Donald Trump scored impressive victories in Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii yesterday, turning out record numbers of primary voters, and topping the day with an extraordinary press conference denouncing his detractors in the press and the party, defending his business success, and touting at least nine different Trump-branded properties and products in the process. Bernie Sanders delivered a painful, but not fatal, blow to Hillary Clinton by winning the Michigan primary.
Meanwhile, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll shows the ugly primary campaigns have taken a toll on all the candidates. Two-thirds of registered voters say they couldn’t see themselves supporting Trump in November; 56% say they couldn’t cast a ballot for Clinton. Indeed, majorities say they couldn’t support five of the remaining six contenders, with Kasich being the only exception. Is “none of the above” an option?
In sharp contrast, FORTUNE last night hosted three CEOs whose companies made the top ten of our 100 Best Companies to Work For list, and who all demonstrated low-key, humble, employee-centric, non-Trump-like leadership styles: Danny Wegman of Wegmans Food Markets (#4 on our list); Jim Goodnight of SAS (#8) and Jim Weddle of Edward Jones (#10).
Here are my three takeaways from their comments on how to create a great workplace culture:
Show you care. “If you treat people like they make a difference, they will make a difference,” says Goodnight.
Perks and pay matter. SAS was a model for Google’s (#1) perk paradise. Wegman provides scholarships to many of its high school employees. Edward Jones distributes half its operating income to employees through bonuses and profit sharing.
It helps not to have shareholders. All three companies, and a majority on our list, are not publicly held companies.
I’m on my way to San Francisco for tonight’s Brainstorm Tech dinner with Steve Ballmer. Today’s recommended reading: Michal Lev-Ram’s piece on the fast-growing big data company Palantir. More news below.
• Hedge funds target United Continental
Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Continental who has been recuperating on medical leave since his heart attack last fall, won’t get to ease back into the job when he returns to work next week. Instead, he’ll have to gear up for a proxy fight that two hedge funds just launched against the airline corporation, which has already been dealing with management turmoil. The two hedge funds, which together own 7.1% of the United Airlines operator, went public with a sharply worded letter seeking to replace as much as half of the company’s board of directors. The hedge funds nominated six new candidates for the board including Gordon Bethune, the former CEO of Continental Airlines, to serve as chairman.
• Whole Foods goes solar
Whole Foods unveiled plans for a huge project to cover nearly one-fourth of its stores with solar panels. After construction is complete, Whole Foods says it could be among the top 25 biggest commercial U.S. solar suppliers alongside Walmart, Walgreens, and Target. Why invest in solar? The move was about “environmental stewardship,” the grocery chain told Fortune, while also helping save money and reduce the power price volatility for the company’s stores. Whole Foods is working with solar panel suppliers NRG and SolarCity to cover its stores in solar. The solar deals that those companies provide can fix the rate that firms pay for solar power over time so that companies like Whole Foods can hedge against a spike in grid prices.
• Volkswagen inquiry expands to 17
German prosecutors have widened their investigation into potentially criminal activity at Volkswagen AG to 17 members of staff — but still aren’t investigating either its present or its past top management. None of the suspects’ names were disclosed, which is in line with German privacy rules. So far, no suspects are current or former members of the company’s management board, Volkswagen has said, though prosecutors haven’t ruled out involvement by top management. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports French prosecutors have opened up a formal fraud probe into the Volkswagen diesel cheating, following a preliminary inquiry that began in October.
• Lockheed Martin to cut jobs
Lockheed Martin is launching a voluntary layoff program at the company’s aeronautics business that aims to reduce 1,000 positions in the U.S., or about 0.8% of its total workforce. The program is available to mid-level employees in seven U.S. locations, cuts that Lockheed Martin said are needed to keep the division competitive in future. Lockheed Margin didn’t disclose details about the timing of the layoffs, though the move follows an announcement this month by the U.S. Air Force that didn’t name Lockheed among the seven major partners slated to join contractor Northrop Grumman on the multibillion-dollar B-21 bomber program.
Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
• Zara cuts store sales growth forecast
Inditex, the world’s biggest clothing retailer, reported strong sales growth for the first five weeks of its new financial year and said the pace of store openings would slow as part of a broader trend of sales moving online. The company behind the Zara brand of stores says it will aim for 6%-8% growth in new sales space in coming years, below previous guidance of 8%-10%. Inditex, whose stable of brands also houses upmarket label Massimo Dutti and teen chain Bershka, sees an opportunity to grow online where it can capture greater market share with less capital investment. Analysts welcomed the slowing pace of store openings and were satisfied that Inditex would be able to grow market share with its amended business model.
Around the Water Cooler
• Target doubles down on healthy products
The big-box retailer is redoubling its focus on selling environmentally friendly and healthy items as it seeks to stand out from other general retailers. Launched in 2014, “Made to Matter” – good-for-you products that Target sells – only collectively had $1 billion in sales last year, not much when you consider the retailer generates $73 billion annually. But executives say stocking such goods is important to establish Target as a destination for “wellness,” something that’s important for shoppers.
• Google AI scores impressive game win
Google’s artificially intelligent Go-playing computer system has beaten Lee Sedol, one of the world’s top players, in the first game of their five-game match that is being held at a Four Seasons hotel in Seoul. A group of Google researchers spent the last two years building a system to play the game but until recently, experts assumed it would take another ten years before a machine could beat human experts at Go, which is a game that is more complex than chess and requires a degree of intuition. The match, which extends through next week, serves as a litmus test for the progress of machine learning.
• Ill employees shut down Chipotle store
A Chipotle restaurant in Massachusetts temporarily shut down on Tuesday after four employees became ill, with one of them reportedly a confirmed case of Norovirus. Normally, a single store shut down for a chain as massive as Chipotle wouldn’t be a big deal. But the Mexican restaurant chain is still trying to recover from a Norovirus outbreak and a string of other health scares that sickened customers and tarnished its reputation late last year. Chipotle has taken steps to ensure the chain’s food is safe.