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Uber and Daimler Meet Up

Yesterday, Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche and Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick met on stage at Axel Springer NOAH. It was a two-day conference in Berlin that included venture capitalists and technology companies.

As Uber’s Kalanick said, “Cars are not going away soon and companies like Uber are not going to be making them.”

Zetsche said, “We are competitors, of course. There might be many areas where we are competitors in the future,” but then he added that they are also friends.

Uber’s private market valuation has recently soared for a number of reasons. They just announced a $3.5 billion investment by a Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund and they have partnered with automaker Toyota Motor Corp.

When asked if the two would like to create a partnership with Daimler considering a stake in Uber, they explained that this is not in the plans.

Uber just entered its 467th city in Accra, Ghana. When asked about profitability and going public, Kalanick said, “We are going to IPO as late as possible.”

Mocking Trump in Silicon Valley

It’s no surprise that Silicon Valley wouldn’t necessarily be on Donald Trump’s side. And that was proven, yet again, this week when Trump, in a Reuters interview, said that start-ups in technology that haven’t yet been profitable are part of a bubble in the tech industry. As Trump said, “I’m talking about companies that have never made any money, that have a bad concept and that are valued at billions of dollars, so here we go again.”

Certainly, tech watchers have been warning about this for quite a while – so Trump’s “news” wasn’t really news to them. Many took to Twitter to make fun of the presidential hopeful. As Marc Andreessen, a general partner at the prominent venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, mockingly said, “FINALLY someone calls it out.”

As Trump said in the interview, “You have a stock market that is very strange. You look at some of these tech stocks that are so, so weak as a concept and a company, and they’re selling for so much money. And I would have said can that ever happen again? I think that could happen again.”

Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneur and Stanford University fellow, told Reuters, “So far he has been saying dumb things but they seem to be getting dumber and dumber.

New Female Hires in Executive Roles

women-executiveThere have been some tremendous strides over the years in the move toward hiring women for top executive positions.  Gone are the days when being a woman was a disability in the rise to the top of the corporate ladder.  However, it seems that there is still a long way to go and some studies are actually attesting to quite the opposite trend, indicating that the growth of women in leadership roles is happening at a much slower rate.

Still on the positive side of things, we do see these new hires.  Natalie Ravitz – a former Chief of Staff at News Corp for Rupert Murdoch – was just appointed Senior VP of Communications at the NFL. Ravitz will be bringing “more political experience to the league office,” aiding the NFL in its PR challenges.

In addition, Erin Riley was recently hired by TBWA\Chiat\Day to be President of the firm’s LA office.  She comes from a prestigious role at Old Navy, where she was VP of Marketing and Brand Engagement, and, before that, VP of Global Marketing at Cole Haan.  Despite the fact that Riley therefore shows immense experience in the field and is thus extremely suited to the role, the firm itself has a goal of increasing the number of women in key roles by 20 percent before 2020.  As part of that endeavor, the Take the Lead project was released on International Women’s Day in March.  This project was a culmination of quotes from women which were read by over 100 male employees “in an effort to directly address the unique challenges female professionals face in the advertising industry.”

So there is movement – at least in some firms – toward an increased female presence in top roles in business.  There is still much work to be done, since just last year, CNNMoney analysis reported that “only 14.2% of the top five leadership positions at the companies in the S&P 500 are held by women.”  From 500 top US companies, only 24 are led by women.  Let’s just hope therefore, that Ravitz and Riley became the exception, not the rule.

Massive Merger Brought to its Knees

Halliburton C. and Baker Hughes Inc. have thrown in the towel for their $28 billion merger deal after opposition from US and European antitrust regulators. The agreement would have brought together the number 2 a nd 3 oil services companies, but it worried many that it would have resulted in higher prices in the sector. As Dave Lesar, chief executive of Halliburton said, “Challenges in obtaining remaining regulatory approvals and general industry conditions that severely damaged deal economics led to the conclusion that termination is the best course of action.”

Halliburton will now have to pay Baker Hughes a $3.5 billion breakup fee by Wednesday as a result of the end of the deal.

As U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement on Sunday, “The companies’ decision to abandon this transaction – which would have left many oilfield service markets in the hands of a duopoly – is a victory for the U.S. economy and for all Americans.”

Read more about the situation and the feelings on both sides with the full article here.


Prince Has Left Behind a Reign of Complications

Some of us lead complicated lives. And some of us leave behind complicated deaths. Prince has just done the later. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Prince did not leave behind a will with his recent untimely death.

But that is just the beginning of the issues. Estate tax attorneys have the job, at the moment, of placing a financial value on his name, image and likeness. The only similar situation with which they have to access is Michael Jackson, and his estate-tax battle will be in U.S. Tax Court this February. In Michael Jackson’s situation, for instance, the estate said his image and likeness were worth $2,105 when he died in 2009, while the IRS placed his worth at $434 million. That’s quite a difference.

As Jonathan Blattmachr, a Principal in the estate planning advisory group of Pioneer Wealth Partners, “This could be very ground-breaking.” As he explained, a victory for the IRS could mean that celebrities change how their estate plans handle their image rights.

Certainly, Michael Jackson’s case has tax planning consequences for any famous person who is famous enough to earn money beyond the grave. But, as Jonathan Blattmachr points out, there are no rules for the IRS or taxpayers to follow. He has made some interesting suggestions for these situations. He suggests exempting the value of names and likenesses from the estate tax but taxing future earning as regular income. As Jonathan Blattmachr said, “Michael Jackson will be different from Prince who will be different from Madonna. It’s horribly speculative as to what the value is.”

As the Wall Street Journal explained, the hardest issue won’t be his real estate, song royalties or unreleased recordings – but figuring out the cumulative value of his profit potential on the day he died.

Now what? Prince’s estate will have nine months to file its tax return and estimate his net worth. The IRS will have three years to challenge their predictions and numbers if they disagree with the assessment. And, of course, tax court is always an option.

SunEdison Not Looking at a Sunny Future

Solar energy giant SunEdison Inc. was growing by leaps and bounds until recently. Now, many of their projects are in danger and they are looking at bankruptcy. One of the solar plants now in jeopardy is one in central Texas. SunEdison was initially planning to self-finance the project, but will now need to make alternative funding arrangements.

While SunEdison won’t discuss its unfinished deals, company releases and news reports suggest that the company has many projects in development which range from massive power plants to smaller rooftop projects.

SunEdison was, until recently, the nation’s fastest growing renewable energy developer. They are now, however, $12 billion in debt. Their shares have fallen 98% in the last 12 months.

Learn more about the situation and what the future may bring for SunEdison.


New Appointments at Anchin Block & Anchin and Other Companies

A number of financial services companies have recently announced changes in their management. Companies such as Anchin Block & Anchin, Colliers International, Steinbridge Group and others have made recent announcements.

Anchin Block & Anchin has recently announced that they have appointed Jared Feldman to Co-Practice Leader of Anchin Private Client. This is a specialty group within the firm that works with affluent clients. He will be in charge of the Co-Practice with Udi Sadan.

Colliers International announced Harry Seherr-Thoss has rejoined their New York operations as their Executive Managing Director of Brokerage Services. They also announced that Samuel Hamlin has joined their New York operations as Associate Director in the Capital Markets & Investment Services Group.

The Steinbridge Group announced that the former Wall Street and NYCEDC executive Tawan Davis has joined their firm as their Chief Executive Officer. He will oversee their day-to-day operations.

Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40 List

awardFor the last few years, AdAge has been compiling a “40 Under 40 List.”  Making it to this list is a real badge of honor, since every honoree has “managed amazing achievements relatively early in their careers. They have shown not just talent, but perseverance, drive and creativity that bodes well for the future of the business.”

AdAge says that it looks for a whole slew of different talents, that comprise “paradigm breakers, smart thinkers and thought leaders who are really making a difference and who are tipped to climb company ladders…[AdAge seeks] to identify the people who are reshaping marketing and making important contributions to a company or business.”

Adam Roseman received the honor this year, making it to the list.  And he really felt that it was an honor.  The co-founder and CEO of FansTang (digital media company with a focus on China’s increasing demand for content from around the world, in Chinese) said he was “honored to be recognized by Advertising Age amongst all the other established, talented industry leaders…[and very] proud of what [his] business has achieved.”

Roseman went on to explain about FansTang’s strategy which is centered on using the firm’s broad “data analytics and production capabilities to create positive and localized international content consistent with Chinese culture and appealing to Chinese millennial consumers.”  This year, he said they will continue their focus on the production and curation of “high quality digital content, expanding [its] brand partnerships and further developing [its] exceptional international team.”

One of last year’s honorees – Spence Kramer – was just appointed CEO of J. Walter Thompson Atlanta. The umbrella organization – J. Walter Thompson is “the world’s best-known marketing communications brand.”  According to Stefano Zunino, JWT CEO of the Americas, Kramer has “contributed pioneering ideas like Walter, the start-up agency for start-ups; Pennzoil Mario Kart experience at the SXSW festival; and extended the agency’s humanitarian efforts with the Travis Manion Foundation.”

Everyone who finds a place on this list, has, as Deputy Editor of AdAge, Judann Pollack points out “one thing in common: they are smart young innovators who will be driving business for years to come.”

Businesses React to Obama’s Upcoming Trip to Cuba

With Obama’s upcoming visit to Havana, a number of companies are trying to complete deals with Cuba. This includes AT&T Inc, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., and Marriott International Inc.

This will be the first visit to Cuba by a US president in almost 90 years. AT&T is working to complete a mobile communications agreement with Cuba’s telecoms Etecas. Starwood says that it “has applied for authorization from the U.S. Treasury Department to operate hotels in Cuba. We see many opportunities for the expansion of our brands into Cuba at this inflection point, and look forward to building long-term relationships and welcoming travelers into our hotels in this dynamic market.”

The Marriott spokesman Thomas Marder said, “We are optimistic that we are going to get a green light soon from the U.S. government to have hotels under the Marriott flag in Cuba.”

Certainly, other companies are dabbling in the idea of doing business with Cuba, but many are still wary of the half-century old embargo and the Cuban government’s failure to enact economic reforms of any significance.

Obama has called for the lifting of the embargo but this can only be done through Congress, and the Republicans have said they will not be doing so.




Housing Prices Take a Beating

In January, new US single family home sales took a tumble from their 10 month high. This was particularly due to a dip in the West, although overall housing market recovery remains strong. The Commerce Department has reported that single-family home sales dropped 9.2% last month. In the West, where there has been a sharp rise in home prices, sales went down 32.1% to the lowest level since July of 2014. This was the largest decline they’ve seen since May of 2010.

In the Northeast, the sales rose 3.4% and sales were up 1.8% in the South. However, sales decreased 5.9% in the Midwest. While the plunge was dramatic, economists did not seem too worried about it.

As Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York said, “Through some of the noise in the data, it appears that home sales are continuing to trend higher over time off of historically low levels. We maintain our view that the housing market will continue to recover.”

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