Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The Laundress goes to Unilever for $100 million, Mayor Bill de Blasio hired a chief of staff with a history of alleged sexual harassment, and Stacey Abrams is back in the spotlight. Have a wonderful Wednesday.
• In grit we trust. There are a lot of qualities we hope for in our leaders—vision, empathy, integrity—but in the last 24 hours, I’ve been thinking about the one Angela Duckworth popularized in her fascinating book, Grit.
Duckworth defines grit as “the combination of perseverance and passion for long-term goals. It’s not just working really hard and being resilient—it’s doing all of that in the service of something that you love, that is interesting to you, and that gives you a sense of purpose and meaning.”
The term popped into my mind when I read the news that Stacey Abrams has been chosen to deliver the response to President Trump’s State of the Union address. As many of you will recall, Abrams narrowly lost her November bid to become governor of Georgia amid a dispute over voter suppression. Had she been elected, Abrams would have become the first black female governor in U.S. history. Now she finds herself in the spotlight again as she ponders her next move. (Abrams has said she plans to run again, though it’s not clear which office she’s eyeing.)
From her rise from childhood poverty, to her fiercely run underdog campaign, to her post-loss decision to launch an anti-voter suppression organization, Abrams strikes me as grit personified.
And she’s not the only resilient pol making headlines right now. Rep. Gwen Moore announced that she’s been fighting small cell lymphoma for the past 10 months and is now in remission. She revealed the news at House Ways and Means Committee meeting and seized the moment to beat the drum for a long-term goal she helped accomplish, the Affordable Care Act. “I am announcing my remission today to remind everyone on this committee that I am a living example of the lifesaving value of essential health benefits,” she said in the statement. “For my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren that is a cost worth paying.”
Meanwhile, in the U.K., PM Theresa May of Britain survived yet another critical Brexit vote yesterday—this one would have “delayed Brexit, undermined her strategy for leaving the European Union and undercut the country’s constitutional protocol,” according to the NYT. Though the outcome she’s left with is not that much better: she must rework the Brexit deal with the EU, a deal Brussels says is not up for renegotiation.
Is May gritty? She has certainly shown a dogged determination to succeed on the task set out for her—exiting the EU—but at this point, it’s hard to imagine that she’s finding a whole lot of “purpose and meaning” in the work.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Intelligent report. Top intelligence officials, including CIA Director Gina Haspel, contradicted key tenets of the Trump administration’s foreign policy in testimony Tuesday. Iran is not trying to build a nuclear weapon, and North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear stockpiles, they said.
• Cleaning up. A notable exit for a female-founded company: The Laundress, the luxury home cleaning products startup launched by Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd, sold to Unilever for $100 million. The founders never took any venture capital money and sell 85 products, from specialized detergents to dish soap.
• An MTA tragedy. A tragic story in New York: 22-year-old Malaysia Goodson died after falling down the stairs of a subway station while carrying her baby in a stroller. Her 1-year-old daughter survived the fall; the station, like many, did not have an elevator.
New York Times
• What happens next? This week, politicians and companies are facing some #MeToo consequences. In New York, Kevin O’Brien was forced to resign as chief of staff to Mayor Bill de Blasio after he was accused of sexually harassing two women—and it turns out O’Brien had been fired from a previous job over sexual harassment just a month before De Blasio hired him. In the business world, Marriott has been sued by housekeeper Leticia Vallejo over sexual harassment by a guest, enabled by what she calls a hostile work environment at the hotel chain.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Maria Ramos will retire as CEO of Absa, South Africa’s third-largest bank which recently separated from Barclays. Merck announced that Mary Ellen Coe, president of Google Customer Solutions, will join the company’s board. Lauren Greenfield, who directed Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign, launched production company Girl Culture Films. Puppet named Yvonne Wassenaar its new CEO. Kate Eberle Walker will be CEO of PresenceLearning.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Next gen. An interesting transition is underway in Asia: the grooming of the second and third generations to take control of billionaire families’ enterprises. Right now, that means the “granddaughters of Asia’s billionaires” are taking up board seats and chairmanships. For instance, Michelle Li, the 23-year-old granddaughter of the richest person in Hong Kong, just joined the board of the family’s Chesterfield Realty Inc.
• Rethinking retail. For one of its first stories, Vogue Business profiles Apple’s Angela Ahrendts. The former Burberry chief executive has a plan to fix retail that extends beyond Apple.
• Bugging Apple. Speaking of Apple, you might have heard about a bug that allowed iPhone users to listen in on contacts who didn’t pick up a FaceTime call. Fourteen-year-old Grant Thompson discovered the bug, and his mother Michele Thompson tried hard to get Apple’s attention about it. She contacted the company, tweeted at Apple Support, and sent a letter on her law firm’s letterhead but had no luck until a tech publication published a story about the bug.