Why Jeff Bezos cashed out
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Here is your fun fact for the day: In the past week, Jeff Bezos has sold shares of Amazon worth $1.8 billion.
Does that mean he thinks his company, which closed with a valuation above $1 trillion for the first time on Tuesday, is in a bubble? Does it mean his new lifestyle with Lauren Sanchez is putting pressure on his capacious wallet? Or does it mean that when you are as rich as Bezos—the latest estimates are over $120 billion—cashing out $1.8 billion is like visiting an ATM?
I don’t know the answer. But my guess is it’s a bit of all three.
Here are the specifics. Bezos offloaded 905,456 shares on Friday and Monday as part of a prearranged trading plan, according to filings. That brought his lifetime share sales to $12 billion, of which two-thirds occurred in the last four years, according to calculations by Bloomberg (the news service, not the presidential candidate). At current value, his remaining 11% of shares is worth $116 billion.
There is certainly no question that Bezos’ lifestyle has become more publicly extravagant since leaving his wife, with red carpet appearances and a recent party at his Washington, D.C. mansion for the political and financial elite. Fox Business News reported yesterday that Bezos and Sanchez are looking for a new house in the LA area, and have been touring properties listed at over $100 million.
More news below.
BlackRock has staged its first environmental intervention since issuing its new sustainability policy last month. The target was Germany's Siemens, which is providing rail-signaling systems for a contentious Australian coal-mining project. The asset manager, which is Siemens' biggest external shareholder, said the company needed to engage in "a more thorough review of the potential risks, including ESG risks, presented by future projects." Financial Times
The Chinese government has decided to halve tariffs on hundreds of U.S. imports, as of Valentine's Day. These include some retaliatory tariffs from the trade war; the U.S. is also halving tariffs on Feb. 14. The news sent Chinese stocks upwards by almost 3%—helped by unconfirmed reports that a coronavirus vaccine might be on its way. CNBC
European equities hit a record high this morning on a mix of optimism about the coronavirus impact, and solid earnings from the likes of Total. Colombo Wealth Management's Alberto Tocchio: "The market prefers to put off the virus issue, probably because it’s all a bit uncertain. 2020 is going to be very interesting and with much more volatility than previous years, but for the moment let’s enjoy the rally." Bloomberg
Huawei vs Verizon
Adding patent-flavored spice to a political stew, Huawei has sued Verizon for its alleged use of Huawei intellectual property without payment. The blacklisted Chinese telecoms behemoth has not specified a monetary value for the patents at stake, leaving it up to the court to determine the amount of compensation. Wall Street Journal
AROUND THE WATER COOLER
President Trump was, as expected, acquitted in the Senate yesterday following a nominal trial that allowed no new evidence nor witnesses. The only Republican to break ranks, on one of the two articles, was Mitt Romney—apart from that, it was a straight partisan affair. On to the election, then. New York Times
If you thought EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager was too tough on foreign firms, well, it seems she may not be tough enough for her colleagues. Politico reports that other Commission officials want Vestager—now also the EU's digital policy chief—to "be more assertive in intervening on behalf of local firms, including tipping the scales in favor of national champions in strategically important industries like cloud computing and autonomous vehicles." She's more of a free-markets fan, though. Politico
Hong Kong families returning from the coronavirus epicenter of China's Hubei province are being forced to stay at home while wearing location-tracking wristbands—a bit like house arrest, though the subjects aren't criminals. Taiwan and mainland China are also using surveillance technology to track infected people. Fortune
Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas has died at the age of 103. Apart from being an iconic actor, Douglas was also instrumental in ending the Hollywood blacklist by crediting a blacklisted screenwriter under his own name for Spartacus, which Douglas executive-produced. Los Angeles Times
This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.