Nike, Sanctions, Qualcomm and McMaster: CEO Daily for March 16, 2018
My, how the mighty fall. I wasn’t halfway through The Hollywood Reporter’s extraordinary interview with former ESPN chief John Skipper about his abrupt resignation from Disney after 27 years (a teaser, if I may: “cocaine extortion plot”) when news of yet another executive departure broke.
Trevor Edwards was supposed to be one of the Nike leaders in line to take longtime CEO Mark Parker’s job by 2020, when Parker turns 65. Until yesterday, that is. The athletic apparel colossus revealed Thursday that brand president Edwards, 55, will hang up his sneakers in August and Parker will extend his tenure beyond his 65th birthday. In a memo announcing Edwards’ retirement, Parker disclosed that Nike had received reports of “behavior occurring within our organization that do not reflect our core values of inclusivity, respect and empowerment.” He declined to cite specifics and did not link the complaints to Edwards.
The need for a “sharper focus” on culture is not a good look, as they say, for the Beaverton, Ore., company. Nike is one of the most iconic brands in business and a fixture on our World’s Most Admired Companies list. For good reason: It’s creative, it’s digital, it innovates at scale, and it is more inclusive than most companies its size. (I’m a fan of the “EQUALITY.” tees on sale at its boutiques.) But it’s clear that it’s not just bratty tech companies that suffer from a less-than-winning working environment. Corporate culture, even an exemplary one, needs tending. (Or in Parker’s parlance: “There is no finish line.”) Especially with 74,000 employees.
Today’s news below.
The U.S. has hit Russia with new sanctions over its interference in the 2016 election and its cyberattacks, so now Russia is preparing to retaliate with an expansion of its blacklist of Americans. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also said that "other steps are possible on our part, which we will calibrate, according to our own interests." Russia's last such move—last July's expulsion of hundreds of U.S. diplomats and embassy staff—was in retaliation to sanctions levied by President Barack Obama. The U.S.'s new sanctions are the first to come under President Donald Trump's watch. Wall Street Journal
Qualcomm's deposed chairman, Paul Jacobs, is reportedly talking to investors about funding a takeover of the chip firm. One of those investors is, according to the Financial Times, Japan's increasingly ubiquitous SoftBank, whose $100 billion Vision Fund counts among its own investors… Qualcomm. Jacobs' father Irwin is one of Qualcomm's co-founders. The younger Jacobs lost his position as executive chairman a week ago, following investor criticism over a lack of independence in the company's oversight (the executive chairman post was discontinued.) FT
Is Trump about to sack National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster? Reports from both the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal suggest yes, but the White House says no. Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, tweeted that she spoke to Trump and McMaster and "contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the [National Security Council]." Past experience suggests such reassurances don't necessarily mean much. Bloomberg
A brand new pedestrian walkway collapsed onto the road below in Miami yesterday, killing at least six people. It seems the 174-foot walkway was built using a relatively new construction technique that is supposed to make it possible to build bridges more quickly while maintaining safety. It was the largest pedestrian bridge in the U.S. to have been installed using the "accelerated bridge construction" technique, and was moved into position on Saturday. NBC
Around the Water Cooler
Australia has become the battleground for companies wanting to build the biggest batteries in the world—little wonder, as Australia is prime ground for solar power, and you have to store all that energy somewhere. Elon Musk's Tesla built the world's largest battery in South Australia's Mid-North, but now Sanjeev Gupta (a metal tycoon who just bought a controlling stake in a local renewable energy firm) is planning an even bigger battery, able to store 140 megawatt hours to Musk's 129 megawatt hours. Radio Australia
The analyst house Fundstrat reckons that the price of Bitcoin has now fallen to a point where it is no longer profitable to mine. Fundstrat bases its cost estimates on the cost of equipment, electricity and things like cooling. "Mining" Bitcoin is extremely power-intensive, and it throws off a lot of heat too. Because the architecture of the Bitcoin system also makes it progressively more difficult to create the virtual coins, miners also have to regularly upgrade their equipment. CNBC
Li Ka-shing Retires
The Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, whose empire straddles the telecommunications, shipping, retail and property sectors, is going to retire before his 90th birthday this year. His CK Hutchison and CK Asset firms have a combined market cap of over $80 billion, and Li himself is estimated to be worth more than $35 billion. Li's successor will be his son, Victor Li, who is currently the deputy chairman of the conglomerate. Fortune
The dreadfully posh British private bank Coutts has disciplined—but not fired—one of its star bankers after he was accused of "inappropriate behavior" that left some women more keen on resigning than continuing to work with him. The investigation into Harry Keogh and his team dated back to 2015. RBS, Coutts' owner, has itself been accused of "pervasive sexism." RBS is largely owned by the British taxpayer, thanks to a financial-crisis-era bailout. BBC