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Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s chief financial officer, guest-blogs for Bill Marriott, Chairman & CEO of Marriott International, reflecting on the Economy and Marriott’s Prospects for 2009.

Audio Podcast:

“With the slowdown, our stock value has eroded meaningfully in the past year. Just because we have plenty of company doesn’t make the decline any easier. Before things get better, we’re going to have to navigate through a tough 2009… Despite this, and even though the U.S. has been in a recession since December 2007, we have much to be thankful for. First and foremost, we have a terrific management team, beginning with Bill Marriott, who has been through significant downturns before and has noted that each time we’ve come back stronger…Our business strategy of managing and franchising hotels protects us in slowdowns and primes us for better days. Marriott is a remarkably resilient cash flow generator, even when business slows. Our balance sheet is in good shape and we have access to cash through our revolving line of credit, which has over a billion dollars remaining available. Because of our excellent financial shape, the revolver, as it is called, is free of many of the complex restrictions companies can often experience. In fact, with our solid cash flow and more modest investment spending in 2009, we expect our debt levels will decline next year…”

Marriott People, Places and Purpose:

Continue reading at http://www.blogs.marriott.com/default.asp?item=2298372

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Brightcove Inc., the leading global Internet TV platform, announced the formation of a majority-owned Japanese subsidiary, Brightcove KK. The new subsidiary is backed by $4.9 million in new investment from Brightcove Inc. and four market-leading Japanese strategic partners: Dentsu, Inc., J-Stream, Inc., transcosmos, Inc. (transcosmos), and Cyber Communications, Inc. (CCI). Three of the investment partners, Dentsu, J-Stream, and CCI, along with Brightcove Inc., will be sales agents for Brightcove KK in Japan, giving Brightcove KK immediate and powerful access to the Japanese market.

Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, Brightcove KK will operate a localized version of Brightcove’s award-winning, on-demand Internet TV platform, which is currently used by media companies and marketers across North America and Europe. With Brightcove KK, Japanese media companies and marketers will gain access to the most powerful and scalable software as a service (SaaS) solution available for online video players, distribution, and advertising.

“Brightcove enters the Japanese market at a time when household broadband penetration has surpassed 50 percent, presenting enormous opportunities for media companies and advertisers to build online businesses and engage audiences,” said Jeremy Allaire, chairman and chief executive officer, Brightcove. “It is a great privilege to be partnering with the market leaders in Japan for digital media and advertising. By combining the proven Brightcove technology with the capabilities of our partners, Brightcove KK will give media companies and marketers in Japan a unique solution for implementing their online video strategies and unlocking the potential in the market.”

The Brightcove KK partners represent the market leaders in Japan in digital media, advertising, and content delivery.

  • Dentsu, Inc. is the largest advertising company in Japan with a market share of approximately 30 percent and has over 6,000 clients Groupwide.
  • J-Stream, Inc. is Japan’s largest content delivery network specializing in streaming media for content providers and business corporations.
  • transcosmos is Japan’s leading information processing outsourcing company adopting the latest Internet technology through the strategic investment and business development.
  • CCI is Japan’s largest interactive adverting company that currently has more than 30 percent of the country’s digital brand marketing, a popular advertising serving technology, and online advertising network.

These companies bring tremendous reach into the media and marketing sectors in Japan, and will help ensure the success of Brightcove KK in the Japanese market.

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The French Trade Office in San Francisco has announced the beginning of the French Tech Tour (FTT). The week long mission will introduce 11 French technology startups to the movers and shakers of Silicon Valley. The 11 finalists were selected from over 24 applicants by 9 supporting companies including AT&T, Cisco, Ebay, Google, HP, Intel Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, and Symantec. Backed by UBIFRANCE, the FTT focuses on bridging the gap between Silicon Valley and Paris. The week of workshops and one-on-one interviews will also include a mini-conference on May 21st called Valley Talk: Make It or Break It where both French and U.S. startups will learn strategies for business success.

In its second year, the FTT has quickly gained recognition in both the U.S. and France. Referred to as the home of some of the best high tech clusters in Europe, French companies continue to raise the technology bar for their U.S. counterparts. Participation in this tour furthers the collaboration between the two countries. This year’s startup companies include:

Bobex – a leading B2B e-marketplace, active in 6 countries, makes markets more transparent by matching local buyers and suppliers for non strategic products & services.

Exaprotect – a provider of regulatory and audit compliance log monitoring, event management for threat detection, and change management to allow business policy based network configuration change.

DELCREA – the inspirer in resolving the challenges of email from both diagnostic to efficiency solutions for individuals to large companies. Their software brings an innovative approach to control, organize and secure email faster and easier while reducing time building knowledge bases from existing content, and eliminating all risk of compromising internal and external business sensitive data.

myERP.com – a complete web-based ERP solution using Google technology (GWT & Google Apps) and covering all functional fields of company management around a single database: CRM, Commercial Management, Logistics, Points of sale, Finance & Accounting, Purchases, Production, Quality.

Maeglin – a mobile phone software company specialized in peer-to-peer exchanges. At Maeglin, we free people’s mobile, with Pleex a Mobile social networking software that allows content back up & sharing.

Momindum – the technology leader in the creation of rich media presentation. Our software generates, from recorded speech, professional presentations using synchronized documents and indexed video; our rich media are capitalized in a base with deep-tagging technology.

Newscape Technology – the top innovator in software graphical engines on mobile devices to enable the development of new applications using massive 2D / 3D vector data, textures, Content / Advertising and topography.

Sinequa – a search specialist created with the vision that corporate information is complex, heterogeneous and poorly organized. Sinequa has built a corporate search solution that can access to all sources and applications, managing security, using linguistic and semantic algorithms to add context to information and to offer intuitive navigation combined with efficient search.

STG Interactive – has invented a way for everybody on the planet to create their own secure and user-friendly mini-site, called a “frogans,” located on the Internet via its frogans address. STG Interactive provides developers and Internet users with free standard technology for authoring and browsing frogans, and is the directory provider of frogans addresses.

TellMeWhere – the first local search engine where relevancy of results are guided by recommendations of people you can choose and where content can be enriched and corrected by end-users, provides a better alternative to current local search engines or directories.

Twinsoft – an actor in Enterprise Mashups whose flagship product, Convertigo Enterprise Mashup Server helps companies reuse their existing assets to build new and exciting WEB 2.0 composite applications for a fraction of the cost and time needed to complete software rewrites or traditional development.

Each company will hold one-on-one meetings with supporting companies’ corporate development teams, as well as interviews with media, training for presenting and demoing at conferences in the U.S. and introductions with some of the valley’s fast-growing startups.

The Valley Talk mini-conference will host keynote speaker Eric Benhamou CEO of Benhamou Global Ventures, Chairman of 3Com and former CEO of Palm. The show will include an in-depth talk with leading editor’s and analyst from CNET, Fortune, GuideWire Group and VentureBeat. Along with demonstrations from each company the event will conclude with a panel of leading executive in business development from sponsoring companies outlining what they are looking for in partnerships as well as potential acquisitions.

“Our goal is to build deeper relationships between the tech communities here in Silicon Valley and in France,” said Aymeril Hoang, Director, Information & Communications Technology, Embassy of France in the U.S. Trade Office. “By bridging this gap we can open the door to new opportunities for both countries. It’s as much about introducing Silicon Valley to the technology leadership in France as vice versa. Hopefully we are fostering and growing the big companies and partnerships of the future.”

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Microsoft Corp. has issued the following statement:

In light of developments since the withdrawal of the Microsoft proposal to acquire Yahoo! Inc., Microsoft announced that it is continuing to explore and pursue its alternatives to improve and expand its online services and advertising business.  Microsoft is considering and has raised with Yahoo! an alternative that would involve a transaction with Yahoo! but not an acquisition of all of Yahoo!  Microsoft is not proposing to make a new bid to acquire all of Yahoo! at this time, but reserves the right to reconsider that alternative depending on future developments and discussions that may take place with Yahoo! or discussions with shareholders of Yahoo! or Microsoft or with other third parties. There of course can be no assurance that any transaction will result from these discussions.

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Carl Icahn today announced that the following letter was delivered today to Yahoo! with the attached biographies of his ten nominees for the Yahoo! board.

Carl C. IcahnSECURITY HOLDERS ARE ADVISED TO READ THE PROXY STATEMENT AND OTHER DOCUMENTS RELATED TO THE SOLICITATION OF PROXIES BY Carl C. Icahn AND HIS AFFILIATES FROM THE STOCKHOLDERS OF YAHOO! INC. FOR USE AT ITS ANNUAL MEETING, WHEN AND IF THEY BECOME AVAILABLE, BECAUSE THEY WILL CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION, INCLUDING INFORMATION RELATING TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN ANY SUCH PROXY SOLICITATION. WHEN AND IF COMPLETED, A DEFINITIVE PROXY STATEMENT AND A FORM OF PROXY WILL BE MAILED TO STOCKHOLDERS OF YAHOO! INC. AND WILL ALSO BE AVAILABLE AT NO CHARGE AT THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION’S WEBSITE AT HTTP://WWW.SEC.GOV. INFORMATION RELATING TO THE POTENTIAL PARTICIPANTS IN A POTENTIAL PROXY SOLICITATION IS CONTAINED IN EXHIBIT 1 TO THE SCHEDULE 14A BEING FILED TODAY WITH THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION.

Carl C. Icahn
ICAHN CAPITAL LP
767 Fifth Avenue, 47th Floor
New York, NY 10153

May 15, 2008
Roy Bostock
Chairman
Yahoo! Inc.
701 First Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94089

Dear Mr. Bostock:

It is clear to me that the board of directors of Yahoo has acted irrationally and lost the faith of shareholders and Microsoft. It is quite obvious that Microsoft’s bid of $33 per share is a superior alternative to Yahoo’s prospects on a standalone basis. I am perplexed by the board’s actions. It is irresponsible to hide behind management’s more than overly optimistic financial forecasts. It is unconscionable that you have not allowed your shareholders to choose to accept an offer that represented a 72% premium over Yahoo’s closing price of $19.18 on the day before the initial Microsoft offer. I and many of your shareholders strongly believe that a combination between Yahoo and Microsoft would form a dynamic company and more importantly would be a force strong enough to compete with Google on the Internet.

During the past week, a number of shareholders have asked me to lead a proxy fight to attempt to remove the current board and to establish a new board which would attempt to negotiate a successful merger with Microsoft, something that in my opinion the current board has completely botched. I believe that a combination between Microsoft and Yahoo is by far the most sensible path for both companies. I have therefore taken the following actions: (1) during the last 10 days, I have purchased approximately 59 million shares and share-equivalents of Yahoo; (2) I have formed a 10-person slate which will stand for election against the current board; and (3) I have sought antitrust clearance from the Federal Trade Commission to acquire up to approximately $2.5 billion worth of Yahoo stock. The biographies of the members of our slate are attached to this letter. A more formal notification is being delivered today to Yahoo under separate cover.

While it is my understanding that you do not intend to enter into any transaction that would impede a Microsoft-Yahoo merger, I am concerned that in several recent press releases you stated that you intend to pursue certain “strategic alternatives”. I therefore hope and trust that if there is any question that these “strategic alternatives” might in any way impede a future Microsoft merger you will at the very least allow shareholders to opine on them before embarking on such a transaction.

I sincerely hope you heed the wishes of your shareholders and move expeditiously to negotiate a merger with Microsoft, thereby making a proxy fight unnecessary.

Sincerely yours,
CARL C. ICAHN

SLATE BIOGRAPHIES

  • Lucian A. Bebchuk

Lucian A. BebchukLucian Bebchuk is the William J. Friedman and Alicia Townsend Friedman Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance and Director of the Program on Corporate Governance at Harvard Law School. Bebchuk is also a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and Inaugural Fellow of the European Corporate Governance Network. Trained in both law and economics, Bebchuk holds an LL.M. and S.J.D. from Harvard Law School and an M.A. and Ph.D in Economics from the Harvard Economics Department. He joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor, becoming a full professor in 1988, and the Friedman Professor of Law, Economics and Finance in 1998. Bebchuk has written extensively on corporate governance, corporate control, and corporate transactions. He has published more than seventy research articles in academic journals in law, economics, and finance. Upon electing him to membership in 2000, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences cited him as “[o]ne of the nation’s leading scholars of law and economics,” who “has made major contribution to the study of corporate control, governance, and insolvency.” He is the 2007-2008 President of the American Law and Economics Association, and a former chair of the Business Association Section of the American Association of Law Teachers. Bebchuk’s recent writings include Pay without Performance: the Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation (Harvard University Press, 2004, co-authored with Jesse Fried), “The Case for Increasing Shareholder Power” (Harvard Law Review, 2005), “The Costs of Entrenched Boards” (Journal of Financial Economics, 2005, co-authored with Alma Cohen), and “The Myth of the Shareholder Franchise” (Virginia Law Review, 2007). Bebchuk has been a frequent contributor to policy making and public discourse in the corporate governance area. He has appeared before the Senate Finance Committee, the House Committee of Financial Services, and the SEC. He has published many op-ed pieces, including in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Financial Times. He was included in the list of “100 most influential people in finance” of Treasury & Risk Management and the list of “100 most influential players in corporate governance” of Directorship magazine.

  • Frank J. Biondi, Jr.

Frank J. Biondi, Jr.Since March 1999, Mr. Biondi has served as Senior Managing Director of WaterView Advisors LLC, an investment advisor organization. From April 1996 to November 1998, Mr. Biondi served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Universal Studios, Inc. From July 1987 to January 1996, Mr. Biondi served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Viacom, Inc. Mr. Biondi is a director of Amgen Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp., Hasbro, Inc., The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation and Seagate Technology. Mr. Biondi is a graduate of Princeton University and earned a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard University.

  • John H. Chapple

John Chapple is President of Hawkeye Investments LLC, a privately-owned equity firm investing primarily in telecommunications and real estate ventures frequently working in conjunction with Rally Capital LLC. Prior to forming Hawkeye, John Chapple worked to organize Nextel Partners, a provider of digital wireless services in mid-size and smaller markets throughout the U.S. He became the President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Nextel Partners and its subsidiaries in August of 1998. Nextel Partners went public in February 2000 and was traded on the NASDAQ Exchange. In June 2006, the company was purchased by Sprint Communications. From 1995 to 1997, Mr. Chapple was the President and Chief Operating Officer for Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment in Vancouver, B.C. During Mr. Chapple’s tenure, Orca Bay owned and operated Vancouver’s National Basketball Association and National Hockey League sports franchises in addition to the General Motors Place sports arena and retail interests. From 1988 to 1995, he served as Executive Vice President of Operations for McCaw Cellular Communications and subsequently AT&T Wireless Services following the merger of those companies. From 1978 to 1983, he served on the senior management team of Rogers Cablesystems before moving to American Cablesystems as Senior Vice President of Operations from 1983 to 1988. Mr. Chapple, a graduate of Syracuse University and Harvard University’s Advanced Management Program, has 26 years of experience in the cable television and wireless communications industries. Mr. Chapple is the past Chairman of Cellular One Group and CTIA-The Wireless Association, past Vice-Chairman of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association and has been on the Board of Governors of the NHL and NBA. Mr. Chapple serves on the Syracuse University Board of Trustees currently as Chairman and the Advisory Board for the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. He is also on the Board of Directors of Cbeyond, Inc., a publicly traded Atlanta-based integrated service telephony company; Seamobile Enterprises, a privately held company providing integrated wireless services at sea; Telesphere, a privately held VOIP (voice over internet protocol) company based in Phoenix, Arizona; and on the advisory boards of Diamond Castle Holdings, LLC, a private equity firm based in New York City and the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs at University of Washington.

  • Mark Cuban

Since early 2000, Mr. Cuban has been the majority and controlling owner of the National Basketball Association franchise, the Dallas Mavericks. In 2001, Mr. Cuban co-founded HDNet, an all high-definition television network on DIRECTV that broadcasts high-definition sports, movies and other entertainment. Prior to his purchase of the Dallas Mavericks, Mr. Cuban co-founded Broadcast.com in 1995 and served as its Chairman of the Board until it was sold to Yahoo! in July of 1999. Before Broadcast.com, Mr. Cuban co-founded MicroSolutions, a national systems integrator, in 1983, which was later sold to CompuServe Corporation in 1990. Mr. Cuban is an active investor in cutting- edge technologies and various industries, including the entertainment industry.

  • Adam Dell

Since January 2000, Mr. Dell has served as the Managing General Partner of Impact Venture Partners, a venture capital firm focused on information technology investments. He also serves as Managing Director at Steelpoint Capital Partners, a private equity firm with offices in New York and California. From October 1998 to January 2000, Mr. Dell was a Senior Associate and subsequently a Partner with Crosspoint Venture Partners in Northern California. From July 1997 to August 1998, he was a Senior Associate with Enterprise Partners in Southern California. From January 1996 to June 1997 Mr. Dell was associated with the law firm of Winstead Sechrest & Minick, in Austin, Texas, where he practiced corporate law. Mr. Dell’s investments include: Buzzsaw (which was acquired by Autodesk), HotJobs (which was acquired by Yahoo!) and Connectify (which was acquired by Kana Software). Mr. Dell has been a director of XO Holdings, Inc., a telecommunications services provider, since February 2006, and of its predecessor from January 2003 to February 2006. In addition, Mr. Dell currently serves on the boards of directors of the Santa Fe Institute, MessageOne and OpenTable. He also teaches a course at the Columbia Business School on business, technology and innovation and is a contributing columnist to the technology publication, Business 2.0. Mr. Dell received a J.D. from University of Texas and a B.A. from Tulane University.

  • Carl C. Icahn

Mr. Icahn has served as chairman of the board and a director of Starfire Holding Corporation, a privately-held holding company, and chairman of the board and a director of various subsidiaries of Starfire, since 1984. Since August 2007, through his position as Chief Executive Officer of Icahn Capital LP, a wholly owned subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises L.P., and certain related entities, Mr. Icahn’s principal occupation is managing private investment funds, including Icahn Partners LP, Icahn Partners Master Fund LP, Icahn Partners Master Fund II L.P. and Icahn Partners Master Fund III L.P. Prior to August 2007, Mr. Icahn conducted this occupation through his entities CCI Onshore Corp. and CCI Offshore Corp since September 2004. Since November 1990, Mr. Icahn has been chairman of the board of Icahn Enterprises G.P. Inc., the general partner of Icahn Enterprises L.P. Icahn Enterprises L.P. is a diversified holding company engaged in a variety of businesses, including investment management, metals, real estate and home fashion. Mr. Icahn was chairman of the board and president of Icahn & Co., Inc., a registered broker- dealer and a member of the National Association of Securities Dealers, from 1968 to 2005. Mr. Icahn has served as chairman of the board and as a director of American Railcar Industries, Inc., a company that is primarily engaged in the business of manufacturing covered hopper and tank railcars, since 1994. From October 1998 through May 2004, Mr. Icahn was the president and a director of Stratosphere Corporation, the owner and operator of the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, which, until February 2008, was a subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises L.P. From September 2000 to February 2007, Mr. Icahn served as the chairman of the board of GB Holdings, Inc., which owned an interest in Atlantic Coast Holdings, Inc., the owner and operator of The Sands casino in Atlantic City until November 2006. Mr. Icahn has been chairman of the board and a director of XO Holdings, Inc., a telecommunications services provider, since February 2006, and of its predecessor from January 2003 to February 2006. Mr. Icahn has served as a Director of Cadus Corporation, a company engaged in the ownership and licensing of yeast-based drug discovery technologies since July 1993. In May 2005, Mr. Icahn became a director of Blockbuster Inc., a provider of in-home movie rental and game entertainment. In October 2005, Mr. Icahn became a director of WestPoint International, Inc., a manufacturer of bed and bath home fashion products. In September 2006, Mr. Icahn became a director of ImClone Systems Incorporated, a biopharmaceutical company, and since October 2006 has been the chairman of the board of ImClone. In August 2007, Mr. Icahn became a director of WCI Communities, Inc., a homebuilding company, and since September 2007 has been the chairman of the board of WCI. In December 2007, Mr. Icahn became a director of Federal-Mogul Corporation, a supplier of automotive products, and since January 2008 has been the chairman of the board of Federal-Mogul. In April 2008, Mr. Icahn became a director of Motricity, Inc., a privately-held company that provides mobile content services and solutions. Mr. Icahn received his B.A. from Princeton University.

  • Keith A. Meister

Since March 2006, Keith Meister has served as Principal Executive Officer and Vice Chairman of the Board of Icahn Enterprises G.P. Inc., the general partner of Icahn Enterprises L.P., a diversified holding company engaged in a variety of businesses, including investment management, metals, real estate and home fashion. Since November 2004, Mr. Meister has been a Managing Director of Icahn Capital LP, the entity through which Carl C. Icahn manages third party private investment funds. Since June 2002, Mr. Meister has served as senior investment analyst of High River Limited Partnership, an entity primarily engaged in the business of holding and investing in securities. Mr. Meister also serves on the boards of directors of the following companies: XO Holdings, Inc., a telecommunications company; WCI Communities, Inc., a homebuilding company; Federal-Mogul Corporation, a supplier of automotive products; and Motorola, Inc., a mobile communications company. With respect to each company mentioned above, Carl C. Icahn, directly or indirectly, either (i) controls such company or (ii) has an interest in such company through the ownership of securities. Mr. Meister received an A.B. in government, cum laude, from Harvard College in 1995.

  • Edward H. Meyer

Mr. Meyer serves as Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer of Ocean Road Advisors, Inc., an investment management company. From 1970 to 2006, he served as Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Grey Global Group, Inc., a multi-billion dollar global advertising and marketing agency. Mr. Meyer serves as a Director of Harman International Industries, Inc., Ethan Allen Interiors, Inc., National CineMedia, Inc. and NRDC Acquisition Corp. Mr. Meyer holds a B.A. in Economics from Cornell University.

  • Brian S. Posner

Brian S. Posner is a private investor. From 2005 through March 2008, he served as Chief Executive Officer and co-Chief Investment Officer of ClearBridge Advisors LLC (and its predecessor company, CAM North America), an asset management company based in New York with approximately $90 billion in assets and a wholly owned subsidiary of Legg Mason Inc. Prior to ClearBridge Advisors, he was a co-Founder and the Managing Partner of Hygrove Partners LLC, a hedge fund company that was formed in 2000. Prior to ClearBridge Advisors and Hygrove Partners, he served as a Portfolio Manager and an Analyst, first at Fidelity Investments from 1987 to 1996 and then at Warburg Pincus Asset Management/Credit Suisse Asset Management from 1997 to 1999. At Warburg Pincus Asset Management/Credit Suisse Asset Management he was a Managing Director and served as the Senior Investment Manager of the Value Equity Group, co-Portfolio Manager of the Warburg Pincus Growth & Income Fund, and Portfolio Manager of the Warburg Pincus Institutional Value Fund and the Warburg Pincus Trust, Growth and Income Fund. Prior to the acquisition of Warburg Pincus Asset Management (“WPAM”) by Credit Suisse Asset Management in July 1999, he was co-Chief Investment Officer, Director of Research, Chairman of the Global Asset Allocation Committee, and a member of the Executive Operating Committee at WPAM. At Fidelity Investments, he was the Portfolio Manager of the Fidelity Equity Income II Fund from 1992 to 1996 and the Fidelity Value Fund from 1990 to 1992. He also managed the Select Life Insurance, Select Property Casualty Insurance and Select Energy Portfolios. From 1987 to 1990, he was an Oil, Insurance, and Financial Services Analyst. From August 2000 to April 2003 he served on the Board of Directors for Sotheby’s Holdings, Inc. He currently a member of the Board of Trustees at Northwestern University and the Board of Visitors for the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University. Mr. Posner received his undergraduate degree in history from Northwestern University in 1983 and his M.B.A. in finance from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business in 1987.

  • Robert K. Shaye

Robert Shaye is Co-Chairman and Co-CEO of New Line Cinema. As the Founder of New Line Cinema and a filmmaker himself, Robert Shaye has spent more than 40 years developing and distributing films that reflect a wide array of cultural movements, creating new paradigms for the motion picture business, and most importantly, entertaining millions of moviegoers. Since he founded New Line in 1967, Shaye has guided the company’s growth from a privately-held art film distributor to one of the entertainment industry’s leading independent studios and a veritable box office force. He has been involved in such films as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Rush Hour, Austin Powers and Seven. A University of Michigan graduate with a degree in business administration and a J.D. degree from Columbia University Law School, Shaye is also a Fulbright Scholar, member of the New York State Bar, and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Motion Picture Pioneers, and the American Film Institute.

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Businesses today face a greater than ever need to differentiate themselves, often on a global scale. So how can they harness the acceleration of technology innovation instead of focusing solely on productivity tools for their employee’s desktops? One of the most common approaches is to seek out tailored business solutions capable of addressing complex business challenges. Today, Microsoft is focusing on those customer needs by addressing the way it serves its largest customers and delivers the value they need and expect.

Austen Mulinder, Microsoft Worldwide Enterprise Sales Vice President.As former head of Fujitsu Transaction Solutions, Austen Mulinder is bringing CEO leadership experience to his role as Microsoft’s vice president of Worldwide Enterprise Sales. His goal: Increase the velocity of the transition from the traditional product sales approach to one delivering increased business value built on deep customer relationships.

The foundation of this strategy includes three sales programs designed to counsel and support Microsoft’s largest customers as they solve real-world business challenges through IT. Microsoft’s PP recently met with Mulinder to learn how the Worldwide Enterprise Sales team is building its programs and talent to enable new opportunities for customers, partners and Microsoft.

  • You have the unique distinction of having been a CEO, as well as a customer and partner of Microsoft. How are those experiences influencing your strategy?

From my previous experience outside the company, I’ve been able to observe the journey Microsoft has taken over the past several years. Microsoft has gone from being primarily a desktop company to being a serious player in the enterprise. I’ve seen the company move away from a product focus and become more solution centric. I’ve watched the good advancements and the stumbles along the way. Microsoft has come a long way, and we now have the opportunity to provide deep strategic counsel to the world’s biggest global companies.

We aspire to be the industry benchmark for sales excellence and to attain “trusted advisor” status with all of our customers, but we recognize this is a journey. We have some of the smartest sales people I’ve ever come across, and a lot of strong tools supporting them. Now our focus is increasingly around building relationships that encourage deeper customer dialogues and greater transparency and sharing of information. This enables us to partner with our customers to jointly explore how to leverage technology for differentiated business value.

Our best (customer) account leaders, and we are fortunate to have many role models, have achieved trusted advisor status with their customers. We’re working hard to achieve that status with all of our customers.

  • Who sets the sales priorities, and how do those priorities translate to the sales resources you deploy?

A huge element of our effectiveness is being close enough to our major customers at the right levels to really understand their priorities and respond effectively. If we’re getting it right, customers will set the priorities.

Having said that, we have the Sales, Marketing and Services Group (SMSG) led by Kevin Turner, and he is ultimately responsible for driving the organization to be effective for customers, while at the same time delivering business results for our shareholders. In the enterprise space, part of Kevin’s team is Simon Witts, who runs the Worldwide Enterprise and Partner Group. We also have two verticals, Public Sector led by Gerri Elliott and the Communications Sector led by Martha Bejar. They all have a tremendous influence on our sales priorities.

To carry out the broad strategies set by the leadership team, we want as many of our sales assets to be as close to the customer as possible, and so the vast majority of our customer-facing people report to the field, not to headquarters. We also have some major sales groups that make sense to lead from Redmond on behalf of Microsoft globally-the Incubation, Category and Specialist Sales team, the Global and Multinational Account Sales team, and the Sales Escalation team, with the vast majority of their team members based in the field.

  • Let’s talk about global accounts and multi-national companies. How does Microsoft engage with these customers?

The Global and Multinational Accounts program is currently focused on 50 of the largest corporations in the world, and we plan to double that over the next couple of years. The 50 global accounts are headquartered in 12 countries, and they have subsidiaries in another 90. We manage them globally, and each has a dedicated global business manager. The 50 accounts actually include support for some 850 companies, including downstream subsidiaries.

We give these accounts a heightened level of support because we see them as the ultimate proving ground for solutions that deliver real business value on a global scale. Within these accounts we are working to build a stronger strategic business relationship. We also increase their access to our product teams and senior executives at Microsoft.

Since I joined Microsoft in June of last year, I have talked extensively with many of the leaders of these global customers. What they want from Microsoft is to partner successfully to deliver solutions that drive real business value, whether that’s helping them innovate to differentiate themselves in the market, or reducing the total cost of ownership for IT

  • How do you incorporate newly acquired technologies, or those that haven’t reached the critical mass of flagship Microsoft solutions?

That is the job of our Incubation, Category and Specialist sales teams. The incubation program exists because our business groups are making huge investments in both new and acquired products. In the early lifecycle of these products, we typically don’t have enough resources for the field to deploy them on day one.

Incubation is a dedicated set of sales resources that we manage centrally in partnership with the field. Their focus is to develop the sales strategy and drive the adoption of these products so that we can achieve real critical mass and develop our expertise in servicing these customers.

When we’ve grown an incubation product to a large enough volume and level of capability, it moves under the Category sales team for strategic and operational leadership. We then move those resources directly into the field, where they are managed locally. We continue to work closely with the business groups and the field to take those products into the mainstream.

A great example of this process would be our acquisition of Softricity and their SoftGrid product – which we now call MDOP, the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack. Before the acquisition, Softricity, in several years of existence, had sold about 250,000 seats of Softgrid. Within 13 months using the Microsoft incubation sales capability model we sold more than five million seats.

  • How are you working with customers to sell, integrate and deploy specific solutions or products?

Historically the sales approach has been about selling and licensing products to customers, and enabling them to work out the deployment via the partner ecosystem. Now we are aligning our sales priorities with solutions, and bringing real expertise to bear against that goal. We have Specialist Team Units in the Incubation, Category and Specialist Sales team, who are sales resources with deep technical knowledge. We also have a Sales Escalation team, which is a group of highly technical consultants who can dive deeply into specific customer scenarios. We also partner closely with Microsoft’s product groups and business units to drive solutions that create real business value.

Ford Sync is an example where that broad partnership paid off for the customer. The account team who orchestrated the dialogue, together with the business groups, partnered with Ford to look at how they could differentiate themselves in the market for cars. Ford Sync took advantage of Microsoft’s mobile technology and voice recognition technology to create a unique offering. Today cars that are Sync-enabled far outsell those without that capability. So that’s a tremendous example of a solution we built with a customer, to help them serve their customers’ needs, and that delivered true business value.

  • How does your team address competing technologies?

To be effective advisors, considering the breadth of products that Microsoft sells and the number of markets we’re in, we need people with deep expertise in myriad technologies. This is where the Sales Escalation team comes in.

The Sales Escalation team contains many of the strongest technical resources in the company. Typically they’ve been hired from outside as experts in technologies that we interoperate with and compete with.

We manage over 3,000 escalations for our field each year, supporting them in competitive situations. Our subject matter experts help customers make the right buying decision based on factual comparisons of technical capability, total cost, and risk. These experts play a strong role in helping customers understand the full value of existing and new solutions. As part of these field engagements we also gather important customer feedback which we use to report back to Business Groups and product engineering teams to ensure that our products and partners constantly improve and become more compelling in the market.

This group is also highly sought after in our Executive Briefing Centers (EBCs), which are facilities we manage around the world to host enterprise customer meetings. Executive Briefings help Microsoft to go more deeply into a customer’s business needs and examine how technology can solve the challenges they face.

  • How does the enterprise sales group work with industry partners to enhance the overall value delivered to customers?

One of Microsoft’s biggest strengths in the marketplace over the past 25 years has been its broad and vibrant partner ecosystem. We have one of the largest partner channels in the industry, with thousands of partners worldwide deploying millions of IT, marketing, and sales professionals that carry Microsoft’s products to market.

The only way we can realize the full potential of the R&D we spend across industries is to ensure we have a healthy partner ecosystem that understands our product set and is skilled in deploying it. This has always been a cornerstone of our business.

Our account teams orchestrate the combination of service delivery by Microsoft and partners from the ecosystem. Many times the partner will take the lead, and we’ll support that. It’s key to understand that we drive a high percentage of our sales through and with our partner community, and that is not going to change.

As we move forward to evolve the software plus services model, Microsoft is defining new opportunities for the partner community to deliver value to customers. There will still be opportunities to resell, refer, add value through professional services, package with customized capabilities, and realize business growth through annuities and subscriptions, but there will also be abundant new opportunities for innovative, value-added services and customization as these hosted products roll out.

  • How does Redmond’s involvement in enterprise sales impact the enterprise customer experience?

In an ideal world, the field has major competency in all of our products and solutions, and doesn’t require support from Redmond. But in the real world , we’re forever evolving the overall value proposition and the product elements that make up that value proposition. Having key technical resources and key leadership from Redmond engaged in important customer opportunities brings benefits all around. The customers appreciate the access, the insight they gain from it, and the opportunity to influence our direction. The Redmond resources benefit from the connection to the real world of our customers and their experience with, and leverage of our products.

One of the ways we embed this connection into our way of doing business is through the Executive Sponsorship program that connects our most strategic customers and their Microsoft Account teams with Microsoft Executives. I am fortunate to be Executive Sponsor to a number of our Accounts and it is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my role. I know many of my peers feel the same way.

Our team works to provide that bridge. If we’re getting the sales model right, we will get a good mix of field leadership and Redmond involvement for the biggest accounts, so they feel they’re getting the best of all worlds from Microsoft. To that end there are a number of strategies, like those outlined here, that are being driven to create a more customer and sales centric environment in Redmond, and thus create a better platform to enable success in the field.

  • How else does Microsoft connect with customers at the enterprise level?

One of the things that impressed me the most as a partner and customer of Microsoft is the investment the company makes in connecting with customer executive teams. I knew that if I came to Microsoft seeking insight and information, the facilities would be first class, the content would be excellent, the quality of the people would be very high, and my team would leave with a better view of our overall technology and business strategy. Microsoft does an amazing job of that.

We had 20,000 visitors come to our eight EBCs globally last year, nearly half of them to the EBC in Redmond. Recently we expanded our Redmond capability with a 50 percent increase in capacity. This year we expect to host some 15,000 visitors in Redmond, representing about 2,000 discrete customers. That is a tremendous advantage in that it gives us the opportunity to deploy our A-team across many more customers than we could if they had to visit customer sites. If you look at the utilization and the feedback we get for our EBCs, we really leverage them to the hilt. The EBCs are one of our most strategic sales tools.

Additionally, we have 16 Microsoft Technology Centers around the world – which provide facilities, technology experts and a virtual deployment site for customer solutions – and we manage nearly 3,500 engagements annually in those centers. The success rate of when we prove out a customer solution in one of the MTCs is extremely high.

Microsoft is also known for running tremendous executive events. Every year we run the CEO Summit, the Global CIO Summit and the Global Account Summit, to name a few. These exclusive events bring together top business leaders with Microsoft executives and external thought leaders for unique business and technology discussions.

Through all of these venues, we create value for the customer, both now and in the future, with how we evolve our relationship and our understanding – by listening and engaging in deep discussions with them on a range of topics.

There are a huge number of assets that Microsoft Account teams can leverage to add value to our customers and build deeper relationships in the process. I have been very impressed with how fully utilized these capabilities are. It is a good indicator of the ever increasing level of customer centricity in how we do business, and as someone who enjoys customer connection more than any other aspect of my role; it is great to be part of this team.

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Bravo, Apple, Showtime, HBO, Absolut, and Levi’s, are the gay-friendliest brands, while WalMart, Dunkin Donuts, Cracker Barrel, Exxon Mobil, and Samsung earn the lowest marks from gay and lesbian consumers, according to the 2008 Prime Access/PlanetOut Gay and Lesbian Consumer Study released the other day.

HBO.Conducted by Clark, Martire & Bartolomeo on behalf of advertising agency Prime Access and PlanetOut Inc. (Nasdaq: LGBT), the survey is one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys of gay and lesbian consumer habits and brand perceptions. A total of 2,259 adults aged 18-64 participated in the study, which was broken down into two panels: general population (1,502 respondents) and gay and lesbian population (757 respondents).

Prime Access is the leading advertising agency specializing in reaching the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. PlanetOut Inc. is the leading global media and entertainment company exclusively serving the LGBT community.

Lesbian Girls.The report confirms why many of the world’s most successful brands recognize that being gay-friendly equals good business. According to the study, more than two-thirds (68%) of gay and lesbian consumers said they are more likely to buy from a company they considered to be gay-friendly, a perception they base largely on a company’s advertising, followed by input from friends and the media.

The study also reveals that 71% of gay and lesbian consumers said they have a more favorable impression of companies or products that feature gay imagery in their advertising. Howard Buford, president and CEO of Prime Access, noted that Levi’s, one of the top gay-friendly brands, recently featured a gay couple in television advertising.

“The study reveals that gays and lesbians are fiercely loyal customers to brands they perceive as reaching out to them,” said Buford. “A marketing communications program directed at the gay and lesbian audience can be a significant opportunity for brands to build business.”

Kevyn Aiken, Vice President of Marketing, Media Sales at PlanetOut, said the study also confirms why gays and lesbians represent one of the most coveted and active demographics.

Apple Macbook Air.“Gays and lesbians have many similarities to straight people, with one pronounced difference: they’re more powerful consumers,” said Aiken. “In virtually every category – from financial services to fragrance – the study shows that gays and lesbians tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to embracing new products and trends. They are early adopters that their peers look to for advice, opinions, and ideas. As a result of their influence, they impact many more purchases than just their own.”

For example, Aiken said the study revealed that gays and lesbians are almost twice as likely (60% vs. 34%) as their straight counterparts to say people seek their advice.

Among other notable findings in the 2008 Prime Access/PlanetOut Gay and Lesbian Consumer Report:

  • 8% of adults in the general population panel identified as gay or lesbian, reflecting conventional wisdom that 5-10% of adults are gay.
  • Sexual orientation is the primary community with which gays and lesbians identify. 47% of gays and lesbians said their sexual orientation is the community that most defines them, followed by gender (45%) and religion (28%). This compares to gender (36%), nationality (32%), and religion (30%) for the general population.
  • While almost three-fourths of both gays and lesbians and the general population are opposed to outing, 61% of gays and lesbians support outing if an individual is actively opposed to equal rights. Only 33% of the general population agrees.
  • 69% percent of gays and lesbians are Democrats, while 7% are Republicans.

The report also surveyed 3,156 PlanetOut subscriber and reader respondents, drawn from email promotable lists provided by PlanetOut. Notable findings among this group include:

  • 85% of PlanetOut respondents said they are more likely to purchase products from companies they know are gay-friendly.
  • PlanetOut respondents are 36% more likely than the general population to consider themselves “someone in the know”.

To view a summary of key highlights from The 2008 Prime Access/PlanetOut Gay and Lesbian Consumer Study, please visit: http://www.primeaccess.net/c2_gpr.php.

Methodology: The 2008 Prime Access/PlanetOut Gay and Lesbian Consumer Report is one of the largest, most comprehensive studies ever of gay and lesbian consumer habits and brand perceptions. The study was conducted by Clark, Martire & Bartolomeo, a leader in custom media marketing research. The respondents were sourced from both the Harris Interactive general population panel, one of the largest online panels available today, and from Harris Interactive’s GLBT specialty panel. A total of 2,259 adults aged 18-64 participated in the study, broken down as follows:

  • General population: 1,502
  • Gay and lesbian population: 757

The Harris Interactive GLBT specialty panel is recruited from various sources, and is not specifically enlisted from gay and lesbian websites. In addition, 3,156 PlanetOut subscriber and reader respondents, drawn from email promotable lists provided by PlanetOut, were also surveyed. The PlanetOut “universe” includes readers/subscribers of Out, The Advocate, gay.com, out.com, planetout.com and outtraveler.com.

An online methodology was selected primarily for the critical anonymity it offers respondents. Because online research allows respondents to complete surveys with anonymity and privacy, respondents are often more comfortable sharing their experiences and concerns.

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