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Powerleague pitches site closures with CVA plan

By Mark Kleinman, city editor

Powerleague, one of the UK's biggest operators of five-a-side football pitches, is drawing up plans to close a string of sites through a controversial insolvency arrangement after seeing its business hit by the inclement weather which gripped the country earlier this year.

Sky News has learnt that the company, which is owned by the real estate investor Patron Capital Partners, is examining a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) in an effort to secure financial concessions from creditors.

Sources said that a CVA could be launched within weeks, and would reflect the growing pressure on Powerleague's owner to secure a long-term future for the business.

The company trades from nearly 50 sites across Britain, and competes with rivals including Goals Soccer Centres, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

A property industry insider suggested on Friday that a CVA could be launched within a matter of weeks, although the details of any site closures and rent cut requests had yet to be finalised.

Deloitte is understood to have been lined up to supervise the process, according to one Powerleague landlord.

CVAs have become the most wearily familiar acronym on the British high street during a year in which the frequency of their deployment by struggling chains has simultaneously antagonised property owners and underlined the precarious state of many retail and leisure industry businesses.

Among the chains turning to CVAs to restructure their finances have been Byron, Carpetright, Homebase, Mothercare and New Look.

The exact state of Powerleague's finances are unclear, given that it is privately owned, but sources said that Patron had been attempting to find outside investment for the company in the last few months.

It is understood to have suffered a substantial hit to its earnings from the "Beast from the East", which left much of Britain in the grip of a deep freeze for several weeks earlier this year.

Patron has owned Powerleague, which has about 460 pitches, since 2009, when it was taken private in a deal worth £80m.

In addition to football, it has a multi-sport offering including basketball, dodgeball and netball.

Last year, Powerleague and Goals held extensive merger talks but failed to agree on a deal.

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Powerleague trades from more than 750 football pitches, and also owns Powerplay, a league operator across 240 UK venues.

A Patron spokesman declined to comment.

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BAT chief Durante smoked out by share price fall

By Mark Kleinman, City editor

The chief executive of British American Tobacco (BAT) is preparing to step down in the wake of a sector-wide share price decline prompted by investor concern over slowing sales growth.

Sky News has learnt that Nicandro Durante, who has run the world's biggest cigarette manufacturer by number of countries since 2011, is expected to leave the company at some point in the next year.

Sources said on Wednesday evening that Mr Durante, a Brazilian-Italian national, was likely to be replaced by an internal candidate.

Jack Bowles, BAT's chief operating officer, is regarded as the frontrunner to be the company's new boss, although the chief marketing officer, Andrew Gray, is also rumoured to have been a contender for the role.

The precise timing of an announcement about the succession plan is unclear and one source cautioned that it may not be imminent.

A ‎changing of the guard at the Lucky Strike and Dunhill maker will come little more than 18 months after BAT announced the takeover of US tobacco group Reynolds in a $49.4bn deal.

However, BAT shares‎ have slumped by nearly a quarter during the last 12 months amid declining growth in core tobacco products and uncertainty about the future success of its range of so-called next-generation products.

The latter category, which includes BAT's vaping brand, Vype, and Glo, its tobacco pipe, are an increasingly important driver of cigarette manufacturers' profits.

BAT's London-listed rival, the Davidoff- and West-maker Imperial Brands, ‎has also seen its shares decline by more than a fifth during the last year.

Mr Durante‎ has spent 37 years at BAT and its subsidiaries, joining its Brazilian unit in 1981, before being seconded to the company's UK head office in 1995.

He then spent time in Asia, South America ‎and joined BAT's board in 2008 as its chief operating officer.

Despite its weak share price performance, BAT remains one of the largest companies in the FTSE-100 by market value.

Under Mr Durante, BAT's efforts to grow its next-generation division have included a number of acquisitions, including Ten Motives, a UK-based e-cigarette company.

He has acknowledged that the industry has "entered a dynamic period of change"‎ but insisted that the growth in alternative products has given the company the opportunity to "transform tobacco".

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At the close of trading on Wednesday, BAT, which operates in more than 200 countries, was valued at £82.6bn.

BAT declined to comment.

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10 people reveal what it’s really like to work in a Halloween store — and things can get seriously scary

From working long hours to styling displays, those who work at Halloween pop-up stores know what it really takes to have a successful scary season. Here's what it's like to work at a Halloween store during the peak season, according to former employees.

While INSIDER cannot independently verify these stories and individual experiences, they are certainly interesting.

You never know what your hours are.

"… Unfortunately, the schedule expectations were absolutely insane. Shifts could last anywhere from four to 12 hours and your hours varied from four to 48 hours, weekly.

"Even worse? The manager reserved the 'right' to change shifts without warning. You were expected to constantly check the scheduling app because at any time, including with less than an hour's notice, the manager could shorten, lengthen, push back, push forward, remove, or add a shift on your schedule." — Quora user Beck Mageau

Customers aren't always the most respectful.

"[There was a lot of] theft by employees and customers … [I encountered] the worst retail customers I've ever experienced. I don't know what it is, but people have no respect for these pop-up stores.

"You'd take away packages of wigs from someone and explain why they aren't supposed to take them out, and 10 minutes later you'd find them hiding in a corner doing the exact same s—. And I'm not talking about kids, I'm talking about adults.

"Or, you find someone in an aisle trying to dress their child. You ask them to go to the changing room and tell them where it is, then as soon as you're one aisle away, you hear them telling their kid to shut up and put [the costume] on because they'll be done quick. When you go back again you find four to five costumes on the floor mashed together with broken accessories. These are ADULTS.

"You also have very little loyalty because no one really cares about a job they won't have in a couple of months. I worked there for so long because I love Halloween, and it was a fun job … " – Reddit user TessDevin

For some, working one season is enough.

"I worked for a [Halloween store] years ago. Setting up was so much fun. Theft is a big problem so you may be put in one section and asked not to leave that area — not even to bring someone to another area. Opening costumes on the floor is also a HUGE no-no. I didn't understand why at first, but at the end of the season, you wouldn't believe how many costumes were missing random accessories. All in all, a pretty good experience, but I wouldn't do it again." — Halloween Forum user mikieofthedead

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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11 stress-relieving products for anxious dogs

Owning a dog is one of life's greatest joys, but nobody's happy when Fido has to stay home alone — especially for long periods of time. Separation anxiety is a problem for many dogs and their owners, particularly when pets are young. And even normally calm dogs may freak out during bad thunderstorms or fireworks.

Fortunately, there are many safe, effective ways to make your dog feel better when home alone. Here are 11 anxiety-reducing pet products that will keep your pup calm.

PetChatz's camera lets you video chat with your dog and dole out treats.

Think FaceTime, but for your pet. The PetChatz's two-way video camera lets you see and communicate with your dog remotely and vice versa. The app-operated device even dispenses treats, deploys aromatherapy, and tracks your dog's activity.

Thundershirt's anxiety jacket makes your pup feel safe and secure.

Just like swaddling helps infants feel safe and secure, the technique can lessen anxiety in dogs.

Thundershirt's dog anxiety jacket takes this fast, drug-free approach to manage separation anxiety and problem parking. According to the company, it's more than 80% effective.

Dr. Lyon's calming aid is a homeopathic remedy for canine anxiety.

Made of nutrients like vitamin B1 and l-tryptophan, as well as herbal extracts like chamomile flowers and ginger root, Dr. Lyon's soft chews are an edible stress buster to keep your dog in a good mood. Your pet might love the natural cheese and liver flavors.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Amazon could soon be the third-place online advertiser behind Facebook and Google — but only if it can avoid trouble with regulators and shoppers (GOOG, GOOGL)

  • Amazon is expected to become the third largest digital advertiser, behind Facebook and Google, according to eMarketer researchers.
  • But as the company's market share of the ad and retail business continues to expand, the company may run into the same kind of scrutiny that has dogged other large ad platforms, such as Google's.
  • Some observers already see behavior that makes it difficult for smaller third-party manufacturers that sell through Amazon to compete.
  • The retailer's ad business is growing at a time when regulators in the US and Europe are taking a hard look at the business practices of big retailers and tech giants.

Researchers with eMarketer tell the Wall Street Journal that Amazon could soon become the third largest US digital advertiser, behind Google and Facebook — an impressive benchmark considering ads are a side business for the web's biggest retailer.

But as the Amazon continues to grow its ad business, it must prove that it can avoid the same regulatory scrutiny that has plagued other powerful ad platforms, such as Google search and Facebook's social network. More specifically to Amazon's core retail business, CEO Jeff Bezos must be careful not to alienate customers with the glut of ads that are now far more prevalent at his web store.

"There's an interesting debate right now, about whether the ads are customer-centric enough," said Andrea Leigh, vice president of client services at Ideoclick, a Seattle-based ecommerce consultancy, in an interview with Business Insider.

Amazon representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Researchers from eMarketer on Wednesday estimated that Amazon will generate "$4.6B in domestic ad revenue." The research firm said that Amazon's share of the overall market will reach approximately 4.2 percent. That's enough for the retailer to overtake Microsoft and Oath, the Verizon-owned media site, in digital advertising.

The two largest players, Google and Facebook, hold a combined 58 percent of the market with $64 billion, eMarketer says. Amazon's $5 billion is tiny in comparison, but the retailer's ad business is growing faster than either of the two frontrunners, according to analysts.

Amazon appears to be ready to cut deeper into Google and Facebook's market share. Before that can happen, however, it has to avoid the same regulatory hurdles that has at times tripped up each of them.

The news of Amazon's ad growth comes as lawmakers in the United States and Europe are looking hard at whether some of the business practices of big tech companies are anticompetitive. Google has been accused multiple times of tweaking search results to favor ads for its own products and services over rivals.

Last year, the European Union hit Google with a $2.8 billion fine after deciding the company had done exactly this. Google is appealing that ruling.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager holds a news conference at the EU Commission's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Certainly, Google has a much larger share of search than Amazon has of retail and market share is always a factor in how regulators decide if a business is anticompetitive. But Amazon's share of the retail market continues to expand More than half of all product searches occur on Amazon, Leigh said.

Amazon is starting to attract the same sort of scrutiny in Europe that has dogged Google. The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the EU has begun a preliminary probe into how Amazon treats the merchants that sell via its platform. One doesn't have to look too deeply into Amazon's ad business to discover some eyebrow-raising behavior, say observers.

Keying in a search term for any product on Amazon and at the top of first page of the search results will typically be stuffed with ads. The ads belong to companies that bid on and purchased the ability to advertise in this all-important area of Amazon site.

During a presentation at the Code Commerce conference on Tuesday, Leigh told attendees that Amazon is sometimes "predatory" in its advertising practices, according to the HubSpot Marketing Blog. She said Amazon will sometimes reserve the valuable real estate on its search-result pages for its own private-label products, Leigh said on stage, adding that sometimes Amazon will even display the ads on a competing product's detail page.

In an interview Wednesday with Business Insider, Leigh said: "It used to be people would log on to Amazon and a good product with a good price could go viral. Now, it's all pay to play. It's hard for a brand without some financial means to compete."

When asked whether this was legal, Leigh said she was not a lawyer or an expert at antitrust. She did, however, say Amazon's practices appear to be effective. She said that Facebook and Google and other players in the digital ad business "should be afraid."

And as for the possibility that shoppers could be turned off by the addition of so many ads at Amazon, Leigh said that this is one of the big questions in the ad business.

"Amazon bases their ads on how relevant they are to customers," Leigh said. "If ads are really relevant to you, do you mind? I think that the answer is you don't mind."

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Kristen Bell says she smokes weed — and everyone has an opinion

  • In a recent podcast appearance, Kristen Bell said she likes to smoke weed every so often.
  • Now, she's being shamed by online trolls.
  • People are also criticizing her for smoking when her husband Dax Shepard is sober.
  • But in the interview, Bell said that Shepard doesn't mind when she smokes weed.

Kristen Bell is pretty transparent when it comes to her relationship with her husband Dax Shepard, the trials and tribulations of being a mom, and her mental health.

And in a recent episode of Marc Marion's "WTF" podcast, the "Frozen" star brought her trademark down to earth sensibility. During the interview, Bell said that she likes to smoke weed every so often.

"I like my vape pen quite a bit. I smoke around my husband and it doesn't seem to bother him," Bell said. "Weed rules. Weed is my drug of choice, for sure."

But the actress said she doesn't smoke all the time.

"I can't smoke around my kids, which is a phenomenal amount of hours each week," she said. " [I use my pen] like once a week if I'm exhausted and we're about to sit down and watch '60 minutes,' why not?"

During the interview, Bell stressed that although her husband is sober he doesn't seem to mind that Bell drinks or smokes weed around him.

"He likes drugs and alcohol,” Bell explained. "He's just aware that he lost his privilege with them because he can't handle it. His brain does not have the chemistry to handle it."

Still, people are criticizing Bell for what she said on the podcast.

Some are mom-shaming the actress.

So what does it say when kids see a parent smoking weed.
Kids should have no inkling that there parents are high and now it’s out there for everyone to know Dax.

— Andrew Davis (@andrew14ad) September 19, 2018

Although Shepard shut down this particular mom-shamer, reiterating that the kids don't see it happening — just as Bell said on the podcast.

Grow the fuck up. No one said it's in front of the kids.

— dax shepard (@daxshepard) September 19, 2018

But many are defending Bell.

Amid the slight, many online are coming to Bell's defense — including her husband.

"That would be like a diabetic expecting their partner to never eat dessert. Get real!" Shepard tweeted in response to criticisms that she wasn't being supportive by not also being sober.

That would be like a diabetic expecting their partner to never eat dessert. Get real!

— dax shepard (@daxshepard) September 19, 2018

Many of Bell's fans are echoing that sentiment.

Let 👏 Kristen 👏 Bell 👏 Vape 👏 In 👏 Peace 👏 Dax 👏 Is 👏 A 👏 Big 👏 Boy 👏 That 👏 Can 👏 Handle 👏 Sobriety 👏

— Hemp Hookahzz (@Hookahzz) September 19, 2018

Learning @IMKristenBell smokes weed just makes me love her even more !

— Kaitlyn Blankenship 🌻 (@kaaayy_TEEEE) September 19, 2018

Just because she vapes around him doesn't mean she doesn't support him. I think it shows how serious he is about being sober because he isn't tempted to smoke it. That shows what kind of a couple they are. I love you guys. ❤️ @daxshepard @IMKristenBell

— Sam The Producer (@SammTheProducer) September 19, 2018

Sai Sailaja Seshadri, the founder of Women's Republic and the co-founder of Women of Color Creatives, said people shouldn't judge Bell.

"Just a reminder that you're a s—– person if you're going to judge Kristen Bell or her parenting ways when her *occasional* smoking does not affect her ability to parent and also when her sober husband himself doesn't care about her smoking," she wrote.

just a reminder that you’re a shitty person if you’re going to judge Kristen Bell or her parenting ways when her *occasional* smoking does not affect her ability to parent and also when her sober husband himself doesn’t care about her smoking

— sai sailaja seshadri (@Saisailu97) September 19, 2018

And, let the record show, Bell has publicly supported Shepard's sobriety in the past. On September 1, the actress took to Instagram where she penned a touching tribute congratulating him on 14 years of sobriety.

To the man mocked me in our wedding photos because I cried too many tears of joy, Who wore a baby Bjorn for 2 straight years to show his girls how to be as adventurous as possible, Who held our dear little shakey mann pup for 8 hrs straight on the day we had to put him down, I know how much you loved using. I know how much it got in your way. And I know, because I saw, how hard you worked to live without it. I will forever be in awe of your dedication, and the level of fierce moral inventory you perform on yourself, like an emotional surgery, every single night. You never fail to make amends, or say sorry when its needed. You are always available to guide me, and all of our friends, with open ears and tough love when its needed most. You have become the fertilizer in the garden of our life, encouraging everyone to grow. I'm so proud that you have never been ashamed of your story, but instead shared it widely, with the hope it might inspire someone else to become the best version of themselves. You have certainly inspired me to do so. I love you more than I ever thought I could love anyone, and I want you to know, I see you. I see how hard you work. You set an excellent example of being human. Happy 14th year sobriety birthday, @daxshepard. Xoxo

A post shared by kristen bell (@kristenanniebell) on Sep 1, 2018 at 6:20pm PDT on

"I know how much you loved using. I know how much it got in your way. And I know, because I saw, how hard you worked to live without it," she in the caption of her post. "I will forever be in awe of your dedication, and the level of fierce moral inventory you perform on yourself, like an emotional surgery, every single night."

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