CEO Daily: Monday, 5th June
As part of our annual survey of Fortune 500 CEOs, we asked them which of their peers they admired most. Top honor this year went, for the second year in a row, to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, whose name was mentioned by 10 of the CEOs responding to the question. JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon ran a close second with 9 mentions.
Third place was a tie, with both Disney CEO Bob Iger and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett receiving four votes each. GM’s Mary Barra received two mentions.
Apple’s Tim Cook, who shared the top spot with Dimon two years ago, got only one vote this year. Other worthies with one vote each: FedEx’s Fred Smith (see my recent interview with him here), Northrup Grumman’s Wes Bush, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Walmart’s Doug McMillon, Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi, Marriott’s Arne Sorenson, Colgate’s Ian Cook, Alphabet’s Larry Page, AGCO’s Martin Richenhagen, GE’s Jeff Immelt, and Henry Schein’s Stan Bergman. If you’ve never heard of Bergman, check out my piece from a year ago, here.
This year’s Fortune 500 list will be published online Wednesday, so stay tuned. In advance, here’s a bonus quiz question: What newcomer to the Fortune 500 list this year has a CEO who earned $33 million in 2016 and is currently dating a fellow billionaire? Those who answer correctly get a free subscription to CEO Daily for the acquaintance of their choice.
More news below.
• Arab States Cut Qatar Links Over Terror Allegations
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain cut diplomatic relations with Qatar, accusing it of sponsoring terrorist groups and being in the pocket of Iran. Qatar had been one of the few Middle Eastern states supporting the forces of change during the Arab Spring, notably the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and its backing of TV network al-Jazeera had infuriated a number of rulers used to controlling their own airwaves. Oil prices immediately added a 1% geopolitical risk-based premium, but there is little immediate risk to either its oil or (much more important) LNG exports. The presence of 10,000 U.S. troops in the tiny emirate is likely to contain any broader political fallout. Fortune
• Dialogue of the Deaf After Latest London Terror Outrage
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May called for tougher regulation of Internet companies after the third terrorist outrage in less than three months in the U.K. As Home Secretary, May had presided over a big expansion in the statutory powers of the security services to collect and retain data, but had also cut police numbers as part of a post-2008 austerity drive. Her comments reflect the frustration that even the new Investigatory Powers Act has no way of monitoring traffic through encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp, although it’s not clear whether that had any direct relevance for the latest attack. Silicon Valley types far removed from the latest carnage rolled out their usual defenses of the sanctity of the Internet. Fortune
• Bunge Prepares to Repel Glencore Boarders
Grain trading giant Bunge has hired JP Morgan and law firm Shearman & Sterling to help it fend off Glencore, which made an informal approach to it in May. At the time, Glencore had said it intended only to pursue a “consensual business combination,” but the news had pushed Bunge’s share price 20% higher. According to the Financial Times, Bunge has no poison-pill defenses in place to stop unwanted approaches, should Glencore try a more aggressive approach. The news in May had been the latest indication of how the Swiss-based commodities giant had returned to the expansion path after 18 months of hectic debt-cutting. FT, metered access
• Abandon Ship, Every Failing Bank for Itself
Another of the world’s big shipping companies slipped beneath the waves at the weekend, after Germany’s Rickmers Holding was abandoned to its fate by its lender. The glut of capacity that can be traced back to the pre-crisis boom is still weighing on freight rates: The Wall Street Journal reckons that rates on the benchmark Europe-Asia route are still around half of the level needed to break even. The news is also interesting for the change of heart by HSH Nordbank, the state-owned German bank that had propped it up, but which itself is under an EU threat of liquidation if it isn’t privatized. WSJ, subscription required
Around the Water Cooler
• Wonder Women
Wonder Woman took over $100 million in its debut weekend in theaters across the U.S., and another $123 million around the world, in a spectacular debut for the first superhero movie to boast both a female lead (Gal Gadot) and a female director (Patty Jenkins). The results mark a much-needed return to form for Time Warner’s Warner Bros in the most lucrative genre of the age, after suffering a disappointment last year with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Fortune
• Hey Siri, Build Yourself a Speaker
Apple’s annual ballyhoo, the week-long World Wide Developers’ Conference, starts Monday, against a background of speculation that it will bundle its voice-activated assistant Siri into a new home hub to rival Amazon’s Echo. If true, that would make it its first new line of hardware since the smartwatch in 2015. The company has remained typically tight-lipped about the event. Fortune
• Luckey Nods to Trump Agenda With New Startup
Palmer Luckey, the man famous for selling virtual reality firm Oculus Rift to Facebook and then funding a site that created anti-Hillary Clinton memes during the election campaign, is back. According to the New York Times, he’s developing a new company that will use the “lidar” sensor technology relied on by driverless cars for security purposes. The NYT cited people close to Luckey as saying it could be used for perimeter security, including such projects as President Trump’s border wall with Mexico. The NYT said that Trump ally and Palantir-backer Peter Thiel “plans to support the effort.” Fortune
• Herbalife Puts Sales Controversy to Rest
Herbalife effectively settled the issue that led activist investor Bill Ackman to his ill-fated multi-billion dollar bet against the company. In a statement at the weekend, it said that 90% of its sales are now documented purchases by customers, well above the 80% target set for it by the Federal Trade Commission. Herbalife had agreed to pay $200 million and change its distribution practices after an FTC probe triggered by the campaign Ackman launched in 2012, in which he claimed it was a Ponzi scheme. For good measure, Herbalife raised its profit forecast for the current quarter by around 7% (although it cut its forward guidance a little). Its stock will open close to a new four-year high. Reuters
Last Friday, I incorrectly referred to Mary Meeker as ‘Molly’, for which my apologies.
– Geoffrey Smith; email@example.com @geoffreytsmith