Benioff Buys Time, Chinese Stocks, Tesla Deliveries: CEO Daily for September 17, 2018
I read Bob Woodward’s book Fear this weekend, and was surprised how little I learned. I’m a Woodward fan, but when it comes to the Trump administration, the “inside story” has been so relentlessly covered by the regular press, and the leaks have been so pervasive, that Woodward’s time-tested methods uncovered little that wasn’t already known.
The book does add some texture to what we know about the president’s misguided notion of global trade—his belief that “trade is bad,” and his insistence that bilateral deficits are a measure of fairness. It tells how his advisers tried—and failed—to redirect his China obsession to the real problem, which is systematic violation of intellectual property rights. And as has been widely reported, it also provides new detail on how economic adviser Gary Cohn and staff secretary Rob Porter colluded to thwart the president’s protectionist tendencies. (By the way, while much about the Trump White House is without precedent, staff manipulation of the commander in chief is not—as anyone familiar with how Jim Baker and the late Dick Darman “managed” Ronald Reagan is well aware.)
I was struck, though, by this exchange that reportedly occurred in the very first meeting between Gary Cohn and the president:
Automation was coming, Cohn said—artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics. We’ll manage the labor supply more efficiently now than we ever did in the history of mankind. So look, you’re in the most precarious time in terms of job losses. We now can create labor with machines.
If you’re here eight years, you’re going to deal with the automation of the automobile and truck. About 25 percent of the U.S. population makes a living driving something. Think about that.
“What are you talking about?” Trump asked.
With the self-driving, autonomous vehicle, millions of people are going to have to reenter the workforce in different jobs. That would be a big change and possible large disruption.
Exactly. Trump deserves credit for focusing on the plight of American workers. But he’s fighting the wrong war. It’s past time to pivot to the more pressing challenge.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne Benioff, are to pay $190 million for Time magazine, the (for now) sister publication of Fortune. The titles are currently owned by Meredith Corp., whose purchase of Time Inc. closed eight months ago. “The power of Time is its unique story telling of the people and issues that affect us all and connect us all,” said Lynne Benioff. The sale is expected to close within 30 days. Wall Street Journal
China’s Shanghai Composite Index dropped 1.1% today, ending up at its lowest level since 2014 (the previous bottom was in January 2016.) The index is now looking likely to achieve four straight quarters of losses. The trade war is of course a major concern—President Trump has reportedly moved forward with his proposed tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, and the Chinese government may turn down the White House’s offer of talks. Bloomberg
Tesla’s problem is no longer production, so much as delivery logistics, according to CEO Elon Musk. “Sorry, we’ve gone from production hell to delivery logistics hell, but this problem is far more tractable,” Musk tweeted in response to a customer’s complaint. “We’re making rapid progress. Should be solved shortly.” Reuters
Clinical psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford has publicly accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault back when they were high school students. Ford decided to go public with the accusation after it caused a political firestorm, but without her name attached to it, and she wanted to be the one to tell her own story. Democrats now want the Senate to postpone Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote, which is due Thursday. Washington Post
Around the Water Cooler
Storms caused havoc in the U.S. and Southeast Asia this weekend. Typhoon Mangkhut ripped through the Philippines and China, killing at least 69 people. And the death toll from storm Florence, which has devastated part of the U.S. east coast, now stands at 17. Sky
Lex Wexner, CEO of Victoria’s Secret owner L Brands, is quitting the Republican Party. Wexner was the wealthiest supporter of the Ohio GOP, but he’s had enough of President Trump. “I just decided I’m no longer a Republican,” he said. “I’m an independent. I won’t support this nonsense in the Republican Party.” Fortune
Amazon is reportedly fighting a new front in the war on fake reviews—staffers who take bribes to hand over to merchants confidential sales data and the contact details of customers who left negative reviews. It’s apparently a particular problem in China, though the Wall Street Journal reports it’s present in the U.S. too. WSJ
Samsung had a problem a few years back with its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones catching fire. Well guess what? It may be happening again: a New York real estate agent named Diane Chung is suing the company after her Galaxy Note 9 allegedly ignited in her purse. “The battery in the Galaxy Note 9 is safer than ever,” CEO Koh Dong-jin said when the device was released. “Users do not have to worry about the batteries anymore.” New York Post