Don't stop at Heinz, Mr. Buffett — Pittsburgh has many more investment opportunities
By Eric Heyl
Published: Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, 2:15 p.m.
To: Warren Buffett
From: Berkshire Hathaway Acquisitions Dept.
Re: Potential Pittsburgh purchases
While performing our due diligence in Western Pennsylvania before completing Thursday's $28 billion purchase of the H.J. Heinz Co. — in the transaction we referred to in-house as “Cash for Condiments” — we identified several other area companies that might prove worthy additions to B-H's corporate portfolio.
What follows are our observational, anecdotal findings. Please review and let us know if we should provide more information on the possible purchase of these entities:
• Primanti Bros.
Type of business: Restaurant chain
Notable asset: Signature sandwich featuring a variety of meats, French fries and coleslaw stacked high between two thick slices of Italian bread. (We know it sounds gross, but wait until you try one. We brought back a capicolla for you to sample. It's in the break-room refrigerator in a brown paper bag marked, “Save for Warren.”)
Our analysis: While the company has been phenomenally successful in Pittsburgh and Florida, current ownership has failed to think globally and pursue expansion in burgeoning Asian markets. If acquired, B-H could position Primanti Bros. as sustenance for the sushi-weary in Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.
• Pittsburgh Brewing Co.
Type of business: Bad beer producer
Notable asset: Iron City Beer, an iconic Pittsburgh beer whose revolting taste for decades was masked by the blackened soot in the throats of the mill workers who regularly consumed the stuff. (We know it sounds gross, and it is. We didn't bring back one for you to sample.)
Our analysis: This company's bad beer labels also include IC Light, Old German, American and American Light. Acquiring Pittsburgh Brewing immediately would position B-H as an industry leader of inexpensive and virtually undrinkable beers. That might sound like a negative, but such beers are extremely popular among college students who lack both discriminating taste and the money to purchase better brews.
• Pittsburgh Pirates
Type of business: Major League Baseball team
Notable asset: A superb physical plant in PNC Park.
Our analysis: The product the plant consistently produces has been well below industry standards for a generation. The last few management teams' financial strategy of profitability via futility has been moderately successful, but probably not as successful as actual success would be.
If acquired, B-H would recommend significant capital investment in the form of better players to boost stadium attendance and TV ratings that might garner the company a lucrative new cable contract. The cost of the talent upgrade could be offset by a reduction in the franchise's ridiculous number of fireworks nights.
The expensive pyrotechnics might momentarily mask bad baseball, but they have to have an explosive impact on the bottom line.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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