The Businessperson of the Year is….
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Good morning, and the winner is: Elon Musk.
I have never been a Musk fanboy; he is a mix of some of the worst characteristics of today’s leaders—more messianic than Adam Neumann, as allergic to rules and governance as Travis Kalanick, nearly as narcissistic as Donald Trump. Anyone remember “pedo guy” and “funding secured”?
But you can’t fake, bully or bulls–t your way to Businessperson of the Year. It’s based on a rigorous screen of company performance. First off, there’s Tesla’s stock, which is insane—up over 1,000% since the summer of 2019, giving the company a market value north of half a trillion. On top of that, the company now has five straight quarters of profit behind it. And SpaceX has skyrocketed as well, receiving a $46 billion valuation in its August funding.
Moreover, as someone who celebrates companies putting purpose before profit, I have to acknowledge that Musk beats all. His purpose is immense: to save the planet from climate conflagration… and create a colony on Mars, just in case. And as absurd as that may sound, he is making remarkable progress. So hats off to him. He has earned this honor. You can read Michal Lev-Ram and Andrew Nusca’s wonderful story on the phenom here.
Others on this year’s top 20 include the obvious (Reed Hastings, #4; Jeff Bezos, #7), as well as some surprises. Perhaps most interesting is that seven of the 20 are women, leading with AMD’s Lisa Su (#2) and including Fortune’s Most Powerful Woman, Julie Sweet of Accenture (#14). You can find the full list here.
By the way, Sweet was one of the speakers yesterday at Fortune’s virtual Brainstorm Tech conference. Among other things, she talked about how the events of 2020 had encouraged leaders to adopt new humility. Did anyone tell Elon?
More news below.
Salesforce buys Slack
Salesforce is buying Slack for $27.7 billion, marking the business software giant's largest acquisition yet—and the second-largest buy in the software industry's history, below IBM's $34 billion purchase of Red Hat, but above Microsoft's $26 billion purchase. Here’s Marc Benioff on an earnings call yesterday: "We see Slack as a once-in-a-generation platform and company. It’s the central nervous system of so many companies on this call." Fortune
The U.K. is the first western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, specifically Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine, which trials have shown to be 95% effective. The vaccine will become available from next week in the country. Fortune
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators yesterday proposed a stimulus package worth in the region of $900 billion, which is more than the $500 billion proposed by Senate Republicans but way below the Democrats' favored $2.2 trillion package. The newly-proposed package would include $180 billion for weekly $300 enhanced unemployment benefits, $82 billion for education, $45 billion for transportation, and $25 billion in housing assistance. Fortune
President-elect Biden's Treasury pick, former Fed chair Janet Yellen, yesterday appealed for "collective purpose" to support the pandemic-stricken U.S. economy: "It’s essential that we move with urgency. Inaction will produce a self-reinforcing downturn causing yet more devastation…We risk missing the obligation to redress deeper structural problems." Financial Times
AROUND THE WATER COOLER
Singapore has authorized the sale of Eat Just's lab-grown chicken meat, in an apparent world first. This isn't a vegetarian meat alternative; it's actual meat, cultured from animal muscle cells. For now, that makes it expensive, and it will be sold at a premium in the Singapore restaurant that will first offer it. Fortune
Barr vs Trump
Attorney General William Barr said there's no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could flip the results of the election. That's a direct contradiction of what election loser President Trump and many of his supporters claim, and Trump's legal team says the Justice Department hasn't investigated closely enough. Wall Street Journal
Biden on tariffs
A must-read: The New York Times' Thomas Friedman had a chat with Joe Biden (just after the above Barr statement), in which the president-elect discussed his approach to Mitch McConnell, the Iran nuclear deal, and tariffs on Chinese goods. On that last point: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves…The best China strategy, I think, is one which gets every one of our—or at least what used to be our—allies on the same page." NYT
Big Chocolate's big case at the U.S. Supreme Court, in which Nestlé USA and Cargill argue they aren't responsible for human rights abuses in Ivory Coast cocoa farms, could prove to be a big deal for corporate America. As Fortune's Vivienne Walt writes: "It could have major implications for American businesses, whose labyrinthine global supply chains may reach into poor countries with patchy labor conditions far away from corporate headquarters." Fortune
This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.