CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet

Fortune’s first NFT cover is a live digital experiment—and it’s selling out

August 9, 2021, 11:18 AM UTC

Good morning.

When Henry Luce conceived Fortune magazine nearly a century ago, he wanted it to be “as beautiful a magazine as exists…if possible, the undisputed most beautiful.” For its first cover, he commissioned a designer named Thomas Maitland Cleland, who sketched on a tablecloth the “wheel of fortune” that graced the magazine’s first published issue in February 1930.

Thomas Cleland, meet Pplpleasr, the 28-year-old digital artist, also known as Emily Yang, who was chosen by current Editor-in-Chief Brian O’Keefe to design the magazine’s latest cover—and with it a series of animated digital “NFTs”—or non-fungible tokens—which were put up for sale Friday on the peer-to-peer marketplace OpenSea. The 256 NFT cover animations sold out within five minutes at a price of 1 Ethereum (about $3,000) and are already being listed for resale at seven times the original price. Three NFTs featuring more extensive animations were put up for auction, which ends at 12 p.m. EST today. Bids are accepted, of course, only in crypto. More detail, including why we sold exactly 256 cover copies, here. And a video description of how the gamified auction works is here.

Pundits can debate whether NFTs are a “change the world” technology or a passing fad. My bet is the innovation will follow the usual trajectory of the hype curve—overestimated in the short run but underestimated in the long.  Attaching provenance, ownership and value to easily and infinitely replicable digital products is one of the central challenges of the modern economy. As more of our lives are spent in virtual worlds, that challenge only grows. And as Fortune’s Robert Hackett has written here, the underlying technology has the potential to disintermediate and decentralize finance (if we can crack the environmental problem, as explored here.) 

You can check out the animations—and maybe even place a bid if you have excess Ethereum burning a hole in your digital wallet—here on OpenSea. Henry Luce would be proud. More news below.

Alan Murray


20 years

The new IPCC report, out today, says global temperatures will have risen by 1.5 degrees Celsius within 20 years—and also finds that humans are, without a doubt, to blame. This is a slight strengthening of the language from previous reports, but the message is clear, and urgent. Collectively, the report operates as a "code red for humanity," just three months before the COP26 conference in Glasgow. Fortune

'Blind spots' 

The EU has led the way in attempting to crack down on "greenwashing" in financial products as the ESG wave has gained force. But the bloc's Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation seems to be running into an awkward problem: everyone is interpreting it slightly differently, and national regulators say they can't keep up. Bloomberg

Aramco profits

Meanwhile, Saudi Aramco became the latest oil company to post a big return to profits over the weekend, with net profit rising by nearly four times compared to during the demand-bust last year, to a staggering $25.5 billion in the second quarter. The gains are in line with other oil giants' returns, which have been boosted by the bounce-back in demand for oil, and the subsequent rise in prices. Aramco, like its rivals, has prioritized shareholder returns. NYT

$87 billion

The crackdown on the Chinese tech industry has slashed $87 billion off the net worth of industry tycoons, in the wake of Didi's IPO launch against the wishes of Chinese authorities. Colin Huang has been the worst hit since June, losing a third of his net worth. But Jack Ma has really felt the impact, losing $13 billion since the Alibaba IPO was scrapped in November. And speaking of Alibaba, a sexual harassment scandal is mounting at the company. WSJ


Friedman v. Hayek

Let Fortune's Shawn Tully take you on a rollicking historical what-if this Monday, where he asks: what would Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek think of Bitcoin? (You've been wondering, right?) Tully suggests: They might feel pretty much the same. Fortune

Black market 

As vaccination rates grow (in wealthy countries, anyways) and onerous travel restrictions continue to be a risk, a mix of anti-vaxxers and people who don't have access to vaccines are fueling an exploding black market for vaccine passports and certificates. I went inside a series of Telegram groups—and got offers for vaccine passports across the EU. Fortune 


Zhengzhou is supposed to be a "sponge city"—full of green spaces to absorb and mitigate flood water. And yet, floods swamped the city earlier this summer, submerging the subway systems (with passengers), and killing over 300 people. Fortune's Eamon Barrett looked at why the lesson from Zhengzhou isn't to abandon the concept of flood managed cities—but to double down. Fortune

Flood wine 

It's the summer of floods (and fires), here at Fortune, so let Christiaan Hetzner introduce you to German '#flutwein': wine salvaged from the deadly floods in Germany earlier this summer. They're sold still caked in dirt. The wine sales are going to a good cause: trying to help the country's devastated wine region recover. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Katherine Dunn. 

Our mission to make business better is fueled by readers like you. To enjoy unlimited access to our journalism, subscribe today.