Trump — It’s a ‘Big Mistake’ to Sell on Good Economic News: DealBook Briefing

Trump — It’s a ‘Big Mistake’ to Sell on Good Economic News: DealBook Briefing

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In recent months, many powerful men have had to step down from senior positions as they have faced accusations of sexual harassment, but none were the head of a public company like Mr. Wynn. How would the board, shareholders, regulators, customers and unions react?

We now know something about the shareholder perspective: Shares in Wynn Resorts were up 7 percent in early-morning trading today. Regulators in Nevada, Massachusetts and Macau are still conducting their own investigations.

But the biggest unresolved question remains the board and its conduct.

The board set up a committee of independent directors to carry out an investigation after the WSJ article, but it was not clear how rigorous it would be. The board did not have a track record for holding Mr. Wynn accountable.

In an email exchange with me, Lucian Bebchuk, a Harvard law professor and an expert in corporate governance, asked why the board did not suspend Mr. Wynn from his position pending the investigation, or demand that he not interact with Wynn Resorts employees, a step that would have limited his ability to influence the board investigation.

In fact, the board, in its statement, sounded somewhat saddened by Mr. Wynn’s departure, saying it had “reluctantly” accepted his resignation.

One remaining way to assess the board’s resolve will be Mr. Wynn’s separation agreement, which is not yet finalized.

When the WSJ article was published, Mr. Wynn denied the accusations of sexual misconduct, calling them “preposterous.” On Tuesday he said, “I have found myself the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity.”

It is not clear why Mr. Wynn decided to step down. It may have been pressure from gaming regulators. Customers might have been pulling back.

Mr. Wynn may have wanted to preserve the value of his own stake in Wynn Resorts. But as it stands, it does not look like the board was a strong force.

— Peter Eavis

Misconduct claims take down an S. & P. 500 C.E.O.

Steve Wynn has stepped down from his $17 billion casino empire, a little over a week after allegations of forced sex and other sexual misconduct claims emerged in a WSJ investigation.

There had been little sense at Wynn Resorts over the last week that the man who made modern Las Vegas was on his way out:

Top executives spent hours with Mr. Wynn going over plans for a new casino he would like to build in Las Vegas, according to a person familiar with the matter, while the company’s general counsel hopped on a call with other executives to discuss the Vegas Strong Fund, a nonprofit formed in the aftermath of last year’s mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, according to a person familiar with the call.

He also attended the company’s 1,500-guest Super Bowl party on Sunday, the WSJ says.

In a statement, Mr. Wynn blamed his exit on “a rush to judgment” that took “precedence over everything, including the facts.”

The intrigue: The company’s news release reads almost like a corporate eulogy, calling Mr. Wynn a “beloved leader and visionary.” So why the sudden exit? (Our colleague Peter Eavis will weigh in on DealBook this morning.)

The big questions

• Do other S. & P. 500 C.E.O.s now have something to fear?

• And is the Wynn empire — from Las Vegas to Macau to, soon, Massachusetts — now ripe for a takeover or breakup?

Critics’ corner

• “While there are plenty of jobs for women as waitresses and croupiers, far too few rise to the levels at which they have the power to make a change,” David Fickling writes. (Gadfly)

• “It’s easy for a company in turmoil, especially one so closely associated with a celebrity founder that has effectively been forced out, to become prey,” Jeff Goldfarb writes. (Breakingviews)


Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Patrick Soon-Shiong becomes the next billionaire news mogul.

The billionaire Los Angeles doctor joins Jeff Bezos, Sheldon Adelson and Warren Buffett after he reached a deal to buy the L.A. Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune from Tronc for nearly $500 million. The deal price includes the assumption of $90 million in pension liabilities.

LAT staff have chafed at the decisions of Tronc and its chairman, Michael Ferro. More from Sydney Ember of the NYT:

Many employees at The Times have of late adopted the mantra “anyone but Ferro,” but it is also not clear what decisions Dr. Soon-Shiong, who largely made his fortune selling generic drugs and developing a new type of cancer drug, will make as the paper’s owner.

Separately, Tronc said it is reorganizing its Tribune Interactive business. The company said Ross Levinsohn, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times who was put on leave after National Public Radio published a report that detailed allegations of sexual harassment against him when he was at other companies, will be reinstated and named the chief executive of Tribune Interactive.

The deals flyaround

• SoftBank said it had spent $40 billion from its roughly $106 billion Vision Fund and Delta Fund, and that it plans to spin out its Japanese mobile unit.

• Google is expanding its New York headquarters, agreeing to buy the building across the street — which is home to Chelsea Market — for more than $2 billion. (Real Deal)

• An activist investor, Blackwells Capital, urged the supermarket chain Supervalu to break itself up, and plans a proxy fight. (WSJ)


Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Blame the VIX/machines/debt

• Analysts took a closer look at the “inverse VIX” trade — bets on a continued fall in the popular Wall Street volatility index that went very sour on Monday and forced a lot of selling.

• Steven Mnuchin suggested yesterday that algorithms might be behind the whipsawing: “I have heard from others that it has played a role, as there’s more programmed trading, this tends to have volatility in both directions.”

• Carl Icahn said exotic investment funds and lots of leverage had made the markets a “casino on steroids.”

Think about the deals: A Turkish franchisee of Burger King restaurants postponed its market debut yesterday, while deal makers worry that a steady stream of big mergers will dry up.

The Washington flyaround

• Mr. Trump called for a government shutdown if Congress did not address illegal immigration, even as lawmakers work on a two-year budget deal. John Kelly, his chief of staff, derided Dreamers who did not register for protected status.

• The White House says it will explain the “principles” of its infrastructure plan on Monday. (CNBC)

• The U.S. had a record trade deficit with China last year, potentially encouraging a tougher line from the Trump administration. (NYT)

• Mr. Trump wants the Pentagon to hold a big — and rare — military parade in Washington this year. (WaPo)


Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s co-founder and C.E.O.

Richard Drew/Associated Press

How a fight over Airbnb’s I.P.O. plans led to a shake-up

On one side: Brian Chesky, the home rental giant’s co-founder and C.E.O., who wants it kept private a while yet.

On the other, supporting an I.P.O. this year, according to Bloomberg’s unnamed sources: the C.F.O. Laurence “L.T.” Tosi and the Airbnb investors General Atlantic, Glade Brook Capital, TCV and TPG.

More from Olivia Zaleski:

Despite pledging support for Chesky’s desire to keep Airbnb private, Sequoia Capital partner Alfred Lin, along with Jeff Jordan of Andreessen Horowitz, wanted to explore the possibility. In December, they asked Michael Grimes, the head of global technology investment banking at Morgan Stanley, to present options for going public, said people close to the bank.

Ultimately, Mr. Tosi — who didn’t see eye to eye with Mr. Chesky on other issues and generally did not fit in at Airbnb — resigned.

An Airbnb spokesman denied there was ever any intent to pursue an I.P.O. this year.

Bonus trivia: Mr. Tosi set up a hedge fund of sorts at Airbnb, which was responsible for 30 percent of Airbnb’s cash flow last year and made about $60 million.

The tech flyaround

• Goldman Sachs’s retail arm is in talks to offer financing for Apple customers, unnamed sources say. (WSJ)

• Snap bolstered revenue and user growth in the fourth quarter, and investors rejoiced. (NYT)

• At the Uber-Waymo trial, Travis Kalanick kept calm and talked about his “jam sesh” with the autonomous-driving engineer at the center of the dispute. (NYT)

• Senators criticized Uber for how it handled a 2016 data breach. Meanwhile, the company is hoping to offer air taxis by 2025, through a deal with Bell Helicopter, and is giving its U.S. riders exclusive Winter Olympics content.

• A pollster hired by Facebook to track public sentiment about Mark Zuckerberg said he left after coming to believe the company wasn’t good for society. (The Verge)

• European regulators are closely examining Apple’s bid for the music app Shazam. And Apple might give rebates to users who bought iPhone battery replacements before it discounted them.


Keith Rankin

Regulators are coming for Bitcoin

The S.E.C. and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission told senators that Congress should consider expanding federal oversight of cryptocurrency trading.

And Agustin Carstens, the head of the Bank for International Settlements, said central banks must be prepared to intervene, calling digital currencies a “combination of a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster.”

Mr. Carstens also argued that cryptocurrencies were freeloading on existing financial infrastructure and the legitimacy that came from being linked to it.

On a positive note, while Bitcoin is at about $8,000 this morning, things could get far worse, according to Goldman Sachs:

Most digital currencies are unlikely to survive in their current form, and investors should prepare for coins to lose all their value as they’re replaced by a small set of future competitors, Goldman’s Steve Strongin said in a report dated Feb. 5.

Revolving door

• Slack named a longtime executive, Allen Shin, as its C.F.O., another step on the road to a listing. (Slack)

• AIG has hired Caroline Krass, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and a former general counsel of the C.I.A., as deputy general counsel. (AIG)



Quote of the day

“Crazy things can come true.”

— Elon Musk, after SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy rocket (carrying a cherry red Tesla roadster) from Cape Canaveral, Fla. yesterday. David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” played at the end of the webcast.

The Speed Read

• A livery driver who had written about being a casualty of the gig economy killed himself outside City Hall in Lower Manhattan on Monday. (NYT)

• Business Wire, the corporate news-release distributor owned by Berkshire Hathaway, is dealing with a cyberattack. It has caused outages for nearly a week. (WSJ)

• Morgan Stanley gave the cold shoulder to Derek Jeter, co-owner of the Miami Marlins, and his banker, Greg Fleming, when asked if large brokerage clients would like to buy a piece of the team, unnamed sources said. (Fox Business)

• FEMA awarded an Atlanta entrepreneur, Tiffany Brown, $156 million to supply 30 million meals to Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria. Only 50,000 have been delivered. (NYT)

• The German carmaker Daimler publicly apologized on Tuesday after its Mercedes-Benz brand caused an outcry in China by quoting the Dalai Lama in a social media post. (NYT)

• Can Christian Louboutin trademark red soles? The European Union’s highest court says no. (NYT)

• PepsiCo will not be making Lady Doritos. (NYT)

• One of the issues that contributed to Laurent Potdevin’s departure as C.E.O. of Lululemon, unnamed sources say, was a multiyear relationship with a female designer. (CNBC)

• Quentin Tarantino, accused by Uma Thurman of putting her life at risk by making her perform a dangerous stunt for the “Kill Bill” films, described it as one of the biggest regrets of his life. He disputed some details of her account. (NYT)

• The supermarket Tesco is facing Britain’s largest ever collective equal pay claim, for a potential total of about $5.6 billion. (BBC)

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