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CEO Daily: Friday, 24th February

Good morning.

Burson-Marsteller released new research yesterday (thanks to our former colleague Pattie Sellers for sharing) that ranks business leaders on their use of social media. It has some interesting findings.

It’s no surprise, admittedly, that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has the most followers on his own social network (86 million). And many of you might guess that Bill Gates and Richard Branson top the list of the most interactive figures on Facebook, having more time to devote to thought leadership than the average CEO still stuck in the daily grind. Branson averages an impressive six posts per day.

But you might not have appreciated how quickly the adoption of Facebook by CEOs is growing and steadily becoming mainstream. The use of Instagram by professionals (led by the Honest Company’s Jessica Alba) is also catching up and showing similar trends. In 2016, Facebook registered the fastest pace yet of Fortune 500 and Global Fortune 500 executives joining the platform, including Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi.

“The world of how to communicate with all important audiences is changing radically,” says Burson’s worldwide chairman and CEO Don Baer. “For corporate leaders, Facebook and Instagram are creative and crucial channels for touching and persuading the people who matter most. We found the executives who combine business and brand information with insight into their personal lives have the most meaningful relationships with their audiences.”

You can read the PR gurus’ report, Friending in High Places: Business Leaders on Facebook and Instragram, here.

News below—and enjoy the weekend.

Geoffrey Smith

Top News

CEOs at the White House

CEOs from major manufacturers such as General Electric, Dow Chemical and Lockheed Martin huddled with President Trump and senior White House officials for two and a half hours, thrashing out their respective ideas on reforms to taxes and trade, regulation, infrastructure and workforce training. Little new emerged in public after the talks, which appear set to be repeated on a regular basis, but The Wall Street Journal’s sources indicated that there were still various options on the table regarding the most controversial element of Trump’s program, the Border Adjustment Tax. Dow CEO Andrew Liveris said immigration wasn’t discussed. WSJ, subscription required

Taking Two for the Team

Two senior executives at Samsung have reportedly offered to resign, in what looks at first blush like an effort to deflect blame from their superior, recently-arrested Lee Jae-yong. Samsung’s board also voted Friday to adopt new disclosure rules on donations to all third parties, which should prevent a repeat of the scandal that has ensnared Lee and created a damaging leadership vacuum at the Korean electronics giant. Reuters

Alphabet Unit Sues Uber For IP Theft

The simmering dispute between Alphabet and Uber over intellectual property related to autonomous driving has boiled over into court. Alphabet filed suit in San Francisco accusing Anthony Levandowksi, a former executive in the unit that the Google parent now calls Waymo, of secretly downloading 14,000 files in December 2015 before leaving to join Otto, an autonomous truck venture bought last year by Uber for $680 million. They chiefly concerned sensor technology developed by Alphabet. It wasn’t been a great day for Uber. Its biggest competitor, Lyft, opened in 54 more U.S. cities yesterday, while two early investors chastised it for the ethics brouhaha which shows no sign of dying down.  Fortune

HPE Hit By Mystery Customer

Hewlett Packard Enterprise reported its sharpest drop in revenue since splitting from its hardware business, due largely to the loss of significant business from what it called a “tier-one” customer. Demand for storage hardware and servers was weak, falling by 13% and 12% on the year, respectively, and CEO Meg Whitman also blamed foreign exchange factors for making a bad quarter look worse, although that doesn’t explain away a lowered outlook for the coming year. The company’s shares fell over 5% in after-hours trading. Fortune

Around the Water Cooler


Audi CEO Faces Down Dieselgate Accusations

The board of Volkswagen publicly backed Rupert Stadler, CEO of Audi, after he was implicated in covering up the diesel emission scandal in a German labor court earlier this week. Ulrich Weiss, the former head of diesel engine development at Audi, is suing to get his job back after being terminated. Audi engineers played a crucial role in developing the cheating software at the heart of the scandal. Weiss’s lawyers had presented evidence suggesting Stadler had been aware of the excess emissions issue as far back as 2007, the year he succeeded Martin Winterkorn as VW CEO. The court has set a date in March for its ruling. Reuters

Disney Scales Back Maker Ambitions

Walt Disney said it will cut around 80 jobs at Maker Studios as it scaled down its ambitions for the startup it bought two years ago for $675 million. Disney said Maker, which helps original content producers on YouTube to monetize their creations will now confine itself to working with around 300 YouTube video creators whose content will work well with Disney’s own brands. The cuts are – reportedly – unconnected to the controversy over Swedish YouTube star ‘PewDiePie’, and more to do with the fact that revenue growth hasn’t met expectations (while profits remain elusive). Fortune

Ars Gratia Artis

So, does anyone think La La Land won’t win all the 14 Oscars it’s nominated for? Lionsgate’s latterday Singin’ in the Rain appears unstoppable after taking the cake at all the festivals that traditionally act as prologue to Sunday’s Academy Awards. Expect howls of protests about Hollywood’s narcissism and other social vices, real and imagined, if yet another movie about show business sweeps the board. Art for art’s sake? Don’t count on it. Fortune

The World’s Worst Bank?

Ok, that’s a tough title to claim, but Royal Bank of Scotland is making the best pitch possible, reporting a ninth straight annual loss for 2016, and yet again managing to lose more money than it had predicted and more than anyone had expected. The 7 billion pound ($8.8 billion) deficit was its biggest in three years, driven largely by misconduct-related charges and a £750 million restructuring charge related to a disposal plan ordered by the EU in return for state aid. The 72% state-owned bank promised a return to profit in 2018. The bank’s results are a sharp contrast with rivals Lloyds and Barclays, which both reported convincing improvements in performance and outlook earlier this week. FT, metered access

Summaries by Geoffrey Smith;