Bar Boulud’s Wine-Tasting Table, Chop Suey’s Dining Room Both Half-Full
The first time we dropped in on a batch of new restaurants to take head counts, we hit the East Side. Then we threw it over to the West Side. Last Friday we took it uptown to see what’s doing above 42nd Street. It wasn’t easy hitting half a dozen spots between the hours of 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., but luckily we were navigating familiar territory — Mermaid Inn? Magnolia Bakery? Blue Ribbon Sushi? Zak Pelaccio’s new spot? It’s like we never left downtown.
Florent Will ‘Be Around for a Little While’
Florent Morellet shares good news with the Observer: He’s in fine shape, contrary to rumors we’ve heard that he’s quitting his meatpacking institution owing to poor health. The bad news? His lease is up on March 31, and his landlord is shopping the space for $70,000 a month — something he calls “a lot of boudin noir.” A court decision will apparently determine how long he gets to stay, but he hopes to celebrate another gay-pride event — so it seems like he has plans to stick around till at least June.
Florent Morellet: Rents Too Ritzy for Shabby Block [NYO]
Earlier: Meatpacking Mainstay Florent May Close in May
Being Filthy Rich Means Never Having to Say You’re SorryFINANCE
• Fortune searches Davos for financiers to express contrition over the current credit crisis but comes up empty. The closest anyone has come, the magazine notes, is the chairman and chief executive of Moody’s Corp, who said, “We and others have to retool our processes In hindsight, it’s clear to us that there were fundamental failures in key assumptions supporting our analytical models.” Quoth Fortune: “That’s probably a little too mealy-mouthed and much too late to console people who bought the mortgage-backed commercial paper to which Moody’s and its rival Standard & Poor’s gave a top-notch AAA rating — only to discover it was actually junk.” Snap! [Fortune]
• Just how big a fraud did Jérôme Kerviel, the rogue French trader, pull off? Before the bank caught him, he had taken out positions worth 50 billion euros. But some argue that he was responsible for only 1.5 billion euros in losses, and the bank’s board lost the other 3.4 billion euros unwinding his positions way too fast. Meanwhile, top executive Jean-Pierre Mustier told the Times: “I was speaking to a competitor, this competitor called me and said, ‘You are living what is a banker’s worst nightmare.’” Imagine how dramatic that must have sounded in French. [FT, NYT]
• Bonuses now in the bank, Goldman rewarded bankers for a record-setting year with a special surprise: layoffs! [Deal Journal/WSJ]
Ted Kennedy’s Considerable Weight Handy in Obama EndorsementBarack Obama came away from Saturday’s shellacking of Hillary Clinton in South Carolina with more than a few delegates: Ted Kennedy, elder statesmen of liberal politics, is throwing his considerable heft (bloat?) behind Obama’s candidacy. And of course his niece Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter, also endorsed Obama in the Times. What will be the impact of Camelot’s endorsement? Not much? Or, as seems to be the popular consensus, a whole lot?
Danny Meyer Cuts Wild Edibles FreeThe foie gras protests outside Union Square Cafe may not have put a dent in anything, but we’ve just received a press release indicating that Union Square Hospitality Group will no longer use embattled Wild Edibles as its seafood provider, joining Keith McNally’s and Jean Denoyer’s restaurants in the snub. The release nods to the “courage” of ten workers who were let go after they filed a suit claiming they were stiffed on over time pay.
Angelo Mozilo Gives Up Severance Pay for the Greater Good Every once in a while, we find ourselves surprised and heartened by the selflessness of Wall Street’s titans. Like this morning, when we read that Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo was forfeiting the severance pay package he was due when the sale of Countrywide to Bank of America was completed. According to a press release from Countrywide, Mozilo is “entitled” to $36.4 million in cash severance pay and $400,000 per year in consulting fees as well as private-airplane use and other perquisites, but he’s giving them up for the greater good of the company. “My primary focus today — as it has been for the past 40 years — is to do what is in the best interests of Countrywide’s employees, customers and shareholders,” Mr. Mozilo said. “I believe this decision is the right thing to do.” Wow, that is so moving. No, we’re only kidding. This is absurd. Mozilo’s primary focus is covering his ass. Lest we forget, Mozilo already made a killing off the ailing Countrywide. His annual salary was $1.9 million, and between 2005 and 2007, right before the housing market went bust and Countrywide’s share price plunged, he sold off the bulk of his stock, to the tune of $300 million. Those sales are the subject of an informal inquiry by the SEC, and next week, Mozilo is being called to Washington to testify in front of the House and Government Reform Committee on the subject of executive pay. If giving up $40 million helps lessen the fire breathed on him by government reformers, so be it. Severance package or no, dude is going to be able to keep himself in tanning beds and tingle lotion for a good long time.
Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo Announces Decision to Voluntarily Relinquish Rights to Approximately $37.5 Million in Cash Severance Payments, Consulting Fees and Perquisites [PR Newswire]
Michael ‘Bao’ Huynh Out at Bun; A Le Cirque DocumentaryMichael “Bao” Huynh has left his post at Bun, saying he couldn’t get along with his partner. Next up: a new noodle shop in Tribeca. [Insatiable Critic]
Burgerphilia: a new term about burger obsessives we won’t be using. [Time]
Related: Daniel Boulud’s Downtown Burger Place Finally Signs the Lease
A Table in Heaven, a documentary that looks at Le Cirque’s move from the Palace Hotel to the Bloomberg building, was screened at the Sundance Film Festival and promises to show Sirio Maccioni’s tendency to exceed the restaurant’s 2 percent cap on free meals. [NYDN]
Philippe Starck Pans the New Royalton LobbyPhilippe Starck doesn’t like the $17.5 million redesign to the Royalton Hotel, which he once designed. Heatherette isn’t having a show this Fashion Week, and Richie Rich may be out for good! Russian model Natalia Vodianova had what may be her last catwalk during the final Valentino show in Paris and plans to take the designer to Moscow for a week and then to Brazil for Carnivale. Contrary to rumors, Puff “Diddy” Daddy says he is not considering changing his name back to Sean Combs. Paris Hilton and Stavros Niarchos hung out at the Beatrice Inn. Michael Richards and a blonde girl ate at a vegan restaurant at Columbus Circle. Cindy Adams claims that the writers’ strike will be over in two weeks and that Mayor Bloomberg is 50-50 about whether to run for president. Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner and boyfriend Matt Nye just had twins via surrogate parent. New York Times writer Alex Kuczynski will have a baby via surrogate mother in April.
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama Are Mean GirlsMuch has been made of the aggressive way Bill Clinton has been attacking his wife’s rival Barack Obama. But we spend a lot of time around girls, and to us, their back-and-forth is decidedly more passive aggressive. “For a lot of young people, they buy [Obama’s] argument that since the Bush people were full of experience and they messed it up, the best thing is to wipe the slate clean and start over again,” Clinton said earlier this month. “That’s like saying that since 100 percent of medical malpractice is committed by doctors, the next time you need surgery, you should get a non-doctor to do it.”
Soon enough, Obama pinched back. “If you get the kind of looseness with the facts that Senator Clinton displayed, and you’re willing to say anything to get a political or tactical advantage, that erodes people’s trust in government,” he said last week. But over the weekend came their Mean-Girl–est moment yet.
The ‘Post’ Still in the Anger Stage of Dealing With Heath Ledger’s DeathWe are still several days away from finding out results of the toxicology reports being done on Heath Ledger’s body, but the New York Post is still having trouble with the fact that, as yet, there is no one to blame. Last week, we were surprised at all of the heat they brought on Mary-Kate Olsen. They put her face on the cover and claimed she was to be questioned by police (they stand by the story, but cops are now saying they won’t be speaking with the actress). Olsen is involved, as even your golden retriever must know by now, because the masseuse who found Ledger’s body mysteriously called her before calling 911. Olsen sent in her bodyguards rather than calling the police. After we and other Websites like Gawker.com pointed out the contradiction between the paper’s story and what police were saying, we were e-mailed with a blusterous comment from Post editor Col Allan, which implied that the police were “afraid” of Olsen and that’s why they wouldn’t question her. Then, they followed up on Saturday with a photo-free cover, which asked “WHY” the police weren’t questioning Olsen. There was an interior editorial that day explaining that the tabloid was receiving “dark communications” from Olsen’s lawyers, threatening them.