Imagine what’s going through the mind of every developed country’s leader. Virtually all of them had endorsed the losing Remain side in the Brexit referendum, and now they’re wondering, What if that referendum’s equivalent had been held in my country? Nationalistic, anti-immigrant, isolationist movements are rising in France, Austria, Poland, Denmark, and elsewhere in the developed world. While those movements are usually described as right-wing, the Leave supporters also included a left-wing faction of older trade unionists and younger socialists, and every developed country has plenty of those too.
Collectively they’re people who believe they got the bad end of the deal in the opening of the world to freer trade, migration, and acceptance of unfamiliar cultural values. The big news from Britain is that those people are a majority there, and now leaders around the world are wondering if they’re a majority in his or her country. If Hillary Clinton wins in November, she’ll face a similar issue: Trump and Sanders supporters, though opposed to one another, are united in their fury over how today’s economic and cultural order has treated them, and together they may constitute a majority of the electorate.
The Leavers in Britain have had the satisfaction of giving established authority a poke in the eye, but now they’ll have to face the consequences of doing what was worst for them. Britain and the Leavers will likely be less prosperous than they would have been in the EU. Despite the drama of the vote, very little has been resolved.
The No. 1 agenda item at the next G20 meeting, in September, seems clear.
The scorching pace of change is such a common theme in business that as a concept it puts me to sleep. But an example can make it interesting, and a bit of news yesterday suggested a good one. BlackBerry reported earnings and said handset sales were down again; its global market share in smartphones is less than 1%. In this political season the news recalls memories of when Barack Obama became president in 2009 and demanded that federal techies figure out how to get him a secure BlackBerry phone, which he felt he couldn’t live without.
Think back a bit further. In the mid-1990s Motorola ruled the world of cellphones; now a Chinese company, Lenovo, owns the brand, and Lenovo and Motorola phones combined have about 6% of the market. After Motorola, Nokia was king; it has since left the business. Then BlackBerry phones became so addictive they were called Crackberry; now Wall Street analysts say they wouldn’t be surprised if the company shut down its phone business and focused on software. Today Samsung and Apple dominate the industry; analysts estimate that last year the two of them made 105% of total smartphone industry profits and that Apple alone made 91%.
That’s five leaders in this $400-billion industry in less than 20 years. We sometimes forget that Apple entered the business only nine years ago; next Wednesday is the anniversary. Business didn’t used to work like this. Everybody now repeats platitudes about the pace of change, but extremely few are able to internalize this reality and keep winning in the new environment.
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What We're Reading Today
Volkswagen nears $10-billion U.S. settlement
The money would go toward buying back 500,000 vehicles and providing additional compensation to owners who bought cars they believed to be environmentally friendly. Matthias Müller‘s company would also pay $4 billion to help ameliorate the cars’ environmental impact and to promote zero-emission vehicles. While the settlement would be a huge step toward putting the scandal behind it, VW still faces other potential penalties and lawsuits in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Macy’s names a new CEO
Longtime chief Terry Lundgren will step down after the holiday shopping season. While the timing of the announcement surprised investors, his successor didn’t; Lundgren had picked Jeff Gennette to succeed him a couple of years ago. Announcing the change well in advance gives Gennette time to formulate strategy as Macy’s struggles to combat Amazon and discounters.
CostCo struggles with credit card switch
Craig Jelinek‘s company ended its 16-year exclusive partnership with American Express and on Monday began accepting only Visa cards, including a CostCo card issued by Citigroup. But many customers still hadn’t received the new CostCo cards. One result: over 1.5 million calls to Citi.
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Britain chooses Brexit
With the decision to leave the EU, Britain will go through a two-year process of negotiation to separate itself. Some in Scotland have already called for a new vote on leaving the U.K., since its leaders say it wants to stay in the EU. The vote is a big win for former London Mayor Boris Johnson, the most vocal proponent of leaving.
David Cameron to resign as Prime Minister
Conservative party leader Cameron called the referendum and fought hard for Remain. After the 52% to 48% defeat, he will step down by October. The new Prime Minister will negotiate with the EU.
Markets are in turmoil
European stock markets plunged as the results became clear. London’s market dropped 6%, Germany’s fell 7.5%, and Spain plunged over 11% in the immediate aftermath. In London, thousands of layoffs could follow the decision, with some estimates as high as 40,000.
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Bank of America to pay a $415-million fine…
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Robots in Chile will soon be milking cows
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