering.

“We believe TurboAppeal has the ability to help so many property owners across America tackle a problem that has plagued them for years,” said Co-founder and Managing Director of Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners, Phil Nadel. “We’re looking forward to helping them expand.”

For more information on TurboAppeal, please visit, or contact Anna Niesen at 312-517-7023 or

About TurboAppeal

Founded in 2015, TurboAppeal provides best in class technology combined with exceptional customer service to make the process of appealing property taxes simple. The driving force behind TurboAppeal’s success has been the data-driven approach to ensuring the most accurate evidence to support an appeal. With offices in Chicago, Denver and Miami, TurboAppeal is currently expanding nationally.

About @properties

@properties is the No. 1 independent residential brokerage firm in Illinois and one of the top 11 residential brokers in the U.S. by sales volume. @properties has more than 2,000 licensed brokers in 23 offices throughout downtown Chicago, surrounding suburbs, southwest Michigan, and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

About Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners

Co-founded by Phil Nadel and Barbara Corcoran, of ABC's hit TV show Shark Tank, Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners allows investors an opportunity to invest alongside Barbara in innovative, post-revenue companies led by dynamic, growth-oriented entrepreneurs.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Rick Bayless sells Frontera's packaged goods business to ConAgra

Chicago chef Rick Bayless has sold the packaged foods businesses of Frontera Foods, Inc. and Red Fork LLC, including the Frontera, Red Fork and Salpica brands to ConAgra Foods, Inc., (NYSE: CAG).

Frontera’s premium salsa, sauces, snacks and meals feature the distinct flavors of Mexico. Red Fork is known for its premium American cooking sauces and Salpica is a unique Tex-Mex salsa line.

Bayless, owner of the highly-acclaimed Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and Xoco restaurants in Chicago, established Frontera Foods in 1996 with partner and CEO Manny Valdes. Today, the company makes more than 50 regional Mexican food products using premium ingredients and time-honored cooking methods.

Frontera products are handmade from fresh ingredients. Frontera’s Chipotle Salsa, made from fresh fire-roasted tomatillos, roasted garlic, onions and chipotle chiles, introduced this country to the true flavor of smoky chipotle chiles. It won a Sofi Award in 1998 and remains a top seller.

Frontera produces a wide variety of gourmet Mexican products including salsas, taco skillet sauces, slow cook sauces, enchilada sauces, marinades, chili mixes, guacamole mixes, hot sauces and Non-GMO Project Verified stone-ground corn tortilla chips. Frontera products are available nationally through gourmet, specialty and natural food stores. The website features recipes for gourmet Mexican meals made easy.

In 2010, Frontera launched the first-ever, fresh-packed seasoning sauces in convenient 8-ounce pouches for quick and easy skillet tacos, fajitas and enchiladas. The skillet taco seasoning sauces were quickly followed by gourmet Mole Sauce, Barbacoa Slow-Cook Sauce and Carnitas Slow-Cook Sauce in the innovative 8-ounce pouch packaging.

Frontera received two 2011 Sofi Award nominations for the Key Lime Cilantro Taco Skillet Sauce and the seasonal Chipotle Pumpkin Salsa. In 2016, Frontera received a Sofi nomination for Frontera Beef Barbacoa Slow Cook Sauce.

ConAgra's announcement stated that Frontera founders Bayless and Valdes will continue to actively support the business.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The acquisition does not include any restaurant assets, including Frontera-branded restaurants.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Tribune Publishing and 3 other media companies launch joint marketing firm

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - April 14, 2016) - Four leading media companies -- Gannett Co., Inc., Hearst, McClatchy and Tribune Publishing Co. -- today announced the formation of Nucleus Marketing Solutions. This premier marketing solutions provider will connect national advertisers to the top U.S. local publishers' highly engaged audiences across existing and emerging digital platforms.

Former Mashable CRO Seth Rogin, whose career has been built on multi-platform brand growth and digital media leadership, has been named CEO of Nucleus. Rogin has experience in mission-based media and will bring his well-known digital expertise to launch Nucleus.

In addition to the news organizations owned by the founding companies, the network expects to include as many as 11 other affiliate partners across the top U.S. advertising markets.

Nucleus will reach over 70% of consumers in the top 30 U.S. advertising markets and provide clients with integrated solutions that deliver on their marketing goals. Digitally, the network will reach 168 million unique visitors. It is a true national content marketing network for integrated multimedia solutions, offering advertisers a brand-safe, easy-to-access and scalable distribution alternative.

Tony Hunter, Tribune Publishing's President of National Revenue and Strategic Initiatives, who will serve as Chairman of Nucleus, said, "Seth's experience as an innovative, transformational force at both The New York Times and Mashable will suit him well in repositioning our industry with marketers. His thought leading digital expertise, and marketing acumen made him our clear choice."

"My lifelong passion has been to support journalism that matters by helping brands connect with the most desirable audiences in environments of high integrity," Rogin said. "I'm humbled by the opportunity and eager to bring startup drive to this important enterprise. No longer will advertisers have to choose between trust and scale. Nucleus can provide it all in one simple solution."

Rogin was most recently Mashable's Chief Revenue Officer, successfully driving the rapid growth of a diverse revenue portfolio there beginning in June 2013. In his time at Mashable, in addition to sudden, large scale revenue growth, Mashable closed three rounds of venture investor funding and expanded around the nation and the globe.

Previously, he worked for The New York Times for 13 years in various positions, including Vice President of Advertising from 2006 until 2013.

A leader in media across platforms, Rogin is often called upon to speak at conferences around the world, at universities, and to the staff of leading media and consumer brands. He serves as a judge for The Festival of Media Awards, Global and Middle East. He was named "One of the 30 best people in advertising to follow on Twitter" by Business Insider. He is a member of Media Industry Newsletter's Media Sales Hall of Fame. Rogin sits on the Board of Directors of The Ad Council, as well as the Advisory Boards of The Jerry Garcia Foundation and Advertising Week New York and Europe.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Woodridge-based Navitas System named one of 7 leading vendors in Technavio report

LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The technology research and advisory firm Technavio has announced the top seven leading vendors in its recent global golf cart battery market report.

Navitas System was founded in 2010 and is headquartered in Woodridge, Illinois. The company designs, develops, and manufactures energy storage products and energy enabled system solutions for industrial, commercial, and government agency customers.

Image credit: Navitas System
In October 2014, the company received a contract from Alion Science and Technology (a technology company that delivers operational support and technical expertise to the Department of Defense, commercial customers, and civilian government agencies) worth $1.55 million for the development of the Li-ion 6T battery system that is used in military applications.

Competitive vendor landscape

The global golf cart battery market is highly diverse, with leading vendors providing cost-effective lead-acid batteries with limited features and functionalities. Overall, the market is highly competitive. Intense competition and rapid advances in technology are the key factors that may affect market growth. However, the declining price of lead-acid batteries and end-user preferences for other advanced batteries will also present significant challenges to lead-acid battery vendors.

“The golf course industry is seeing a transformation with the use of the latest technologies. To increase a golfer’s preference and attract new customers, golf clubs are integrating the latest models of golf carts. For instance, the Yamaha Golf-Car Company launched its Drive AC golf cart in January 2015 during the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando,” says Vishu Rai, a lead analyst at Technavio for energy storage.

The other companies listed among the top seven golf cart battery market vendors are:

Axion Power International

Axion Power International, formerly known as Tamboril, was established in 2003 through a reverse acquisition with Tamboril Cigar. It is headquartered in New Castle, Pennsylvania.

The company offers uninterruptible power supply (UPS) batteries under the brand name SureEnergy. These batteries are used in emergency lighting systems, hospitals, data centers, medical systems, federal data systems, network operation centers, reservation systems, banks and financial markets, emergency response facilities, manufacturing facilities, and industrial process controls, and Internet service providers.

Crown Battery

Crown Battery was founded in 1926 and is headquartered in Fremont, California. It is one of the leading battery manufacturing companies.

East Penn Manufacturing

East Penn Manufacturing was founded in 1946 and is headquartered in Pennsylvania. The company offers lead-acid batteries, wire and cable products, and battery accessories.

In July 2015, East Penn Manufacturing received $25,000 from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania to conduct a comprehensive analysis of recycling considerations at its Lyon Station facility. This relates to the growing need for new battery technology to cope with the high demand for HEVs.

Exide Technologies

Exide Technologies was founded in 1888 and is headquartered in Milton, Georgia. The company serves the complex stored energy needs of customers worldwide. It provides services and systems to enhance vehicle performance and fleet utilization with an aim to reduce the risk of temporary power supply interruptions.

Exide Technologies is one of the leading stored electrical energy solution providers, with subsidiaries in more than 80 countries. The company operates through its 33 manufacturing facilities in 11 countries. It has partnerships with OEMs and serves the spare parts market for industrial and transportation applications.


EnerSys was incorporated in 2000 and is headquartered in Pennsylvania. The company manufactures, markets, and distributes industrial batteries and related products such as chargers, outdoor cabinet enclosures, power equipment, and battery accessories. It offers related after-market and customer support services for industrial batteries.

EnerSys markets and sells its products to more than 10,000 customers in over 100 countries via a network of distributors, independent representatives, and its internal sales force.

Trojan Battery

Trojan Battery was founded in 1925 and is headquartered in Santa Fe Springs, California. It is a manufacturer of deep-cycle batteries. The company offers a broad range of batteries such as deep-cycle flooded, deep-cycle AGM, and gel batteries. These batteries are used in golf carts and utility, aerial work platforms, commercial trucking, marine, floor machines, RVs, material handling applications, and renewable energy systems.

The company operates through its manufacturing plants in California and Georgia. As of 2015, the company had over 600 employees.

About Technavio

Technavio is a leading global technology research and advisory company. The company develops over 2000 pieces of research every year, covering more than 500 technologies across 80 countries. Technavio has about 300 analysts globally who specialize in customized consulting and business research assignments across the latest leading edge technologies.