Business

BlackRock v Blackstone

THE two most successful entrepreneurs on Wall Street of the past two decades work on opposite sides of Park Avenue. Larry Fink, 65, is a Democrat whose hand is glued to a Starbucks cup and who runs BlackRock from 52nd Street. Stephen Schwarzman, 70, is a Republican who wears striped shirts with plain collars and runs Blackstone from between 51st and 52nd. The two are ex-colleagues, but have sharply opposing views on investment and management. Their trajectories illustrate how finance is changing. Mr Fink, once the underdog, is on top. His firm, BlackRock, is the world’s largest asset manager, with $6trn of assets. It stands for computing power, low fees and scale, and is booming. Mr Schwarzman’s firm, Blackstone, is the largest “alternative” manager, focused on private equity and property,...

As gyms hit peak season, the market does the splits

EVERY year, like clockwork, swathes of humanity go through the same routine. On December 26th and January 1st, as the fog of cheese, chocolate oranges and champagne lifts, remorse creeps in. Online searches for “get fit” and “lose weight” surge (see chart). Health clubs of all shapes and sizes stand ready to respond. “Intent typically takes seven to 14 days to turn into reality,” notes Humphrey Cobbold, chief executive of Pure Gym, Britain’s largest gym chain. So this week will be one of the busiest for the gym industry globally. Upgrade your inbox Receive our Daily Dispatch and Editors’ Picks newsletters. There will be other ripple effects, too. According to recent data from Cardlytics, which monitors spending in Britain, people spend 18% more in sports shops the week before joining...

30 Years After His Death, Roy Orbison Is Going On Tour Again — In Hologram Form

The U.K. leg of the “In Dreams” tour, featuring a laser-projected Roy and a live band, has already sold over 70 percent of its tickets. Two days ago, I watched Roy Orbison rise from the ground onto the stage at the Rose Theater at Lincoln Center, donning a gray suit, a red Gibson guitar and his signature sunglasses. Supported by a live orchestra and conductor, Orbison performed his hit song “Only the Lonely,” an extravagant light show in the background balancing out his velvety voice and characteristically statuesque stage presence. At the end of the song, however, Orbison’s body disappeared abruptly from view, and a white, 8-by-15 laser grid took his place. The sound and lighting technicians at the back of the venue announced the end of dress rehearsal, signaling the orchestra...

Behind All the Smart Gadgets, Amazon and Google Are Waging War

The flash of the CES technology show in Las Vegas is all about robots, drones and smart gadgets. But its subtext is all about Google versus Amazon. Both companies usually shun conventions like CES, preferring to debut gadgets at their own press events. But these tech giants have built an imposing presence here this year as they work to weave their voice-operated digital assistants more deeply into our personal lives. Google has plastered digital billboards and the Las Vegas Monorail with the “Hey Google” wake-up command. It’s announced a range of new gadgets featuring its assistant on everything from smart displays to pressure cookers. And it’s sent out the clowns — a jumpsuit-wearing army of advertising associates wearing brightly-colored Converse sneakers and hovering a...

Walmart raises starting wages, handing out bonuses

Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, is boosting its starting salary for U.S. workers to $11 an hour, giving a one-time cash bonus of up to $1,000 to eligible employees and expanding its maternity and parental leave benefits. The retailer said Thursday that changes to its compensation and benefits policy will impact more than a million hourly workers in the U.S. The company employs 1.5 million people in the U.S. The wage increase, up from $9 per hour for new workers, comes into play next month. The company is also creating a new benefit to assist employees with adoption expenses. CEO Doug McMillon said in prepared statement that recently enacted tax legislation “gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S. Large employe...

SiriusXM Not Interested in Big Acquisitions, Says CFO

U.S. pay-radio operator SiriusXM on Wednesday said it was unlikely to do any major mergers or acquisitions anytime soon. “Our organic growth opportunities are still massive,” David Frear, SiriusXM CFO, told the Citi Global TMT West Conference in Las Vegas during a session that was webcast. The satellite radio operator’s finance chief added he saw no evidence that major business acquisitions were an efficient way to similarly grow his company. And he warned against diversifying into businesses markedly different from SiriusXM’s core satellite radio business. “You can pursue the ego-gratifying strategic initiatives, and take all of management’s attention and focus on what has been acquired. Then you take your eye off of the part of the business that create...

Kobalt Appoints Avid Larizadeh Duggan EVP, Chief Strategy & Business Officer

She joins from GV — formerly Google Ventures — the venture capital investment arm of Alphabet Inc., where Kobalt was one of her portfolio companies. Kobalt has hired Avid Larizadeh Duggan to lead global strategy and business development for Kobalt as the executive vice president and chief strategy and business officer.  Larizadeh Duggan joins Kobalt from GV — formerly Google Ventures — the venture capital investment arm of Alphabet Inc., where she was general partner and ran GV’s investment in Kobalt. She has 20 years of experience in the startup ecosystem, including past work as a developer, product manager, founder, investor and adviser.  “Avid has a big passion for tech, building products and growing companies. Adding to that, she is a great person an...

Argo AI self-driving test car hit in Pittsburgh as truck runs red light

One of the test cars Argo AI operates in its Pittsburgh fleet was involved in an accident on Wednesday, with two people sent to hospital (in stable condition) with injuries as a result of the accident. The incident appears to have been caused by a light box truck driving through a red light, rather than by Argo’s test vehicle, based on an early traffic report. The self-driving car was T-boned by the truck, and two of the Argo car’s four occupants were the ones who ended up in hospital. Ford provided the following statement regarding the accident when contacted by TechCrunch: We’re aware that an Argo AI test vehicle was involved in an accident. We’re gathering all the information. Our initial focus is on making sure that everyone involved is safe. It’s never good news when an automobile is ...

Interactive Music Listening App oiid Announces Partnership With Concord Records

The Norway-based tech company’s first project with the label was Esperanza Spalding’s live-streamed ‘Exposure’ project. Norway-based tech company oiid has announced a new partnership with Concord Records to bring the label’s catalog to its digital platform.  oiid launched last month, delivering users an interactive listening experience where they may choose to listen to the original mix and deconstruct the recorded song, activate play-along features, take part in a story section, view in-depth liner notes and watch exclusive behind the scenes features.  One early embodiment of this deal was Grammy-winning jazz bassist, composer and songwriter Esperanza Spalding‘s Exposure project, where she live streamed the creation of a new album over the course of 77 ...

Discogs Adds Jörg Mohaupt of Access Industries to Newly Formed Board of Directors With $2.5M Investment

The active private early stage investor served on the Warner Music Group board until last November. Online vinyl marketplace and database Discogs has formed a board of directors, which now includes former Warner Music Group board member Jörg Mohaupt.  Mohaupt’s addition to the board at Discogs — which operates under Zink Media LLC — comes with a $2.5 million investment in the company. Mohaupt is also head of TMT at Access Industries, which he joined in 2007, and serves on the boards of several companies including Perform Group, Deezer, ICE Group, GETT and ULE. He served on the WMG board until last November.  On the Zink Media board, Mohaupt joins initial board members CEO Chad Dahlstrom, president Kevin Lewandowski and chief product owner – database Nik Kinloch. It ...

Winning deals as a new venture capital fund

TX Zhuo Contributor TX Zhuo is the managing partner of Fika Ventures focusing on fintech, enterprise software and marketplace opportunities. More posts by this contributor: This is my third time joining a new firm and second time starting one of my own. One would think that I would remember the challenges of building up a new firm, like a type of muscle memory, but I always forget how hard it is to stay relevant and have a seat at the table for top tier deal flow. 2017 could be characterized as the “Year of the new VC,” with an unprecedented number of new managers. According to a mid year report by Fenwick & West, 2017 is on pace to see the highest number of first-time venture capital funds formed in more than a decade. And based on a Pitchbook-NVCA Venture Monitor report, first ...

UTA Names Agent Blair Kohan to Board of Directors

She has been partner at the agency since 2004. United Talent Agency announced on Wednesday (Jan. 10) that longtime partner and senior entertainment industry agent Blair Kohan has been named to its Board of Directors. “One of the industry’s most respected and accomplished agents, Kohan is perennially named one of entertainment’s most powerful people,” a statement from UTA read.  Kohan has been partner at UTA since 2004 and has represented Sarah Silverman, Jill Soloway, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Franco, Paul Rudd, Chelsea Handler and more.  “She is also a leading voice in the industry’s women empowerment movement,” the statement continued, “and involved in the recently-announced Time’s Up initiative as the new organization has developed its ambitious agen...