Richard Branson says it’s time to stop buying oil and gas from Putin’s Russia. “It’s preposterous that we are still sending billion dollar checks to Russia,” the British billionaire businessman told me earlier this week. “If France had been sending Hitler a couple of billion dollars a week, imagine how angry we all would have been!”
Branson was co-founder of the B Team, a non-profit promoting business practices more centered on people and planet. He and about two dozen other B Team leaders are releasing a statement this morning noting that “evidence that atrocities committed by Russian troops on Ukrainian civilians, including women and children, is mounting” and calling on business to take further steps to combat the “unprovoked and unacceptable” invasion. You can read the B-Team’s statement here. Other CEO signers include Oliver Bate of Allianz; Jesper Brodin of IKEA; Jochen Zeitz of Harley Davidson; Isabelle Kocher, former chief of Engie; and Hamdi Ulukaya of Chobani.
“Business leaders should not just sit on the sidelines,” Branson said. He proposes that European countries “cut the speed limit on trucks and on cars. A 10-mile-an-hour reduction would free up sufficient fuel for Germany to not import any more fuel from Russia.” Other businesses, he said, could help the effort “by taking 5%-10% of the energy burn out of our business.”
“People don’t like the word ration. But I think we are effectively in a war, whether we like it or not. We should feel we are in a war. It’s a war we have to win, and we should do everything we can to win it.”
Separately, David Kamenetzky and Leopoldo Lopez take Branson’s argument a giant step further in a commentary piece published in Fortune yesterday. They say the once widely-held notion that economic freedom would lead to political freedom has proven false, and companies should stop doing business with autocratic regimes. “We must add a new dimension to corporate governance—call it Freedom, or Democracy—to reflect the fact that democratic freedoms are essential to sustain the long-term success and stability of corporations.”
What do CEO Daily readers think about that? Send me your thoughts, and I will share them next week. More news below.
Meta's Mark Zuckerberg and BoA's Brian Moynihan are among the CEOs and other major U.S. figures (VP Kamala Harris is on the list too) who have been sanctioned by Moscow in retaliation for American sanctions on Russians. Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin has claimed the successful Russian seizure of the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, except for thousands of defenders and civilians who are now sealed up in the Azovstal steel works there. Russia is now explicitly trying to create a land corridor to Crimea, which it illegally annexed years ago. Fortune
The U.S. is sending Ukraine its brand new Phoenix Ghost kamikaze drones, which were built especially for this conflict. The West has also started sending heavy weapons in the last couple weeks, and Russian propagandists are telling their audience that NATO operators of these tanks and so forth will soon follow—a claim that would mean the start of a wider war, but that experts say is nonsensical. Fortune
Not Ghosn away
A French magistrate has issued international arrest warrants for Carlos Ghosn and four others who allegedly helped funnel millions of euros of Renault cash to the former Renault and Nissan chief, who fled to Lebanon a couple years ago in a musical equipment box, as you do. Wall Street Journal
We hardly knew ye
CNN is ditching its new CNN+ streaming product, just a few weeks after its launch. The ambitious project was backed by now-departed CNN president Jeff Zucker, and new CEO Chris Licht says the company and its customers "will be best served with a simpler streaming choice." Fortune
AROUND THE WATERCOOLER
Elon Musk is ready for his Twitter takeover bid, having secured $46.5 billion in financing. Twitter's board is yet to respond. Fortune
This week's must-read is Jessica Mathews' unauthorized profile of Chris Dixon, who runs the crypto vertical at Andreessen Horowitz: "No investor has more venture capital money—nor such a large support team—to wield in the digital asset arena than Andreessen Horowitz, and Dixon is considered by many to be the most important dealmaker and one of the earliest backers in the nascent space." Fortune
Johns Hopkins economist Steve Hanke agrees with the likes of Larry Summers that an incoming recession is more likely than not, but for a different reason—Hanke thinks the Fed isn't steering money supply on the correct course. (Bonus read: Economists say inflation angers our brains.) Fortune
Tens of millions of Americans will suffer the debilitating effects of Long COVID, writes emergency department physician Carolyn Barber in this piece for Fortune, which urges continued vaccination, testing, and masking: "National health policies and preventative measures related to the disease in general remain critically important. Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas pedal." (Bonus read: The Serum Institute of India—the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer—stopped making fresh batches of COVID jabs several months ago because there is now a global oversupply.) Fortune
This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.
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