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Power Sheet – May 25, 2016

Updating four major power and leadership stories we’ve been tracking lately:

Trump and Clinton remain amazingly unpopular. A Gallup poll released yesterday shows that 60% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Donald Trump, while a mere 54% see Hillary Clinton unfavorably. Balance their tepid favorable ratings against these numbers and Trump’s net favorable number is -27; Clinton’s is -14. Gallup’s headline says these results show that Clinton has an “image advantage” over Trump, I guess in the sense that a headache has an image advantage over the flu, but the real news is how few Americans like either one.

Clinton’s new favorability number is 40%, Trump’s 33%. Gallup notes that “all major presidential candidates in recent elections have ended their campaigns with favorable ratings at 46% or higher, with many well into majority territory.” That’s not just for the winner but for all major candidates. It’s a long time to November, and the numbers will change, but this could be the first election in memory in which most voters are motivated by dislike.

-Monsanto to Bayer: More money, please. Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant’s response to Bayer’s $62-billion takeover offer was simple and correct. He’s got nothing against a merger, but Bayer CEO Werner Baumann must be kidding about that price. The agrochemical industry is consolidating fast, and neither Grant nor Baumann wants to be left behind. Grant had tried unsuccessfully to buy Syngenta, which ended up in the hands of ChemChina, and yesterday he said that “we have long respected Bayer’s business.” But who expects a proud Scotsman to accept the first offer?

Whether a deal gets done at any price remains uncertain. Bayer stock jumped on the news of Monsanto’s rebuff, reflecting Bayer shareholders’ disdain for this deal, which we explained yesterday. Grant should negotiate hard but not too hard; saying yes to a higher price would serve his shareholders well.

Sumner Redstone named new trustees to replace the ones he dumped on Friday. He also named new directors of National Amusements, the company he controls and through which he controls Viacom and CBS. No surprises here; the infirm billionaire named a granddaughter, a longtime employee, and a friend of his daughter Shari Redstone. The big question is who’s really pulling the strings – Shari, as the offloaded trustees, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and director George Abrams, contend, or Redstone, who turns 93 on Friday and was shown in a recent video recorded deposition to be almost incapable of communicating.

-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is almost as unpopular as Trump and Clinton. New Yorkers give him a 41% approval rating, says a new Quinnipiac poll, and 52% say he doesn’t deserve reelection. Those are his worst numbers ever. The bad-news echo chamber is getting louder, and harder to quiet down.

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What We’re Reading Today

Did Peter Thiel fund Hulk Hogan suit? 

Yesterday we noted a report that Gawker founder Nick Denton believed a wealthy financier had funded Hogan’s successful suit against his media company. Anonymous sources now say that Denton was correct and that eBay co-founder Thiel was the funder. Thiel is now openly gay, but Gawker’s defunct site Valleywag attempted to out him in 2007, and he has expressed his dislike for the news organization.  Forbes

European Commission approves AB InBev deal for SABMiller   

CEO Carlos Brito‘s attempt to merge the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 brewers took a major step forward as the EU approved $108-billion deal. Anheuser-Busch InBev must unload nearly all of SABMiller’s European holdings. Separately, U.S. authorities are investigating AB InBev’s incentive program that encourages independent distributors to sell its beers over craft options. WSJ

Alibaba faces accounting inquiry in the U.S. 

Jack Ma‘s company disclosed that U.S. regulators are investigating whether its accounting practices violate securities laws. The inquiry focuses on how Alibaba accounts for consolidating the results of affiliated companies. The announcement comes a few days after hedge fund manager Jim Chanos said Alibaba’s accounting practices are as questionable as Enron’s.  NYT

Violence breaks out at a Trump rally  

Speaking in New Mexico, Donald Trump was interrupted a number of times by protesters. The event turned violent outside the convention center as protesters clashed with Trump supporters and authorities. Law enforcement used tear gas, and police say a number of people were injured by thrown rocks.  Fortune

Building a Better Leader

5 tech companies hold a third of U.S. corporate cash 

Almost three-quarters of that cash is held outside the U.S. Fast Company

In order to improve work-life balance…

…Tendril CEO Adrian Tuck doesn’t allow phones or laptops at the dinner table. Fortune

Trying to get the government to act more entrepreneurial 

Susannah Fox, CTO at the Department of Health and Human Services, wants to  spark innovation from within and encourage the private sector to lend a hand as well. Washington Post

Updated Game Plans

HP Enterprise to unload another business

Less than a year after HP Enterprise was spun off from Hewlett-Packard, CEO Meg Whitman has arranged another major split. The company’s IT services business will combine with Mike Lawrie‘s Computer Sciences Corp. Whitman will join the board of the combined business, and HP Enterprise will continue to own half of the IT service business.  Fortune

EU could force Netflix to fund films

The European Union’s executive body has proposed a new rule that would allow European countries to force streaming services based in another EU country to provide funding for local cinema and TV development. Under the rule, Reed Hastings‘s Netflix, which has its European headquarters in the Netherlands, could be required to pay France 15% to 26% of its French revenues to fund French films, for example. WSJ

Volkswagen invests in car-hailing service

Matthias Müller‘s company has invested $300 million in Gett, an Uber competitor with a large European presence. The move is part of a trend. General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft earlier this year, and Toyota will invest in Uber as part of a strategic partnership. CNNMoney

Up or Out

Best Buy CFO Sharon McCollam will leave the company and be succeeded by Corie Barry.  WSJ

Fortune Reads and Videos

Shell axes 2,200 more jobs

The move raises Shell’s layoffs to 12,500 for the year so far. Fortune

Twitter downgraded to a ‘sell’ by one analyst…

…who says the company faces not just user fatigue but also advertiser fatigue. Fortune

Microsoft shrinks smartphone division

Satya Nadella‘s company will cut 1,850 jobs, mostly in Finland. Microsoft declined to say whether it will stop developing new phones. Fortune

Tesla’s implementation plan for self-driving cars…

…centers around software updates. The plan lets Tesla engineers make adjustments as they accumulate data on how drivers use the vehicles. Fortune

Quote of the Day

“[Bill Clinton is] the most gifted politician of the baby boomer generation…His genuine empathy for human beings is absolutely clear…It is powerful, it is palpable, and the folks of Arkansas really understood that about him — that he genuinely cared. The ‘I feel your pain’ is absolutely genuine.” — Kenneth Starr, the prosecutor who  investigated Clinton relentlessly for his role in Whitewater and his affair with Monica Lewinsky, which eventually led to Clinton’s impeachment NYT

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Produced by Ryan Derousseau