Staff Directory 157932475

Lee Schafer

Columnist | Business
phone: 612-673-4302
Lee Schafer came to the Star Tribune after 15 years as a corporate officer, consultant and investment banker in the Twin Cities. He has been a columnist for Twin Cities Business magazine and was senior editor for Corporate Report Minnesota.
Recent content from Lee Schafer

Schafer: Closing the deal was right move for Datalink

The data storage company Datalink agreed last month to be acquired by an Arizona company called Insight Enterprises for $11.25 per share in cash, about…

Schafer: HealthPartners positioned well for whatever may come

If health care executives had no idea how the market was going to evolve four years ago as federal health care reform kicked in, one of the smartest things to do is what Park Nicollet did, and that's merge with HealthPartners.
Schafer: Keep all that clutter and be thankful for what you have

Schafer: Keep all that clutter and be thankful for what you have

Decluttering is the fashion, but the joys of living light look different to somebody who never had the money to accumulate a lot of nice things in the first place.
Schafer: 'Minneapolis Plan' would cut odds of a big bank bailout

Schafer: 'Minneapolis Plan' would cut odds of a big bank bailout

After the Dodd-Frank regulatory reforms were put in place, the odds of another crisis and taxpayer bailout only slipped to 67 percent. That still seems pretty likely.
Schafer: Win by Cubs shows the value of soft skills

Schafer: Win by Cubs shows the value of soft skills

  The Chicago Cubs ended a 108-year drought by winning the World Series earlier this month, at the same time giving a little boost to…
Lee Schafer: With Trump as president, it's difficult for businesses to feel at ease

Lee Schafer: With Trump as president, it's difficult for businesses to feel at ease

The election of Donald Trump apparently means we should count on a lot more volatility and more uncertainty, too.
Schafer: Settlement doesn't mar fired Northern Oil executive's optimism

Schafer: Settlement doesn't mar fired Northern Oil executive's optimism

You have to admire the sunny attitude of Michael Reger, who was fired in August as CEO of Northern Oil and Gas and who just…
Lee Schafer: Concern about state putting tax dollars into Vikings stadium

Lee Schafer: Concern about state putting tax dollars into Vikings stadium

Investing in an NFL stadium in downtown Minneapolis is starting to look a little like buying RCA stock in the summer of 1929, gold in 1980 or shares of Apple stock last May.

Schafer: Not all that venture capitalists offer entrepreneurs is gold

The only thing worse for an entrepreneur than venture capitalists declining to invest is having them give unsolicited, company-killing advice on their way out of…

Schafer: Is Pentair signaling a recession?

Pentair executives didn’t use the words “industrial recession” in adopting a newly pessimistic outlook as they announced quarterly results last week. But if what they…
Schafer: Groceries get cheaper, to retailers' dismay

Schafer: Groceries get cheaper, to retailers' dismay

Great news for shoppers is a problem if you are in the food business at any level.
Proposal to sell off Buffalo Wild Wings outlets is no slam dunk

Proposal to sell off Buffalo Wild Wings outlets is no slam dunk

Buffalo Wild Wings reports its quarterly results this week, when it should have more to say about whether it wants to dump most of the restaurants it owns to franchisees.
Schafer: Cyberprotection requires vigilance

Schafer: Cyberprotection requires vigilance

U.S. Bancorp’s head of cybersecurity, Jason Witty, uses the internet for pretty much everything. He even described in a recent conversation how he bought a…

Schafer: China's dirty water gives Pentair and Ecolab a big business opportunity

“Great Opportunity in China” isn’t a headline we have seen much this year. Yet U.S. companies from spigot manufacturers on up should have figured out…
Schafer: Size wasn't the issue in Wells Fargo debacle

Schafer: Size wasn't the issue in Wells Fargo debacle

Could the fake accounts scandal mean it's time to break up Wells Fargo & Co.?
Schafer: For Target, buyback is an investment in the company

Schafer: For Target, buyback is an investment in the company

one lesson out of the Minneapolis-based company's recent history is that spending a lot of money isn't the same thing as investing it.

Schafer: Economist Deirdre McCloskey argues that wealth followed social equality

One reason the economist Deirdre McCloskey goes on the road to explain how most of civilization became rich is to help audiences understand that the…

Schafer: Big power users benefit from competitive pricing law

The state’s Public Utilities Commission blessed a proposal last week to boost some big industrial operations in northeastern Minnesota by cutting their electric bills, which…
Schafer: Wells Fargo fiasco had roots in Norwest strategy

Schafer: Wells Fargo fiasco had roots in Norwest strategy

Wells Fargo may have a California headquarters address and carry a California brand name, but scrape off the red and yellow paint of Wells Fargo and you will see the blue and green of Norwest Corp.

Schafer: One20 thinks its free app can help truckers

The people involved with the start-up company One20 don’t really consider it a social media company, but one dead giveaway is that One20 doesn’t plan…

Schafer: MNsure isn't the cause of rising insurance rates

We can't make a good decision in the state about what to do about exploding insurance premium rates for individuals if it's MNsure that gets the blame.
Lee Schafer: Soon-to-premiere movie touts Minnesota's vibrant, diverse tech industry

Lee Schafer: Soon-to-premiere movie touts Minnesota's vibrant, diverse tech industry

The most important audience for a new documentary film on Minnesota's technology start-up scene will be the 500 or so mostly locals who gather for…

Lee Schafer: For some drug firms, highs and lows of value pricing are evident

Consumers who are outraged by huge increases in the price of the lifesaving EpiPen allergy drug could also direct a little of their anger toward…
Schafer: In the age of data, businesses can't forget about observation

Schafer: In the age of data, businesses can't forget about observation

The most interesting question tossed to a panel of business anthropologists this week in Minneapolis was whether companies should want a business person who’s been…

Schafer: Insider Fred Martin aims to reshape the investment industry

Some people look forward to traveling or maybe taking up gardening in retirement, but Fred Martin wants to fix a broken U.S. investment management industry.…
Schafer: Two years in, Target CEO's job isn't getting easier

Schafer: Two years in, Target CEO's job isn't getting easier

There's plenty of evidence to support the idea that it's not a great time to be a retailer, but that hasn't stopped Wal-Mart.
Schafer: Another tech business spurns St. Paul for Minneapolis

Schafer: Another tech business spurns St. Paul for Minneapolis

It's really no surprise that the high-profile technology firm When I Work Inc. recently decided to leave St. Paul for Minneapolis.
Schafer: Length of the Twin Cities apartment boom to be decided by banks

Schafer: Length of the Twin Cities apartment boom to be decided by banks

People who look at all the cranes around for even more apartment projects and ask what the developers could be thinking don’t quite understand the…

Schafer: Value of a global economy tainted by politics

This isn’t the political season to want anything to do with the word “global,” but no one at 3M Co. would bother denying that it’s…
Schafer: Vikings' deal with Twin Cities Orthopedics shows state of the NFL

Schafer: Vikings' deal with Twin Cities Orthopedics shows state of the NFL

  It’s hard to know what to think when a physicians practice like Twin Cities Orthopedics buys naming rights from a professional team in the…
Schafer: There's a reason for bad service from cable companies

Schafer: There's a reason for bad service from cable companies

It doesn't matter which publisher produces them, year after year it's the cable TV and internet providers populating the bottom of customer service lists. So delivering bad service is not just Comcast's problem, it's a whole industry's problem.
Schafer: It's amazing what we now call a public good

Schafer: It's amazing what we now call a public good

The term public good comes from economics and definitely doesn't mean what politicians are talking about when they insist that something needs to be done for "the good of the public."

Schafer: Changing health care landscape favors UnitedHealth Group

With uncertainty over Aetna's proposed purchase of Humana, the company with the dominant market share is going to remain Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group.
Schafer: Minneapolis start-up Stratifund guides new crowdfunding

Schafer: Minneapolis start-up Stratifund guides new crowdfunding

Is there a Google waiting to be found in the Twin Cities?
Schafer: Exposing shortcut many firms take to augment perceived value

Schafer: Exposing shortcut many firms take to augment perceived value

Donaldson Co. announced a share repurchase program last year as part of its strategy to ­support “our strategic growth plan while also returning cash to…
Schafer: What the lessons of tax-cutting in Kansas hold for Minnesota

Schafer: What the lessons of tax-cutting in Kansas hold for Minnesota

Kansas officials can’t seem to put out a tax forecast that’s pessimistic enough, with tax collections in June falling short again, this time by more…
Schafer: Dayton shows Essar the door, but the mining company isn't dead yet

Schafer: Dayton shows Essar the door, but the mining company isn't dead yet

Gov. Mark Dayton invited the mining company Cliffs Natural Resources to step over the lifeless body of Essar Steel Minnesota and take over Essar’s stalled…

Schafer: Kickstarter 'Guide' takes the path less traveled

Entrepreneur Kurt Boerner is about to kick off a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a product he’s desperately hoping will be broadly used, but…
Schafer: Hedging is about lowering risk, yet Delta talks as if it's a bet

Schafer: Hedging is about lowering risk, yet Delta talks as if it's a bet

When pressed on why Delta isn't eager to lock in fuel prices with a hedge now that oil prices seem cheap, CEO Ed Bastian replied, "I don't get paid to make those types of bets."
Schafer: Minnesota State at the brink

Schafer: Minnesota State at the brink

The state's second-largest college system is under an extreme revenue squeeze as part of legislators' ongoing shift of money from education to health.

Schafer: Just why do people keep falling for financial fraud?

It’s never easy to guess, when reading a story about financial fraud, just what the victims could’ve been thinking. Sorry if this sounds like victim-blaming,…
Schafer: Pro-Brexit forces didn't seem interested in self-interest

Schafer: Pro-Brexit forces didn't seem interested in self-interest

In the chaos since the vote last week in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, maybe the biggest unanswered question is how much more damage angry voters in big democracies are willing to do to themselves.
Schafer: Angel investor's lesson – it takes plenty of at-bats before you hit home run

Schafer: Angel investor's lesson – it takes plenty of at-bats before you hit home run

When people put the first outside capital in a start-up company, it’s usually called angel investing, and it’s yet another one of those activities that…
Schafer: Minnesotan sees profits in the paleo diet

Schafer: Minnesotan sees profits in the paleo diet

The language and culture of technology start-ups seems to be leaking into other industries, and hearing a term like "get to scale" from a food…

Schafer: Why we keep working these long, long weeks

This column is getting wrapped up at about my 50th hour of work in what’s traditionally considered the first week of summer, when the kids…
Lee Schafer: Cliffs' deal with steel giant looks like Essar's last loss

Lee Schafer: Cliffs' deal with steel giant looks like Essar's last loss

A new long-term supply agreement that Cliffs Natural Resources has reached with steel giant ArcelorMittal put the final nail in the coffin of Essar Steel Minnesota.
Schafer: What in the name of 'tronc' was Tribune Publishing thinking?

Schafer: What in the name of 'tronc' was Tribune Publishing thinking?

The world of journalism rarely provides lessons in business leadership. Then came tronc. In case you missed this news, that will be the new name…
Schafer: How our biases lead us to make mistakes

Schafer: How our biases lead us to make mistakes

It’s refreshing to read in a new book called “The Physics of Brand” that the authors refuse to use terms like consumer or target market.…
Schafer: Why the Central States Pension Fund is doomed to fail

Schafer: Why the Central States Pension Fund is doomed to fail

The Teamsters' Central States Pension Fund looks all but certain to fail, crushing the retirement dreams of thousands of Minnesotans and many thousands more in other states.

Schafer: Proterra invests in battling hunger

Rich Gammill of the private equity fund Proterra Investment Partners might have mentioned "feeding the world" a half-dozen times in an hour, as he talked through where his firm puts its money.

Schafer: Real estate tech firm stakes out new turf in real estate

The only way for an entrepreneur to claim credit for a big surge of demand no one really saw coming is by responding the way…
Start-ups these days don't necessarily want to be UnitedHealth

Start-ups these days don't necessarily want to be UnitedHealth

The next UnitedHealth Group is probably going to go out of business this month as the founders shut it down rather than try to raise more money to pay June's rent.
Schafer: Legislature should protect Prince's right of publicity

Schafer: Legislature should protect Prince's right of publicity

Do our state legislators have the good sense to make it easier for Prince's estate to legally protect the value of his image and likeness?
Schafer: Pioneer Press owner's plan is to 'harvest' what is left of the newspaper

Schafer: Pioneer Press owner's plan is to 'harvest' what is left of the newspaper

The hedge fund that controls the Pioneer Press has apparently decided on one of the time-honored strategies to make money in a declining business. It’s…
Kashkari tells Schafer he knew what he was doing

Kashkari tells Schafer he knew what he was doing

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis next week will have its second symposium on what to do about the risk of having to bail out a bank that is still too big to fail. Its president, Neel Kashkari, says he thought the initiative would make a splash. Instead, banks are "trying to throw every criticism at us."
Schafer: St. Jude sale is sad, but part of inevitable industry pattern

Schafer: St. Jude sale is sad, but part of inevitable industry pattern

As disappointing as it is, there's nothing unique about big companies in Minnesota getting gobbled up.

Schafer: 2 brothers, 2 breweries, but no ill will on tap

After I first heard that brothers Robert and John Klick had founded competing craft breweries on Lake Minnetonka, the headline more or less wrote itself:…

Schafer: Carlson is just one big family business doing what is best

It was certainly no surprise when Carlson announced Wednesday that it’s getting out of its hotel business. There is a Chinese buyer, which makes the…
Schafer: Tough times could mean difficult choices on the Iron Range

Schafer: Tough times could mean difficult choices on the Iron Range

It's not surprising that a snapshot of the Iron Range economy from the state's Office of the Legislative Auditor shows a depressing picture.

Schafer: Huntsman sees U.S. opportunities in China

The former American ambassador to China says U.S. executives and business owners don't appreciate how much opportunity exists for them to make money in the world's most populous country.
Schafer: Job losses in mining are no longer big news, and recovery will not be a smooth trip

Schafer: Job losses in mining are no longer big news, and recovery will not be a smooth trip

United States Steel Corp. didn't think it was worth a public announcement, the news this month that at least one out of every four of its salaried employees would lose their job.
Schafer: Many securities brokers stay on the job despite complaints against them

Schafer: Many securities brokers stay on the job despite complaints against them

Four out of 10 brokers who lose their job after misconduct quickly get another one, according to a team of researchers, including one at the University of Minnesota.

Schafer: Iron Range is latest region to face resource curse

Maybe we've been wrong all along about the abundant deposits of iron ore in northeastern Minnesota, enabling generations of Minnesotans to earn a good living by mining.

Schafer: U political scientist Larry Jacobs takes on the Fed in new book

Business columnist Lee Schafer says Jacobs makes important points, though he doesn't agree with all of them.
Schafer: Here's why this time really is different for Minnesota mining

Schafer: Here's why this time really is different for Minnesota mining

By now a "15,000 Layoffs?" newspaper headline should be no surprise to the iron miners of northeastern Minnesota.
Lee Schafer: High stakes in growth struggle at General Mills

Lee Schafer: High stakes in growth struggle at General Mills

There's no financial crisis but, with what has happened to some of its rivals, the pressure is real at General Mills.
Schafer: Presidential candidates are missing the point on trade

Schafer: Presidential candidates are missing the point on trade

Economist John Spry said his profession maybe deserves a little of its reputation for muddling an issue, but on a few things, economists really do know the score.
Schafer: Clear thinking is needed on the future of Giants Ridge

Schafer: Clear thinking is needed on the future of Giants Ridge

The Giants Ridge resort is such a big part of the state agency leading economic development on the Iron Range that the resort received its…

Schafer: The investor conflict at Cogentix is unusual

One of the most successful investors in med-tech has made public a quarrel with a company where he sits on the board.
Schafer: New book by Mike Veeck covers all the innovative bases

Schafer: New book by Mike Veeck covers all the innovative bases

The professional baseball impresario Mike Veeck wrote what he called a "sports book with silly stories" more than 10 years ago. He found that he'd accidentally written a business book.
Schafer: Why is state only now taking action on Twin Metals mine?

Schafer: Why is state only now taking action on Twin Metals mine?

The state’s governor may not have killed the proposed Twin Metals copper, nickel and precious metals mine project in northeastern Minnesota, when he said this…
Schafer: Plans for soccer stadium area shy of 'realistic'

Schafer: Plans for soccer stadium area shy of 'realistic'

It's just not easy to imagine several office buildings standing in the Midway area, even in 15 years and with a gleaming soccer stadium right there, too.
Macalester QB, economics student tackles football analytics

Macalester QB, economics student tackles football analytics

Macalester College quarterback and budding economist Benny Goldman has built a predictive model that just may reshape traditional decision making.
Schafer: Ecolab the latest to alter operations in Venezuela

Schafer: Ecolab the latest to alter operations in Venezuela

Ecolab’s announcement that it is “deconsolidating” its businesses in Venezuela might look like a creative accounting approach to get a bad business off the books.…

Attention, retirees: Social Security loophole is closing

Sometimes when Congress gets around to closing a loophole in some government program, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that it's not just…
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