Skip to Content

China Talks, Markets Recover, Anadarko Bids: CEO Daily for May 7, 2019

Good morning.

Ron Williams, the former CEO of Aetna, has a new book out this morning called Learning to Lead. You may wonder whether the world really needs another leadership primer. But Williams has a unique story to tell. An African-American who grew up on the south side of Chicago—son of a bus driver and a manicurist—he portrays himself as “the least likely person ever to lead a $34 billion corporation.” One of the main lessons he learned along the way was that before you can lead others, you have to lead yourself—“discovering the inner drive that will spur you to seemingly impossible achievements.”

“In my generation there were no black chief executives, there were no women chief executives,” Williams said during a visit to the Fortune offices yesterday. But he defied those expectations by “not accepting other people’s’ framing of what I was capable of,” and consistently “elbowing my way to the table.”

Williams talked about how much CEO leadership has changed in the last two decades, as stakeholders, empowered partly by social media, have become more “visible, prominent and active.” He cites the employees at Amazon and Google who campaigned against their companies’ doing work for the Defense Department as an example. “I can’t imagine that happening 20 years ago… CEOs have to manage all that.”

By the way, as CEO of Aetna, Williams played a critical role in shaping the Affordable Care Act—now known universally as “Obamacare.” His big regret? That they “weren’t able to get a bipartisan deal,” and instead created a “perpetual health care war…all about slogans, not solutions.”

You can buy the book, which is filled with very practical advice not only from Williams, but also from other ex-CEO friends like Jack Rowe, Pat Russo, Ken Chenault and Ursula Burns, here. More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

China Talks

More bad news for those hoping to see a U.S.-China trade deal anytime soon: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has accused the Chinese of trying to suddenly change the text of the agreement in the final stages of talks. “Over the course of the last week or so we have seen an erosion in commitments by China,” he said. “That in our view is unacceptable.” Wall Street Journal

Markets Recover

Although the markets started yesterday on a bad foot, following President Trump’s Sunday tariff threats against China, they mostly recovered as analysts took the view that the president was only deploying a negotiating tactic, and as the Chinese said they were still sending their delegation to the U.S. this week. As for today, the Hang Seng and Shanghai Composite are slightly up. CNBC

Anadarko Bids

Chevron has several days to up its offer for Anadarko Petroleum or lose out to Occidental Petroleum, which has increased its own bid to $38 billion. Chevron had previously gotten Anadarko to agree to a takeover at a price of $33 billion, and thus far it has refused to offer more. If Chevron walks away, it gets a $1 billion breakup fee. Bloomberg

Suicides Trial

The French telecoms giant Orange is, along with its former CEO Didier Lombard and other top executives, on trial for “moral harassment” that prosecutors say led to a spate of suicides among employees a decade ago. Thirty-five staffers killed themselves between 2008 and 2009, at a time when France Telecom—as it was then known—had recently been privatized and was busy cutting jobs and repeatedly moving staff around. BBC

Around the Water Cooler

Salesforce President

Salesforce president and chief people officer Cindy Robbins is moving on after 13 years with the firm, she told Fortune. Robbins was the driving force that pushed the company to close its gender pay gap. She said: “I’m ready to take a pause and advise organizations, advocate for gender equality, and spend time with my family. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.” Fortune

Corporate Germany

The Financial Times has a good piece on how Germany’s corporate titans face being forced to listen more to their shareholders, many of whom come from outside the country’s borders these days. There’s traditionally been a cozy ecosystem of top executives and politicians, but that’s under threat following ructions at companies such as Bayer, Volkswagen and Deutsche Bank. FT

Brexit Outlook

Will Brexit be sorted out by its Halloween deadline? Not according to a CNBC global survey of chief financial officers, 35.6% of whom expect the EU to have to grant the U.K. yet another extension at that point. A fifth see another referendum as being on the cards, and 26.7% are confident that British Prime Minister Theresa May will get some sort of deal through her fractious Parliament. CNBC

Turkish Elections

Turkey’s rule of law is looking distinctly shaky after its electoral body apparently bowed to pressure from President Erdogan and invalidated the result for Istanbul’s mayoral election, which had seen a narrow win for the opposition CHP party. Turkey is still officially trying to become a member of the EU, which rather depends on the rule of law being a thing there. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini: “The justification for this far-reaching decision, taken in a highly politicized context, should be made available for public scrutiny without delay.” Deutsche Welle

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