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Z-no-digital
What will Truist look like? Bank unveils its new logo and color scheme.

Truist Financial Corp. has unveiled a purple color scheme and a new logo for the merger of BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc.

The Charlotte-based bank, which debuted Dec. 6, has its community bank/retail hub in Winston-Salem.

Truist said in a statement that the color purple and the new logo represent “a bold new look and feel ... a visual identity (that) further signals the company’s commitment to inspire and build a better future for clients and communities.”

“Our visual brand identity speaks to the importance of human touch and dynamic technology in delivering trusted solutions to our clients, and is a powerful depiction of our commitment to building the future of finance,” said Dontá Wilson, chief digital and client experience officer for Truist.

Wilson said what the bank calls “Truist purple ... is the combination of BB&T burgundy and SunTrust blue.

The banks said the monogram “is made up of two T’s that mirror the Truist name and represent Touch + Technology.”

“Truist said the logo was designed to be legible at small sizes and in digital interfaces for the name to stand out.

“Together with global brand consultancy Interbrand, Truist gathered input from its teammates and clients through focus groups, workshops and interviews as part of a rigorous and research-driven approach to develop the brand identity.”

Rolling out

Truist debuted with $464.7 billion in total assets after BB&T spent $30.4 billion to buy SunTrust.

BB&T shareholders own 57% of Truist, and chairman and chief executive Kelly King assumed the same duties with Truist.

The color and logo represent the next step in rolling out Truist over a 17-state territory in the next 18 to 24 months.

Besides on the Truist website, the first main public display is set to be today in Atlanta when signs are switched from SunTrust Park, home of the Atlanta Braves, to what is expected to be Truist Park.

The bank plans a big public-relations splash as part of being the official bank of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee.

Truist will serve as lead partner for the committee’s Hospitality House, which will cater to civic, corporate and NFL officials. The facility will be located directly next to Super Bowl Live, the week-long free festival for fans before Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2. The festival will span six blocks of Miami downtown and feature concerts, games, food, NFL exhibits, demonstrations and other events.

As far as the Triad sports venues with BB&T as the title sponsor, Wilson said those changes will take place one-by-one during the integration period.

Those include: collegiate football stadiums BB&T Field for Wake Forest in Winston-Salem and BB&T Stadium for N.C. A&T in Greensboro; minor-league baseball fields BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem and Charlotte; and BB&T Point Ballpark in High Point. There’s also BB&T Sports Park in Bermuda Run and BB&T Soccer Complex (also known as Bryan Park) in Browns Summit near Greensboro.

King was asked Dec. 8 whether Truist could succeed Belk to create a Truist Bowl and make a splash in Charlotte, gaining national recognition.

“I have become aware that the sponsorship is going to be available. It’s the kind of thing we would consider,” King said. “One of the appealing things is that it is not a bowl about making money, but rather to support the local community outreach.

“As I understand it, the proceeds of the bowl go back to the community like the (PGA Tour) Wyndham (in Greensboro, which BB&T has a prominent sponsorship role),” King said. “That’s the kind of thing I personally like, and you could see us getting more excited about things like that.

“If we happen to get some public relations benefit from it, that’s fine.”

Trademark lawsuit

Today, Truliant Federal Credit Union is expected to file its legal response to the counterclaim submitted by the banks that formed Truist.

On June 12, the banks unveiled Truist Financial Corp. as the name for their combined holding company and Truist Bank as the retail brand.

Five days later, Truliant filed its pull-no-punches federal trademark-infringement lawsuit, challenging Truist’s use of the “Tru” prefix. The banks filed their formal counterclaim Dec. 18.

An initial pretrial conference hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. Jan. 22 at the federal courthouse in Durham.

Truist said in its 28-page response, “by filing this lawsuit, plaintiff Truliant ... is improperly (attempting) to monopolize the common term ‘Tru-.’

“But the truth of the matter is that no one can exclusively own the term ‘Tru.’ “

Truliant requests that Truist be prevented from moving forward with marketing Truist at retail or online sites, including applying for Truist trademarks.

BB&T applied June 11 for five sets of trademarks with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The last update on the agency’s website is a request made Sept. 6 to BB&T for more information on the application.

Truist said Truliant filed its lawsuit before Truist had unveiled its logo, signage and color scheme.

Truist said in its response that it has provided those marks to Truliant under a non-disclosure agreement.

“The marks — as actually used in the marketplace — could not be more dissimilar, not only in terms of appearance, sound and meaning, but also logo, color scheme, design and stylization,” Truist said. “There is no risk that anyone would confuse these marks in context in actual marketplace use.”

Truliant wants any Truist-branded products to be destroyed. Truliant also wants to be awarded any profits made via the Truist brand as compensatory monetary damages, as well as requesting punitive damages.

Meanwhile, Truist wants the federal court to dismiss the Truliant complaint with prejudice, meaning it can’t be re-filed. It wants the court to declare that Truist is not infringing on Truliant and that Truliant “does not own the exclusive rights to use the unregistered ‘Tru’ designations.”

Industry analysts have questioned whether there would be marketplace confusion considering Truist has $463.7 billion in total assets in its 17-state network.

By comparison, Truliant, based in Winston-Salem, has $2.6 billion in total assets as one of the largest credit unions in the Carolinas.


Z-no-digital
Crossnore School & Children's Home farmland gets permanent protection through Piedmont Land Conservancy and $6.5M in fundraising

The Piedmont Land Conservancy has announced a win on its effort to permanently preserve 92 acres of farmland near downtown from development.

The group said its Peace of Land campaign had raised the $6.5 million it needed to buy a conservation easement from Crossnore School & Children’s Home that will protect the northern end of the institution’s property and allow for the construction of a walking trail across it.

With a goal of raising the money by the end of 2019, the contributions that pushed the effort across the finish line came in the waning days of December, according to Kevin Redding, the executive director of the Piedmont Land Conservancy.

“A number of private individuals stepped up and really helped,” Redding said. “The James G. Hanes foundation made a commitment of $250,000. It was one of the largest chunks received. A lot of individuals made cash contributions.”

Redding said the PLC and Crossnore are now finalizing the terms of the conservation easement, a land transaction that will possibly close in late January.

The easement doesn’t change ownership of the land, and Crossnore can continue to use it for pasturage or other non-development purposes in perpetuity. What the PLC and the community get is a guarantee that the land will never be developed.

“It is really up to them (Crossnore) how they want to manage the property,” Redding said. “I don’t anticipate any major changes. I anticipate them keeping the cows.”

Crossnore chief executive Brett Loftis said the cattle are raised and managed for beef production by a farmer who has a partnership with Crossnore. Loftis said Crossnore sees the land as a beneficial presence for the children, and that Crossnore sees no changes coming because of the easement purchase by the PLC.

“It is a healing space, and we want it to continue to be that,” Loftis said. “We don’t have any other plans.”

Crossnore also has goats, horses and even a llama. The animals are a lesson in science, biology, food production and the environment, Loftis said. The deal with the land conservancy “makes that land accessible to the community and to the children,” Loftis said.

Once the trail is constructed there will be public access from the Boston-Thurmond community on the east side of the property and from Reynolda Road on the west.

“We are working on the plans,” Redding said. “Obviously, a public trail can’t run through the cows.”

On a trip to the property last week, Redding pointed out that the cows graze on the northwestern side of Peters Creek as it makes its way across the Children’s Home property. Redding said the thinking is that a trail could run through the property on the other side of the creek from the cows.

The Piedmont Land Conservancy is not finished raising money: the group has a total fundraising goal of $7.9 million, with the additional $1.4 million going for things such as the construction of the trail and parking areas, a stewardship and management fund for ongoing maintenance, and other administrative costs.

Local businessman Michael Hough chaired the Peace of Land campaign.

Redding said he hopes the trail can be finished over the next six to nine months, so that a public opening can take place later this year.

The preservation effort drew controversy in November and December last year, when the Winston-Salem City Council divided over how much money to donate toward the project. With support basically unanimous at a $100,000 contribution level, some council members successfully pushed to double the amount.

Forsyth County donated $100,000 toward the project.

The Children’s Home dates back to 1909, when the Western North Carolina Conference of what is now the United Methodist Church opened an orphanage on the former site of Davis Military Academy. The home merged with Crossnore School, based in Avery County, in 2016.

Crossnore School & Children’s Home has some 212 acres of land on Reynolda Road, but only the northern, undeveloped part of the property is covered by the easement. Crossnore’s buildings, including the barn, are not covered by the easement.

The Piedmont Land Conservancy was formed in 1989. It preserves natural and scenic lands, along with farms and other open spaces.

Redding said the purchase of the conservation easement only a mile or so from downtown Winston-Salem is a first for the group.

“We cover nine counties,” he said. “Most of our projects are in rural areas. This is a very unusual project for us. Once this is done, we don’t see doing a similar one for a long time to come.”


Business
Primo Water agrees to sell for $775 million. Winston-Salem company's leadership has been under fire from shareholders.

Primo Water Corp., facing significant shareholder pressure on its management team, said Monday it has agreed to be sold to Cott Corp. in a deal valued at $775 million.

The deal involves Cott, based in Mississauga, Ontario, paying $14 a share, or $549.4 million, plus assumption of Primo debt.

The Winston-Salem company would be the key element in Cott’s transformation into a pure-play water company.

Cott said Thursday it plans to sell its S&D Coffee and Tea business that’s based in Concord. It bought S&D for $355 million back in August 2016.

The combined company will use Primo Water’s name, brand and stock symbol PRMW, though Primo would operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Cott. Primo shareholders would own 16% of the combined company.

Cott said the name change would put the combined company “more in line with our peers.”

The deal is expected to close in March. Billy Prim, founder and executive chairman of Primo, would join Cott’s board of directors, along with board member Susan Cates.

Activist hedge-fund group Legion Partners LP of Beverly Hills, Calif., submitted letters on Sept. 17 and Oct. 29 to shareholders that were harshly critical of then-chief executive Matt Sheehan, Prim and several board members. Sheehan succeeded Prim as chief executive in May 2017.

Legion owns 9.1% of Primo, or 3.57 million shares, trailing only Capital Research Global Investors of Los Angeles, which held a 10.6% stake, or 4.16 million shares, as of July 31.

Prim held just under 1.9 million shares of Primo, which represented a 4.7% stake, as of March 28. Prim also has 762,236 deferred stock units that he could acquire over the next three years.

Legion said three Primo board members are too closely linked to Prim to properly oversee the company from their previous relationship with Prim with Blue Rhino Corp., which was sold to Ferrellgas Partners LP for $343 million in April 2004.

On Nov. 4, Primo fired Sheehan, with Prim resuming his chief executive duties on an interim basis.

Cates told analysts in November that the firing of Sheehan was “about the company not performing to expectations that the board had for operating performance.”

Christopher Kiper, managing director with Legion, said his group was “not entirely happy with the price.”

The $14 a share offer from Cott represents a 26.2% increase from Primo’s share price of $11.09 at the close of trading Friday.

However, the offer represents a 31.5% decline from its all-time high of $20.43 on Aug. 24, 2018. The 52-week share price range is $9.54 to $16.35.

Options for Primo stakeholders involve: a mix of $5.04 in cash and 0.6549 common shares of Cott, $14 in cash; or 1.0229 common shares of Cott.

Kiper said Legion was “just days away from nominating directors for a proxy fight” over the Primo board.

“Instead, they chose to sell at an offer that undervalues the company substantially,” Kiper said.

“The entire transaction is indicative of Billy Prim finding a way to staying involved with Primo somehow. It’s further indication that Billy Prim is only concerned about himself.”

Consolidation likely

There was no immediate comment on how the planned sale affects local employees. Primo had 602 employees companywide at the end of 2018.

The company projects cost savings of $35 million over three years.

However, in a PowerPoint presentation to analysts, the companies said the combined company will “streamline back-office operations and eliminate duplicative general and administrative expenses that includes expenditures related to the day-to-day operations.”

Identified as key areas for cost cutting are: public company expenses; shared services; facility optimization and consolidation; and combined refill and filtration technologies and operations.”

Cott officials said there are plans to put Cott and Primo employees together in many of those operations.

“This is a perfect fit,” Prim told analysts, citing the companies’ partnership in the exchange business.

“This combination of two highly recognized water companies creates compelling value for all stakeholders, including our customers, employees, shareholders and suppliers.

Mayor Allen Joines said he views the pending sale of Primo "as a success story of a start-up company that was very successful and was purchased."

"It is my belief that Winston Salem’s economic strategy will produce many other start-ups that are successful. My understanding is that jobs will be minimally affected."

Bowman Gray IV, a local independent stock broker, said that Primo’s board and management “saw this as the best opportunity to create long-term value for their shareholders.”

“I am also certain there was tremendous pressure by large shareholders, such as Legion, to take additional action after Mr. Prim stepped back into the role as CEO.

“I think it may have been possible for them to fight their way back, but that would have been a very long row to hoe,” Gray said. “The sale of the company was the best choice they could have made.”

Cott background

Cott has a presence in 21 countries.

“We are excited about the opportunity to provide sustainable hydration solutions to more people than either company could have done alone,” Prim said.

Cott listed in a separate regulatory filing that it had $2.36 billion in revenue for the third quarter, while its S&D Coffee & Tea had $599 million and Primo $303.3 million.

Tom Harrington, Cott’s chief executive, said that “as we turn to our new business model, we are taking the opportunity to rebrand our company as Primo Water Corp. to reflect the leading position we have in the growing and attractive water market with the opportunity to be revalued in line with our water peers.

“As Primo and Cott have been strategic partners for six years, we expect a smooth transition and integration.” That partnership features Cott providing water for use in Primo’s bottle structure.

The companies said that, combined, they generated $2 billion in revenue in the third quarter of fiscal 2019, as well as adjusted EBITDA of $324 million.

EBITDA stands for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Many analysts put their financial focus on EBITDA when evaluating the performance of a company that has yet to make a profit or is newly profitable.

In the third quarter, Primo posted a $2.62 million profit and 6.3% increase in sales to $87 million, which met the upper range of its third-quarter estimate.

However, adjusted EBITDA was down 5.4% to $15.3 million. Primo had projected a range of $17 million to $18 million.

Barrington Research analyst Michael Petusky said Monday that "Cott's reasons for desiring the Primo asset are many and make a lot of sense."

"Assuming that Cott can successfully divest its remaining non-water asset (S&D Coffee) as it hopes to do, this deal would create a very large pure-play water business that would be a market leader in home/office delivery, as well as Primo's areas of expertise - refill, exchange and dispensers."

"We see this transaction as being within the range of 'fair,' but at the lower end," Petusky said. "Given that Cott is the acquirer, there should be several compelling revenue synergy opportunities over the next few years, including the one in Europe."


Z-no-digital
Three eateries vie for Union Station site

Three different proposed restaurants are competing to be the one chosen by Winston-Salem to occupy some prime space in the restored Union Station building near the campus of Winston-Salem State University.

Whichever is picked, diners will get to eat soul food or “southern comfort food,” according to the proposals that the city will be considering.

The Finance Committee of the Winston-Salem City Council took its first bite at the proposals on Monday, although there was no indication when the city might make a decision.

Two of the proposals come from local restaurants or operations with local restaurant connections. One, Simply Soul, now operates at 4339 S. Main St.

The other would be a new restaurant that would be called Eats Urban and would be a collaborative including Providence Culinary Training, which operates restaurants at the Double Tree by Hilton on University Parkway and at the BB&T Building, and Wharton Gladden & Co., an investment company that holds the master license for Zesto Burgers and Ice Cream at 2600 New Walkertown Road.

The third proposal is from Murrell’s Cafe, which operates in Atlanta, but whose owner, Michael Murrell, is a graduate of WSSU. Murrell has a location in Trenton in eastern North Carolina as well.

Robert Clark, who chairs the Finance Commitee, said Monday that it is important for the city to “get on the table all the information we need” before making a decision.

One thing the city will be looking for is a more detailed estimate of how much it would cost to fit up the Union Station space for whichever restaurant is picked.

As well, there are differences in how much space some of the operators want to occupy, and all three propose different rent amounts and lease terms.

Last May, the city was poised to consider a deal that would have put an Elizabeth’s Pizza business at Union Station, but the business backed out after Annette Scippio, the council member for East Ward, expressed opposition.

The city went back to the drawing board, and the three proposals that have emerged are the result. Assistant City Manager Damon Dequenne said all three approached the city during the time after the Elizabeth’s Pizza deal fell through.

People involved with two of the businesses spoke to the committee. Sonya Waddell of Simply Soul said she has been in business seven years and draws return customers.

“I bring in people from all different wards,” she said. “I want to keep the (current) location and grow into the new one.”

Waddell was the only one of the three to offer to bring kitchen equipment to the site, saying that as an established restaurant operator she has the ability to supply some of the items.

The Eats Urban proposal includes the involvement of the Winston-Salem Urban League, whose chief executive, James Perry, said his group’s idea would involve workforce training.

“We seek to create a restaurant that provides a fine dining experience in East Winston, while we will also provide culinary arts training.”

Simply Soul and Murrell’s Cafe say they’d offer soul food, while Eats Urban describes its proposed fare as “southern comfort food.”

Simply Soul is proposing a three-year lease with total payments of $90,000 to the city over that period. Simply Soul would get the first six months rent-free, then pay $3,000 per month. Over the three years, that would average to $30,000 per year.

Murrell is proposing a payment of $35,226 per year over 10 years, plus 8% of profits for catered events serving more than 50 people. Not counting the catering bonus, Murrell would pay the city $352,260 over 10 years.

The Eats Urban proposal calls for rent payments of $17,200 per year for the first five years, and $25,000 per year for years six through 10. That works out to $206,000 over 10 years.

Council Member Jeff MacIntosh was critical of the rent amounts, noting that all three proposals call for lower rents than the one proposed for Elizabeth’s Pizza, which would have paid a little more than $380,000 over 10 years.

“They all fall short of the deal we were critical about .... last time,” MacIntosh said. “I’m disappointed with the numbers. The city needs to act as a catalyst, but I am not comfortable with the level of subsidy we are asked to provide.”

When Scippio opposed the Elizabeth’s Pizza deal last year, she complained about the amount of rent being too low and said that the city shouldn’t be paying for furniture, dishes and cutlery for the restaurant. Scippio also didn’t like it that no breakfast would be offered.

Of the new proposals, Simply Soul and Murrell’s Cafe would offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, but Eats Urban would be lunch and dinner only. Simply Soul and Murrell’s Cafe want to rent the same 3,914 square feet that Elizabeth’s Pizza wanted, but Eats Urban wants to also rent an additional 804 square feet on the northeast side of the building.

Union Station, finished in 1926, was the city’s train station until passenger train service here stopped in 1970. The city acquired the building in 2012 and finished renovations in 2019. The lobby and other main-floor areas were restored to their ornate appearance, while other parts of the building were refitted for transportation offices and other purposes.