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CEO Daily: Thursday, October 22

This morning, we release several important stories from the November issue of Fortune magazine, which provides an in-depth look at The 21st Century Corporation. It is our belief that the world is in the midst of a new industrial revolution, driven by technology that is connecting everyone and everything, everywhere and all the time, in a vast and intelligent network of interactive data that is creating an economic dynamic increasingly characterized by low or zero marginal costs, massive returns to scale and platform economics. Fortune’s Geoff Colvin has a fascinating piece here that lays out what this means for modern companies. I strongly recommend it. But for the time-pressed, here are my six big takeaways:


1) You don’t need a lot of physical capital. You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s true: Alibaba is the world’s most valuable retailer and holds no inventory; Airbnb is the largest provider of accommodations but owns no real estate; Uber is the world’s largest car service but owns no cars.


2) Human capital will matter more than ever. With less physical capital, employees become more important. You need to identify the ones critical to the company, and recognize that increasingly, they are the company.


3) The nature of employment will change. For the rest of your employees, gig work will grow. Former Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts: “soon you’ll see huge companies with just two employees – the CEO and the CIO.” An exaggeration, perhaps, but not by much.


4) Winners will win bigger, and the rest will fight harder for the remains. New business models often make fortunes for their creators, but destroy whole industries in the process. Or as the McKinsey Global Institute puts it: “tech and tech-enabled firms destroy more value for incumbents than they create for themselves.”


5) Corporations will have shorter lives. The average life span of companies in the S&P 500 has already fallen from 61 years in 1958 to 20 years today. It will fall further.


6) Intellectual property knows no natural boundaries. A must-read this morning is a fascinating story by Brian O’Keefe and Marty Jones about Uber’s “double dutch” corporate tax structure, which you can read here. As more of the value of modern corporations comes from intellectual property, income can easily be shifted to tax havens (…at least until authorities wise up and fix the global tax system.)


What’s your view of the 21st Century Corporation? Let us know. And share CEO daily with your friends and followers here.


Alan Murray

Top News

Valeant = the pharma Enron?

An activist short-seller dubbed Valeant Pharmaceuticals “the pharmaceutical Enron” in a scathing report that sent the company’s shares down by as much as 39% before the company briefly halted trading. Andrew Left, who is actively shorting Valeant, alleged the company uses a specialty pharmacy, Philidor, to establish a network of “phantom captive pharmacies.” Left says the pharmacies are used to prop up sales of high-priced drugs. Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, meanwhile, bought shares in Valeant, saying he believed in the company. Fortune

CIT’s Thain to step down as CEO

Wall Street banker John Thain is stepping down as CEO of CIT Group, handing over the reins to Ellen Alemany – a board member who will become one of the most senior women in U.S. finance when she becomes CEO in March. “My job’s kind of done,” said Thain, who is also known for his stints at Merrill Lynch (where he was CEO) and Goldman Sachs. Notably, CIT Group also promoted another woman, Carol Hayles, who leaves her role as controller to become chief financial officer next month. Bloomberg

Theranos CEO hits back at WSJ

Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of blood testing startup Theranos, took to the stage at a technology conference hosted by The Wall Street Journal and denied any deception that was alleged in a WSJ story published last week. The article alleged Theranos failed to use its proprietary equipment and finger-pricking technology for all of the blood tests it offers. Holmes accused the publication of relying on reliable sources and also countered claims the FDA raised questions about the startup’s technology. Fortune

Dorsey apologies to developers

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey struck a contrite tone at the social media company’s annual developer conference, explaining Twitter had lost its way among developers. He alluded to a 2011 decision to prevent third-party coders from building apps on top of Twitter, which created a big firestorm that still haunts the company today. Observers say that decision resulted in slower growth and also explains why Twitter eventually reversed its closed strategy. Fortune

Around the Water Cooler

Bankers face layoffs, smaller bonuses

Experts say big banks and brokerages cut their bonus pools last quarter after poor trading activity led to sharp declines in revenue. Observers say that bonuses could be down as much as 10% this year and that could be followed by layoffs. “Bonuses, like profits, are going to hinge on the fourth quarter,” says Kenneth Bleiwas, deputy comptroller for the state of New York. Bank executives have already warned that the problems plaguing the third quarter continue to linger. USA Today

China drives Western Digital’s deal

On Wednesday, whispers of a SanDisk takeover finally became a reality when hard-disk driver maker Western Digital agreed to pay $19 billion for the company. Interestingly, SanDisk shares closed nearly $10 below the offer price, which analysts attributed to the deal’s complexity. There are some worries about regulatory scrutiny, which stems from a China state-backed company’s planned 15% stake in Western Digital. The potential problem? National security concerns. Reuters

Lego warns of Christmas shortage

Lego warned it will run short of bricks this Christmas, essentially signaling it won’t have enough toys for the most important season for the toy industry. The shortage seems limited to markets in Europe, though Lego wouldn’t specify which markets would be affected. Sales grew 18% in the first half of 2015 but Lego has been on a roll for a while now, benefiting from greater interest in construction toys among boys and also from savvy partnerships with hit films and new toy sets that have been a hit with girls. CNN Money