By Harry Keaney
On the information superhighway, two Irish Americans, Kevin Ryan and Kevin O’Connor, are finding themselves in the hot seat over the sensitive issue of personal privacy.
That’s because their company, DoubleClick, has aroused the concern of privacy groups as well as the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general in New York and Michigan.
DoubleClick, headquartered in midtown Manhattan, is the internet’s leading advertising placement company. Last June, DoubleClick merged with another company, Abacus Direct Corporation. Monaghan man Tony White, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Abacus, said at the time that DoubleClick’s online ad serving technologies and media expertise combined with Abacus’s database marketing and customer targeting expertise would enable consumers to receive the most relevant and effective messages at the right time.
White was the Irish Business Organization of New York’s Business Person of the Year Award recipient in 1998. He has also been an IBO guest speaker.
Abacus databases are a treasure trove of information on millions of consumers gathered by direct-mail marketers. The information includes names, addresses and buying habits.
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DoubleClick’s acquisition of Abacus helps advertisers target their product pitches more precisely to internet consumers. What concerns privacy advocates, however, is that a combined DoubleClick-Abacus database can now connect web sites that a person visits with that person’s real name and address.
Ryan, however, said that DoubleClick had led the online advertising industry in providing internet users with notice and the choice not to receive targeted ads. DoubleClick has also embarked on a campaign to educated internet users about their privacy rights.
Despite the latest controversy, DoubleClick recently completed a secondary offering of 7.5 million shares priced at $90.25 each. Of the shares sold, 5.7 million were offered by DoubleClick and 1.8 million were sold by stockholders.
The euro, Europe’s new currency, is finding the going tough again. Last week, the currency, launched amid fanfare in January 1999, was hit by its biggest single one-day sell-off in a chaotic Asian session, dropping 3.6 percent to well below its previous all-time low of $0.9665.
As might be expected, Euro finance ministers tried to appear calm as the currency suffered what some commentators described as its "biggest upset in its 14-month life."
Market analysts said investors dumped the euro on the back of several factors, including the gap between U.S. and European economic growth rates, central bank comments last week that suggested the next European Central Bank rate hike was still some way off, and persistent concerns over structural rigidities in Europe’s economies.
Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation of Chicago, the largest manufacturer of paperboard packaging in North America, is to purchase St. Laurent Paperboard Inc. of Montreal for about $1 billion in cash and stock.
St. Laurent’s shareholders will get $12.50 in cash and one-half Smurfit-Stone share for each of their shares. St. Laurent operates 20 plants and had 1999 sales of $916 million.
Smurfit-Stone has 300 plants around the world and had sales last year of $7.2 billion. The deal falls in line with a trend in consolidation throughout the paper industry. Smurfit-Stone is itself the product of a 1988 merger between Jefferson Smurfit and Stone Container.
Meanwhile, the president and CEO of Smurfit-Stone Container, Ray Curran, will be the guest speaker on March 14 at an event in Manhattan celebrating Ireland’s new era of business opportunities. Organized by the Forum Club and the Ireland Chamber of Commerce in the USA, the luncheon, from noon to 2:30 p.m. in the Mutual of America Building, will also feature speaker Owen Lamont, president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce. There will also be "Taste of Ireland" cuisine by chef Patrick O’Sullivan as well as Irish entertainment and fashion.
The Irish Business Organization of New York vs. University College Dublin debate will take place March 2 at 7 p.m. in Swifts Bar, 4th and LaFayette, in Manhattan.
Superstore in Mayo
The supermarket chain Tesco has announced that it is to invest £8 million in developing Ireland’s most modern supermarket — in Castlebar.
Tesco already employs more than 60 people in its Quinnsworth store in Ballina, Co. Mayo, which will itself be refurbished and relaunched as a Tesco Ireland store later this year.
Award for Country Bank
Country Bank has been honored by ICBA Mortgage Corporation for outstanding performance by the bank’s mortgage department throughout 1999.
Country Bank was chosen for the award from more than 950 community banks in 49 states. It received the award for providing affordable housing solutions and distinguished service within the local community.
The bank’s headquarters is located in Carmel, N.Y. Its chairman is Irish-American businessman Joe Murphy while its president is Sligo native and former Bank of Ireland official Bill Burke.