Quayle wins hints of compromiseIn the first...


Quayle wins hints of compromise

In the first day of an Asian tour, Vice President Dan Quayle today reportedly received indications that Japan might be willing to ease its ban on rice imports.

A Foreign Ministry official said Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, during a meeting in Tokyo with Quayle, hinted that Japan would be willing to work out the dispute over rice imports as long as other countries resolve "difficult issues" in international trade talks.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not name the countries or issues concerned. However, the trade talks broke down in December over agricultural issues.

Japanese law bans rice imports on the premise that Japan must be self-sufficient in its staple food. Japan's powerful and heavily subsidized farm lobby says it cannot compete with cheaper rice imports.

Earlier today, the vice president met with Finance Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, the minister of international trade and industry, and the minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

Market access issues, including American demands for Japan to open its rice market and for Japanese automobile companies to buy more U.S.-made parts, were expected to dominate Quayle's talks in Tokyo.

The vice president also conferred with Foreign Minister Taro Nakayama, officials with the governing Liberal Democratic Party, and had an audience with Emperor Akihito.

A group trying to take over the board of Baltimore Bancorp today filed a motion asking U.S. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz to "certify" his decision in a key legal case so it can be appealed immediately to Maryland's highest court.

The group of 16 dissident stockholders is led by Edwin F. Hale Sr., a Baltimore trucking and shipping executive and owner of the Baltimore Blast, a professional indoor soccer team.

The action follows a decision by Motz on Friday that he did not have jurisdiction over the legal issue of what percentage of votes are needed to change the number of seats on the company's board. By certifying the decision, the issue could go directly to the Maryland Court of Appeals, according to William Bradford Reynolds, the attorney representing the dissidents.

Baltimore Bancorp, the parent of the Bank of Baltimore, holds its annual meeting Wednesday.

Under the bank holding company's bylaws, 80 percent of the outstanding shares must vote in favor of an increase in the number of directors. The dissidents are challenging that rule, contending that state law requires such a provision to be in the company's charter rather than in its bylaws.

It is crucial to the dissidents' plans to increase the number of board seats, becau;se without the change, they could not elect a majority of directors. Normally, only a third of the 18 Baltimore Bancopr directors are elected each year. The dissidents proposed to increase the number of directors to 28 and then to elect 16 of their candidates.

Penta Systems reduces loss:

Penta Systems International Inc., which is based in Hunt Valley, has reported a first-quarter loss. However, the company has reduced its red ink by 53 percent from the same period last year.

Penta reported a net loss of $207,000, or 5 cents a share, compared with a loss of $442,000, or 10 cents a share, in the first quarter of 1990.

Sales decreased 29.4 percent to $1.8 million from $2.5 million in the 1990 quarter.

Penta develops, markets and sells computerized text processing and corporate publishing systems.

American Express plans promo:

American Express Co. unveiled plans yesterday to launch a marketing campaign in 15 cities this summer aimed at "jump-starting" the weakened restaurant industry and boosting use of its charge card among 25 million U.S. cardholders.

Following a recent controversy in Boston over fees American Express charges restaurants, the charge-card company announced it would hire a celebrity spokesman and invest millions in advertising to encourage more dining out. In addition, it would offer 50,000 of its cardholders a $25 certificate for redemption at restaurants that accept the card.

Japan asked to aid Latin nations

Vice President Dan Quayle, meeting Japanese Finance Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto today, called on Tokyo to contribute to a proposed investment fund for Latin America.

Quayle, who arrived in Tokyo early today, called on Hashimoto to press for a generous contribution to a U.S.-proposed investment fund to aid debt-ridden Latin American countries, a ministry official said in a news briefing.

"We're asking for Japan's cooperation," the official quoted Quayle as saying. Hashimoto said Japan had already indicated it would back the fund, proposed by President Bush last June, but said his government expected that western European countries would also play major roles.

Will David replace Bo?

With Bo Jackson sidelined, marketing experts have been wondering who will replace him as the best pitchman in advertising. Some believe the next superstar endorser is David Robinson, the 7-foot 1-inch center for the San Antonio Spurs who is already the stuff of legend, a rare professional athlete whose basketball scores (25.6 points a game on average) were rivaled, relatively speaking, only by his Scholastic Aptitude Test scores (1,320 out of 1,600).

A mathematics major at the U.S. Naval Academy, Robinson who served a two-year hitch in the Navy, remains a lieutenant and civil engineer in the reserves, won a bronze medal as a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic basketball team, is a concert pianist and in 1990, was voted the National Basketball Association's rookie of the year.

"I think without a doubt David Robinson has superstar qualities," said Nova Lanktree, the director of Burns Sports Celebrity Service, a Chicago firm that matches athletes with advertising agencies. "Very often, when an agency calls us, they'll not know who they want, and we'll always recommend Robinson and they'll say, 'Oh, yeah!' And if the agency has already been reviewing basketball stars, Robinson's name is always on the list."

While he was still in the Navy, Robinson signed endorsement contracts with Casio watches and Franklin Sports Industries. Nike lured Robinson into a five-year, $1 million endorsement deal in 1988, before he joined the Spurs.

A year ago, the company inaugurated a $15 million advertising campaign for its Force basketball shoe line, with the giant center as the star of "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood," a parody of the children's show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."

"Not only is David Robinson what some people consider the future of basketball -- a big man who's incredibly fast -- but he's also an exceptionally wonderful human being," said Jim Riswold, an associate creative director at Wieden & Kennedy, the Portland, Ore., advertising agency that handles Nike.

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