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CEO Daily: Wednesday, May 11

At Fortune, we write for our readers, not for journalism prize committees. Nevertheless, we welcome their recognition, and were delighted yesterday when the New York Press Club announced that no fewer than six of its annual prizes had gone to Fortune. I am resurfacing the prize winners here in the hope you’ll go back and read some of the great business journalism you might have missed last year.


How Uncle Sam Nationalized Two Fortune 50 Companies by Roger Parloff


The War on Big Food by Beth Kowitt


Smart guns: They’re ready. Are we? by Roger Parloff


Disney CEO Bob Iger’s empire of tech by Michal Lev-Ram


In addition, our photo spread on Teams of the Fortune 500 won in the photography category, and Geoff Colvin won for commentary.


And while we’re on it, Peter Elkind’s opus on the Sony Hack of the Century also won several journalism awards this year, while Erika Fry’s The crazy, bitter battle over Benihana garnered a couple as well.


News below.



Alan Murray





Top News

•  Me Too, Says Amazon

Amazon joined the stampede into the video streaming market with a new service that looks designed to go head to head with Google’s YouTube. Amazon Video Direct will be  a platform for video content of any kind, uploaded either by corporate partners or by individual content creators, with a variety of revenue-generating options built into the model. Compared to some of Amazon’s truly transformative innovations, it’s a little strange to see it resorting to such ‘me-too’ tactics, and true to style, there was no indication of when the company expects to make a profit on the venture. Still, the news helped add another $10 billion to Amazon’s market capitalisation yesterday, as its stock hit a new record high.   Fortune

Disney Misses

Walt Disney’s shares tumbled after the group’s first-quarter profits fell short of Wall Street’s expectations for the first time in five years. There was more than a whiff of cord-cutting in the air as the company reported a decline in ad sales at its cable channels, including–notably–ESPN. Slowing subscriber growth at ESPN had already overshadowed last year’s results. But the chief culprit was a $147 million charge for closing Infinity, an underperforming video game and toy unit. Adding to the general disappointment was the company’s inability to give any update on its plan to find a successor when Bob Iger steps down as CEO. Fortune

From Stationery Into Reverse

A Federal judge finally killed off Office Depot’s plan to merge with Staples, upholding the Federal Trade Commission’s view that the deal would undermine competition. The two companies said they’ll terminate their agreement, rather than appeal, and the share prices of Staples and Office Depot fell by 10% and 26%, respectively in after-hours trading as a result.  It may be a while before companies choose not to present a defense against the FTC in court again, a tactic adopted by these two in the belief that the judge would share their contempt for the FTC’s case. Staples said it will change tack by adding to its store closure program, selling its European business, pushing more actively into supplying smaller companies and looking for acquisitions in related B2B services. Office Depot will update on its plans next week.   Fortune

Toyota Warns of Profit Slump

Toyota Motor said it expects profits for the current year to drop by 35%, in a stark reminder of the pain inflicted on Japanese industry by the yen’s refusal to let the Bank of Japan push it lower. Japan’s biggest automaker said it expects net income to fall to 1.5 trillion yen ($13.8 billion) in the fiscal year that will end next March. That’s 33% below what analysts had expected. The company also announced a $4.6 billion share buyback program to shore up a stock price that has fallen by over a quarter since the start of the year. Production problems at a number of its factories led to it being overtaken by Volkswagen as the world’s biggest automaker by sales volumes in the first quarter.  Fortune



Around the Water Cooler

• One Was Not Amused

Fun and games with hot mikes at Buckingham Palace: first, Prime Minister David Cameron was caught telling his sovereign that the leaders of ‘fantastically corrupt’ Nigeria and Afghanistan will be attending his anti-corruption summit later this week, leaving it to the Archbishop of Canterbury to chime in that “this particular (Nigerian) president is not corrupt.” Then, HM the Q herself went one better: she allowed herself to be overheard at a garden party calling Chinese officials at a controversial state visit last October “very rude,” and symphathizing with the poor police commissioner who had to deal with them. We struggle to see Xi Jinping, in his pomp, attaching much importance to Elizabeth’s opinions. “Not as rude as foisting opium on our country and then shelling and seizing our ports when we try to stop it,” is one possible reaction. Still, we suspect that Elizabeth is a pretty shrewd judge of character after 70 years of public life. If she chooses to diss you, after holding her tongue about guests such as Mobutu Sese Seko, Idi Amin and Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, you might be best advised to sit down and have a little think about your behavior.   Reuters

•   Sanders Keeps his Uphill Struggle Going

Bernie Sanders won the Democratic primary in West Virginia, keeping the party’s nomination race alive and forcing his colleagues in the party’s higher ranks to ponder whether Hillary Clinton  can deliver key swing states in the general election. Sanders needs performances like this to convince the super-delegates at the upcoming Democratic convention that he can attract the white, male working-class vote (which is currently gravitating towards Trump) without losing the vote of women and minorities. A poll by Quinnipiac University showed Trump pressing Clinton hard in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, three critical swing states that experts had expected Clinton to sweep in a run-off against Trump. In Ohio, while Clinton was 7 points ahead of Trump among women, she was 15 points behind among men.  New York Times

•  Dilma’s D-Day

Brazil’s Senate will vote later on whether to put President Dilma Rousseff on trial for breaking budget rules, amid expectations she’ll will become the country’s first leader in more than two decades to be removed from office. If her opponents garner a simple majority of the 81 senators, Rousseff will be suspended for up to six months during the trial and Vice President Michel Temer will take power. With well over half of senators telling newspapers they will vote to try Rousseff, Brazil’s first female leader is expected to leave the Planalto presidential palace on Thursday, following 13 years of leftist Workers Party rule in Latin America’s largest economy.  Fortune

•  Hyperloop Hype

Elon Musk’s vision of a high-speed magnetic-levitation rail link capable of carrying passengers through near-vacuum tubes at 700 miles an hour is getting closer to reality. Hyperloop One, one of the companies pursuing that goal, said Tuesday it had raised $80 million in a new round of financing and wants to launch a full-scale test of its system by the end of this year. For those who think this is the province of self-indulgent tech-heads with money to burn, note that GE Ventures and France’s national rail operator SNCF are among the backers.  Fortune