Did Buffett block Wells Fargo deal?; also: Target adds designer labels and dispatches toy-price spies, and Southwest landing at MSP

Did Warren Buffett nix the Wells Fargo-Wachovia deal? He owns 9 percent of Wells Fargo, which was reportedly close to acquiring Wachovia last week. The bank’s chairman Dick Kovacevich backed out blaming weaknesses in Wachovia’s loan portfolio and said repeatedly: “It’s not my call, it’s our loan people.” Portfolio magazine’s Felix Salmon says it’s almost unthinkable that Kovacevich, “a real buck-stops-here kind of guy,” wasn’t actually talking about Buffett, his largest and most loyal shareholder.

Target seems out of fashion in today’s rocky economy, BusinessWeek writes. The Minneapolis retailer can’t seem to overcome the perception that it’s more expensive than Wal-Mart. Instead of fighting in the price war, Target is bringing on board more designer labels than ever this holiday season. Advertisements will continue to emphasize low prices, but it also hopes “discount chic” will help it differentiate from the competition.

Well, OK, Target isn’t exactly abandoning the price war. A press release last night said the company will continue sending price spies into its competitors’ toy departments to ensure it has “the best prices on the most-wanted items.” Says Target’s VP for merchandising: “We want our guests to know that they do not need to shop around this holiday season for the lowest price. We’ve already done the work for them.” The Associated Press notes the statement follows a pronouncement by Wal-Mart that it would cut prices on 10 popular toys to $10 each.


In the news you’ve probably already heard department: Southwest Airlines is coming to MSP. The low-fare giant will start shuttling passengers between the Twin Cities and Chicago in March. Airfares have gone up less this year in markets served by Southwest, according to a recent report. Meanwhile: What’s that pink plane shuttling down the runway? Another new airline? Nope. Northwest unveiled a pink plane Wednesday in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Do you have an inside scoop or news tip about a Minnesota company? Spotted something interesting in your RSS reader? Drop Business Agenda a note at dhaugen [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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