I’m at Dreamforce, the tech extravaganza that Salesforce puts on in San Francisco each year, where yesterday I moderated a conversation between two CEOs who come from opposite ends of the retail spectrum. One was Chip Bergh, CEO of 165-year-old Levi Strauss, which sells blue jeans primarily to men; and the other was Jennifer Hyman, CEO of 10-year-old Rent the Runway, which rents fashion entirely to women. The survivor versus the disruptor.
What was striking, however, was how similar they sounded.
First, both are leading the revolt against “fast fashion,” a trend that has people buying ever more clothes at ever lower prices. Bergh and Hyman both made the case for quality, and decried the waste of the fast fashion industry.
And second, both spoke passionately about the importance of CEOs taking a stand on critical social issues. Bergh has been on a campaign to combat gun violence—despite the risk of offending Levis-clad members of the NRA. (Read his commentary here.) And Hyman has been passionate about promoting women, and providing generous benefits to her employees. Both said their passion for the CEOs’ social mission is driven by their own beliefs, their employees’ demands, and their customers’ support. Customers are loyal to brands that display values, Bergh said.
The Dreamforce event conflicted with the Senate’s Kavanaugh hearing. Bergh noted that dysfunctional government is one big reason why it’s more important than ever that CEOs show leadership on social issues.
More news below. And here’s today’s must-read: Robert Hackett’s story on Kathryn Haun, who has gone from Bitcoin-crime prosecutor to cryptocurrency venture capitalist.
Yesterday’s Kavanaugh hearings provided one of those moments where everyone was glued to the same scene, but different factions were seeing different things. However, four senators with key votes on his confirmation, including three Republicans, are still holding their cards close to their chests. Meanwhile, the American Bar Association has backed Democrat calls for an FBI investigation into Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation, and a key Jesuit publication has withdrawn its backing for Kavanaugh’s nomination. Fortune
SEC vs. Musk
Tesla’s shares plunged by as much as 13.7% in after-hours trading, after the Securities and Exchange Commission sued CEO Elon Musk over his tweet about securing funding for a go-private plan. The SEC wants Musk out, and banned from being a director of any public company. Musk and his lawyers reportedly decided at the last minute to fight the case rather than settle. Wall Street Journal
The first nine months of the year have seen record merger and acquisition activity around the world, with $3.3 trillion in deals being agreed over the three quarters. That’s up 39% from 2017. The energy, healthcare, and technology sectors are particularly busy. Financial Times
A selloff of Italian bonds was the result of the country’s new budget, which promises to triple Italy’s targeted deficit. The budget puts the populist/far-right Italian government on a collision course with the European Commission, which is trying to avoid a debt crisis in the Eurozone. The Italian government wants the cash to fund public infrastructure, tax cuts, and welfare increases. Reuters
Around the Water Cooler
Boeing scored a $9.2 billion contract to build 351 new Air Force training jets. The company bid alongside Swedish partner Saab, beating out Lockheed Martin and Italy’s Leonardo. Lockheed has however brought in another big contract: a $1.1 billion deal to provide transport jets for the German military. Fox Business
A 737 belonging to Papua New Guinea’s national carrier overshot a runway in the Federated States of Micronesia, landing instead in a lagoon. There were reports of broken bones among the up-to-57 people who were on board, but it seems none were killed. Guardian
Julian Assange is no longer editor in chief of WikiLeaks. The role is being assumed by Kristinn Hranfsson, an Icelandic investigative journalist who was long spokesman for the whistleblowing-slash-email-laundering organization. Assange is still hiding in Ecuador’s embassy in London, and his hosts cut off his communications in March because he broke a promise to stop trying to harm relations between Ecuador and other countries. Fortune
Chinese tourism in the U.S. is down as a result of the trade war and other political tensions between the countries. The travel search engine Skyscanner said there’s been a year-on-year drop of 42% in flight bookings from China to the U.S. during the upcoming “golden week” holidays. Overall, Skyscanner said, there’s been a 16.7% fall in Chinese bookings for U.S. trips over the year so far. South China Morning Post