I recently passed my first anniversary as editor of Fortune, and now feel entitled to have favorites among our annual franchises. Top of my list: 40 Under 40, which we are releasing online this morning.
It’s not just the exuberance of youth that makes this group so compelling. It is the message they send about their generation, and our future. They see no obstacle too big, no challenge that can’t be met. Asked to define success, Will Ackerly, co-founder of encryption company Virtu, says: “solving intractable problems.” Yehuda Shmidman, CEO of Sequential Brands Group, answers “achieving the impossible.” Asked the CEO they most admire, many pick Elon Musk – the man who wants to colonize Mars.
Some think their boundless enthusiasm is yet another sign of a speculative bubble. But they don’t buy it. “The economy is fundamentally changing as a result of massive technological shifts,” says Noah Wintroub, head of Internet banking at JP Morgan. “We are in an industrial revolution,” says real estate wizard Jared Kushner, “which makes it hard to value the future potential of these globally transformative businesses.”
Enjoy the day. More news below.
• VW CEO steps down, due huge pension
Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has stepped down due to a scandal related to software the manipulated diesel emissions found in millions of cars. He could still be due a pension of about $32 million, as well as a possible large severance package. Though Winterkorn has said he had no knowledge of the scandal, he wanted to accept responsibility. In his rearview mirror: a tanking stock and billions that must be set aside to cover expenses related to the scandal that could hurt the company’s reputation with car buyers down the road. Fortune
• Fortune 500 firms commit to clean energy
Some of the largest U.S. companies, including Nike and Starbucks, have committed to a plan to buy clean energy to reduce corporate carbon emissions. The nine firms that have made that pledge to buy electricity from clean sources are sending a signal to utilities and clean energy project developers that they are willing customers. Still, it will take years for many to hit their targets: Goldman Sachs plans to hit the goal by 2020, while Nike is shooting for 2025. Fortune
• Boeing wins orders from China
Boeing said it won orders and commitments from China for hundreds of aircraft valued at about $38 billion at list prices, an order that was announced as Chinese President Xi Jinping toured the company’s Everett, Washington, factory. Xi told employees at the factory that he saw bright prospects for future collaborations between Boeing and the Asian nation, though the Chinese order had been expected. Separately, China’s ICBC Financial Leasing Co said it would buy 30 Boeing jets worth $2.88 billion at list prices. Reuters
• E-books suffer sales drop
There was a time when it seemed the the physical book would face the same fate as physical CDs: mostly dead. But the latest figures from the Association of American Publishers indicate that readers aren’t quite ready to ditch their hard copies in favor of an electronic version. E-books sales fell 10% in the first five months of 2015, compared to a 2.3% drop in print book sales. And on the e-reader front, about 12 million devices were sold last year, down 40% from in 2011. Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
• Fortune, Cornell form partnership
Fortune has announced the launch of an online business education program, which consists of six courses and allows participants to receive a certificate in business strategy from Cornell University. The partnership is with the university’s online learning group, eCornell, and is titled “Mastering 21st Century Business Strategy.” The online learning venture is the first for Fortune’s publisher, Time Inc., but follows other media firms into the education business arena. Fortune
• Drugs with the biggest price gains
The Turing Pharmaceuticals story (as a reminder: this is the company that raised the price on a 62-year-old treatment by over 5,000%) continues to propel coverage on the specialty drug market. In fact, drug prices rose 13% last year, with 30.9% of the gain due to specialty medicine prices. Some of the biggest culprit classes? Hepatitis C, compounded drugs, and hemophilia, according to data from pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts. Fortune
• Europe’s disappearing airlines
Here’s a fascinating stat: Europe has some 60 airlines, compared to just a dozen in the U.S. even though the markets are roughly the same size in terms of passenger traffic. The difference? The U.S. market has consolidated, while many European airlines are a legacy of programs by individual governments to fund and run their own national airlines. But because treaties have allowed more competition, allowing newer airlines to greatly challenge those national airlines. National airlines are turning to mergers, as well as investments from foreign airlines, to stay afloat. WSJ (subscription required)