Skip to Content

Trump Broadcom, OECD Steel, Cohn Replacement: CEO Daily for March 13, 2018

Good morning. Fortune digital editor Andrew Nusca here, filling in for Alan.

Ch-ch-changes are underway at some of America’s oldest corporations and it’s a tale of two witties. (Witty CEOs, that is.)

On Monday Goldman Sachs, 148 years young, announced that David Solomon would succeed Lloyd Blankfein as its CEO. Blankfein served in Goldman’s top spot for more than 12 years and his tenure features both the 2008 financial crisis (and multimillion-dollar settlements with the government over allegations that Goldman had lied to investors) as well as all-time highs for its stock price. The Cheshire cat of capitalism will depart sometime this year having executed a smooth succession plan, grown a gray everyman beard, and rehabilitated, at least in part, the image of a New York investment bank memorably described in 2009 as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” Goldman stock ended up on the Blankfein news.

On the same day DowDuPont announced that longtime Dow Chemical leader Andrew Liveris would step down as executive chairman by the end of the month after a 14-year tenure at the 121-year-old company. (Or 216 years if you tap DuPont’s history, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.) Jim Fitterling will become CEO of Dow once today’s conglomerate splits; Jeff Fettig will assume Liveris’ executive chairman role. The mustachioed Liveris leaves Dow having made multibillion-dollar bets on American energy, survived two activist investor battles, and dramatically reshaped a company nearly sunk by the financial crisis. “In a world of mediocre to bad corporate leaders, Mr. Liveris stands out,” wrote Spencer Jakab in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, citing the underperformance of Dow stock compared to the S&P 500 since Liveris took control. DowDuPont shares ended down on the Liveris news.

Over more than a decade, two corporate transformations led by affable (and unshaven) executives: one relatively tranquil, one unapologetically turbulent. Just goes to show that taking the helm of a century-old company is no guarantee of smooth sailing.

Oh, and speaking of great American corporations: IBM, the baby of this group at 107 years old, released its annual report for 2017 late Monday and CEO Ginni Rometty has declared IBM’s transition to the cloud and cognitive services “largely complete.” (It recently ended a 22-quarter streak of revenue declines.) “The incumbents of the world understand that they can be the new disruptors,” she writes of her company’s established industry peers, “and they are going on offense to seize this opportunity and to capture this moment.” IBM shares didn’t budge in after-hours trading.

More news below.

Andrew Nusca

Top News

Trump Blocks Broadcom

Broadcom’s aggressive attempts to take over rival Qualcomm are now at an end, after President Donald Trump formally blocked the deal via executive order. Trump did so on national security grounds, though without citing any evidence of such a threat. He also ordered the disqualification of Broadcom’s 15 proposed candidates for the Qualcomm board. Broadcom used to be a U.S. firm but these days is based in Singapore, though it is also in the process of reincorporating in California. Fortune

OECD Steel Talks

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) would like everyone to sit down and have a reasoned discussion about overcapacity in the steel markets, please. Desperate to avoid a trade war in the wake of Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, the OECD said Tuesday that “governments should avoid escalation and rely on global solutions [read: established World Trade Organization rules] to resolve excess capacity in the global steel industry.” CNBC

Cohn’s Replacement

After Gary Cohn gave up leading the White House National Economic Council, thanks to Trump overriding his concerns and opting for those metals tariffs, the president found himself without a chief economic adviser. A new report suggests that seat may be filled—possibly within the next day or two—by CNBC personality and former Bear Stearns economist Larry Kudlow. Kudlow is apparently already acting as an informal adviser to Trump. Bloomberg

Apple Buys Texture

Apple is buying a firm called Next Issue Media, which makes Texture, a service that provides a bundled subscription for hundreds of digital magazines. Apple is on a mission to beef up its services offerings. Next Issue Media is currently owned by Condé Nast, Meredith (which also owns Fortune), Hearst, Rogers Communication and KKR & Co. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Wall Street Journal

Around the Water Cooler

Skripal Poisoning

The poisoning of former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the U.K. was executed with a Russian-made Novichok nerve agent, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced. She said Russia has until the end of today to explain itself, otherwise the U.K. will have to conclude that there was an “unlawful use of force” by the country. Russia has so far denied any involvement. Skripal had been jailed in Russia for spying on the Brits’ behalf, but was released to the U.K. in a spy swap years ago. BBC

Chinese Regulators

China is merging its banking and insurance regulators and transferring some of those watchdogs’ roles to the central bank, the government has announced. The move gives President Xi Jinping more control over the agencies’ functioning. A new “national markets supervision management bureau” will also replace a current trio of national antitrust regulators, apparently a sign of the importance of antimonopoly and pricing issues in China these days. The Chinese national intellectual property rights bureau is also being revamped. Reuters

Fertility Clinic Failures

Questions are being raised about the levels of oversight at U.S. fertility clinics after two clinics suffered failures in their egg-freezing facilities and didn’t officially report the problems until news reports came out. The industry is largely self-regulating, and there is currently no requirement for clinics to report freezer failures—which can destroy couples’ fertility hopes—unless a negative media report emerges, or someone makes a complaint. NBC

Sanctuary Cities

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) boss Thomas Homan made “false” statements about a North California raid on immigrants, according to James Schwab, who resigned as an ICE spokesperson because he did “not want to perpetuate misleading facts.” ICE officials and Sessions had laid into Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for warning the local immigrant community about the impending raid, claiming that the tip-off helped lead to “864 criminal aliens and public safety threats” remaining at large. Schwab says the numbers and attribution of blame are both off the mark. Washington Post

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer. Find previous editions here, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters here.