Skip to Content

CEO Daily: Tuesday,10th January

Good morning.

The work habits of the newest, and largest, generation in the workforce are a popular topic for both research and pop-psych water cooler conversation. But until now, no one has looked specifically at millennial views of leadership. Former Aetna CEO Ron Williams, who runs a consultancy called RW2 Enterprises, teamed up with The Conference Board to fill the gap, and their report is being released this morning.

Much of its findings burst popular mythology. For instance, Millennials don’t value technology skills more highly than older leaders, don’t rank social values more highly, and aren’t more eager to change jobs.

But the study did find a striking difference in how millennial leaders and older leaders view the role of the CEO. It asked both current CEOs and rising millennial leaders to identify the talents they thought would be most important to a CEO ten years from now. Millennial leaders put the highest priority on interpersonal skills. “Their prototypical leader is an inspiring coach, a compelling communicator and one who…involves others in decision making rather than imposing decisions on them. “ As one focus group participant put it: “You don’t tell people what to do, you empower them.”

But current CEOs ranked interpersonal skills less highly, and instead give priority to “critical thinking” and “business and management skills” as well as “stakeholder management” – which were seen as less important by Millennials.

The report says this disconnect could put CEOs and Millennial leaders on a collision course, if not addressed. “Top leaders will groom and promote leaders who match their management-centric profile, while Millennial leaders will develop themselves toward an interpersonally focused profile.” You can read the full report here.

More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

When Donald Met Jack

Alibaba founder Jack Ma met with President-elect Donald Trump, ostensibly to pitch plans by which U.S. companies could thrive by selling in China through Alibaba’s online platforms. The meeting was heavy on positivity about U.S.-China trade, which in itself is a welcome change, but light on detail, so it’s hard to parse Ma’s claim that it could create 1 million jobs in the U.S., largely at small businesses. It’s not clear whether the two discussed Alibaba’s regulatory problems in the U.S.: the USTR’s office put it on a blacklist for selling fake goods last month, while the Securities and Exchanges Commission has been probing its accounting practices since early last year. Fortune

Meanwhile, Back in China…

Alibaba moved further in the direction of ‘omnichannel’ retailing, agreeing to pay up to $2.6 billion to take Intime Retail, a Hong Kong-listed chain of department stores, private in partnership with Intime founder Shen Gujon. The deal would allow some online-only brands popular on Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace to get some space in traditional malls, while some Intime store merchants may get high-profile access on Taobao. Intime’s shares surged 35% when trading in them resumed on Tuesday. Fortune

Backpage Supreme Court Victory Boosts Tech Industry

Backpage.com won a pyrrhic victory at the Supreme Court, which refused to revive a lawsuit against it by three women who accused it of facilitating their forced prostitution while they were still minors. The Court invoked the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from liability for content posted by others, thus bolstering a favorite legal defense of the tech industry. But the public pressure from the case was still too much for Backpage, which abruptly shut its adult section on Monday, complaining of “an accumulation of acts of government censorship using extra-legal tactics.” Fortune

Fresh Accusations Against VW’s Top Management

Volkswagen’s senior management was accused of trying to sustain a cover-up over its use of ‘defeat devices’ in diesel vehicles, in fresh charges unsealed by prosecutors Monday. The accusations were part of criminal charges against VW’s former head of compliance in the U.S., Oliver Schmidt, who was arraigned in a Florida court Monday and denied bail. The charges may complicate the company’s efforts to settle a criminal case launched by the Justice Department, which the two sides were reportedly close to settling last week. The stock market attached more weight to the prospect of a settlement, sending the company’s preferred stock to its highest level since the crisis broke 16 months ago.

Around the Water Cooler

Oncology Specialist Ariad Goes Japanese

Japan’s largest pharmaceuticals company, Takeda, has agreed to buy oncology specialist Ariad for $5.2 billion, nearly double its market value at the end of 2016. Takeda has been looking at U.S. acquisitions for several months and tried unsuccessfully to buy Salix Pharmaceuticals from Valeant for $10 billion in November, according to the Financial Times. The FT said it is looking for more deals in the gastrointestinal, oncology and central nervous system specialties.  FT, metered access

FIFA: New Management, Old Impulses 

The governing body of world soccer may have changed its top brass, but its pursuit of money is as keen as ever. FIFA decided to expand its showcase event, the World Cup, to 48 teams from the current 32 from 2026. FIFA is hoping to bump up broadcasting and sponsorship revenue (the 2014 event in Brazil generated $4.8 billion for it), behind rhetoric of opening up the competition to more countries. Defending the quality of the competition seems a secondary consideration: the amount of mediocre games at World Cup and UEFA championship finals has ballooned as both organisations have expanded their formats.   The U.S., which lost out to Qatar in the controversial competition to host the 2022 World Cup, is touted as the most likely host for the first expanded tournament. Time

North American Apparel

Canadian clothing company Gildan Activewear won a bankruptcy auction for fashion retailer American Apparel after raising its offer to around $88 million, according to Reuters’ sources. Gildan’s takeover marks the end of an era for the Los Angeles-based company, which thrived but ultimately foundered on the adventurous but undisciplined energy and attitudes of founder Dov Charney. True to today’s trends, Gildan won’t take any of American Apparel’s 110 physical stores, but will own its brand and assume some of its manufacturing operations, Reuters said. The deal is subject to a bankruptcy judge approving it on Thursday. Fortune

Ford Aims For Self-Driving Car By 2021 

Among the ballyhoo of the Detroit auto show, Ford CEO Mark Fields outlined plans to put a fully autonomous car, with neither gas pedal nor steering wheel, on the roads by 2021. Fields’ definition of autonomous was ‘level 4’ under the six-notch scale of the engineering professional association SAE International. That means that the automated system can perform all aspects of the driving task when set in specific driving modes, “even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene.” Elsewhere at the show, the air was thick with promises of big investments in the U.S. clearly aimed at appeasing the new administration. Many of them were restatements of existing capital expenditure plans. Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne warned it’s “quite possible” that the new administration may force it to withdraw from Mexico. Fortune

Summaries by Geoffrey Smith Geoffrey.smith@fortune.com;

@geoffreytsmith