The Washington flyaround
• Businesses are lobbying to neuter or kill the corporate alternative minimum tax provision that remains in the Senate’s tax bill. (WSJ)
• Republicans are working on passing a two-week stopgap measure to avoid a government shutdown. (NYT)
• The Supreme Court allowed the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban to take effect while legal challenges against the ban continued. (NYT)
• Repealing the individual insurance mandate is more unpopular among the public than initial opinion polling had suggested. (Axios)
Lyft’s latest fundraising round just got bigger.
The ride-hailing company expanded the cap for its latest infusion of investor capital to $1.5 billion, up from $1 billion.
Who’s in: Alphabet’s CapitalG investment arm is still leading the round. Other investors include two new firms — Fidelity, the mutual fund giant, and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan — and existing backers AllianceBernstein, Baillie Gifford, KKR, Janus Henderson Investors and Rakuten.
Worth noting: The round isn’t closed yet, but is near completion.
— Michael J. de la Merced
When a popular newsletter company is exploring a sale …
It’s a big deal. TheSkimm, the daily newsletter producer that’s popular among young women, is weighing a sale of itself after receiving takeover interest, the WSJ reported today.
TheSkimm, which counts several of my friends and celebrities like Oprah Winfrey as aficionados — sorry, “Skimm’bassadors” — has won fans for its breezy and sometimes snarky style and breakdowns of current events. Those fans also include brands like Target, who have sponsored the newsletter.
Newsletters have become popular among media publishers who are looking for new ways to reach audiences, particularly ways that are more measurable and targeted. (Not that I’m biased or anything.)
The WSJ got its hands on a recent presentation by the company that includes performance that, if accurate, would make many newsletter publishers highly envious:
According to a recent presentation from theSkimm obtained by The Wall Street Journal, 40% of theSkimm’s audience opens all five email newsletters each week. About 80% of its readers are female, and 45% earn more than $100,000 a year, according to the presentation.
It’s possible that TheSkimm and its founders Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, will instead decide to just take on an additional investment. Or they may decide to do nothing.
— Michael J. de la Merced
Putting the Aetna C.E.O.’s potentially big payday into context.
Mark Bertolini is set to receive as much as $500 million if his deal to sell the insurer to CVS is completed, the WSJ reported today. That’s a big number. But let’s point out a couple of things:
• Most of that value — some $230 million at the agreed-upon deal price of $207 a share — is tied to stock or appreciation rights that he had received during his tenure and that has already vested.
• Another $190 million would come from stock that he already owns.
• Then $60 million to $85 million would come from a change-in-control provision that was last amended in 2010, years before Mr. Bertolini had begun considering whether to sell Aetna.
• A significant portion of the acquisition price is in CVS stock, which has gone down more than 5 percent since the transaction was announced.
Half a billion dollars is a huge amount of money, by any standard. And it’s fair for critics to question the practice of giving C.E.O.s huge stock payouts as part of their compensation. But it doesn’t appears as though Aetna had changed Mr. Bertolini’s compensation meaningfully before the CVS deal.
— Michael J. de la Merced
Steve Case signs big partners for his new fund.
The former AOL chief executive, who is working with the author J.D. Vance, has gotten some major business stars for Rise of the Rest, an investment vehicle for pouring money into start-ups in the industrial “flyover” heart of the United States. (Read: not in Silicon Valley).
Among the backers, who have also pledged to work with businesses that receive money from the fund, according to Andrew’s latest DealBook column:
• From the tech world: Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Eric Schmidt of Alphabet and the venture capitalist John Doerr
• From the financial industry: Henry Kravis of K.K.R., David Rubenstein of the Carlyle Group and Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates
• From the rest of the business world: Howard Schultz of Starbucks, the fashion mogul Tory Burch, and the sports team owners Ted Leonsis and Dan Gilbert
Andrew writes, “All told, it may be the greatest concentration of American wealth and power in one investment fund.”
The tech flyaround
• Facebook has introduced a messenger app for children age 13 and younger. (NYT)
• The tech giant wants to spend “a few billion dollars” on sports rights worldwide. (Sports Business Journal via Recode)
• Google couldn’t establish a beachhead in China. Can it do so in India? (NYT)
Broadcom takes new risks in going hostile on Qualcomm.
In seeking to replace Qualcomm’s board, Broadcom is taking a chance. The company chose to pull one of the two levers available to try to force Qualcomm to the negotiating table. (The other, of course, would have been to raise its bid above $70 a share.)
Thomson Reuters reminded Michael of the odds of proxy fights and hostile bids succeeding in some fashion:
• Roughly 40 percent of hostile takeovers over the past 25 years ended in a deal.
• Only about 26 percent of proxy fights that went to a shareholder vote over the last five years led to victory for the challenger.
• If one includes settlements between the company and activists, challengers have succeeded roughly 57 percent of the time in the past five years.
Can CVS get its Aetna deal done, and make it work?
It isn’t just a question of antitrust (though we’ll get to that). CVS shareholders appeared displeased at how expensive and cash-rich the takeover bid turned out to be. Lex calculates that the net debt of the combined company would be a hefty 4.6 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.
Now on antitrust: Analysts and industry experts still aren’t sure how the government will assess the transaction and its effect on competition. Critics worry about any further limiting of options for consumers, from which pharmacy they can use, to which doctor they can see, according to the NYT.
If the deal closes: CVS would then have to worry about how to make the new company work. From Anna Wilde Mathews and Sharon Terlep of the WSJ:
No major health care company has tried to build a vertical system around the combination of drugstores, insurance and pharmacy-benefit management, the main businesses of CVS and Aetna, experts said.
A fee bonanza: CVS and Aetna relied on a dozen banks and law firms to assemble the transaction. The banks could split $120 million to $140 million in advisory fees alone, according to estimates from Thomson Reuters.
An Irish roadblock in the Brexit talks.
Just when Prime Minister Theresa May thought that she had made substantial progress in negotiations with European Union counterparts, her governing coalition partner, the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, withdrew its support from an agreement on how to handle the border with Ireland.
A tight deadline: Britain and the E.U. are meant to reach “sufficient progress” on key topics by the end of next week, including resolving Britain’s divorce bill from the political bloc, the rights of European citizens living in Britain, and the Irish border.
What’s next: A possible breakthrough with the D.U.P. Or the collapse of Ms. May’s governing coalition, potentially leading to Britain’s third general election in three years.
More fallout from the accusations against Shervin Pishevar.
After the venture capitalist faced accusations of sexual misconduct and assault, two Democratic senators, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, gave to charity money that they had received from the investor, a major donor to Democratic politicians, Bloomberg reported.
But will the claims cause Mr. Pishevar any blowback in his professional life?
• Bloomberg said that some board members of Virgin Hyperloop One, the high-speed train start-up he co-founded, have pressed him to resign. A spokeswoman for the company denied that part of the report.
• Uber, of which Mr. Pishevar was an early backer, said, “We fully support those who have felt harassed speaking out, whenever and however they choose.”
More sexual misconduct news
• Netflix said that “House of Cards” will resume production of its final season with Robin Wright as its remaining star, after Kevin Spacey was fired. (NYT)
• The Metropolitan Opera’s firing of the famed conductor James Levine has left the institution reeling, and calling to reassure donors that it will take appropriate action as it works to shore up its finances. (NYT, WSJ)
Mick Mulvaney begins remaking the C.F.P.B.
The acting director — though not according to the bureau’s deputy director, who is also claiming that title — has frozen the financial consumer regulator’s collection of data from credit cards and mortgages. Mr. Mulvaney said the decision was made for cybersecurity reasons, but the move halted a practice long criticized by the lending industry.
He also resumed payouts to victims of financial crimes, after having temporarily halted those disbursements.
The digital currency flyaround
• The Winklevoss twins have really struck it rich with their early investment in Bitcoin. (Telegraph)
• Ethereum may have preached the values of its network to supply chains and securities sales, but it’s mainly used for buying cartoon kittens known as CryptoKitties. (Bloomberg)
• The Securities and Exchange Commission announced its cyber unit’s first enforcement action against an initial coin offering. (WSJ)
• Ben Eisen of the WSJ describes the lessons he learned in selling the Bitcoin he was given as a wedding gift — and missing out on the recent Bitcoin boom. (WSJ)
When he was the U.S. attorney general for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara tangled with the defense lawyer John Dowd once before, in the trial of the hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam over charges of insider trading.
Now that Mr. Dowd is back in the news in his role as personal defense lawyer for Mr. Trump — a role in which Mr. Dowd contended that the president could not be found guilty of obstruction of justice — Mr. Bharara weighed in on his former legal opponent.
From yesterday’s episode of Mr. Bharara’s podcast, “Stay Tuned With Preet”:
“I had experience with John Dowd when he represented an individual named Raj Rajaratnam, who was convicted on all counts. And during the course of that trial and after that trial, John Dowd said a lot of — how shall I put it? — ludicrous, silly things. So that’s par for the course for him.”
The Speed Read
• New York State’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, wrote an open letter to F.C.C. chairman Ajit Pai asking for a delay to the repeal of net neutrality rules, citing concern over the discovery of fake comments posted to the regulator’s website. (Medium)
• Discovery Communications is taking majority control of OWN, the cable network it co-owns with Oprah Winfrey. (WSJ)
• The British cinema chain Cineworld has agreed to buy Regal in a $3.6 billion deal that will create the world’s second-largest cinema group, operating in 10 countries including the United States. (BBC)
• Merrill Lynch will remain in a recruiting pact known as the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, which may help it to retain staff and recruit as Wall Street brokerages face challenges from independent rivals. (WSJ)
• Germany’s financial regulator, BaFin, is investigating whether HNA Group accurately reported its holdings when building a stake in Deutsche Bank, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. (Bloomberg)
• Marcato Capital, led by the Bill Ackman protégé Mick McGuire, said it would seek fewer seats on the board of Deckers Outdoor, the maker of Uggs, after the advisory firms ISS and Glass Lewis failed to endorse its candidates. (NYPost)
• Children from lower-income homes, children of color and girls aren’t being encouraged to innovate, and that is harming the economy in the United States, according to the Equality of Opportunity project. (The Atlantic)
• A group of global hedge fund managers have said it is willing to pursue the Spanish government for a “zillion years” until they get as much as 4.5 billion euros, or $5.3 billion, over bankrupt toll roads. (FT)
• The Hartford agreed to sell Talcott Resolution, an annuities business, to an investor group led by Cornell Capital for about $2 billion. (The Hartford)
• The Italian tax police searched Gucci’s campus in Milan and its offices in Florence as part of an investigation into potential tax evasion. (NYT)
• For the first time in 40 years, power plants no longer are the biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the United States: It’s now the transportation sector because the electric grid has been cleaning up its act. (Bloomberg)
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