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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: Possible state cuts threaten UCare's ability to survive

UCare has made a point of saying it’s gone to court to fight for the well-being of its members in two public health programs now…
Infinite Campus wants to lure IT workers to Blaine

Infinite Campus wants to lure IT workers to Blaine

An innovative thinker is turning “Garbage Hill” into a hive of innovation.

Schafer: New Orleans needed healing, not fixing

In the 10 years since Katrina came ashore in Louisiana and flooded most of the city of New Orleans, I’ve never been able to ­listen…
Schafer: Target's priorities change as growth opportunities diminish

Schafer: Target's priorities change as growth opportunities diminish

For those who are still waiting to hear more from Target about its plans for growth, it’s pretty obvious right now. Just look at how the company spends its money.
Schafer: Google's new structure has roots in GM management innovations

Schafer: Google's new structure has roots in GM management innovations

Google’s new plan to operate as a technology holding company called Alphabet raises many questions about how such a structure should ideally work. A good…
JAMF's new CEO makes a respectful transition

JAMF's new CEO makes a respectful transition

The first thing new JAMF Software CEO Dean Hager wanted to do last week was dispel the idea that he knows of any secrets of how to take over as CEO from the co-founders of a dynamic company.
Lee Schafer: Minnesota's upbeat fiscal story pays off

Lee Schafer: Minnesota's upbeat fiscal story pays off

The state takes a step closer to AAA status in the debt world.
Lee Schafer: Elon Musk, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, has achieved extreme success

Lee Schafer: Elon Musk, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, has achieved extreme success

Elon Musk’s business mission is to turn us into an interplanetary species and thus increase our odds of long-term survival, along the way completely reinventing our transportation system to be finished with fossil fuels.
Schafer: Rochester upstart sees a niche in cell phones

Schafer: Rochester upstart sees a niche in cell phones

The Boston Consulting Group uses a little grid to guide the thinking of CEOs when their products turn into commodities. It’s hard to know where…
Schafer: Farmers are planning for the second bad year in a row

Schafer: Farmers are planning for the second bad year in a row

It's not going to be a good year for farming in Minnesota, at least not for corn and soybean farmers, the backbone of the state’s agriculture.
Schafer: More to Polaris Industries' paint plant woes than costs

Schafer: More to Polaris Industries' paint plant woes than costs

It would be great to know just how much creativity went into the new painting facility at the Polaris Industries manufacturing plant in Spirit Lake,…
Schafer: CEO Clay Collins has big ambitions for LeadPages

Schafer: CEO Clay Collins has big ambitions for LeadPages

Clay Collins of LeadPages looks to be that rare co-founder of a technology company who can stay in the top job all the way through…

Schafer: Cardiovascular Systems sales complaint comes up a little odd

A few pages into a whistleblower legal complaint against Cardiovascular Systems that just became public, the plaintiff points out that CSI sales representatives each had…
Market economics don't explain high pay for CEOs

Market economics don't explain high pay for CEOs

Wages are sticky, and don’t move up and down like the price of corn. Social and political thinking about what’s appropriate matter, too.
Lee Schafer: Entrepreneurs spotted opportunity in health care law

Lee Schafer: Entrepreneurs spotted opportunity in health care law

Tucked away in a Minnetonka office park is a new software company called Health E(fx) that looks like it’s on its way to being a…
For millennials, ideal jobs are all about location

For millennials, ideal jobs are all about location

It would be possible to take the bus from my neighborhood in St. Paul and get to work at the new TCF Financial facility in…
As health insurers scramble to get bigger, UnitedHealth sits pretty

As health insurers scramble to get bigger, UnitedHealth sits pretty

Aetna’s agreement to buy its rival Humana is only the first deal to come out of an amazing merger-and-acquisition free-for-all going on among the largest…
Vikings tap many sources for stadium funds

Vikings tap many sources for stadium funds

It’s now possible to accurately estimate what the owners will end up putting into the stadium. It’s about $572 million.

Schafer: Business climate not the same for everyone

CNBC’s recent study put Minnesota at the top, but not all businesses agree.

Lee Schafer: Health-care collaboration gets patients home faster

Any health care facility with “suites” in its name sounds like it’s got to be more of a hotel than a clinic. It’s true that…
U.S. Bank hangs on as rates stay low

U.S. Bank hangs on as rates stay low

Even a little bump in rates should mean U.S. Bank won’t have to follow the lead of other banks and get earnings growth by cutting the jobs of hundreds if not thousands of employees.
Mayo Clinic joins move to get new drugs to market faster

Mayo Clinic joins move to get new drugs to market faster

Mayo Clinic is a partner in a new development model to get safe drugs on their way to market.
Schafer: As a company grows, founder usually isn't best choice to lead

Schafer: As a company grows, founder usually isn't best choice to lead

Code42 Software’s Matthew Dornquast has wisely chosen being rich over being king. Dornquast had been the CEO of Code42 Software, a pillar of the emerging…
Schafer: Hormel is right to get into organics

Schafer: Hormel is right to get into organics

Hormel gets it. In this kind of a deal — a Big Food company buying an organic and natural products company — the biggest risk is accidentally spoiling the organic brand that just took a lot of money to buy.

Schafer: Lessons from the past still hold value

The student chosen to speak at the undergraduate commencement ceremony at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, John Reichl, decided to tell his classmates about…

The American dream? Now, it's just about holding on

Among the casualties of the Great Recession is the faith many Americans once had in a concept called the American dream. It hasn’t made much…
Schafer: No need to 'transform' Target; just run it better

Schafer: No need to 'transform' Target; just run it better

Target’s executives on Wednesday morning will have no choice but to update shareholders and analysts on the company’s “transformation.” If they don’t do it upfront,…

Schafer: As jobless rates sink, employers feel a shift in labor market

Finding and keeping the right employees has to be a strategic priority for any business as we approach an era of near zero percent unemployment.
Schafer: Jobs' genius was learning to lead his Apple colleagues

Schafer: Jobs' genius was learning to lead his Apple colleagues

Anyone who knows much about the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs knows he could really throw a tantrum. He also told employees all the time…

Out-of-favor conglomerates have some lessons for today's CEOs

We can learn from yesterday’s conglomerates
Schafer: Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting is a once-in-a-lifetime treat

Schafer: Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting is a once-in-a-lifetime treat

The Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting is the closest thing to a national celebration of common-sense American business as this country has. This year’s event was special, too, marking 50 years since Warren Buffett was put in charge.

Schafer: New book confronts perceptions of real estate developers

Peter Hendee Brown starts a real estate development class he teaches at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs by asking his students…
Schafer: Franken's view hurt Comcast's big deal

Schafer: Franken's view hurt Comcast's big deal

The collapse of the Comcast-Time Warner deal could be a big win for Sen. Al Franken.

Schafer: No checking account? Be prepared to lose money and time

Cashing a $100 check in a check-cashing store turned out to be a humbling — and frustrating — two-hour job.It didn’t help that the payroll…
Schafer: Iron Range slump appears set to last for a long time

Schafer: Iron Range slump appears set to last for a long time

Looking around at the global industry, it’s shaping up as another of those slumps that sure won’t feel temporary when it’s done.

Schafer: Why do workers like the Twin Cities? Let’s count

To understand why the Twin Cities developed a big constellation of corporate headquarters, it helps to know a little bit about the experience of Greg…
Schafer: Ryan Broshar is not afraid to invest from the beginning

Schafer: Ryan Broshar is not afraid to invest from the beginning

It’s not that easy to listen anymore to the whining of an entrepreneur who can’t seem to find any capital here. Getting capital is never…

Schafer: Capella aims to accelerate education

It’s hard to deny the appeal of any educational program that goes as quickly as possible to a meaningful degree and then to a better…

Schafer: A merger of money losers just might work out

Our region still has its fair share of public companies too small to generate any enthusiasm among investors. If you push a CEO for an…
Schafer: UnitedHealth's Catamaran deal is about more than just getting bigger

Schafer: UnitedHealth's Catamaran deal is about more than just getting bigger

Any company announcing a big acquisition almost always sees its stock price slip on the news. Investors know from experience to suspect that too much…

Schafer: Little known Groveland Capital has a potential win on the table

Even people paid to know such things have never heard of Groveland Capital, a Minneapolis hedge fund manager that is running a spirited campaign to oust the board of a mini-conglomerate called Biglari Holdings.

Schafer: IBM losing touch with values that bred success

One of the notable innovations of technology giant IBM may be the creative language it’s come up with to describe what happens when people are…
Schafer: There was a method to Starbucks' madness

Schafer: There was a method to Starbucks' madness

After watching the storm of criticism that engulfed Starbucks and its “Race Together” campaign, it’s no real mystery why so few corporations risk any sort of direct involvement in social issues.

Schafer: New IRA regs spell trouble for small savers

It’s hard to imagine how the state of retirement finance could get any worse, but the Department of Labor seems ready prove that it’s possible.…
Schafer: Select Comfort could use some fresh eyes

Schafer: Select Comfort could use some fresh eyes

The bed company Select Comfort Corp. faces a contested election for board seats largely because of frustration over spending on the kind of basic computer…
Schafer: Highly skilled, highly paid Target jobs probably gone forever

Schafer: Highly skilled, highly paid Target jobs probably gone forever

Early Tuesday morning, the posts on social media and chat rooms made it clear that Target Corp. was getting on with the hard work of…
Schafer: Target's challenge is to reinvent workplace culture

Schafer: Target's challenge is to reinvent workplace culture

CEO’s challenge is to reinvent the retailer’s workplace culture

Schafer: Semiconductor industry shifts left few options for Aetrium

The trucks that carried the last products from the onetime tech highflier Aetrium rolled out of North St. Paul the other day, ending a long…

Schafer: Merging law schools was smarter than closing

The obvious reaction to the merger of Hamline University’s law school with the independent William Mitchell College of Law was to see it largely as…
Schafer: Fears about Medtronic debt appear misplaced

Schafer: Fears about Medtronic debt appear misplaced

It was just plain puzzling to read in a major financial journal like Barron’s last week that the debt burden of Medtronic PLC may be…
Schafer: How Wal-Mart succeeded in Canada where Target failed

Schafer: How Wal-Mart succeeded in Canada where Target failed

In the 1990s, Wal-Mart went into Canada almost the same way Target did, by acquiring an established retailer. Unlike Target, they succeeded.

Schafer: To keep an NFL team, there's a price to be paid

To the people of St. Louis:Apologies for the unsolicited advice from up the river, but you are in one tough spot, having to choose between…

Schafer: Regulation isn't always a problem for business

The city of Duluth is reconsidering its experiment with a deregulated taxicab market.There are still rules for them in place, of course, but in 2002…

Schafer: Sharing some of its profits helps Delta thrive

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker explained to the Reuters news service in December that the airline industry should “move back to what normal industrial companies…
Schafer: Insiders, outsiders alike keep faith in Hutch Tech

Schafer: Insiders, outsiders alike keep faith in Hutch Tech

Hutchinson Technology just reported another quarterly loss, but it still has supporters on Wall Street.
Schafer: Long-term strategy punishes Stratasys

Schafer: Long-term strategy punishes Stratasys

It’s not every day that a bunch of top securities analysts find themselves asking basically the same question over and over on a conference call,…
Schafer: The 529 tax break was saved, but for whom?

Schafer: The 529 tax break was saved, but for whom?

The president’s quick about-face on eliminating some tax benefits for owners of college savings plans will likely be remembered as a bipartisan revolt of the…
Schafer: For Cargill, changing climate is about risk

Schafer: For Cargill, changing climate is about risk

Business leaders looking for a smart way to influence the most controversial questions in public life can do much worse than follow the example of…
Schafer: Cheap oil means pain in North Dakota

Schafer: Cheap oil means pain in North Dakota

What’s happened in the global oil market is exactly what it appears to be — major oil producing countries are trying to put the Bakken out of business.
Schafer: Low interest rates have us in uncharted territory

Schafer: Low interest rates have us in uncharted territory

The financial writer Jim Grant, founder and editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, remarked in a Minneapolis speech this week that “it seems my business…

Schafer: And there goes the traditional American corporation

The traditional American corporation looks to be slowly on its way out, and we might miss it when it’s gone.There are still more than 1.6…
Schafer: Impatience was a virtue for Target on Canada

Schafer: Impatience was a virtue for Target on Canada

Brian Cornell explained just after he took the top job at Target that a deep analysis of the retailer’s struggling Canadian operation already was underway.…

Schafer: Should state be helping us plan our retirement?

Of course it’s possible. It’s even easy. But do we want the state to jump into a market already served by the likes of Securian and Ameriprise?

Schafer: The new sharing looks just like renting

Not many things in business are hotter than start-ups in “the sharing economy.” The headlines are grabbed by the likes of the car service Uber…

Schafer: Medtronic/Covidien deal sends the wrong message

“Be in favor of what’s going to happen,” is an old bit of wisdom in politics. Don’t look like a sore loser when the roll…
Schafer: Zipnosis had a great idea, wrong customer

Schafer: Zipnosis had a great idea, wrong customer

The Minneapolis start-up company Zipnosis, now six years old, at first struggled when it brought an online diagnostic service to market at a time when…
Schafer: For utilities, it's all about managing uncertainty

Schafer: For utilities, it's all about managing uncertainty

Great River Energy has decided changes in carbon emissions rules may make its biggest coal-fired power plants in North Dakota worth nothing by 2028.
Schafer: Empty or full, 80-story tower would be a talker

Schafer: Empty or full, 80-story tower would be a talker

It seems a little early in the current real estate development upturn in the Twin Cities to see a beautiful rendering of an 80-story building…
Schafer: Being a good board member just requires some common sense

Schafer: Being a good board member just requires some common sense

Recent scandals may give the impression that the nonprofit community is out of control, but the basic financial oversight of nonprofits seems to be improving.
Millennials would like Twin Cities if they considered it

Millennials would like Twin Cities if they considered it

The Twin Cities has gotten some prominent national publicity lately all but ordering young professionals to move here. There’s no reason to think it will…

Schafer: Innovation culture is inherently Midwestern

Business professor Anne Marie Knott looked at her state-by-state data on innovation and couldn’t easily explain why Minnesota ranked just behind California, home to the…

Schafer: College grads aren't immune to stagnant wages

Monday is the deadline to apply to the University of Minnesota for admission next fall. That’s also the day early applicants should hear whether they…
Cheapest place to live is one that you own

Cheapest place to live is one that you own

The Zillow home value index for the Twin Cities is up nearly 25 percent from the postrecession bottom, but Zillow economist Skylar Olsen said in a conversation last week that the housing market appears to be entering a period of price stability.

Schafer: Activist shareholders' demands now a fact of life

The e-mails a month or so ago were unfailingly polite and very insistent. The principals of Spear Point Capital Partners really wanted to chat about…

Schafer: Success is about more than what you own

One of the thicker files here at the office is a well-used folder labeled simply “Happiness.”There’s nothing in it from the likes of popular spiritualist…
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