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CEO Daily: Wednesday, 31st May

Good morning.

Still working on your summer reading list? As part of our survey of Fortune 500 CEOs, we asked them to tell us the best book they have read in the last year. The result is an eclectic mix, with only one book getting more than one mention—Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, cited by two of the CEOs. Worth noting it was published in 2011…which suggests our chiefs don’t have a lot of time for outside reading.

Below are some more recent books that were mentioned.

The Founder’s Mentality, by Chris Zook and James Allen

Thrive, by Arianna Huffington

OGO, by David Novak

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

Barbarian Days; A Surfing Life, William Finnegan

The Gatekeepers, by Chris Whipple

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, by Gregory Boyle

The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis

Empire of the Summer Moon, by S.C. Gwynne

Earning It, by Joann Lublin

Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance

I’d add two books by Yuval Harari, Sapiens and Homo Deus. The first is the best book I’ve read in a decade.

We also asked the CEOs to name the best business or management book they had ever read. Number one on that list? Good to Great, by Jim Collins.

More news below.

Alan Murray

Top News

Congress Extends Russia Probe to Trump’s Attorney

The Congressional probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election took a new turn as House and Senate investigators asked Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen “to provide information and testimony.” The news comes only days after allegations that Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner had tried to establish an informal communication channel with Russia ahead of the inauguration. Kushner is one of three administration figures, along with Attorney-General Jeff Sessions and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who failed to disclose full details of their contacts with Russian (and in Flynn’s case Turkish) interests before taking office. Elsewhere, White House communications director Mike Dubke, who wasn’t part of the 2016 campaign, resigned on personal grounds. ABC

Uber Throws Levandowski Under a Self-Driving Bus

Greater love hath no startup, than that it layeth down its friends for its life. Uber fired Antony Levandowski, shocked—shocked!—by suggestions that he had stolen from Waymo, his previous employer, the technology for which it paid $680 million last August.  Uber’s action, which can still be reversed if Levandowski returns some 12,000 files to Alphabet’s autonomous driving business by June 15 as ordered by a California district court, is an attempt to strengthen its defense against Waymo’s claims of IP theft. It claims it hasn’t used the disputed technology in its own self-driving project and has already removed Levandowski from its autonomous driving business. In other news, Uber’s board is due to review today the findings of the Eric Holder-led investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at the company. Fortune

May’s Election Gamble Backfires

Sterling fell over half a percent after a new poll suggesting that Theresa May’s Conservatives could in fact lose their control of Parliament at the election in eight days’ time. Other polls continue to suggest that the Tories will bolster their majority, but May’s wooden campaigning and her bungled attempt at tackling the soaring costs of nursing care have turned the landslide victory that once looked inevitable into one of the less likely scenarios. JP Morgan pointed out that a Conservative defeat, while raising uncertainty, would at least reduce the likelihood of a ruinously ‘Hard Brexit’ favored by only the right wing of the Tories. Reuters

Supreme Court Rides to the Rescue of Resellers

The Supreme Court struck a blow for retailers and consumers, ruling that patent rights don’t apply to goods that are resold. The company to suffer was Lexmark, who had tried to stop others from modifying and refilling its printer cartridges. The ruling is another defeat for the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, which has repeatedly used its powers to expand the rights of intellectual property owners. Whether the ruling means that printer ink will at last trade at a significant discount to fairy tears and unicorn blood remains an open question. Fortune

Around the Water Cooler


Qualcomm Loses Chip Whizz, Gains Laptop Partners

Apple has hired one of Qualcomm’s top communications chip engineers amid a legal battle over wireless modem royalties. Esin Terzioglu oversaw the engineering organization of Qualcomm’s core communications chip business. His defection comes after the once-cordial relations between the two companies turned nasty, with suits and counter-suits over patent use and royalties. The chipmaker had more encouraging news to offer yesterday in saying that Lenovo, Asus, and HP would all incorporate its newest Snapdragon chips into their new laptops, which will use a version of the Windows 10 operating system. The company promises the chips will allow longer battery life and better wireless modem capability.  Fortune

A Light at the End of the Luxury Tunnel

After years of weakness, spending on luxury goods is set to return to growth this year, thanks to a surge in spending by Chinese consumers at home, a tourism comeback in Europe, and high-end brands finally figuring out how to appeal to younger shoppers—all according to consultants Bain & Co. They reckons personal luxury goods spending will rise between 2% and 4% this year, still well down from pre-crisis rates. The long-term challenges of China’s corruption crackdown and the terror threat in Europe are, however, still in place. And low oil prices for the foreseeable future will also hit demand in once-spendthrift energy producers. Fortune

Brother Against Brother in India’s Telecom Wars

It’s never nice to lose out in business, but it’s even worse when the competition is your brother. Indian telecoms company Reliance Communications, once a money-printing machine for owner Anil Ambani, is being hounded out of existence by Reliance Jio. Jio is a disruptive and aggressive wireless network competitor run by Ambani’s brother Mukesh. Moody’s and local ratings agencies have downgraded Anil’s company after reports that it missed loan interest payments last week, and its shares fell another 9% Wednesday to a new record low (they’re down 65% over the past year). RComm, as it’s known, still hasn’t confirmed the reports, but did make its first-ever loss in the year to March, and has said it’s looking to refinance a debt load that is nearly 10 times its basic operating earnings. FT, metered access

Debra Crow Defends Her Seat at Reynolds

Debra Crow is to stay as CEO and President of Reynolds American after the closure of its takeover by tobacco giant BAT, which is expected later this year. Crew took over from Susan Cameron in 2016, and many had expected her to be replaced by the new owners. However, it is CFO Andrew Gilchrist who will make way for a BAT appointee if the deal closes, according to a statement released yesterday. FT, metered access

Career Sabotage, and How to Avoid It

Finally, for the aspiring CEO, here are some tips from our colleagues at Essence. Some of your work habits are not the assets you think them to be: blunt speaking, accepting too many commitments, and attaching read receipts to e-mails can all send the wrong signals. Read more here. Essence

Summaries by Geoffrey Smith; @geoffreytsmith