As Supervalu Sinks, Herkert Heading Toward Worst CEO Status

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It’s Academy Award time and that means some of the year’s best movies are about to be honored. While a handful of actors, directors, producers, screenwriters and technicians will be grateful to receive an “Oscar” for their efforts, an equal number will be awarded a “Razzie” for the worst performances of the year.

So with that tradition in mind, we will reveal this year’s winner of the food industry ”Hosie,” awarded to the worst chief executive in the business. The votes are all in and the winner is? Craig Herkert – CEO of Supervalu, Inc.

Seriously, has there been a worse steward of a company over the last year? Herkert might not yet be at the level of other inept poseurs such as James Wood (A&P), Gary Hirsch (Penn Traffic) or Herb “Herr Hair” Haft (Dart Group Corp.). Then again, he hasn’t been at his “craft” as long as the others were.

Nor does Herkert bear any level of taint or dishonesty (real or perceived) associated with such other “Hosers” as Martin Grass (Rite Aid), Chris Conaway (Kmart) or Mark Hansen (Fleming).

And to be fair, Herkert inherited a very challenging scenario when he assumed the CEO mantle from Jeff Noddle in May 2009.

All that said, Herkert was a runaway choice to receive this year’s “Hosie.”

The former Albertsons and Wal-Mart executive has a certain “rope-a-dope” style that makes his profoundly terrible performance even more disingenuous and has shareholders, associates and analysts deeply concerned about the longevity of the once mighty firm.

Many are in agreement that the “aha” moment occurred at last month’s third quarter earnings announcement and follow up conference call where the company lost $202 million and ID sales fell another 4.9 percent.

It’s been six full quarters since the former Wal-Mart executive took the helm at Supervalu, and all have been poor. Granted, Herkert didn’t inherit a bouquet of roses, but improving the company’s flagging corporate supermarket sales (by far, the largest component of the SVU organization) should have been priority one.

What we’ve seen in those six operating periods are overall retail store sales declines of 6.9 percent, 7.7 percent, 15.3 percent, 9.6 percent, 9.7 percent and 6.6 percent successively and ID sales decreases of 4.8 percent, 4.9 percent, 6.8 percent, 7.2 percent, 5.9 percent and 4.9 percent successively.

Awful numbers by any standard. When you add in the fact that customer counts and average transactions have also dipped significantly, you’ve got to wonder exactly what the game plan is.

If you’ve listened to each earnings call as I have, starting with Herkert’s first in September 2009, you, too, would be hard-pressed to figure out the long-term strategy, other than it continues to be long-term.

SKU rationalization, which was such a (misguided) hot topic last year, has been apparently purged into the same annals as some 20th century Russian history.

Steve Jungmann, who joined the company only a year earlier as executive VP-merchandising, was at the time praised by Herkert as the “right person to lead Supervalu’s merchandising teams. His track record of understanding and leveraging consumer behavior will be invaluable as we continue our focus on becoming America’s Neighborhood Grocer, and I’m excited to have him join our team.”

Apparently, the excitement was more underwhelming than first thought as Jungmann’s tenure lasted exactly 365 days. And as much a stretch as some of us thought it was to hire Jungmann, whose entire career was spent on the vendor side of the table, it’s an even bigger stretch, in my opinion, to believe that Janel Haugarth can successfully add retail merchandising to her already crowded plate.

While it’s true Janel has done a fine job leading SVU’s supply chain (wholesale) unit and there’s an advantage in her already being part of the new Supervalu culture, the idea that somebody with virtually no merchandising experience can oversee that function for 1,140 supermarkets and establish/enhance the company’s sinking relationship with its vendors doesn’t make a lot of sense. Of course, it would make Haugarth’s job a lot easier if she could demonstrate to Supervalu’s suppliers that it can actually move more boxes.

So, other than the happy spin and unfulfilled promises that are staples of every Herkert earnings call, let’s look at the real numbers.

When Herkert took the reins on May 6, 2009, Supervalu’s stock, which had already been in a steady six month decline, was $16.71 per share. As of January 14, Supervalu’s stock price was $7.50 – close to its 25 year nadir, achieved two days before when the stock plummeted to $7.34 per share.

In that 20 month period, Supervalu’s retail sales will have decreased by more than $1.5 billion; some of that loss can be attributed to market exits, a lot of the decline can been blamed on steep identical sales drops at virtually every banner.

While continuing to tout the virtues of its Save-A-Lot unit, which accounts for only less than 10 percent of SVU’s overall sales, Herkert had to admit (when responding to an analyst’s question) that S-A-L’s comps for its recently completed third quarter are also down. And as for the projected five year plan to open abut 1,250 new Save-A-Lot units, fiscal 2011 should see only about 100 new extreme value stores added to the fold.

As I listened to the conference call (and re-listened two other times), I continued to be both frustrated and strangely mesmerized by Herkert’s ability to not offer real solutions to Supervalu’s many problems.

While on three occasions he praised individual analysts for asking “great questions,” he wouldn’t answer one of those inquires in a direct manner.

Here’s an example: Scott Mushkin of Jeffries & Co. asked Herkert to illustrate how Supervalu’s new hyper local effort works (hyper local – for you keeping score, that’s not an acronym – is another Supervalu “new” program where decisions at the regional level, including input from store managers, will supposedly help the banners better merchandise and market its offerings). Mushkin continued: “Are there stores you can point to? Can we see these as analysts? I’m in a lot of your stores and I haven’t seen anything, so I’m just kind of curious where we can maybe see some of this working?”

Herkert’s response: “Yeah, it’s a great question, Scott, and let me say that first of all in May (when SVU will hold its “investor’s day”), we’ll talk about that; but it’s a good challenge for me and Sherry (Smith, the company’s new CFO) to think about how we help you with that transparency. I do see it—as you guys know, I travel every week to the stores and I actually see a lot of good things that are going on out there. Clearly, not at the level that we need to or we would have better results right now, but I’m very pleased with the progress we’re making. The engagement we get at store level, Scott, right now from our store directors and our department managers with this newfound authority to do things locally that matter, it’s really powerful and I look forward to sharing that with you when we get together in May.”

Huh?

Gee, in today’s Supervalu world, does anybody believe the store managers, let alone the division presidents, hold a lot of key decision making power?

Of course, the biggest reason (and there are many) that the Supervalu train has been off its track since it acquired five of Albertsons’ biggest divisions in June 2006 has been its inflated retail pricing, which has been so far out of line from its competition, it’s resembled a bad industry joke.

Now, Herkert is addressing the issue by noting that “a core tenet of our vision is that pricing at Supervalu’s traditional stores to be fair and no longer serve as a disincentive for customers to shop our banners.”

Disincentive? Let’s see, you took over as CEO 20 months ago and you’re just recognizing and/or addressing that SVU’s supermarket banners have been offering retails that aren’t competitive? And after checking about two dozen Acme, Shaw’s and Shoppers stores over the past 10 weeks, yes, there is some hotter feature pricing and a lowering of some everyday retails, but especially at Acme and Shaw’s, everyday pricing is still not even close to being in line with many competitors in those markets.

And then the “spinmeister” threw more pookie dust into the mix, noting that a new consulting firm (scorecard alert – the fine fellows from Boston Consulting Group are out and Oliver Wyman is reportedly in), is set to help track “key work streams that we’ve identified.” The new consulting firm is also helping SVU with its promotional analytics and planning tools. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, “you just can’t have enough consultants guiding your business. It’s the next best thing to actually visiting stores.”

About a week after the earnings call, I listened to Herkert’s meeting and video webcast to Supervalu’s associates. The “spinmeister” was joined on stage by Pete Van Helden, executive VP-retail operations. If I didn’t know better, I might have thought that “Uncle” Craig and “Cousin” Pete were asking the troops to gather ‘round the campfire’ while weaving their tale of optimism. Sure, things are tough, but they are improving. And if you eliminated the write-downs, the numbers were really not that bad, according to “Uncle” Craig. And “Cousin” Pete added that SVU is now profiting from recycling its trash, turning a former burdensome expense into a productive and efficient program. “Sister” Sue Klug, who serves as president of SVU’s (Albertsons’) Southern California division (and a long-time Van Helden acolyte), was piped in from a remote location to add how productive her “center store out of stock” project was progressing. “Kumbaya, my lord, kumbaya.” The hour long performance seemed so contrived and staged, it was insulting to the associates who were in the audience or listened in.

But that seems to be a cornerstone of Herkert’s management style – “major in the minors” – by not addressing the core issues in a straightforward, candid manner.

The shame of this whole debacle is that Supervalu’s associates and its shareholders are getting screwed. What kind of leadership allows a company that three years ago saw its share price at above $40 (but has since has lost $2 billion in its market capitalization) continue to sing the same off-key song quarter after quarter?

And where’s Supervalu’s board on this?

Yeah, it may be tough to attract talent to Eden Prairie, MN, especially with a company that’s staggering, but don’t you have a fiduciary responsibility to offer the shareholders a better proposition? I’m addressing you, non-executive chairman Wayne Sales and fellow board members Irwin Cohen, Ronald Daly, Susan Engel, Phil Francis, “Skip” Gage, Charles Lillis, Steven Rogers, Matthew Rubel and Kathi Seifert.

And how many times can we continue to hear the “spinmeister” say results “are not indicative of the earning power you should expect from our company,” or words to that effect?

Perhaps Herkert provided a clue to the answer.

Zero. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. Diddly.

 ‘Round The Circuit

 The interesting “chess game” game between bankrupt A&P, its primary supplier, C&S Wholesale Grocers, and the Teamsters continues. C&S (and its Woodbridge Logistics subsidiary), operates six New Jersey distribution centers that service A&P/Pathmark stores and plans to close its three Woodbridge area facilities on February 6. It will shift those operations to other warehouses in Pennsylvania affecting about 1,200 jobs in New Jersey. According to Woodbridge Logistics VP Rick Stacy, operating the Woodbridge facilities costs about $46 million more annually than if operations were relocated to the company’s other distribution centers. He said the company had 20 months of discussions with the union, but could not reach an agreement. “We have been in discussions for many months, yet were unable to find the necessary cost savings,” Stacy said. And on a related note, the Keene, NH distributor has begun a month-to-month contract to supply A&P’s Pathmark units from a C&S depot in Harrisburg, PA….Target plans to open 21 stores in 13 states in 2011, including three in Pennsylvania (Hanover and Pittsburgh on July 24 and Warwick Township on October 9). All will feature expanded groceries and produce. Additionally, the Minneapolis based mass merchant will remodel/convert about 400 existing stores to its very successful P-fresh hybrid grocery model. In 2010, Target converted approximately 350 units to P-Freshes and about 15 months ago it converted almost all of its 35 stores in the Delaware Valley area to the concept, which added about 40 percent more grocery SKUs to Target’s mix (that’s called anti-SKU rationalization…more Supervalu news: the company’s Jewel-Osco unit will reportedly pay $3.1 million to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit involving the alleged practice of firing employees with disabilities at the end of a medical leave of absence. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission noted that about 1,000 employees had been terminated under this policy during the past eight years. That Melrose Park, IL unit of Supervalu continued to deny guilt, adding that it settled the suit to avoid continued litigation costs. Also at Jewel, headquarters associates are being offered unpaid time off between now and the end of February (when SVU’s fiscal year ends) in effort to cut expenses. The program is voluntary. Additionally, Supervalu will close corporate office facilities in Chanhassen, MN and one of its three offices in Eden Prairie, MN, the town in which the struggling merchant is based. On the personnel side, Leon Bergman has joined SVU as group VP-independent sales, marketing and merchandising, a role formerly held by SVU veteran Brian Audette. Bergmann joins Supervalu from C&S. He reports to Mark Anderson, president of Supervalu’s independent business platform. And Duncan Mac Naughton, who left Supervalu to head Wal-Mart’s merchandising effort in Canada, has been promoted to chief merchandising officer (CMO) for the Behemoth’s 3,700 U.S. stores, reporting to Bill Simon, Wal-Mart’s CEO for the U.S. Duncan is certainly a smart guy who knows the grocery biz, but let’s not forget that he was chief engineer of SVU’s SuperFusion effort, arguably the worst centralized merchandising plan ever conceived and executed by any grocery company. I also found it interesting that while Wal-Mart is legally contesting former North region president Hank Mullany’s departure to CVS, the world’s largest retailer sought considerably less when Craig Herkert left the Behemoth to join Supervalu. Think the boys from Bentonville know something? And now it seems CVS may have moved on in its search to find a new president for its pharmacy division. Mike Bloom, CVS’’ executive VP-merchandising and supply chain, and Scott Baker, executive VP-international operations and real estate, are jointly managing the retail business for CVS’ 7,100 stores while the company looks for someone permanent. The Woonsocket, RI drug chain said last month that it had resumed its search for a permanent president of the unit, a job Mullany accepted before being blocked by Wal-Mart, which challenged his ability to move to a competitor. The two feuding parties have a March 15 date in Delaware Chancery Court. Mullany’s former Wal-Mart role has been assumed by Rosalind Brewer, who has been president of region south. Her region has now been expanded to also include the Northeast and parts of the Midwest. Mike Moore, who was named as Mullany’s successor in November, will head up Wal-Mart’s Midwest region.

 Trade Buzz

 Ahold USA posted solid sales numbers in its recently completed fourth quarter and year end. For the 12 week period ended January 2, 2011, net sales increased 6 percent, partly due to the Ukrop’s acquisition, and ID sales rose 0.9 percent (excluding gas). For the 52 year, the Amsterdam based retailer’s U.S. net sales grew 5.1 percent (also aided by the Ukrop’s purchase) and ID revenue increased 0.4 percent (ex-gas). On the local scene, I’m told that the search for a new president of Giant/Landover is progressing smoothly and we very well could learn who will be piloting that $5 million unit by the end of the month. Former Giant/Landover president Robin Michel has joined Sears Holdings as senior VP and president of food and consumables and health and wellness, where she’ll oversee those areas for Sears and Kmart, both in the stores and online. If you work for Sears or Kmart, expect a new boss who’s high energy, with a tireless work ethic and an “in your face” style of management. Additionally, on January 28, Carl Schlicker officially took over as the chain’s top U.S. officer, replacing the retiring Larry Benjamin. Mssr. Schlicker immediately made a very shrewd move in naming former EVP-human resources John Bussenger to serve as executive VP and assistant to himself. They don’t come much brighter or carry more integrity than Johnny B., who has worked closely with Carl for many years. Coming on board to oversee all human resources at AUSA (Bussenger’s former post) is an old friend – Bhavdeep Singh, a veteran of A&P, who for a short time supervised the Tea Company’s Super Fresh operation based in Baltimore. Bhavdeep knows the business and is extremely intelligent to boot. And now a few words about the aforementioned Mr. Benjamin. In my 37 years of writing about the grocery business, there are very few men I’ve met of Larry’s caliber or fabric. Super bright with superior people skills and a calm (but tenacious) approach to the job, Larry Benjamin truly epitomizes how businesses today should measure their CEOs. Whatever Larry’s next venture is, it’s sure to be successful and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors…a tip of the hat also goes to Jerry Suminski, who retired from Bimbo Bakeries earlier this month after a 50 year career in the bakery industry. His original full-time job was with the Jersey Baking Co. In Toledo, OH in 1960. We wish the classy and always gracious Mr. Suminski all good things in his retirement…the two largest brokerage firms in the country – Advantage Sales & Marketing (ASM) and Acosta have new private equity owners. Irvine, CA-based ASM recently announced that its former equity partners, J.W. Childs Associates and BAML Capital Partners (Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity) have agreed to sell their majority interest in the brokerage firm to Apax Partners, an international equity company, which controls approximately $40 billion in funds. The deal is reported to be worth about $1.8 billion. This is the third private equity firm to control ASM, beginning with Allied Capital in 2004. At Acosta, Thomas H. Lee Partners agreed to purchase the Jacksonville, FL firm from AEA Investors in a deal reported to be valued at $2.3 billion. This is also the third private equity firm to take a controlling stake in Acosta, beginning with Berkshire Partners in 2003…after attending last month’s FMI Midwinter Conference in Phoenix, the mood of the retailers remained cautious. Many operators told me that they are slightly more optimistic that sales are improving and the economy, while still not solid, has bottomed out. However, there are new concerns about spiraling commodity price increases and as usual, operating in many markets that are significantly overstored both in numbers of outlets and diversity of styles. One piece of good news: Fred Morganthall, president of Harris Teeter, was elected chairman of FMI and will begin his two-year term in May. You won’t find a more dedicated and ethical executive in the business than Fred. He’s just the right person that the industry’s largest trade association needs as it tries to reshape its image. More good news for H-T came in the form of its first quarter financials. Operating profit for the quarter ended January 2 increased by 6.2 percent to $44.9 million on a sales increase of 6.2 percent to $1.03 billion. Same store sales were up 2.21 percent. It would seem that the next logical next step for these two selling giants would be to go public.

 Local Notes

How smart is Ron Burkle? After (sand) bagging a tidy profit on the Pathmark sale to A&P in 2007, the principal partner in Yucaipa Cos. and major secured shareholder in the Tea Company is in line to gain even more green once the bankrupt retailer is broken up (think real estate assets). Now, according to the attorney representing A&P’s bondholders, who are worried they are being de-emphasized, Yucaipa is also an investor in the $800 million court-approved DIP financing that the company has at its disposal. As attorney Ed Weisfelder told the court about his clients potential dilemma: We think they’re (Yucaipa) all over the capital structure. The debtor (A&P) told us to talk to Yucaipa, and Yucaipa told us to ‘talk to the wall.’” Moral of the story: Burkle ain’t waiting in no lines. And for those of you who are industry history buffs like myself, inhale these A&P store count figures: as recently as 1978, the Tea Company operated 3,500 stores. By 1990 that number had decreased to 1,000 and in 2000, A&P was down to 600 units. At the time of its bankruptcy filing on December 12, the oldest grocery chain in America was down to 395 stores. At presstime, A&P submitted its operating report to the bankruptcy court for the period from December 5 through January 1. The Tea Company reported a $104.9 million loss on sales of $621.5 million for the four week period. And at this point, there are no signs as to when the auction process will begin and what stores may be involved…BJ’s Wholesale Club seems much closer to be being sold than ever before. The East Coast-centric club store operator, which has been rumored to being taken private (in a move that could be led by Leonard Green & Partners, which owns 9.5 percent of the company), has hired Morgan Stanley & Co. to “explore its options. “ That language usually translates to finding a new buyer, which still very well could be Leonard Green. No timetable on the exploration was announced. The Natick, MA based merchant also announced that it is closing five under performing stores – three in Atlanta area, one in Sunrise, FL and another in Charlotte, NC. About 440 store level associates will be impacted as well as another 60 at the club merchant’s Natick, MA headquarters? Weis Markets announced that it has lowered prices on 2,400 staple items and it will freeze those prices for 90 days until April 2. This marks the sixth round of price freezes the Sunbury, PA retailer has initiated over the past two years. “Our 90 day price freeze program continues to make sense in a slow growth economy impacted by high unemployment in most markets we serve,” said Dave Hepfinger, CEO and president. “It’s been a great program for our customers. Over the past two years, our price freeze program has helped our customers save more than $6 million and we hope to save them more money in 201l.” Also at Weis, the regional retailer has named company veteran Mike Mignola as its new VP-merchandising. In this post, he will oversee the development and execution of the Weis’ sales programs and initiatives. Mignola has more than 30 years of merchandising and operations experience. Prior to his new role, he was a regional VP with oversight of 66 Weis stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. He will report to Kurt Schertle, senior VP-sales and merchandising. Also, just before presstime, Weis announced that its fourth quarter sales for the period ended December 25, declined 1.3 percent and its earnings dropped 9.3 percent. However, for the 52 week fiscal year the numbers were much brighter. The tightly controlled regional chain posted an 8.7 percent profit gain to $68.3 million and overall sales rose 4.1 percent to $2.6 billion Comp store revenue increased 1 percent. “We’ve achieved our 2010 goals and have generated strong earnings increases for two consecutive years while maintaining our store base and increasing our cap-ex investments in markets impacted by cautious spending and lower consumer confidence,” said vice chairman Jonathan Weis. “ Our results are due to increased productivity and cost controls at store level, supply chain improvements, efficient procurement and a discipline go-to-market strategy.”? on the manufacturing side, Pepsi will no longer make soda at its Baltimore plant (located on Union Avenue in the Hampden section of the city). Pepsi said it will lay off 77 people and relocate an additional 318 associates to other Pepsi facilities. The big bottler partially attributed the shuttering of the facility to the two cent beverage tax passed by the Baltimore City Council last year…Utz Quality Foods, the family-owned firm based in Hanover, PA, has signed a letter of intent to join forces with Gramercy, LA based Zap’s Potato Chips, which has plants in Louisiana, California and Pennsylvania and produces chips under the Zap’s, Dirty and California Chips labels… and Steve Phillips, president and CEO of Baltimore-based Phillips Foods and one of the great entrepreneurs in the entire grocery business, will receive the Governor’s International Leadership Award at a ceremony on March 10. The award represents the highest honor given in the Maryland business community and recognizes decades of exemplary global leadership. According to Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley; “For more than 50 years, the name Phillips has meant something quite special here in Maryland. Today, with Phillips’ impressive global footprint, it is an honor to award Steve Phillips with the 2011 Governor’s International Leadership award. Long before international trade was the norm, Steve was a pioneer in Asia developing crab facilities to supplement the U.S. supply, providing jobs for thousands of Marylanders in manufacturing, hospitality/restaurants, and headquarter operations.” Past food and beverage related recipients include Jim Perdue (Perdue) and J.W. Marriott (Marriott International)… obituaries this month include four food industry greats, a poultry tycoon and a former 98 pound weakling. I am sorry to report the death of Charlie Hofmeister, 84, former executive of both Food Fair and A&P. The Baltimore native spent nearly 50 years in the food business, but more importantly, Charlie was a man with a heart of gold, who reached out in an unsung manner to many people to boost their careers. The Maryland Hall of Fame member leaves his beloved wife of 54 years, Inge, three sons and 14 grandchildren. I’ll miss Charlie very much. Also moving upward was Gene Merkert, former CEO of Merkert Enterprises, which from the 1970s through the 1990s was probably the largest food broker in the country. I got to know Gene very well from my early days at The Griffin Report in Boston and a savvier, more intuitive salesman didn’t exist. Gene was polished when he needed to be and street tough when that was called for. He was 92 and living in Loxahatchee, FL when he passed. Also entering grocery heaven was Albert Heijn, former CEO and grandson of the founder of what is now Ahold. Heijn, 83, joined the retailer in 1949 in Amsterdam, was appointed CEO in 1962 and retired in 1989. “Albert Heijn was a remarkable man. He was a spirited entrepreneur, whose vision has helped change the global food industry,” said John Rishton, Ahold’s CEO. “He was a warm and charismatic leader who was passionate about people – both those who worked for the company and all who shopped at our stores.” It is with sadness that I also report that Janet Weis, widow of former company chairman Sig Weis, has died at the age of 91. One of the most philanthropic individuals in the entire state of Pennsylvania, Weis was a particularly generous benefactor to Bucknell University, Geisinger Medical Center and the Children’s Miracle Network. Robert Weis, who for many years worked with his first cousin Sig (who died in 1995), and now serves as Weis Markets’ chairman said, “We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to Janet Weis’ family. She will always be remembered as a leader in our community and a generous supporter of many good causes.” Passing away too, was Don Tyson, second generation CEO of Tyson Foods, the world’s largest chicken processor. Tyson, 80, was lauded by the company with this candid overview of his life: “Don Tyson should be recognized for his no bad days outlook and was known by all to work hard, but also to play hard” (what a great epitaph). And finally, we say goodbye to the 98 pound weakling who became an icon of American fitness, Jack LaLanne, the man who swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco at age 60 while handcuffed, shackled and towing a boat. Ten years later, he performed a similar feat in Long Beach, CA. When I heard of LaLanne’s death, my first thought was that we lost a great American. My second thought was that his Power Juicer remains one of the finer products sitting in my kitchen cabinet …and finally, for all the attention that social networking is receiving these days comes this piece of reality (yes, I see the relevance of Facebook, My Space, Twitter, etc., but I think the hype is way overblown). Apparently, many posts and status updates at these sites extol the virtues of upcoming vacations, revealing dates and destination plans complete with photos. That’s where pleaserobme.com comes in. After the organizers of this site locate addresses of the vacationing users, a number of social networkers have returned from a wonderful holiday only to find their homes ransacked and burglarized. In a sick way, this is entrepreneurial ingenuity at its finest. I’m actually thinking of starting a new website to be called bediscreet.com, where the subject matter definitively won’t be the color of my latest tattoo, the irritation of my new hangnail, my latest stint rehab or how many times I’ve dated Lindsay Lohan (the last two items may be related).