Missouri Minute: Feds question Ascension-Google project; KC restaurant group files for bankruptcy

Good morning, MBA readers,

Big things are happening at Missouri’s two largest airports. To the west, the developer of Kansas City International Airport’s $1.5 billion single-terminal project announced it has moved up its timetable to cater to the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City. On the other side of the state, firms and officials continue to clash over a documentary about St. Louis Lambert International Airport as local groups fight for a public vote on the airport’s potential privatization. And you? You’re cleared for takeoff on a journey through the biggest business stories of the day.


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Feds to inquire about Ascension-Google data sharing project
The Department of Health and Human Services has opened an inquiry into Google and Ascension’s “Project Nightingale” program, which has collected data on millions of patients in the St. Louis-based nonprofit’s health care system. (Wall Street Journal, MBA)

Bayer mediator seeks to clarify all justified Roundup claims
The mediation between Bayer and U.S. plaintiffs in Roundup cases aims to clarify all justified claims related to the weedkiller, a mediator said. The company is trying to settle the cases after earlier court rulings against it. (Reuters)

Blunt defends Trump’s trade war, says it hurt China more than US
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri told KFEQ that the trade dispute has hurt China’s economy more than the U.S. economy, but that the communist regime is better equipped to weather economic hardships. (Missourinet)

Energizer beats Wall Street expectations for Q4 earnings
The St. Louis-based battery maker on Wednesday reported net income of $46.2 million for its most recent quarter. That comes out to 93 cents per share, beating analyst estimates of 81 cents per share. (Associated Press)

KC restaurant group files for bankruptcy, plots comeback
Bread & Butter Concepts, which operates a number of restaurant concepts in Kansas City, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Jackson County. The group listed $4.12 million in assets and total liabilities of $5.08 million, including $3.2 million unsecured claims and just $1,670 in cash on hand. (Kansas City Star)

KCI developer says project is ahead of schedule, on budget
Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate moved up its timeline for the $1.5 billion single-terminal project to the first two weeks of March 2023. The change comes at the request of the city, which asked to have it completed ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, which will be held that April in downtown Kansas City. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Sinquefield group pulls controversial Lambert documentary
The documentary produced by public affairs firm First Rule called “Hard Landing at Lambert” has been taken off the web and local television after pushback from senior city officials. First Rule CEO Travis Brown continues to defend the film, saying some $600 million in airport debt “ends up being a structural long-term challenge for our region.” (St. Louis Business Journal)

Mariner Wealth jumps into institutional cash management business
The Overland Park, Kansas-based wealth manager has hired two experienced institutional investment managers from BOK Financial and launched its own institutional cash division. Mariner hired Randy Boatman, a 27-year financial services veteran, and Aaron Clark, who most recently served as managing director of institutional investments at Tulsa’s BOK. (Kansas City Business Journal)

$10M gift will expand MU degree programs
The Kinder Foundation’s $10 million gift to the University of Missouri will support new degree programs in constitutional democracy and Atlantic history and politics, the school announced. (Columbia Missourian)

IT chief says $1 million wasted by St. Louis County under Stenger
The county has reportedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a website it plans to scrap because its tech staff cannot decipher the vendor’s programming code. In all, about $1 million in tech contracts awarded by ex-county executive Steve Stenger were considered to be losses. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Wildwood tables development at dioxin-tainted Superfund site
The Wildwood City Council has approved a temporary moratorium on a developer’s plan to build 20 homes on a Superfund site previously contaminated by dioxin. But the council’s action, which imposes a moratorium of up to one year, leaves open the possibility of a future redevelopment while “regulations and standards for development” are considered. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis digital health startup expands with joint venture
Epharmix has joined hands with a nonprofit health care organization and behavioral health advocacy group to roll out its new text messaging health care program for low-income and uninsured patients across Texas. The platform will be used to send questions and reminders to the patients. (St. Louis Business Journal)


Show me

As farmers have faced financial stresses from global trade disputes and widespread flooding, the value of their land has reached record highs this year. Today’s graphic story looks at the value of farmland in Missouri and across the U.S.


Say that again

“Specifically, Citizens Bank knew that Reeder did not have the competence, willingness, or financial capacity to complete the project or otherwise bring it in conformity with the representations described in this petition.”

That’s a statement in a lawsuit filed against Citizens Bank & Trust for its support of a fledgling condo project near downtown Kansas City, The Kansas City Star reports. Residents are suing the bank for offering some $20 million in loans to the complex’s developer, Wayne Reeder. The suit calls Reeder, who has previously been convicted on counts of wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property, a “career fraudster.” Residents say the apartments, advertised as “luxury,” leak water, grow mold and lack promised amenities, and they argue the bank didn’t do its due diligence when it issued the loan.


Go figure

5th

That’s where St. Louis ranks among the 50 largest U.S. metro areas as a place for first-time homebuyers, according to a report by the American Enterprise Institute. The annual ranking is determined based on home “affordability,” which is calculated as the ratio of the median first-time buyer’s house price to their gross annual income. In St. Louis, the median first-time homebuyer had gross income of $60,000 per year and paid $162,000 for a home. St. Louis slipped one spot after ranking No. 4 last year. Kansas City ranked 13th on the list, the same spot it occupied a year ago.


Hello, my name is

Popwallet

The marketing technology startup with offices in St. Louis and New York has raised $4 million in seed funding, according to the St. Louis Business Journal. St. Louis-based Cultivation Capital participated in the round, which was led by Stout Street Capital of Denver. Founded in 2015, Popwallet has developed a platform to help companies interact with customers via mobile wallets like Apple Wallet and Google Pay, providing users coupons, rebates and other perks.


It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning.


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