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: Why Surdyk's Sunday liquor sales stunt is assault on rule of law

Schafer: Why Surdyk's Sunday liquor sales stunt is assault on rule of law

Jim Surdyk's decision to open his liquor store in Minneapolis on a Sunday months before it was legal to do so was a far ­bigger act than just selling some wine and beer.
Schafer: Fun Is Good team serves up lessons with dose of humor

Schafer: Fun Is Good team serves up lessons with dose of humor

Emily Stuckenbruck, a 34-year-old college dean, will be in St. Paul next week to tell an audience how younger and older people can more easily…

Lee Schafer: Even 'experts' don't get GDP

No one should conclude that big trade surpluses or a shrinking trade deficit actually are what cause economic slowdowns. They aren't.
Ex-Target exec jumps into a tough situation at Uber

Ex-Target exec jumps into a tough situation at Uber

As Target's chief marketing officer, Jeff Jones stepped out with candid comments and advice during the company's rough patch in 2014. Now, as the new president of Uber Technologies, he's dealing with an even bigger corporate crisis.

Lee Schafer: Target's price-cut jargon is not fooling investors

The leaders of Target ought to at least consider ditching the use of the term price investment. Their institutional shareholders know exactly what this retail…

Schafer: R&D isn't dead, it's broken

No one should have been surprised when the Office of the Legislative Auditor found the Minnesota research-and-development tax credit to be a net drain on…
Manufacturing job losses, yes, but gains for trained Minnesota workers

Manufacturing job losses, yes, but gains for trained Minnesota workers

Here's one of the ironies in looking ahead at how the nature of work is going to change — manufacturing may actually be a bright spot.
Schafer: Creating jobs takes a lot of hard work

Schafer: Creating jobs takes a lot of hard work

Not that long ago a chamber president like Matt Kramer of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce would join with just about everybody else…
Schafer: Lunds & Byerlys learning about the cost of equity amid sibling legal battle

Schafer: Lunds & Byerlys learning about the cost of equity amid sibling legal battle

The owners' capital in a family business only looks like it doesn't cost anything. That can be a tough case to make with owners.
Schafer: Housing bond pool in Minnesota evaporates

Schafer: Housing bond pool in Minnesota evaporates

But the need for affordable housing in Minnesota hasn't.
Schafer: Automation tempers hope for new Iron Range mining jobs

Schafer: Automation tempers hope for new Iron Range mining jobs

The pro-mining coalition that is pushing the proposed PolyMet ­Mining project in northeastern Minnesota decided to get right to the point — by giving itself the name "Jobs for ­Minnesotans."

Schafer: Jux Law Firm is a different breed of legal beagle

The Jux Law Firm put on a seminar this week that was anything but the usual law firm event. The topic was traditional enough, picking…
Along the trail, fortunes diverged for Polaris, Arctic Cat

Along the trail, fortunes diverged for Polaris, Arctic Cat

Maybe it's been a long time since anyone's called Arctic Cat and Polaris Industries the Minnesota Twins, but it's not just a clichéd way to describe two local rivals.
Schafer: Some sellers don't buy the New York state of mind

Schafer: Some sellers don't buy the New York state of mind

A certain kind of East Coast deal guy can certainly alienate his clients.
Schafer: New tax plan could hobble Target, Best Buy

Schafer: New tax plan could hobble Target, Best Buy

Big American companies are so good at sidestepping income taxes that many pay nowhere near the statutory rate of 35 percent. One notable exception is…
Schafer: Bill tailored for Xcel cuts PUC out of the process

Schafer: Bill tailored for Xcel cuts PUC out of the process

Nobody needed a deep knowledge of regulatory law to understand a bill introduced at the Legislature that allows Xcel Energy go ahead with an $800…

Schafer: Congress starts complicated process of getting rid of the Affordable Care Act

Don’t feel bad if you can’t predict what’s going to happen to the employer-sponsored health insurance market now that the Affordable Care Act is on…
Schafer: Indian Motorcycle shows the power of a brand

Schafer: Indian Motorcycle shows the power of a brand

So Indian Motorcycles are a big success after six years in the hands of Medina-based Polaris even as Victory goes out of business — and both were designed and built by the same company. So maybe what's turned out to be a die hard is the Indian brand itself.
Schafer: Rich and poor came together at Macy's

Schafer: Rich and poor came together at Macy's

Macy's will still have hundreds of stores open, but its store base is contracting and there's no reason to think that will stop.

Lee Schafer: It's time to figure out your net worth

By now statements from banks and investment companies from the end of last year have arrived, making now a great time for the most useful…

Loup Ventures turns venture capital conventional thinking on its head

"DFJ invests in visionaries who create the future" is the way the venerable Silicon Valley venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson describes what it does,…

U.S. shale oil drillers leaner, meaner after surviving OPEC's ugly price war

The OPEC global oil cartel decided two years ago to put a big chunk of the U.S. shale oil industry out of business. If you…
Schafer: Jeremiah Program has found a way to expand nationally

Schafer: Jeremiah Program has found a way to expand nationally

Expanding outside the Twin Cities not easy for nonprofits.
Schafer: City-owned bank is possible, but it's probably not necessary

Schafer: City-owned bank is possible, but it's probably not necessary

The city of Minneapolis is looking into the “possibility” of launching a city-owned bank. But, of course, it’s possible. So is opening a pet shop.…
Schafer: Stock deal brings unexpected cuts elsewhere for some Medtronic shareholders

Schafer: Stock deal brings unexpected cuts elsewhere for some Medtronic shareholders

As a general rule of thumb, an unexpected letter from the Social Security Administration won’t make you happy. That’s if you can even understand what…

Schafer: Health care players still consolidating

The election result of November means that there is a jump ball again in national health care policy, but the big health care players haven’t…
Schafer: In Cook County, simple pleasures suffer from a lack of help

Schafer: In Cook County, simple pleasures suffer from a lack of help

Employers have tried just about every common-sense idea to get and keep people, leaning particularly hard on the option of importing them from abroad.

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.…
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