Travis Kalanick’s Not-So-Fond Farewell; It’s Bottoms Up for George Clooney; Glassdoor Drops Another List and You Better Hope Your Boss is on it

Goodbye and farewell…

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Looks like Travis Kalanick’s “leave of absence” is now a permanent one as he finally took the hint from investors and officially resigned as Uber’s CEO. But not before the aforementioned investors placed a lot of pressure on the embattled CEO to step down. And who can blame the investors. Scandal after ugly scandal emerged from the $68 billion, privately held company and it seemed as if Kalanick wasn’t up to snuff when it came to dealing with them.  In an email to employees, Kalanick talked about his love for Uber and decided to step down “so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.” How very gallant of him. While Kalanick still remains on the board of Uber, the business is now being run by fourteen people who once upon a time reported to him. Talk about irony.

Aye tequila!

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Some guys have all the luck and George Clooney is one of them. If you think he’s just an actor with a pretty face then you are so very wrong. Turns out the Hollywood hunk also has his own tequila brand –  along with two other partners – called Casamigos, which was just bought for $1 billion by liquor company giant Diageo. The name Diageo might not ring a bell for you, but the name Smirnoff should, and that is just one of the many notable brands that belongs to the Diageo family. Curious who George’s other partners are? Mr. Cindy Crawford, aka Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman. Annoyingly enough, Clooney and Gerber were just trying to come up with their very own “house” tequila for the properties they own in Cabo San Lucas.  But a very lucrative opportunity knocked that had them expanding the brand beyond Cabo, and just last year 120,000 cases of the stuff was shipped out. This year the company expects that number to climb to 170,000. And with a price tag between $45 to $55 a bottle, Clooney and company get to live large without having to rely on other their other talents, including acting and such. As for Diageo, you can bet that this acquisition had less to do with Clooney’s movie star charm and more to do with the fact that tequila volume in the U.S. more than doubled from 2002 to 2015.

There’s a list for that too…

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Glassdoor has regaled us with yet another list. This time it’s to let us know who the top CEO’s in the world are, according to employees And you can bet Travis Kalanick did not make the cut. The Clorox Company’s Benno Dorer takes the top spot. What? Were you expecting a tech CEO? Well too bad because Dorer earned a 99% approval rating from his employees.  Another name from the list you might recognize is Elon Musk who takes the eighth spot. Interestingly enough, his 98% employee approval rating came not from Tesla, but his other company, SpaceX. Wonder what that’s about. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg makes it onto the list at number ten, also with a 98% approval rating. But sadly that’s a sharp drop from his number four spot in 2016. Google’s Sundar Pichai grabs the 17th spot while LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner comes in at number 35. The biggest bummer on the list just might be Apple’s Tim Cook. Last year he held the number eight spot, but this year he drops to spot number 53. In all fairness, however, he still scored a 93% approval rating.

 

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Russia Says Nyet to LinkedIn; No Regrets for Macy’s on Ditching President-Elect’s Line; Trump Making Plans

Linked Out…

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It’s Game on between LinkedIn and Russia as the social network gets banned by the Russian government. Back in 2015 Russia passed a new law requiring foreign websites to store personal data of Russian users on Russian servers. While LinkedIn counts six million registered users in the country, the social media giant said no thank you to the new law and now finds itself listed in a very unflattering registry of websites that are banned in the country. Russia’s leaders would like to put an end to its dependance on foreign tech and is even in the process of developing replacements for such services like WhatsApp. In case it wasn’t obvious, Russia has been stepping up its control over internet usage in the last few years. In the meantime Google, eBay and Uber have been looking for ways to comply with the new law lest their fate ends up similar to that of LinkedIn. However, all eyes are on Facebook to see if and how the social media giant intends to deal with this lofty piece of legislation .

Trump’d Up…

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Today, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren said that he stands by his decision to boot Donald Trump’s clothing line from his stores back in the summer of 2015. Trump had tried to retaliate by getting people to boycott the department store. But after all, Trump did say that many Mexican immigrants were rapists and murderers and well, that’s just not cool. So needless to say, his calls to boycott weren’t all that successful. Well, maybe a little as Macy’s has been struggling to post some solid quarterly gains. In any case, the retailer has been trying to court more Hispanic shoppers and getting rid of a line of clothing from a man who has been nothing short of hostile and racist seems like a prudent move. To be fair, Lundgren says he would have had to get rid of Trump’s clothing line once he entered politics anyway, even if he hadn’t made his odious comments. Macy’s doesn’t do politics and Lundgren added that even if Hillary Clinton had her clothing own line – of pantsuits, presumably – that would have to go as well once she announced her political aspirations. Incidentally, Ivanka’s clothing line at Macy’s is alive and well, which seems only right considering she has yet to offend entire races of people. Also incidentally, Ivanka’s line is manufactured in China and the Donald just hates it when American businesses outsource manufacturing there. In fact, as part of his economic plans, he wants to impose harsh tariffs on imports in an effort to curb, or perhaps even obliterate the practice. Good luck with that one, Ivanka.

More Trump’d Up…

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In other Trump news, rumor has it that the President-Elect wants to install JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon as Treasury Secretary. FYI, Dimon is a life-long Democrat and Obama supporter, although the arrival of the Dodd-Frank laws made him a less enthusiastic one. What’s so very peculiar about Trump’s choice is that he once criticized Dimon for his decision to settle civil suits against the bank. Donald is not one to settle court cases. At least that’s what he said. In the meantime, there’s no word from Jamie Dimon about whether he plans to accept. However, other rumors are swirling that he won’t as he was rooting for Hillary Clinton to win the election. And you know who probably wont be asked to join Trump’s government? Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. As the owner of the Washington Post, Jeff Bezos didn’t care for Trump’s opinions on the mainstream media bias and said Trump was “eroding our democracy.” Incidentally, Amazon’s stock went down today over 4%. Experts say it’s because all tech stocks, including Apple, Google and Microsoft took a beating today since Trump’s economic plans don’t do much for that sector. But the experts with a better sense of humor – and serious undertones – think the drop is because it’s payback time for Bezos and company, who for the most part don’t care for the President-Elect and were pretty vocal about it during campaign season. The tech sector employs a large population of foreign engineers and, well you know how Trump feels about that. Experts also think that companies like Amazon can expect payback in the form of higher taxes and anti-trust litigation. At least Bezos had the good sense to tweet: “I for one give him my most open mind and wish him great success in his service to the country.” Maybe Bezos will get a pass this time. Wink wink, nod nod.

 

Jeff Bezos Hearts India; Lululemon’s Zen-tastic Earnings; Is Your CEO Listed? You Better Hope So

Next. Big. Thing…

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India is looking very flush these days as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos decided to throw $3 billion at it. That’s in addition to the $2 billion he gave the southeast Asian country back in 2014. He made this announcement at a meeting of business leaders in Washington DC that included Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The reason why Bezos is showing India a lot of fiscal love is that it is Amazon’s fastest growing region, boasting 21 fulfillment centers and 45,000 employees. In other words, the e-commerce giant is banking on the “huge potential in the Indian economy.” Interestingly enough, Amazon can only sell its wares from its website through a third party, as mandated by Indian law. But that hasn’t been much of a problem for the e-tailer, who ironically, never seemed to adapt as easily to the local Chinese marketplace, and continues to struggle there and against the giant we call Alibaba. It’s worth noting that Amazon is not the only game in town, facing fierce competition from local e-commerce businesses, Flipkart and Snapdeal. But Amazon’s not sweating it since according to Morgan Stanley, it is estimated that consumers in India bought $16 billion worth of goods last year, more than $10.3 billion from the previous year. So clearly, there’s plenty of room on the Indian e-commerce playing field.

Lemonade mouth…

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Lululemon beat estimates and even raised its 2016 revenue forecast. So why is its founder and largest shareholder, Chip Wilson, in a snit? He’s probably still licking his executive wounds after being booted from his post for making stupid comments, among other short-comings. In a letter to shareholders last week, the 14.2% stakeholder ripped into the current directors because he feels that they can’t keep up the pace against other athletic apparel companies like Nike and Under Armour, to name a few. Wilson would like it very much if there was an annual election that would make the board of directors accountable for earnings results and, presumably, get him reinstated as CEO. As it stands, the current leadership, helmed by Laurent Potdevin, would probably be delighted to be held accountable for Lululemon’s latest earnings considering how well it performed. Sure, the retailer missed profits by just a penny, falling 5% to $45.3 million, yet still earning 30 cents a share. But shares are still up 27% for the year and the company had strong sales this quarter. It also found a way to control its inventory levels and, in the process, saw its revenue rise 17% to $495.5 million when analysts only thought it would pull down $487.7. So perhaps it’s time for Wilson to keep his thoughts to himself and just enjoy his burgeoning majority stake.

In case you were wondering…

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Glassdoor came out with its latest annual list, this time regaling us with the highest rated CEO’s. Bain & Company’s Bob Becheck tops the list with a 99% approval rating. Employees seemed to appreciate the support they receive from their boss, not to mention the company’s focus on professional development. And who doesn’t mind professional encouragement? But while Becheck scored the number one spot, two other CEO’s also received 99% approval ratings. So congrats to Ultimate Software’s Scott Scherr and McKinsey and Company’s Dominic Barton. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg kept his number 4 ranking from last year, while LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner took fifth. Larry Page’s replacement at Google, Sundar Pichai, earned a 96% approval rating and the number seven spot, while Apple’s Tim Cook came in 8th, also with a 96% approval rating. Four women paved the way on this list, including Staffmark’s Lesa J. Francis, who took the 28th spot with a 94% approve rating, and Enterprise Holdings’ Pamela M. Nicholson, who graces the list at the number 31 spot, also with a 94% approval rating.

Economy Cools on Coal; Saving Chipotle One Burrito at a Time; Morgan Stanley Made a Mistake and Admits It!

Hot or coal?

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Feel free to play it naughty this year as Santa may not be able to scrounge up some coal to put in your stocking anyway. That’s because Peabody Energy, the largest American coal miner, might just be going bust, joining a slew of other coal companies. The company announced that it will be delaying a $71 million interest payment that’s due this week – and that, my friends, often signals that a company could be on the brink of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Not that this would come as any great surprise since the stock lost over 95% of its value in the last twelve months and today tanked over 40%. Two years ago the company’s stock hit a high of $299.10. Now it’s barely hanging on as it closed at $2.20 today. The fact is that the global economy is slow enough to wreak havoc on major industries, in this case, coal. Only 33% of power came from coal in 2015. The coal industry has had to contend with stricter environmental standards that have put a major crimp in production. With natural gas being used more and more, seeing as how its cheaper and less polluting, several other coal companies have already gone under. And while nobody is crying over less pollution, it does mean that thousands of people will be out of jobs. Tens of thousands. As for Peabody Energy, the company has thirty days to make that $71 million or face default.

Burritos for all….

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It appears all is not lost at Chipotle as the food joint managed to recoup about 30% of its sales with the help of some free food – burritos, in fact. There is a lot of irony at work here. According to Chipotle CFO Jack Hartung, “Free burritos—turns out it works. It brings people into the restaurants.” It’s a good thing something is bringing folks back into the restaurants after that ugly E.Coli outbreak that sent millions of customers scrambling as far away from the restaurants as possible. As part of the company’s turnaround plan, Chipotle sent out coupons for free burritos to about 7 million customers. Then it decided that maybe sending out 21 million more coupons might not be such a bad idea. It wasn’t since 5.3 million customers already downloaded the first coupon and then, 2.5 million actually walked into a Chipotle, picked up their free burrito and, presumably, purchased a couple of other items off the menu as well. Hey, once you get ’em in the door…In any case, this quarter marked the first time that Chipotle actually forecasted a quarterly loss. Ever. Naturally, the company is still reeling from the losses over the outbreak. However, it’s also expecting to incur some heavy expenses for marketing and, of course, free burritos.

Um, about that price target…

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Wall Street insiders made a mistake and they are actually admitting it. Analysts at Morgan Stanley used to just love LinkedIn and thought the world of the platform. But that love has waned and thus the brokerage has downgraded the stock, savagely slashing the price target from $190 to $125. After all, LinkedIn’s earnings didn’t impress. Far from it, in fact, and the stock has gone down a whopping 54% in just the last three months. Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak eloquently said of LinkedIn, “With its current product offering, LinkedIn isn’t likely to be as big of a platform as we previously thought.” That was harsh, I tell you. And just like that, shares of the company went down on all because the brokerages had a fiscal change of heart.

The List of Best Companies is Here; Sports Authority Calls it a Game, Files for Bankruptcy; Angie’s List Free as a Bird Now

In good company…

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Because there’s nothing like a list to grab your attention these days, Fortune Magazine just published its latest list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.”  For the seventh year in a row, Google tops the list. And how could it not? After all, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson did make a movie about being interns there, so how could it not be the best company to work for? The Container Store takes the 14 spot. As a customer, I already spend inordinate amounts of time in their stores fantasizing about how organized I could become. Hmm. Maybe I should check the company’s job board. Recreational sporting goods company REI snags the 26th spot. If you recall, they made Glassdoor’s list of companies with the best perks.  Good perks make for happy employees who vote for their own companies to win big on these lists. Publix Supermarket came in at 67. As the largest employee-owned company, Publix has extremely low-turnover and plenty of perks that keep employees satisfied for decades. You might want to check if your company is on the list. If not, then consider tidying up your LinkedIn profile as there are currently over 100,000 job openings at these companies that are just waiting to be filled.

Disregard for authority…

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Sports Authority has gone bust and is set to start closing its doors at about 140 locations as early as tomorrow, including 25 stores in Texas and 19 in California. Sports Authority managed to rack up $1.1 billion debt as it failed to keep up with current consumer trends. There’s a chance that another company will pick up Sports Authority’s debt-riddled pieces and give the sporting goods company a second profitable chance. But if April comes along and Sports Authority has no buyer, it will throw in the proverbial fiscal towel and close down its remaining locations. If you have any gift cards for Sports Authority, you might want to use ‘em up NOW while Sports Authority still honors them. Need to return or exchange merchandise? Good news! You still can…as long as you’re near one that didn’t close. Warranty related issues keeping you awake at night. No worries. Sports Authority can still service those items. Sports Authority is even carrying on with its customer loyalty program (there’s a joke in there somewhere) – at the locations that are still open anyway.

Free ‘em up…

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Angie’s List will now be free for the masses. Sort of. The review site will now allow visitors to read reviews and ratings…without having to fork over the security codes on their credit cards. However, tiered subscription services will be offered to those looking for a few extra benefits not included in freemium subscriptions. There’s going to be a $24.99 silver subscription and a $99.99 gold subscription. While those offers might seem a little pricey, they come with big benefits like an emergency service hotline and fair price guarantees. A small price to pay for some big peace of mind. Even though the company went public way back in 2011, it didn’t churn out its first annual profit until 2015. But today, shares went up almost 4% on the news, especially because this freebie subscription idea was all part of a bigger plan to help the company grow and make it more profitable. It’s also a major reason why the site dissed IAC’s HomeAdvisor’s bid last year. Angie’s List found the $512 million, $8.75 per share bid a lowball offer and said it undervalued the site. According to CEO Scott Durchslag, who has held his post for just six months, the current model made it harder for the company to grow. Besides, the company felt that millennials aren’t going to bother paying for reviews and it does seem to be all about those pesky millennials lately, doesn’t it? Angie’s List did have to revise its full year guidance and now expects to take in between $345 million and $355 million when analysts were expecting numbers closer to $362 million. The reason being is that 20% of the company’s revenue comes from those subscriptions. However, the company now figures that, going forward, it will be able to hit $750 million by by 2020. Angie’s List brass are expecting to “see traffic explode” under this new model.” The site currently has approximately 3.3 million subscribers but expect that number to catapult real soon.

Worthless?

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The verdict is in and it’s a big giant “NO.” As in, NO!, Yahoo will not spin off its pricey stake in Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba. The stake, which is reported to be worth an estimated $30 billion, will stay put and instead, all of Yahoo’s assets and liabilities will be cast-off into the sunset to go and form their very own company. That, my friends, is what they call a “reverse-spin off.” Turns out, the IRS couldn’t be trusted NOT to tax an Alibaba spin-off, which would potentially leave shareholders to foot a $10 billion tax bill. Yahoo, whose shares are currently trading at under $34 yet is apparently worth nothing, will keep its internet biz and its 35% stake in Yahoo Japan. The company, despite being one of the top five most-visited websites every single day, just couldn’t seem to compete with Google and Facebook when it came down to selling search and display ads. Although shares of Yahoo are down 30% this year, this reverse spin-off is likely to draw a lot of interest for companies looking to make an acquisition. But don’t hold your breath as this reverse spin-off process could take a year to complete.

Bad day, mate…

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In other parts of the world, Australian police raided the home and office of Craig Steven Wright – a name that in all likelihood means absolutely nothing to you. Unless of course you’re a bitcoin enthusiast. Following leaked emails and other assorted information, investigations by both Wired magazine and Gizmodo have concluded that Wright is likely Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym for the creator of bitcoin, the crypto-currency that has captivated the world. Sort of. In March of 2014, a Japanese American man who goes by the name Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto was falsely identified as bitcoin’s reclusive creator while he also steadfastly denied it. As for the police raid, well, here’s where things get weird-er. Australian Federal Police are saying that the bitcoin reports that have been surfacing about the creator’s true identity have nothing to do with its current operation and raid and referred media calls to the Australian Tax Office, which also could not comment. Naturally.  The home in question, which was being rented by Wright, is considered to be relatively modest, especially for someone who is potentially sitting on about one million bitcoins.  Incidentlly, the Australian government doesn’t much care for the crypto-currency. As stricter rules were imposed for Australian banks to impede money laundering and terror financing, bitcoin operators bore the brunt and major banks in Australia closed the accounts of bitcoin companies back in September.  If Wright really and truly is Satoshi Nakamoto, then his bitcoin stash amounts to about $400 million, which should be more than enough to pay his legal fees.

Get your resume ready…

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If you’re currently not working at Airbnb, then maybe you need to ask yourself why. According to Glassdoor’s 2015 list of best places to work, the home-sharing company takes the number one spot with one employee quoted as saying, “Fast growth, amazing people.” Can you say that about your company? Hmmm. Airbnb wasn’t even on the list last year but this year more than made up for it as it not only pushed Google out of the top spot but kicked it down to number eight. Or maybe Google did that all on its own. In any case, business management consulting group came Bain & Company came in at number two, while Guidewire snagged third place. Social media giant Facebook took the five spot, while LinkedIn ranked number six. Curious to see where else you’d rather be working? Well, there are 50 companies listed and surely you could find gainful employment by at least a few of them.

Awesome Intel; Who is America’s Favorite CEO?; Marriott’s Letting Guests Stream it Up;

Friggin’ awesome…

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Image courtesy of koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“There are plenty of women- and minority-led startup companies, and we want to work with them,”  Lisa Lambert, vice president and managing director at Intel Capital. So why did she say that? Because Intel super-graciously – and presciently – announced its Capital Diversity Fund, specifically set up for women and minority-led start-ups in an effort to mix things up in Silicon Valley. It would seem that the locale already has a rather large presence of white, male CEO’s and Intel would like to make it a little bit more…colorful.  Intel CEO Brian Krzanich would even like to have Intel’s work force, which is currently 24% female and 12% black and Hispanic, come to resemble the U.S. workforce, which is 47% women and 26% black and Hispanic, by 2020. To qualify for some of this cash, the founder of the company must be a woman or minority, and the company must have at least three executives who are women and/or minorities.  There are already a few companies who are getting funding including cyber-security firm Venafi, CareCloud and MarkOne – which makes smart cups. If you’re curious about how smart those cup are, you’ll have to find out yourself. As Mr. Krzanich put it, “…as you seek out diverse points of view, you’re going to produce better returns.” And who doesn’t like better returns?

Did your boss make the list?

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Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If your boss didn’t make the list, maybe consider taking your skills and LinkedIn endorsements elsewhere. You might consider finding gainful employment at Google since Larry Page takes the top spot with a 97% approval rating, according to online job and salary review site Glassdoor.com.  Nike’s Mark Parker, took second just barely missing the top spot by a few thousandths percentage points. Charles Butt, owner of the Texas grocery chain HEB  takes third, with help form a company philosophy that values the welfare of its workforce. And because of that awesome culture you are forbidden to make fun of his last name.  Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg came in fourth  while the aforementioned Brian M. Krzanich, who just announced Intel’s incredible new fund for women and minority-run startups, only came in at number 39. But he still had a 90% approval rating. Oddly enough, LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner rocked first place back in 2014 with an approval rating of 100%, yet this year his ranking plunged to number 12. However, even with that big drop, Weiner still scored a 93% approval rating. The question is: what exactly did Jeff Weiner do to tick off that other 7%? Hmmm. Something to think about.

Everyone’s a winner…

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Image courtesy of Supertrooper/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apparently, Marriott discovered that those super awesome televisions daintily mounted on the walls of the guest rooms weren’t getting much use, as more and more guests were using their tablet, laptops and phones (oh my) to access streaming entertainment. And with those handy, entertaining devices, guests found that that they didn’t have to go through the annoying process of acquainting themselves with a new remote and channel guide. Ugh. So what do? You can’t just chuck those state of the art electronics to the curb. Or can you? Well, no you can’t. Instead, Marriott is teaming up with streaming entertainment service Netflix that will allow Marriott guests to access their Netflix accounts or even sign up for new ones. So next time you need to choose between a Marriott Hotel and some other place to rest your head for the night, now you can take into consideration which hotel has the better in-room entertainment – and mini bar.