The Scene: Week of June 23

June 20
Big name: Apple legend visits CapOne

Capital One Financial executives last week solicited the help of Silicon Valley legend Steve Wozniak to help them show off their new digital operations headquarters in Tysons Corner.

One of the three founders of Apple Computer, Wozniak headlined the grand opening event for McLean-based Capital One’s new digs, which will house the company’s software developers, product managers and social media managers. During the event, Wozniak, who was paid to make an appearance, called on banks to more aggressively pursue technology that will make their much-needed but often clunky financial services “fit more seamlessly” into our daily lives.

“People today expect apps and Web sites that come naturally to us as humans, ones that we can use very quickly, without any hassle,” he said during an interview. “Banks have been slow to move in that direction.”

However, he lauded Capital One’s new space — a very open, collaborative environment that more closely resembles a Silicon Valley co-working space than a traditional office cube farm — as a step in the right direction. “There was clearly a lot of thought that went into designing this space,” Wozniak said.

— J.D. Harrison

Kitchen court: Nixon Peabody holds annual cook-off

Nixon Peabody held its 25th annual cook-off competition last week, serving up about 25 appetizers, soups, entrees and desserts.

The cook-off is a morale-building tradition that began more than two decades ago when now-retired partner Phil Cronin and his secretary, Michelle Anderson, challenged each other to a chili cook-off — which Anderson won. It has since turned into a battle of the sexes, with the women winning 18 out of the past 23 cook-offs. The men walked away with a narrow victory this year, with a score of 24-23.

This year’s winners were decided by a panel of five judges: retired Nixon Peabody attorney Laurie Miller; Jay Cox, corporate chef at Seasons Culinary Services; Susan Delbert, executive chef at the National Press Club; Matt Zagorski, executive chef at Cuba Libre; and, well, this reporter.

Nine first-place winners were crowned this year, one for each food category: appetizers; salads; soups and stews; vegetables; entrees; vegan; “design cuisine challenge” (that involved making a dish using salmon, tarragon, nectarine, asparagus and onions); chocolate desserts; and non-chocolate desserts, plus an additional “best in show” award based entirely on presentation. That went to a cake that looked like a gumball machine, made by Penny Young, a trademark support specialist.

— Catherine Ho

Sports: Monumental partners get together

Ted Leonsis and his Monumental Sports & Entertainment hosted a Partner Summit June 19 at the Verizon Center. The all-day event, which included presentations by NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum and NHL Chief Marketing Officer Brian Jennings, was designed to showcase the marketability and value that the venue and its various sports teams — including the NBA Wizards and the NHL Capitals — bring to its brand partners.

Monumental announced that Geico, the Bethesda-based car insurance giant, had signed a three-year deal to put its logo on the floor in front of both team benches — the area known as the apron. Fewer than 10 NBA teams have sold that space, according to Monumental spokesman Kurt Kehl.

— Thomas Heath

Economy: AT&T CEO wants tax reform

Washington, you’re bringing Randall L. Stephenson down.

The chairman and chief executive of AT&T told the Economic Club of Washington last week that the biggest disadvantage to his role atop the nation’s second-largest telecommunications company is that the company’s investment strategy and growth depends so heavily on lawmakers and regulators here.

Stephenson isn’t still smarting from the bungled $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile that federal regulators blocked in 2011 out of concern the deal would eliminate a major wireless provider and drive up costs on consumers.

Instead, Stephenson told the audience of business executives that Congress’s unwillingness to enact corporate tax reform is inhibiting the expansion of the U.S. economy and dissuading businesses from investing money in growth.

That’s particularly true after a series of tax benefits for corporations expired on Jan. 1. Only after changes are made, Stephenson said, will jobs be created at a suitable rate and revenue be generated to sustain health care and entitlement programs.

“Investment has slowed across corporate America, and it’s illogical to think it happened for any reason other than these tax benefits going away. [Congress should] extend these provisions as a bridge to tax reform,” said Stephenson, who became chairman of the Business Roundtable in January.

But Washington gridlock due to deep political divisions makes it unlikely Congress will pass tax reform legislation this session, Stephenson lamented, despite what he sees as a bipartisan understanding that changes need to be made.

“The ability to work on core issues where there is general agreement is the part that frustrates me,” Stephenson said. On tax reform, “there is just general agreement on the big issues, what needs to be done. Get rid of the preferences and the special deductions and the loopholes ... and invest in getting the tax rate to a competitive level so we stop seeing companies move off shore.”

“And it comes to ‘start passing legislation,’ and you can’t get past square one.”

— Steven Overly

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business