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Top Local Business Stories of the Week


BIDEN AT SXSW

Former vice president pushes to end divisions that hamper cancer fight: In an emotional speech at the South by Southwest conference last week, former Vice President Joe Biden described his frustration with government silos preventing cancer research from moving forward and describedtalked about the work he and his wife, Jill, are doing with the Biden Foundation cancer initiative.

The so-called Cancer Moonshot work, to which Joe and Jill Biden say they plan to devote the rest of their lives, was the topic of a much-anticipated presentation at the conference, where government talk has taken center stage amid a divisive political climate.

Biden spent the bulk of his talk at the Austin Convention Center talk describing what work has been done on the cancer initiative and the work that needs to be done going forward.

In particular, Biden said, 50 years of walls erected between different disciplines — including government, philanthropy and medicine — need to be broken down.

“If we did nothing more than break down the silos of preventing greater collaboration because of how the system has been arranged, not intentionally … we could extend the life of a lot of people with cancer,” Biden said.

As an example, Biden cited a case in which, under the administration of former President Barack Obama, $30 million was awarded to improve electronic record keeping. “It got divided up five ways, into six different silos. You can’t share information, by design even,” he said.

As to why he chose South by Southwest to deliver this message, Biden said that he needs the collective help of the kinds of people who attend the conference.

“South by Southwest has brought together some of the most creative minds in the world,” Biden said. Even those who work in technology as entertainment can innovate in ways to fight cancer in unexpected ways, he said.

“That’s why we need your help. You’re the future. We can solve these problems. These are technological problems. These are not cancer problems. Some of the most innovative minds in the world are sitting in front of me,” Biden said.

STRATUS: STATUS QUO

Austin’s Stratus Properties wraps up review, plans no changes: Austin-based Stratus Properties Inc. said this past week that it has concluded a strategic review of the company that included approaching more than 100 prospective buyers.

Of the 105 firms approached, 24 asked to review financial documentation and 10 indicated they would be interested in a transaction, Stratus said.

However, since none of the proposed offers were at or above Stratus’ current stock price, the process has been terminated.

Stratus, which has number of projects in the works in Central Texas, said it will continue with its current operating model.

“The board was satisfied with the thorough nature of the process,” said Michael Madden, Stratus’ lead independent director. “Issues arising in connection with a potential sale of the company included differences of opinion as to the value that can be created from Stratus’ substantial portfolio of undeveloped land, the value of the W Austin hotel, the impact on value of the current real estate market cycle, and how values that can be created in the future from Stratus’ portfolio of development opportunities should be allocated between Stratus and a buyer.

“In addition, the diverse nature of Stratus’ assets presented a challenge for participants with narrower investment interests. Some participants indicated an interest in acquiring certain groups of assets of the company or suggested that they would be interested in providing joint venture financing for certain company opportunities, and some of these ideas may be further explored.”

Stratus this year sold the Oaks at Lakeway, an H-E-B-anchored shopping center in Lakeway, for $114 million. That sale, which netted the developer about $50.8 million in cash proceeds, and the conclusion of the review of strategic alternatives have prompted Stratus to offer a special dividend of $1 per share.

The special dividend, payable April 18, will be given to any shareholders possessing Stratus stock as of March 31.



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