‘Selling CNN Makes No Sense,’ AT&T Chief Says: DealBook Conference

‘Selling CNN Makes No Sense,’ AT&T Chief Says: DealBook Conference

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Speaking one day after tensions over AT&T’s negotiations with the Justice Department spilled into the open, Mr. Stephenson said that selling the news network “doesn’t make sense in the context of what we’re trying to accomplish” by buying Time Warner.

If completed, the deal with Time Warner — the owner of HBO, Warner Bros. and CNN — would transform AT&T into a colossus capable of both producing content and distributing it to millions of people via its wireless and satellite services.

But on Wednesday, negotiations between the companies and the Justice Department appeared to be mired in politics. Central to the dispute is CNN, which President Trump has repeatedly attacked as producing “fake news.”

“This is a classic vertical merger,” Mr. Stephenson said. “There are no overlaps of competition. There are no competitors being taken out of the competition. There hasn’t been one of these challenged in the courts and defeated in 40 years.”

— Tiffany Hsu

Critics’ corner

• Jim Rutenberg, in his Mediator column, worries about what he sees as Mr. Trump’s consistent stance against the news media: “If Justice Department officials with legitimate concerns about the merger worry that their work will be tainted by the perception that anti-press politics are at play, there’s one remedy: get the boss to zip it.”

Video

Uber C.E.O.: ‘The Culture Went Wrong’

Speaking publicly for the first time since he became Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi painted a rosy vision of his company’s future.


Publish Date November 9, 2017.


by Mike Cohen for The New York Times.

Watch in Times Video »

Uber 2.0?

Dara Khosrowshahi wants to make something clear: The new Uber will not look like the company he inherited.

Speaking publicly for the first time since he became Uber’s chief executive in August, Mr. Khosrowshahi painted a rosier vision of the future of his company. His aim: To escape from the shadow cast over the ride-hailing giant after a series of scandals shook the company to its core and resulted in the eventual ousting of former chief executive and co-founder, Travis Kalanick.

“The culture went wrong, the governance went wrong, the board went in a very bad direction,” Mr. Khosrowshahi said in conversation with Andrew Ross Sorkin. “I think winning gives some excuses for bad behavior.”

Now, Mr. Khosrowshahi is trying to put his own imprimatur on the company in what he calls “Uber 2.0.” He confirmed, for the first time publicly, that Uber is working on securing a multibillion dollar investment from SoftBank, the Japanese mega-conglomerate angling to get into the American ride-hailing market. He hinted at pulling back on Uber’s long-espoused strategy of spending enormous amounts of money in order to gain market share in certain areas.

Perhaps most important, he has embarked on an apology tour of sorts in cities and countries around the world, trying to repair the damage done by Mr. Kalanick and his contentious, bare-knuckled approach to dealing with regulators in new markets.

Make no mistake: This is Dara’s company now, not Travis’s. And Mr. Khosrowshahi said he has made clear he needs some distance from the former chief executive to do his job, and to do it well.

“I’ve got to put my stamp on the company,” he said. “We’re on our way.”

— Mike Isaac

Video

‘Where Is the Corporate Kaepernick?’

Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, asked whether business leaders would be willing to take a stand — or a knee — over the lack of diversity in corporate America.


Publish Date November 9, 2017.


by Mike Cohen for The New York Times.

Watch in Times Video »

‘Where is the corporate Kaepernick?’

Mellody Hobson, the president of Ariel Investments, a Chicago investment firm, noted the corporate environment remains overwhelmingly white and male.

“I’ve been asking myself one question over and over again,” she said. “Where is the corporate Kaepernick?

Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began kneeling during the national anthem at games to protest racial inequality last year, attracting national attention. He is now a free agent.

“I’ve never met Colin Kaepernick, but I will tell you he’s a hero of mine,” Ms. Hobson said. “I’m in awe of him because I believe he took it upon himself to publicly promote the American values of liberty and life that we all cherish.”

She added: “Who else will be willing to use their high-profile position to call attention to inequality?”

Kenneth I. Chenault, for one, has tried.

Kenneth I. Chenault, center, and Laurence D. Fink of BlackRock, right, speaking on Thursday.

Credit
Mike Cohen for The New York Times

Mr. Chenault will retire next year after a long run as the chief executive of American Express. When he assumed the position in 2001, he was only the third black person ever to lead a Fortune 500 company. When he retires, three will remain.

His conversation with Andrew Ross Sorkin and Laurence D. Fink, BlackRock’s chief executive, was, in part, a retrospective of the lessons learned during his tenure as one of the longest-serving chief executives in finance.

He pointed out the wrong way to think about diversity, recalling a conversation with someone who said to him, “I don’t see color.”

“Don’t deny that I am African-American,” Mr. Chenault said. “Accept me for who I am. Engage with me, but don’t deny my heritage, because it’s important. Because we don’t have enough honest discussions about race in this country.”

Amex broadened its clientele under Mr. Chenault’s leadership, but has faced stiff competition in recent years and a number of shake-ups — including high-profile divorces from partners like Costco and JetBlue.

— Jacey Fortin

Howard Schultz of Starbucks. The country, he said, is “in great need of a more compassionate government and a more compassionate society.”

Credit
Mike Cohen for The New York Times

Starbucks’s Schultz: Tax cut is ‘fool’s gold.’

Howard Schultz, the executive chairman of Starbucks, lashed out at the proposed tax code overhauls being promoted by Republicans.

Mr. Schultz bucked the conventional wisdom of business leaders and said that big companies, including Starbucks, don’t actually need lower taxes.

“When so many people are living paycheck to paycheck, corporate America does not need a tax cut,” he said. “This is not tax reform. This is a tax cut. This is fool’s gold.”

Instead, Mr. Schultz said companies and the government should focus on repairing the torn social fabric by investing in initiatives like education and better health care.

“The country, the American people, are asking for and demanding and in great need of a more compassionate government and a more compassionate society,” he said. “The current tax cut is not going to create a more level playing field and a more compassionate society.” — David Gelles

Video

Mark Cuban: ‘I’m Considering’ Running for President

At the DealBook conference, the Dallas Mavericks owner said that “there’s a unique opportunity” for an independent voice to enter the 2020 presidential race.


Publish Date November 9, 2017.


by Mike Cohen for The New York Times.

Watch in Times Video »

Is the country ready for another billionaire reality TV star to be president?

Maybe, said Mark Cuban.

Mr. Cuban said that he was “considering” a presidential run, repeating an assertion he’s made before while also offering insight into how he might approach business and tax regulation.

“People are looking for an independent voice, a real independent voice, that at least has an inkling of what they’re talking about,” he said, explaining why he saw an opportunity for someone like him to run.

Voters fed up with broken promises from politicians are willing to continue to take a bet on business leaders, he said. Here are Mr. Cuban’s thoughts:

On taxes.

The corporate tax rate should be lower, somewhere around 25 percent, but not too low, Mr. Cuban said. There are so many incentives to do business in America that there’s no reason to excessively cut rates.

“When you have a great product, when you have a great company you don’t need to be the lowest price,” he said.

On Russia and regulating technology.

When it comes to Russian attempts to influence American elections, Mr. Cuban said he did not support heavy regulation.

The Federal Trade Commission, under its existing authority to regulate advertising, can address the problem itself. “There’s already rules and things in place for native advertising,” he said.

On megamergers.

Mr. Cuban said that major deals are a reality of the modern era.

“The AT&T-Time Warner deal should happen, because you’re going to see a lot more comparable deals have to happen,” he said, in response to a question about The Walt Disney Company having considered buying assets owned by 21st Century Fox.

On why he’s not committed to running.

His family, for one.

“I’ve had three kids,” he said. ”What caring, loving parent would put an 8-, an 11-, and a 14-year-old child through this?”

And what does his wife think about the idea? “She asked me if I want to stay married,” he said. — Niraj Chokshi

Retail — specifically fast fashion — has an inflation problem.

“There’s more inventory, and in economics, the more inventory there is, even if demand stays the same, that pushes down prices,” Millard Drexler, chairman of J. Crew Group, said Thursday.

A glut of cheaper clothing may have, in part, contributed to a “miserable” two years for the retail industry, he said.

“It hasn’t been fun,” he said.

Now, with commercial rents still stubbornly high, retail “is seamless between online and bricks and mortar,” said Mr. Drexler, a former board member at Apple.

“Everything was moving in this direction, but I don’t think anyone was prepared,” he said, reaching repeatedly into his pocket for his smartphone to demonstrate the ease of comparing prices. “I wasn’t prepared for the speed with which this was going to happen.”

Mr. Drexler said he chose not to sell J. Crew clothing on Amazon, although he said he had “enormous respect” for the company.

“They own the customer,” he said. “And I’d be afraid they’d take every best-seller and put it into their private label collection.”

Walmart purchased Bonobos, an online men’s wear brand with dozens of small physical showrooms, earlier this year — an acquisition that Mr. Drexler said he didn’t understand.

“They should have bought J. Crew instead,” he quipped. — Tiffany Hsu

Andrew Ross Sorkin speaking at the beginning of the annual Dealbook conference on Thursday.

Credit
Mike Cohen for The New York Times

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