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Category: topSource: bizjournalsJan 24th, 2023

Vowing to invest more in 2023? These apps make it easier for investors to enjoy the perks of real-estate investing for as little as $5

Buying properties right now is tough for reasons from higher rates to steeper asking prices. Companies offering "fractional ownership" allow almost anyone to become a real-estate investor. The three founders of Ember, from left to right Jeff Lyman, Kurt Avarell, and James Sukhan.Ember A trend of "fractional ownership" allows almost anyone to purchase or invest in real estate. Via these 11 startups, buyers can invest in shares of an income-producing property or a second home. Don't call it a timeshare. Owners keep the gains in the property's value when they sell. A trend in real estate is making second-home and investment-property ownership more affordable: fractional or co-ownership.In short, homebuyers can purchase a share of a property instead of the entire thing.The main audience for fractional ownership is anyone interested in a property that's not their primary residence — whether it's a vacation home or an investment property. Buyers have the ability to purchase a share of a vacation home and enjoy the property as much as their respective percentage allows or buy a portion of a property and earn passive income when it's rented out to tenants."For a lot of people in this country, it's kind of tied into the American dream of owning property and owning a piece of the city you're in," said Ryan Frazier, the CEO of the real-estate-investing platform Arrived Homes.Arrived is one of several companies working to lower the barrier to entry for second-home purchasing and investing.Real estate is frequently seen by finance experts as a safe and profitable investment, but as it has become increasingly difficult to buy a home, co-ownership lets buyers reap the benefits at a fraction of the cost.Two types of ownership — vacation and single-family rentals — have doubters. Vacation rentals, especially those listed on Airbnb, have received pushback for reasons from noise to an increase in home prices. And some locals have butted heads with co-ownership companies, like Pacaso, citing displeasure with what they believe are timeshares with a fancy new name.Fractional ownership for second homes differs from a timeshare because while both allow buyers to use a property for a given amount of time each year, buyers of shares under fractional-ownership companies are able to keep the gains in the property's value.Here is a list of 11 fractional-ownership companies that offer the ability to own small portions of properties, presented in alphabetical order.AncanaThis Mexico City-based company sells shares of luxury homes and apartments throughout the country, with destinations including Los Cabos, San Miguel De Allende, Acapulco, and more."What we are doing is giving people access to a much more affordable vacation home," Andres Barrios, a cofounder of Ancana, told Forbes Mexico in February.Shares of the 22 residences listed on Ancana's site begin at $83,998 for one-twelfth ownership and four weeks of use annually of a five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bathroom house overlooking Lake Chapala in Chapala.The offerings top out at $470,246 for a one-eighth ownership stake and six weeks of annual use of a six-bedroom, six-bathroom house with a thatched roof and infinity pool overlooking the ocean in Puerto Escondido, also on Mexico's Pacific coast.Residences come fully furnished, and Ancana handles the maintenance and cleaning between owners' stays. Ancana's booking app allows users to book from two days to two years in advance. When owners sell their fractions, they keep the gains in the property's value.Arrived HomesRyan Frazier is the CEO and a cofounder of Arrived Homes.Arrived HomesThis Seattle real-estate investment company offers shares of rental homes with a very low barrier to entry. A trend in the American housing market that's surfaced since the 2008 financial crisis is that corporations have taken to buying up single-family homes to rent them out. Arrived gives investors the ability to become a landlord — or, perhaps more accurately, a colandlord — without having to buy an entire house.Arrived offers the ability to buy shares with as little as $100, according to the company's website. The average investment is closer to $2,300, Frazier told Insider in November. Founded in 2019, Arrived sets itself apart from its co-ownership foes by working with the Securities and Exchange Commission to become qualified, meaning nonaccredited customers can invest in individual shares.The company has over 200 homes set up in more than 17 cities all over the US, including Nashville, Tennessee; Denver; and Charlotte, North Carolina, but it has plans to expand to 40 cities over the next year, Frazier said.According to Arrived's website, its investors have funded 203 properties with more than $75 million and it has raised $162 million in total as a company, according to Crunchbase.Investors can invest as little as $100 into a property all the way up to the cost of 9.8% of the shares available that particular property. Returns vary depending on the property, but Frazier said it's structured to mimic returns of a more traditional real-estate investment. Investors receive their returns via quarterly dividends.But getting into a fractional piece of a property on the platform may be difficult because homes are sold out."As soon as we got qualified, we pretty quickly sold out our initial homes," Frazier said. "They were selling out in less than 24 hours."In September, Arrived ventured into the vacation rental market and now offers vacation rentals on its platform.EmberThe three founders of Ember, from left to right Jeff Lyman, Kurt Avarell, and James SukhanEmberFounded last year in Salt Lake City, Ember gives buyers the ability to purchase a share of a vacation home and split time there with other shareholders. One-eighth of a share guarantees you 45 nights and one holiday weekend, while one-half of a share will grant you 180 nights.Floor prices to buy a share of an available home start at $103,782 and go as high as $679,045, but the website also shows "potential buys." Homes in that category range from under $300,000 to over $1.3 million a share.Ember is West Coast-focused, with vacation homes in Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas.As of February, Ember operated 12 homes in 10 vacation destinations, from Palm Springs, California, to Galveston, Texas. Ember declined to disclose how many properties it had control over for this list.Earlier this year, the company announced a $17.4 million Series A funding round led by the billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel.FintorFarshad Yousefi and Masoud Jalali, Fintor's cofounders.Courtesy of FintorLos Angeles-based Fintor's mission is to democratize access to real estate by providing buyers, particularly millennials and Gen Zers, with property-investment opportunities in up-and-coming American cities.The app is the brainchild of Farshad Yousefi and Masoud Jalali, who wanted to confront the challenge of investing in real estate when saddled with other financial obligations, like student debt."Fintor can give the same return as the stock market, but at half the risk," Yousefi told TechCrunch in April 2021. "As two [Iranian] immigrants, we've seen how much this country has to offer and how real estate sits at the top of everything, yet is so inaccessible."Investors in Fintor properties get a monthly dividend from properties, whose rents generally range from $1,500 to $3,000, and receive payouts through share-price appreciation and net proceeds when a property is sold.The buy-in with Fintor can be small — as low as $5 — because the company splits homes into 10,000 shares or more. The idea is to allow users to invest across markets, some which may perform better than others, rather than forcing them to invest a large sum in a single asset (à la traditional real-estate investments).The brand focuses on homes in places like Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina; and Huntsville, Alabama, priced between $100,000 and $380,000. The company is projecting $400 million in revenue in the next five years, according to a pitch deck provided by the company.FractionalStella Han and Carlos Treviño, Fractional's cofounders.Courtesy of FractionalFractional lowers the financial threshold for real-estate investing by facilitating the purchase of investment properties throughout the country.The minimum buy-in is $5,000.The San Francisco company and Y Combinator alumni (Fractional was part of the startup accelerator's winter 2021 class) hope to open up real estate as an asset class to a broader swath of the public.It raised $5.5 million for a total valuation of $30 million in November 2021, according to TechCrunch, wooing investors including Will Smith and Kevin Durant.TechCrunch also reported that over 400 users had tried Fractional's beta version with investments spread across 95 properties. That number has since ballooned to 305 properties totaling over $48 million in assets managed by the brand.Here's how it works: Users create investment-property proposals that are either private, allowing friends or family members to go in on a property, or public, allowing the broader Fractional customer base to buy in. Once proposals get enough investment from users, Fractional handles offering, purchasing, and closing on the home via an LLC. The platform empowers users to purchase properties of their own choosing, which means return on investment varies.After closing, Fractional offers the service of finding tenants for the property through its property-management partners.HereCorey Ashton Walters, founder and CEO of Here.HereWhile Here is a relative newcomer to the world of fractional vacation ownership, it's been in development for years, according to the founder and CEO Corey Ashton Walters.The Miami-based company that launched in February 2022 offers shares of vacation homes starting at $1 a share — with a minimum stake of 100 shares per home. The average investment is $584, according to the company.Users can buy shares up to 19.9% of a property, which is held under an LLC, and generate passive income while Here handles responsibilities related to the upkeep of a vacation home.The company has so far stuck to just a few locations — like Big Bear, California; Clearwater, Florida; and Gatlinburg, Tennessee — where smaller investors would have a hard time accessing properties on their own, according to Walters."The average person really struggles to get access to the top-performing properties in this asset class," Walters told Insider. "Here democratizes access to the coolest places and the coolest locations on planet Earth."Walters is banking on a booming travel market and a $5 million of fresh funding to boost Here's fortunes.KocomoFeaturing destinations both stateside and abroad, Kocomo bills itself as a hassle-free way to own a slice of your own vacation home. Available properties start at $98,701 for a share of a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Mexico City's La Condesa neighborhood and go up to $732,191 for a share of a four-bedroom bayfront home on Miami's Davis Harbor.All shares grant purchasers six weeks of use, and owning more shares grants more use. Kocomo has shares available in destinations including Southern California; Vail, Colorado; South Florida; and Mexico. Kocomo courts a more luxury-focused clientele. The platform expanded into South Florida in March and features homes in Miami and Fort Lauderdale."More and more tech founders and executives are visiting the state for both work and pleasure — and we cater perfectly to this demographic," Kocomo CEO Martin Schrimpff said in a March statement.Kocomo emphasizes user choice at its properties, noting that share owners are free to do as they wish with their weeks, including allowing friends and family to take the stay, swapping weeks for time at a different Kocomo property, or renting the property out.Lifestyle Asset GroupKarla Jones, a senior partner and cofounder at Lifestyle Asset Group.Karla JonesBased in Fort Collins, Colorado, Lifestyle Asset Group has coordinated co-ownership of luxury vacation properties since 2013. Destinations it covers range from downtown Manhattan to the Florida Keys, as well as international locations like the Caribbean and Mexico.Not surprisingly, shares in these homes often come with a hefty price tag, along with annual fees. For example, a fifth of a share of a five-bedroom home on Seabrook Island in South Carolina will cost you $342,000 with an annual fee of $17,000.The annual fees cover costs like property taxes, insurance, and utilities, but also include reciprocity access to sister LLCs managed by Lifestyle Asset Group — meaning you can exchange the allotted weeks at your home for another home.Lifestyle Asset Group requires an exit strategy for co-owners — usually around eight years after their initial purchase. The LLC the company established to purchase the property sells it and returns your initial investment along with any appreciation gained."We created a whole new approach that involves an exclusive group of owners who collectively acquire a vacation residence of immense quality and originality, all with a credible way to get a positive return on your investment," co-founder Karla Jones told Forbes in March 2019.LoftyLofty cofounders Jerry Chu, left, and Max Ball, right.LoftyLofty, a blockchain-based fractional ownership company with a minimum buy-in of $50, is targeted to tech-savvy Gen Zers and millennials. The platform, which launched in 2021, has raised $5 million from investors including Y Combinator, Y Combinator alumni group Rebel Fund, and venture capital firm TRAC.Founded by Jerry Chu and Max Ball, the company divides every rental property into tokens on the Algorand blockchain that investors can then purchase. The company's website lays out the data underlying each deal, such as how many tokens a property was broken into and how many tokens are unpurchased, the projected rate of return each year, and the lease terms and rates of tenants in the property.The company's 131 tokenized properties are predominantly in the Midwest, with a heavy presence in locales like Akron, Ohio, and Chicago, Illinois. They're modest, with the median purchase price of homes on the site at $150,000 and the median purchase amount for first-time users hovering around $500. Current users have a median value of about $6,000 in their Lofty portfolios, the company said.Lofty has lured over 5,000 investors spread across nearly 100 countries and has cleared $27 million in transactions, according to the company. Purchasing the tokens is easier than it sounds: Investors don't need to have an Algo crypto wallet (which is tied to the Algorand blockchain). Lofty launched a "custodial" wallet that allows users unfamiliar with cryptocurrencies to invest on their platform. Lofty properties are maintained by property managers brought on by the brand.PacasoSpencer Rascoff and Austin Allison, Pacaso's cofounders.PacasoPacaso, a vacation-home-co-ownership startup founded by two Zillow alumni, says it's the fastest ever to achieve unicorn status.After launching in October 2020, it reached unicorn status, or a $1 billion valuation, in March 2021. The San Francisco company said it had raised $125 million and was worth $1.5 billion.It works like this: The company purchases a home through an LLC in one of many cities, like Charleston, South Carolina; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Miami. It then lets customers buy one-eighth to half of a share of the property.Last year, Pacaso sold nearly 400 "units," or shares, according to a February press release.After closing, Pacaso acts as a management company that furnishes the homes, handles repairs and utilities, and facilitates scheduling for owner stays.Prices range from the mid-$200,000s to over $3 million a share for properties in over 35 destinations spanning the US, as well as Mexico, Spain, and the UK.Pacaso also made Insider's list of hottest proptech startups in 2022.Pacaso differs from a traditional timeshare because instead of purchasing the right to use a home, you own it."Pacaso is institutionalizing, or commercializing, that process to eliminate the stress, hassle, and problems," its CEO and founder, Austin Allison, told Insider in 2021, when the company hit its $1 billion valuation. "We believe we will surpass the old category of second-home ownership."RhoveRhove founder Calvin Cooper.RhoveThis app-based platform opens up real-estate investing opportunities from $1.Rhove currently only has two properties that users can invest in: a four-unit rental building in Columbus, Ohio, and a 27-residence senior living community in Silvis, Illinois. But it is in the midst of expanding its offerings nationally and internationally with what it claims is about $1 billion in properties in the pipeline.Investors in Rhove properties can earn a return on their investment that is paid directly into their Rhove accounts. If the value of the building grows, so does the value of the shares. Rhove users can buy or sell shares at any time.Rhove was founded in 2020 by Calvin Cooper, a former venture capital investor in fintech and proptech. In a seed round, Rhove has raised an undisclosed sum from Drive Capital, real estate developers Brett Kaufman of Kaufman Development and Dave Marcinowski of Madera Residential, among others.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 29th, 2022

Vowing to invest more in 2023? These apps make it easier for investors to enjoy the perks of real-estate investing without as much capital.

Buying properties right now is tough for reasons from higher rates to steeper asking prices. Companies offering "fractional ownership" allow almost anyone to become a real-estate investor. The three founders of Ember, from left to right Jeff Lyman, Kurt Avarell, and James Sukhan.Ember A trend of "fractional ownership" allows almost anyone to purchase or invest in real estate. Via these 11 startups, buyers can invest in shares of an income-producing property or a second home. Don't call it a timeshare. Owners keep the gains in the property's value when they sell. A trend in real estate is making second-home and investment-property ownership more affordable: fractional or co-ownership.In short, homebuyers can purchase a share of a property instead of the entire thing.The main audience for fractional ownership is anyone interested in a property that's not their primary residence — whether it's a vacation home or an investment property. Buyers have the ability to purchase a share of a vacation home and enjoy the property as much as their respective percentage allows or buy a portion of a property and earn passive income when it's rented out to tenants."For a lot of people in this country, it's kind of tied into the American dream of owning property and owning a piece of the city you're in," said Ryan Frazier, the CEO of the real-estate-investing platform Arrived Homes.Arrived is one of several companies working to lower the barrier to entry for second-home purchasing and investing.Real estate is frequently seen by finance experts as a safe and profitable investment, but as it has become increasingly difficult to buy a home, co-ownership lets buyers reap the benefits at a fraction of the cost.Two types of ownership — vacation and single-family rentals — have doubters. Vacation rentals, especially those listed on Airbnb, have received pushback for reasons from noise to an increase in home prices. And some locals have butted heads with co-ownership companies, like Pacaso, citing displeasure with what they believe are timeshares with a fancy new name.Fractional ownership for second homes differs from a timeshare because while both allow buyers to use a property for a given amount of time each year, buyers of shares under fractional-ownership companies are able to keep the gains in the property's value.Here is a list of 11 fractional-ownership companies that offer the ability to own small portions of properties, presented in alphabetical order.AncanaThis Mexico City-based company sells shares of luxury homes and apartments throughout the country, with destinations including Los Cabos, San Miguel De Allende, Acapulco, and more."What we are doing is giving people access to a much more affordable vacation home," Andres Barrios, a cofounder of Ancana, told Forbes Mexico in February.Shares of the 22 residences listed on Ancana's site begin at $83,998 for one-twelfth ownership and four weeks of use annually of a five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bathroom house overlooking Lake Chapala in Chapala.The offerings top out at $470,246 for a one-eighth ownership stake and six weeks of annual use of a six-bedroom, six-bathroom house with a thatched roof and infinity pool overlooking the ocean in Puerto Escondido, also on Mexico's Pacific coast.Residences come fully furnished, and Ancana handles the maintenance and cleaning between owners' stays. Ancana's booking app allows users to book from two days to two years in advance. When owners sell their fractions, they keep the gains in the property's value.Arrived HomesRyan Frazier is the CEO and a cofounder of Arrived Homes.Arrived HomesThis Seattle real-estate investment company offers shares of rental homes with a very low barrier to entry. A trend in the American housing market that's surfaced since the 2008 financial crisis is that corporations have taken to buying up single-family homes to rent them out. Arrived gives investors the ability to become a landlord — or, perhaps more accurately, a colandlord — without having to buy an entire house.Arrived offers the ability to buy shares with as little as $100, according to the company's website. The average investment is closer to $2,300, Frazier told Insider in November. Founded in 2019, Arrived sets itself apart from its co-ownership foes by working with the Securities and Exchange Commission to become qualified, meaning nonaccredited customers can invest in individual shares.The company has over 200 homes set up in more than 17 cities all over the US, including Nashville, Tennessee; Denver; and Charlotte, North Carolina, but it has plans to expand to 40 cities over the next year, Frazier said.According to Arrived's website, its investors have funded 203 properties with more than $75 million and it has raised $162 million in total as a company, according to Crunchbase.Investors can invest as little as $100 into a property all the way up to the cost of 9.8% of the shares available that particular property. Returns vary depending on the property, but Frazier said it's structured to mimic returns of a more traditional real-estate investment. Investors receive their returns via quarterly dividends.But getting into a fractional piece of a property on the platform may be difficult because homes are sold out."As soon as we got qualified, we pretty quickly sold out our initial homes," Frazier said. "They were selling out in less than 24 hours."In September, Arrived ventured into the vacation rental market and now offers vacation rentals on its platform.EmberThe three founders of Ember, from left to right Jeff Lyman, Kurt Avarell, and James SukhanEmberFounded last year in Salt Lake City, Ember gives buyers the ability to purchase a share of a vacation home and split time there with other shareholders. One-eighth of a share guarantees you 45 nights and one holiday weekend, while one-half of a share will grant you 180 nights.Floor prices to buy a share of an available home start at $103,782 and go as high as $679,045, but the website also shows "potential buys." Homes in that category range from under $300,000 to over $1.3 million a share.Ember is West Coast-focused, with vacation homes in Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas.As of February, Ember operated 12 homes in 10 vacation destinations, from Palm Springs, California, to Galveston, Texas. Ember declined to disclose how many properties it had control over for this list.Earlier this year, the company announced a $17.4 million Series A funding round led by the billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel.FintorFarshad Yousefi and Masoud Jalali, Fintor's cofounders.Courtesy of FintorLos Angeles-based Fintor's mission is to democratize access to real estate by providing buyers, particularly millennials and Gen Zers, with property-investment opportunities in up-and-coming American cities.The app is the brainchild of Farshad Yousefi and Masoud Jalali, who wanted to confront the challenge of investing in real estate when saddled with other financial obligations, like student debt."Fintor can give the same return as the stock market, but at half the risk," Yousefi told TechCrunch in April 2021. "As two [Iranian] immigrants, we've seen how much this country has to offer and how real estate sits at the top of everything, yet is so inaccessible."Investors in Fintor properties get a monthly dividend from properties, whose rents generally range from $1,500 to $3,000, and receive payouts through share-price appreciation and net proceeds when a property is sold.The buy-in with Fintor can be small — as low as $5 — because the company splits homes into 10,000 shares or more. The idea is to allow users to invest across markets, some which may perform better than others, rather than forcing them to invest a large sum in a single asset (à la traditional real-estate investments).The brand focuses on homes in places like Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina; and Huntsville, Alabama, priced between $100,000 and $380,000. The company is projecting $400 million in revenue in the next five years, according to a pitch deck provided by the company.FractionalStella Han and Carlos Treviño, Fractional's cofounders.Courtesy of FractionalFractional lowers the financial threshold for real-estate investing by facilitating the purchase of investment properties throughout the country.The minimum buy-in is $5,000.The San Francisco company and Y Combinator alumni (Fractional was part of the startup accelerator's winter 2021 class) hope to open up real estate as an asset class to a broader swath of the public.It raised $5.5 million for a total valuation of $30 million in November 2021, according to TechCrunch, wooing investors including Will Smith and Kevin Durant.TechCrunch also reported that over 400 users had tried Fractional's beta version with investments spread across 95 properties. That number has since ballooned to 305 properties totaling over $48 million in assets managed by the brand.Here's how it works: Users create investment-property proposals that are either private, allowing friends or family members to go in on a property, or public, allowing the broader Fractional customer base to buy in. Once proposals get enough investment from users, Fractional handles offering, purchasing, and closing on the home via an LLC. The platform empowers users to purchase properties of their own choosing, which means return on investment varies.After closing, Fractional offers the service of finding tenants for the property through its property-management partners.HereCorey Ashton Walters, founder and CEO of Here.HereWhile Here is a relative newcomer to the world of fractional vacation ownership, it's been in development for years, according to the founder and CEO Corey Ashton Walters.The Miami-based company that launched in February 2022 offers shares of vacation homes starting at $1 a share — with a minimum stake of 100 shares per home. The average investment is $584, according to the company.Users can buy shares up to 19.9% of a property, which is held under an LLC, and generate passive income while Here handles responsibilities related to the upkeep of a vacation home.The company has so far stuck to just a few locations — like Big Bear, California; Clearwater, Florida; and Gatlinburg, Tennessee — where smaller investors would have a hard time accessing properties on their own, according to Walters."The average person really struggles to get access to the top-performing properties in this asset class," Walters told Insider. "Here democratizes access to the coolest places and the coolest locations on planet Earth."Walters is banking on a booming travel market and a $5 million of fresh funding to boost Here's fortunes.KocomoFeaturing destinations both stateside and abroad, Kocomo bills itself as a hassle-free way to own a slice of your own vacation home. Available properties start at $98,701 for a share of a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Mexico City's La Condesa neighborhood and go up to $732,191 for a share of a four-bedroom bayfront home on Miami's Davis Harbor.All shares grant purchasers six weeks of use, and owning more shares grants more use. Kocomo has shares available in destinations including Southern California; Vail, Colorado; South Florida; and Mexico. Kocomo courts a more luxury-focused clientele. The platform expanded into South Florida in March and features homes in Miami and Fort Lauderdale."More and more tech founders and executives are visiting the state for both work and pleasure — and we cater perfectly to this demographic," Kocomo CEO Martin Schrimpff said in a March statement.Kocomo emphasizes user choice at its properties, noting that share owners are free to do as they wish with their weeks, including allowing friends and family to take the stay, swapping weeks for time at a different Kocomo property, or renting the property out.Lifestyle Asset GroupKarla Jones, a senior partner and cofounder at Lifestyle Asset Group.Karla JonesBased in Fort Collins, Colorado, Lifestyle Asset Group has coordinated co-ownership of luxury vacation properties since 2013. Destinations it covers range from downtown Manhattan to the Florida Keys, as well as international locations like the Caribbean and Mexico.Not surprisingly, shares in these homes often come with a hefty price tag, along with annual fees. For example, a fifth of a share of a five-bedroom home on Seabrook Island in South Carolina will cost you $342,000 with an annual fee of $17,000.The annual fees cover costs like property taxes, insurance, and utilities, but also include reciprocity access to sister LLCs managed by Lifestyle Asset Group — meaning you can exchange the allotted weeks at your home for another home.Lifestyle Asset Group requires an exit strategy for co-owners — usually around eight years after their initial purchase. The LLC the company established to purchase the property sells it and returns your initial investment along with any appreciation gained."We created a whole new approach that involves an exclusive group of owners who collectively acquire a vacation residence of immense quality and originality, all with a credible way to get a positive return on your investment," co-founder Karla Jones told Forbes in March 2019.LoftyLofty cofounders Jerry Chu, left, and Max Ball, right.LoftyLofty, a blockchain-based fractional ownership company with a minimum buy-in of $50, is targeted to tech-savvy Gen Zers and millennials. The platform, which launched in 2021, has raised $5 million from investors including Y Combinator, Y Combinator alumni group Rebel Fund, and venture capital firm TRAC.Founded by Jerry Chu and Max Ball, the company divides every rental property into tokens on the Algorand blockchain that investors can then purchase. The company's website lays out the data underlying each deal, such as how many tokens a property was broken into and how many tokens are unpurchased, the projected rate of return each year, and the lease terms and rates of tenants in the property.The company's 131 tokenized properties are predominantly in the Midwest, with a heavy presence in locales like Akron, Ohio, and Chicago, Illinois. They're modest, with the median purchase price of homes on the site at $150,000 and the median purchase amount for first-time users hovering around $500. Current users have a median value of about $6,000 in their Lofty portfolios, the company said.Lofty has lured over 5,000 investors spread across nearly 100 countries and has cleared $27 million in transactions, according to the company. Purchasing the tokens is easier than it sounds: Investors don't need to have an Algo crypto wallet (which is tied to the Algorand blockchain). Lofty launched a "custodial" wallet that allows users unfamiliar with cryptocurrencies to invest on their platform. Lofty properties are maintained by property managers brought on by the brand.PacasoSpencer Rascoff and Austin Allison, Pacaso's cofounders.PacasoPacaso, a vacation-home-co-ownership startup founded by two Zillow alumni, says it's the fastest ever to achieve unicorn status.After launching in October 2020, it reached unicorn status, or a $1 billion valuation, in March 2021. The San Francisco company said it had raised $125 million and was worth $1.5 billion.It works like this: The company purchases a home through an LLC in one of many cities, like Charleston, South Carolina; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Miami. It then lets customers buy one-eighth to half of a share of the property.Last year, Pacaso sold nearly 400 "units," or shares, according to a February press release.After closing, Pacaso acts as a management company that furnishes the homes, handles repairs and utilities, and facilitates scheduling for owner stays.Prices range from the mid-$200,000s to over $3 million a share for properties in over 35 destinations spanning the US, as well as Mexico, Spain, and the UK.Pacaso also made Insider's list of hottest proptech startups in 2022.Pacaso differs from a traditional timeshare because instead of purchasing the right to use a home, you own it."Pacaso is institutionalizing, or commercializing, that process to eliminate the stress, hassle, and problems," its CEO and founder, Austin Allison, told Insider in 2021, when the company hit its $1 billion valuation. "We believe we will surpass the old category of second-home ownership."RhoveRhove founder Calvin Cooper.RhoveThis app-based platform opens up real-estate investing opportunities from $1.Rhove currently only has two properties that users can invest in: a four-unit rental building in Columbus, Ohio, and a 27-residence senior living community in Silvis, Illinois. But it is in the midst of expanding its offerings nationally and internationally with what it claims is about $1 billion in properties in the pipeline.Investors in Rhove properties can earn a return on their investment that is paid directly into their Rhove accounts. If the value of the building grows, so does the value of the shares. Rhove users can buy or sell shares at any time.Rhove was founded in 2020 by Calvin Cooper, a former venture capital investor in fintech and proptech. In a seed round, Rhove has raised an undisclosed sum from Drive Capital, real estate developers Brett Kaufman of Kaufman Development and Dave Marcinowski of Madera Residential, among others.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 29th, 2022

Stockman: Twitter Implicitly Became The Ministry Of Truth

Stockman: Twitter Implicitly Became The Ministry Of Truth Authored by Contra Corner's David Stockman via The Brownstone Institute, New material Musk released over the weekend confirms the very worst. The banal boys and girls previously ensconced in Twitter’s top echelons were not only having a jolly time attempting to steer the nation’s news narrative; these executives were actually meeting weekly with FBI, Homeland Security and national intelligence officials to discuss “disinformation” they wanted removed from the site, including the notorious suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story. That’s just one step removed from a state-run Ministry of Truth and is perhaps even more insidious. That’s because it didn’t even involve unwanted and unconstitutional coercion. Instead, the executives of this private enterprise were voluntarily neglecting their day jobs (maximizing corporate profits and shareholder value) in order to spend a huge amount of corporate time and resources propagating official narratives and suppressing dissenting views. It was as if the Washington powers-that-be had nationalized a multi-billion company, drafting it to propagandize on behalf of their own political and policy agenda and continued tenure in power. So the question recurs as to why Jack Dorsey, Parag Agrawal, Vijaya Gadde, Yoel Roth and countless more top executives were not attending to corporate “biness”, but instead were ostentatiously moonlighting on behalf of an extra-curricular agenda that had absolutely nothing to do with making money at Twitter. The answer is actually no mystery. The Twitter Files published so far by the trio of intrepid journalists given access to the company’s internal files—Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss and Michael Shellenberger—provide a screaming case of the dog which didn’t bark. Not once do any of these executives predicate their “content moderation” and thought control actions on the need to mollify advertisers and thereby protect corporate revenues and profits. Not once! Actually, of course, the risk of losing advertising revenue would be a valid free market reason for “de-amplifying” content that caused revenue sources to wither. But no one averred that the NY Post’s dropping the dime on Hunter Biden would send GM or Proctor & Gamble advertising dollars packing or even that the user eyeballs on which those dollars depended would suddenly blink-shut owing to the horror of it. Indeed, the eyes of the company’s collective leadership were so far off the eight-ball of profit maximization that they had seemingly endless time for the pursuit of all manner of foolishness and trivia on Twitter’s network. For instance, former Governor Huckabee’s obviously facetious tweet about fraudulent voting got the attention of the entire upper echelon: Stood in the rain for hour to early vote today. When I got home I filled my stack of mail-in ballots and then voted the ballots of my deceased parents and grandparents. They vote just like me! #Trump2020,” Huckabee tweeted on Oct. 24, 2020. The blatant attempt at humor here should have escaped no one’s attention with an IQ above 80. But as Matt Taibbi revealed, the bigwigs using the Slack channel titled “us2020_xfn_enforcement” actually hosted a lively debate about whether Huckabee’s tweet should be removed. “Hello putting this tweet on everyone’s radar. This appears to be a joke but other people might believe it. Can I get your weigh in this?,” a Twitter employee wrote, linking to Huckabee’s tweet. Twitter’s former Head of Trust & Safety, Yoel Roth, said in the Slack channel that while he agrees “it’s a joke,” Huckabee is “also literally admitting in a tweet to a crime.” “Yeah. I could see us taking action under ‘misleading claims that cause confusion about the established laws, regulations, procedures, and methods of a civic process’ but it’s not one that we could really label in a useful way, so it’s removal (of a stupid and ill-advised joke) or nothing. I’m maybe inclined not to remove without a report from voting authorities given it’s been a while since he tweeted it and virtually all of the replies I’m seeing are critical/counterspeech,” Roth said. There are countless other examples in the Twitter Files of what amounts to trivia and pure partisan sniping garnering top corporate attention. In one tweet, Donald Trump referenced a mail-in voting problem in Ohio that was found to be true. Nevertheless, Twitter executives were praised for their speed to impose “visibility filters” so the tweet could not be “replied to, shared, or liked,” and the staff received a censorship “attaboy”: “VERY WELL DONE ON SPEED.” Still, that was Donald Trump the sitting president—so presumably he was worthy of top level censorship. But what about one John Basham, a former Tippecanoe County, Indiana, Councilor? The latter had apparently caught the attention of the FBI, which sent a report to Twitter for action owing to the fact that Basham claimed, “Between 2% and 25% of Ballots by Mail are Being Rejected for Errors.”… Let’s see. Does the opinion of an ex-official from a place that no one has heard about since the election of 1840 (“Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too”), implicitly claiming that the mail-in error problem was either huge (25%) or relatively trivial (2%), really matter when it comes to running a global corporation, or even a government-contracted censoring operation for that matter? That is to say, these kids and half-baked partisan ideologues were in so far over their heads that it was only a matter of time before the whole enterprise ran aground. Indeed, they had formulated so many rules for content moderation and such complex multi-stage forms of penalty, including parental-style “timeouts”, that much of the internal debate revealed in the Twitter Files amounted to arguments about the application of sheer stupidity. This was more than evident in the case of Twitter’s seven suspensions of the “LIBs of Tik Tok” (LTT) account. This Twitter account was launched by one Chaya Raichi in November 2020 and now boasts over 1.4 million followers. Each time, Raichik was blocked from posting for as long as a week. Yet what was the offense? The committee justified her suspensions internally by claiming her posts encouraged online harassment of “hospitals and medical providers” by insinuating “that gender-affirming healthcare is equivalent to child abuse or grooming.” Actually, that’s a red hot matter of judgement and opinion that can be argued either way—the exact kind of thing that is supposed to be debated in the town square. But either way, the Twitter claim that the LTT viewpoint on the matter amounted to “hate speech” reveals just how far off the deep-end these wokish juveniles had descended. Still, what matters here is the wording of the Site Policy Recommendation: It’s all about school playground style punishments, and nothing at all about the needs of the business or viewpoint of advertisers. Meanwhile, what was happening back at the ranch in 2020-2021 when the Twitter HQ was being transformed into the Village of the Damned? Well, on the one-hand the company’s stock price was coming up roses. After hitting the skids in 2015-2016, the Twitter’s market cap had risen from $12.5 billion in the fall of 2017 to $27 billion by the fall of 2019 to a peak of $54 billion in July 2021. In short, given a quadrupling of the company’s stock price in just four years and the resultant massive gains in the value of executive stock options, the top echelon apparently felt free to become moonlighting volunteers for the Deep State. That is, doing well they faced no penalty for doing good at the shareholders’ expense. And we do mean shareholders’ expense. During its 2020 and 2021 fiscal years combined, which encompassed the peak period of the C-suite insanity chronicled by the Twitter Files, the company did harvest $8.8 billion of revenue from the Lockdown-world’s acceleration of the advertising migration from legacy to digital venues. Moreover, collecting those sums only required $3.2 billion in cost of goods sold, resulting in sterling gross profits at $5.6 billion and 64% of sales. In turn, that should have resulted in a shareholder bonanza on the bottom line. Except it didn’t. In fact, the company’s moonlighting management spent far more than that—$6.1 billion—on R&D, sales and marketing, general overhead and other top-side expenses. That is to say, Twitter’s putative business model went bust, with cumulative operating losses of nearly one-half billion dollars during the two year period. Likewise, its bonafides as a cash-burning machine were reinforced. During 2020-2021 it generated $1.6 billion of cash from operations, but spent nearly $1.9 billion on CapEx. Accordingly, Twitter’s operating free cash flow came in at -$260 million. In short, when the company reached a peak valuation of $54 billion in July 2021 it was bleeding red ink and burning cash. It essentially had an infinite valuation multiple, which absurd valuation, in turn, amounted to a flashing green light for rampant moonlighting by not only its top management, but nearly the entirety of its the 7,500 work force. In that regard we have been waiting for our Twitter screen to go dark ever since Elon Musk fired the employment rooster back to at least its December 2017 level (3,372). But, alas, the tweets just keep on coming, even as expenses have been pared back to the levels extant when Twitter was valued at the aforementioned 25% of its eventual peak. The Twitter story is not a one-off case, nor is it evidence that Wall Street and the homegamers alike are comprised of greedy fools who will fall for anything. To the contrary, the destructive outbreak of corporate moonlighting in behalf of woke ideology and partisan causes was born, bred and matriculated by the money-printers at the Fed.  At the end of the day, it is bad money that leads to bad, value-destroying behavior in the C-suites—just one more instance of the “malinvestment” which is the inherent result of monetary inflation. In this context, the unjustified bubble in the Twitter stock is actually small potatoes compared to the giants of Silicon Valley—all of which have been infected with the same bad money based descent into political moonlighting. As it happened, the stock of the FANGMAN (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and NVIDIA) got enormously bloated by the Fed’s rampant money-printing during the last decade. Thus, in 2013 these seven tech giants were collectively valued at $1.19 trillion, which figure represented 15.9X their combined net income of $75 billion. Arguably, that PE multiple was reasonable and appropriate given the fact that most of these companies were growing rapidly but were also benefiting from a one-time headwinds. These included— the shift of advertising from legacy to digital media; the migration of merchandise sales from bricks and mortar stores to e-Commerce; the shift of computer technology from standalone boxes and their packaged software to the cloud; and the full adoption of smart-phone technology by the mass public. These one-time tailwinds did result in a 20% per annum earnings growth for the seven FANGMEN during the 2013-2021 period. But the flood of Fed liquidity during the same period caused the PE multiple to more than double to 34X based on the view that the Fed would never let the market decline; and also that the rock-bottom interest rates would remain in place indefinitely, resulting in the baleful reign of TINA (there is no investment alternative to stocks). Accordingly, the market cap of the seven companies soared to $11.5 trillion by the fall of 2021, representing a 33% per year gain. In turn, this meant not only that market caps had grown 1.5X faster than unsustainable one-time earnings gains, but that C-suites throughout Silicon Valley had no trouble taking their eye off the profits maximization ball in order to pursue political agendas that had nothing to do with good management of their respective businesses. Alas, the worm has turned. The market cap of the FANGMEN has already dropped by a staggering $4.5 trillion to just $7.1 trillion at present. At the same time, collective earnings of these allegedly perpetual “growth” stocks have declined by nearly 14% since their summer/fall 2021 peak of $336 billion. By our lights, companies experiencing double-digit earnings shrinkage—even before the upcoming recession—do not deserve the 24.5X multiple the market is now putting on their collective profits of$290 billion. Likewise, shareholders never deserved the $4.5 trillion that has already vaporized, even as they were being badly served by management that had gone AWOL, moonlighting on wokeness and politics. In all, bad money is the ultimate devil’s workshop. The bloodbath in Silicon Valley stocks and the Twitter Files disclosures enabled by the proprietor of Tesla, its most hideously over-valued company, are finally proving exactly why. Tyler Durden Wed, 12/14/2022 - 11:44.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytDec 14th, 2022

‘I Hope Bob Iger Has One Foot Out the Door.’ Abigail Disney on Iger’s Stunning Comeback

Abigail Disney spoke to TIME after the company her grandfather co-founded replaced chief executive Bob Chapek with his predecessor Bob Iger. In a move that shocked many on Wall Street and beyond, Disney ousted its chief executive Bob Chapek over the weekend, after less than three years in the job, bringing back his predecessor Bob Iger to run the storied company. TIME spoke to Disney shareholder Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy Disney, who founded the entertainment giant with his brother Walt, about the latest developments at the company. The film producer and activist released the documentary The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales earlier this year, which examines the widening disparity in the salaries of the workers at Disney’s parks and its top executives, especially that of Bob Iger. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. You were pretty critical of Bob Iger in your movie American Dream and Other Fairy Tales. What did you feel when you heard he was coming back? Bob Iger chose to step down just minutes before the pandemic became what it was in this country. It was already what it was in China. He knew well what was headed our way, and I don’t think wanted to be at the helm when it happened. I think that’s the only thing that explains the rushed nature of his transition because as much as he’d been there for 15 years and there had been talk of succession planning, all of his previous succession plans had gone up in smoke. I think Bob Chapek was the one who happened to be standing around at the time Iger wanted to leave. It really is important to see his return as a sign that there was a very unsound succession process. There was irresponsibility during [former CEO Michael] Eisner’s term and now irresponsibility during Iger’s term. The weakness of that plan was very clear from the drop with Bob Chapek. He made a lot of rookie mistakes right out of the gate and then he made a whole series of rookie mistakes all along through his tenure. I don’t think he ever moved out of rookie mistake territory. The bottom line is that this was very poor succession planning and the onus of that has to land squarely on Bob Iger’s shoulders as well as the shoulders of the board of directors. You don’t believe Iger always planned to leave when he did? I think he always wanted to leave at some point, but the proximal motivation was the way that COVID was looking to come down on the United States. It would be foolish to think anything else: He left at the end of January. He’d already had a whole series of things in China shut down and he knew what was coming our way. He is not a sloppy man and that was a haphazard departure. I hope it triggers some reflection at the board level because ultimately, this is the board’s job, to hire and fire CEOs. I hope to see something better happening next time around. I hope Bob [Iger] has one foot out the door. The brand is taking a terrible beating right now for a lot of reasons, all of which have the same root cause, which is that the Wall Street ideology about shareholder value has infected every aspect of the way the company runs. That triggers poor behavior on the part of managers toward employees, it triggers poor behavior on the part of the parks around their customers, poor behavior on the part of the channel in the way it treated Scarlett Johansson. They need to have a good long check in with their values, what this company is about and think very carefully about how to go forward without p—ing away their brand. Your movie dealt with the discrepancy between the salary of the CEO and the salary of the park employees. Iger’s new salary is, reportedly, $1 million a year, an extra $1 million for performance, and then $23 million in stock incentives. I wondered if you had any thoughts on that? It’s like this self-reinforcing circle. If you set up a person’s rewards on the basis of performance, that sounds very sound when you first think about it. But if the only way you measure performance is in share price, then the only way that they will perform is around share price. So it’s just this self-confirming logic. I can’t imagine that nobody competent would step up to run a corporation for say $10 million dollars a year or something more rational. And I can’t imagine that a CEO, in good faith, would object to having a more complex measure of success than simply something as blunt and silly as share price. The share price has lost more than 40% of its value in the last two years, which is pretty cataclysmic for people who rely on pension funds and things like that to live their lives. I hate it. But it’s not enough of a way to know if the company is doing well or not. The CEO salary should rise as a company succeeds in its long-term investment in human life and enterprise and that means investing in employees and caring more about your customers rather than treating them like lemons to be squeezed. The final straw with Chapek seemed to be the big losses on Disney+ as well as his cavalier attitude towards those losses. Wouldn’t paying employees [more] also cost the company a lot more? Compared with the losses on streaming, what it would cost to pay employees enough that they would only need the one job is nothing, it’s a drop in the bucket. I’m not of the belief that the way Wall Street operates is particularly rational. When the streaming services came online it was the beginning of the pandemic; everybody wanted streaming services. It was a hot moment and so the share price leaped irrationally. Share prices were already high because there was this long honeymoon of very low cost debt that all companies were partying with like crazy. But also, Bob Chapek inherited a business plan for streaming that involved Disney losing money for a long time. There isn’t a streaming service that you can name that didn’t lose a ton of money in the process of building its way to profitability. He inherited a business plan that [people] thought was sound. Suddenly he’s being punished for something that was always the plan. Would Disney’s woes ever cause you to disinvest? Maybe, but it wouldn’t be because I thought the streaming service wasn’t being run well. It would more be a moral decision on my part that the company had totally abandoned the idea that people should be paid fairly and customers should not be abused. While I think it’s dangerously close to that point, I think that the better part of valor is to stay and fight. Who do you blame most for the current turmoil? This reflects badly on the board for the way they handled it and the fact that they never have succession in mind, really, in a serious way. It reflects badly on Chapek because he performed really badly, and it reflects badly on Bob [Iger] because, really honestly, this is an affirmation that he failed with succession planning. Do you sense any opportunity here for Iger to fix mistakes he made the first time? It’s an opportunity to press reset for everybody. I really hope he’s done some reflection on the larger questions, not just whether or not he did a good job planning his succession. Disney really is in a bad moment in terms of brand. What it really needs is an injection of that ineffable thing that made the brand so special. And I really do hope he thinks very seriously about what needs to be reawakened at the company to make it really live over the long term. In practice, what would that look like? It’s really hard to put this into concrete terms because the shift that needs to happen at the company needs to be inside in its soul. You make strategic decisions based on higher principles, hopefully, and the higher principles have sort of disappeared and it’s all strategic decisions now. That’s a great way to lose your way. You get reactive and you just deal with the crisis in front of you. Bob Iger said some really good things about what he would have done differently around [Florida Governor Ron] DeSantis and the ‘don’t say gay’ [legislation] and one of the things he said was that he has a certain set of filters he runs things through as to whether or not it’s appropriate for him to weigh in on: How does this affect our employees? How does this affect the company? How does this affect our customers? And in his view that bill was a terrible threat to all three and that therefore, he would have handled things initially differently than Chapek did. I think that’s a really good filter to run everything through right now: is everybody thriving? Are customers thriving and employees thriving? I think that those are the questions and then the answers will present themselves. I know that sounds very glib and it’s much easier to say than to do. But I do think there’s a real dearth of running things through our deepest moral filters. Do you wish Iger well? Yes, I absolutely do. I still insist he’s a nice man, and I think he means well, and I think that he is coming back to the company because he’s troubled by the condition it’s in right now and wants to see it do better. So, I think he’s coming back with good intentions and I give him every benefit of the doubt......»»

Category: topSource: timeNov 23rd, 2022

How I help travelers on a tight budget take fabulous trips with butler service and spas with waterfalls

Laura Smith has been a travel agent serving Black clients for years. They're an under-recognized group, but she says they're traveling more than ever. Laura Smith is a travel agent who works primarily with black clients and says that they are an underrepresented groupLaura Smith As a child, I wanted to know how other people lived and get away from my own situation. Now I help others travel affordably in order to leave their worries behind, even for a week. This is Laura Smith's story as told to writer Jamie Killin. This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Laura Smith, a travel agent based in North Carolina. It has been edited for length and clarity.Being a travel agent is part of my destiny. I grew up in inner-city New Orleans, where my siblings and I did not realize that we were impoverished until later. Our parents never told us how hard it was, and I never knew my mom's struggle, even when she became a single mom raising five children on her own while she worked as a nurse. I just wanted to get away from my situationAs a kid, I used to devour 10 to 20 books a week. I wanted to know how other people lived, because I just wanted to get away from my situation. I read a lot of travel books, I had pen pals, and I enjoyed learning about other cultures. I would sit outside at night, and every time I saw a plane, I'd say, "God, wherever that plane is going, just take me away from here. I want to leave." God answered my prayers, because every place I talked about as a child, I've visited. I've been to 75 countries and countless cities within those countries. I take everything I can from each destination and love learning about a country's food and culture. As Americans, we have so much, and it's important to see how other cultures thrive with much less. Travel is the best education.I didn't travel a lot in my 20s when I was married and raising my kids. We were a military family; now my eldest son is a commander at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and I find a lot of my clients through him. You can leave your circumstances — even if it's just for a weekI started traveling in my mid-30s, and now I'm 52. I realized when I started that I could teach others how to travel economically. I wanted to show them you can leave your circumstances — even if it's just for a week. But now my clients are doctors, schoolteachers, and military officers, so it's not just marginalized people. I get most through referrals, but I've gotten some clients through social media, too. I offer payment plans, and about 98% of my clients who take on a plan, fulfill it. It's motivating to say, "Six months from now, you're going to be in Jamaica. Or a year from now, you're going to be in Mexico." They pay a $100 deposit, which is nonrefundable if they don't book within 30 days after receiving an itinerary. If they book within those 30 days, the deposit goes toward their trip. I get my commissions from resorts and airlines, which are usually between 10% and 20% of the trip's total cost. People with time for only one trip a year want it to be fabulousMillennials want to go to Jamaica and Mexico, while my older clients want to go to Dubai, the Maldives, and Tanzania. I also have people who want to get in touch with their roots and visit Africa. I think the Black Lives Matter movement has people wanting to know who they are and where they come from. Ghana has become a top destination. Clients want to go where their ancestors took their last steps before getting on slave ships. My military clients don't get a lot of time off, so they want their trips to be fabulous. If they're going on one vacation a year, they're going to make it worth it — they want butler service, they want the spa by the waterfall, and they want destinations that will blow up their Instagram. Luxury travel is a big part of my business. The most expensive trip I've planned was for a one-week stay in Tanzania, which cost $13,000 for one person. I'd say the average luxury trip starts around $9,000 a person. There's been a shift in how we view travelIn my opinion, it's vital and essential for travel leaders and executives to understand the needs, behaviors, and concerns of underrepresented travel communities. Black Americans, for instance, spent an estimated $109.4 billion on leisure travel in 2019, according to a travel, tourism, and hospitality market-research firm. Those dollars are powerful but, unfortunately, under-recognized.But that's starting to change. There's been a much-needed shift toward understanding how we view the world of travel. And with fewer concerns around COVID-19, more people are engaging in what I call revenge travel. People realize they only have one life, and they want to make the most of it.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytOct 9th, 2022

Democrats just agreed on a bumper tax, healthcare, and climate bill. Here"s what"s new, what hasn"t changed — and what it means for you.

The proposed Inflation Reduction Act provides for cheaper prescription drugs, generous tax credits for EVs, a levy on stock buybacks, and more. Sen. Joe Manchin, who spearheaded the bill.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images Democrats are on the brink of passing their proposed $739 billion Inflation Reduction Act. The bill provides for cheaper prescription drugs, EV tax credits, and a levy on stock buybacks. Here's what you need to know about the proposed legislation, and how it could affect you. The Democrats are on the brink of passing their $739 billion Inflation Reduction Act after weeks of negotiation culminating in the approval late Thursday from the last of the party's holdout senators. The proposed legislation provides for cheaper prescription drugs, free vaccines for seniors, and generous tax credits for electric vehicles, among other things. It also aims to create more than 1 million jobs. Moody's says the bill is likely to live up to its name and rein in soaring inflation.However, late-night wrangling Thursday resulted in notable changes to the legislative package. Notably, plans to close the carried interest loophole were dropped in favour of a new levy on stock buybacks.Here's what's new in the bill, what's stayed the same, and what it means for you.Hedge fund, private equity, and real estate executives rejoiceSen. Kyrsten Sinema has been a thorn in the bill's side.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesDemocrats have engaged in protracted wrangling over the tax legislation in the act. The bill only won the crucial backing of Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema late Thursday after plans were dropped to close the long-criticized carried interest loophole. Executives in the hedge fund, private equity, and real estate investment businesses benefit from a tax break for carried interest. In simple terms, when they take a percentage of profits from an investment as compensation, they're taxed at the capital-gains rate, which is lower than the comparable income-tax rate.The bill aimed to close the loophole by extending the holding period for carried interest to five years, up from the current three-year period, thereby forcing investors to hold onto assets for longer.With the loophole destined to remain open, wealthy investors will be able to continue paying tax at the lower rate.For stock investors, the news is less goodWith plans shelved to close the carried interest loophole, the Democrats instead agreed a new policy targeting investors: a 1% excise tax on stock buybacks.Democrats have long wanted to rein in stock buybacks, which exploded in the wake of former President Trump's corporate tax cuts in 2017 and hit a record $881.7 billion in 2021, according to data collected by S&P. A company buys back its own stock when it wants to boost its stock price, by reducing the number of outstanding shares on the market. It's an alternative to the traditional route of distributing cash to shareholders in the form of dividends. It also has the effect of inflating the value of executives' shareholdings. Opponents argue buybacks take money out of workers' pockets and the broader economy. This week, the head of a flight attendants' union argued that the billions spent by airlines on buybacks could exacerbate travel chaos.In a Twitter thread, Chuck Marr, VP of Federal Tax Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, described the move as an excellent policy that would raise $125 billion over 10 years, and target a large proportion of shareholders based outside the US.However, the proposed 1% excise tax is likely to weigh on mom-and-pop investors as much as institutional investors. And given buybacks have been a driver of stock gains in recent years, the levy could have broader effects on the market, for example, hitting pension funds.Cutting the cost of prescription drugsIf passed, the bill would be President Biden's biggest legislative achievement.Stefani Reynolds/Getty ImagesThe authors of the act say it would enable patients on Medicare to get high-priced drugs for the lowest price possible by allowing Medicare to begin negotiating prescription drug prices directly from 2023.The bill would also cap at $2,000 per year the amount senior Medicare patients spend out of pocket on prescription drugs. Currently, no cap exists.Capping spending could save more than 860,000 Medicare enrollees an average of $900 a year, according to estimates from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which makes grants and publishes research relating to healthcare.It would also require drug companies to rebate the difference to Medicare if they raise prices faster than inflation, and would incentivize manufacturers and insurers to keep prices down.Free vaccines for seniorsThe bill would make all vaccines free for seniors on Medicare. Vaccines typically cost $25 per dose, according to analysis by Peterson-KFF Health Systems Tracker.Money for energy-efficient appliancesThe bill would create incentives for Americans to buy energy-efficient appliances, especially for lower-income households and disadvantaged communities.That includes $9 billion towards electrifying appliances and retrofitting homes to make them more energy efficient, and a $1 billion grant program to make affordable housing more energy efficient.It also contains 10 years of consumer tax credits to make homes energy efficient and run on clean energy, which it says would make heat pumps, rooftop solar, electric HVAC, and water heaters more affordable.  Cheaper electric vehiclesTesla and other EV buyers could end up with chunky rebates under the proposals.REUTERS/Aly Song/File PhotoThe bill introduces and expands on tax credits offered to consumers to make electric vehicles more affordable.The bill would give consumers up to $4,000 in tax credits if they buy used EVs or plug-in hybrids. Customers are already eligible for up to $7,500 in tax credits to buy new EVs but this is limited to the first 200,000 eligible vehicles sold by each automaker. The bill would lift this cap on tax breaks for new EV sales, as long as the vehicle is assembled in the US. Auto manufacturers would get grants to refit their sites so they could make clean vehicles instead, and up to $20 billion would be given in loans to build new factories.What about my tax bill?People who make less than $400,000 a year shouldn't be affected by the higher taxes proposed in the bill.The bill will be funded by higher corporate taxes, savings on prescription drugs through Medicare, and IRS tax enforcement, among other things, the bill's authors say. They say taxes shouldn't be higher for anyone with less than $400,000 annual taxable income.Kimberly Clausing, a tax professor at the UCLA School of Law and former senior Treasury Department official, previously told Insider that the average American's tax bill is "absolutely" not going to be affected under the legislation. "Are you a big corporation that earns over a billion dollars and pays less than 15%? If not, there's no increase in your taxes," she said."As in any legislation, there's gonna be winners and losers," Marc Goldwein, senior policy director of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, previously told Insider. "But I suspect there's gonna be a lot more winners than losers and it's going to be a broad set of winners."Creating jobsThe bill seeks to create new jobs in industries including manufacturing, construction, and renewable energies, the bill's authors say. Policy-research company Energy Innovation estimates that the bill would create up to 1.5 million jobs by 2030.Meanwhile, the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute estimated the bill would generate 912,000 jobs per year over the next decade.Bolstering energy securityThe bill provides for $369 billion to go towards measures that aim to increase energy security and fight climate change. This is the chunkiest single provision in the proposed legislation.It would involve hefty funds to speed up manufacturing of clean-energy technologies, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries, which the bill's authors say would make clean energy cheaper and reduce the likelihood of future price shocks.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytAug 5th, 2022

Global Air Travel Logjam Stumps Airlines, Disrupts Countless Summer Travel Plans

Global Air Travel Logjam Stumps Airlines, Disrupts Countless Summer Travel Plans By Janice Hisle, of Epoch Times Summertime is supposed to be joyful for travelers heading to vacation destinations—and airlines, too, because that’s when they typically rake in cash by the barrel. But 2022 has ushered in a summer of discontent for passengers and airlines worldwide, as airlines’ plans for rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic travel slump have hit one logjam after another. Across the globe, especially in Europe, there’s a new epidemic: canceled, overbooked, and delayed flights—and airport storage areas overflowing with lost and misdirected baggage. These once-rare annoyances of air travel are now more commonplace; travelers who took smooth operations for granted now expect snafus—a new mindset that has changed the way they plan trips. To prevent issues, savvy travelers are increasingly entrusting delivery services like FedEx or UPS to transport luggage to their destinations. Some are putting GPS-enabled devices into their luggage, such as Apple’s AirTag or the Tile tracker. And people traveling in groups are sprinkling a few pieces of clothing per person into each checked bag instead of risking having someone lose an entire vacation wardrobe. Airport information screens are showing “ON TIME” less frequently this summer. (Stock photo/Matthew Smith/Unsplash) For now, if an air traveler manages to have a leisurely getaway and hassle-free experience, they might feel like they’ve won the lottery. Chances for bad experiences have increased, a trend likely to continue as the summer progresses, says Jay Ratliff, an aviation expert with more than three decades of experience. “Travel used to be something we enjoyed. But it’s turned into something we endure,” he said. One day last week, Ratliff’s email was brimming with more than 800 new messages, many of them from fed-up airline customers turning to him for help—or to vent. “I’ve never seen it this bad, industry-wide,” said Ratliff. “There are a lot of things contributing to this mess that we’re in, but it comes down to the airlines trying to operate too many flights, and they simply didn’t have enough employees to pull it off,” Ratliff said, noting the situation is “10 times worse in Europe.” Ratliff said that the percentage of flight delays serves as a barometer for how bad the problems are. During average years, he would see single-digit percentages of delayed flights for many airlines across the globe. But one day last week, 54 percent of British Airways flights were behind schedule, for example. He rattles off other recent jaw-dropping statistics at major hubs: In Brussels, Belgium, up to 72 percent of flights were late, and in Frankfurt, Germany, 68 percent of flights were delayed. In many cases, flight delays cause missed connections. When those passengers seek rebooking, the airlines often cannot find seats for them because flights are filled. That can leave passengers stranded at unintended destinations for hours, or even days. Ratliff said that several airports have been “begging airlines to stop selling tickets because terminals are filling up” with travelers waiting for rebooked flights. Adding to the mess: rental cars are scarce, another COVID-created problem. When pandemic was raging, few people were renting cars. That prompted rental companies to sell portions of their fleets. They also halted plans to buy replacements. Now that travelers are back, rental agencies are having problems securing new vehicles, which are selling at inflated prices. So when people try to get a rental car at the last minute, either because they failed to plan or were stranded by flight disruptions, they often rely on Uber or Lyft, or they may roam the airport for a prolonged period. Lufthansa was forced to cancel flights affecting about 130,000 passengers because of a worker strike set for July 27, 2022. (Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo, 2020/Reuters) This week, Europe’s woes worsened. German-based Lufthansa airlines announced it was canceling “almost all flights to and from Frankfurt and Munich.” The cancellations took effect July 27 because a union representing ground workers was waging a single-day walkout to demand higher pay. In a statement, the airline said the impact was “massive;” cancellations affected more than 130,000 passengers. Ratliff, who worked in management for Northwest Airlines from 1981-2001, explained how the COVID-19 pandemic set the stage for the current crisis. Airlines were forced to cut their workforces through layoffs and early retirements. Those measures were necessary to stay afloat when demand for air travel slowed to a trickle during the pandemic’s worst surges in 2020-21. “What business can survive with 95 percent of their customers no longer knocking on the door?” he asked. Airline executives reasoned that travel demand would eventually come roaring back—and when it did, they’d hire replacements for the former employees. But it wasn’t that simple. “They found they weren’t able to hire as fast as they thought they could,” Ratliff said. Background screenings and training for new workers can be time-consuming, too. As a result, many airlines and airports remain understaffed in many job categories, ranging from pilots to baggage handlers to ticketing agents and customer service reps. Suitcases are seen uncollected at Heathrow’s Terminal Three baggage reclaim, west of London, on July 8, 2022. (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images) Anticipating a staffing shortfall, airlines cut back flights during summer, when they would typically add flights. Those cutbacks surely made airline executives wince, Ratliff said. “They want as many of those ‘silver revenue tubes’ flying as they can during the summer,” he said, “because that’s the time when they make their money.” However, Ratliff said that even the curtailed flight schedules “assumed a perfect scenario” from May-June this year. During the Memorial Day weekend travel rush, it became clear that those ideal projections were unrealistic; systems disintegrated if bad weather rolled in or if a handful of employees called in sick, sometimes suffering from COVID-19. Such unpredictable events are capable of touching off a domino effect of airport problems. That was true even in the pre-pandemic era. But this summer, the airport house-of-cards is so precarious, a major thunderstorm could cause “a coast-to-coast cascading problem” that might persist for weeks, Ratliff said. Still, U.S. airlines are faring better than European ones. Airlines in Europe are having more trouble adjusting because demand for travel in those nations continued to lag while U.S. travel demand gradually picked up. During that ramp-up period, especially in the past year or so, U.S.-based airlines “learned some things,” Ratliff said; executives could see that they would need to curtail flights because they lacked the personnel to keep pace. Meanwhile, Europe faced a 77-percent drop in international traffic—or more—“and then, all of a sudden, here they come,” travelers flocking to Europe to fulfill long-delayed travel itineraries, Ratliff said. Europe’s air-travel landscape is “a crazy, crazy mess,” Ratliff said, blaming it on flight schedules that were even more “aggressive” than many American air carriers’ schedules. “This is a self-inflicted airline problem,” Ratliff said. “They rolled out this summer schedule thinking they could operate more flights than they were able to do. They miscalculated. And who’s paying for it? The poor passengers.” Travelers who expected to follow a nice, curved arc from their point of origin to their destination instead ended up bouncing along a zigzag path. In the worst single travel nightmare that Ratliff had heard of, a family started its journey with seven boarding passes—and ended up with 96 of them. KLM, a Dutch airline, recently suffered a baggage system malfunction. This 2020 file photo was taken in Amsterdam. (Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters) A synopsis of that family’s odyssey: After leaving Washington’s Dulles Airport, the group ended up missing flights, then being rebooked in multiple international hubs. “And, of course, their bags—did they keep up?” Ratliff asked. “Ha, not a chance!” Additional problems with flights and baggage seem to grab headlines every few days. Last week, a baggage-system malfunction at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol caused KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) in the Netherlands to take an unusual step. On July 20, the airline could not process luggage for most of the day, the airline said in a statement. As a result, “thousands of suitcases” were left behind while their owners traveled to other places. The next day, July 21, KLM refused to accept checked bags for passengers traveling between European cities. The goal was to “free up as much space as possible” on that day’s flights so that left-behind baggage could be transported. In the U.S., there is a shortage of baggage handlers partly because of uncompetitive wages, Ratliff said. In some places, those jobs pay about $16 an hour, he said, “and you could go work at McDonald’s in that same airport for $20 an hour—so why would you want to go out and work in all kinds of weather when you can be inside and make more money?” Many travelers are putting tracking devices on their luggage—but that doesn’t always help. Even if the tracker reveals the bag’s location, some passengers are reporting that airlines are telling them to travel to distant cities to retrieve their bags. Existing methods for reuniting lost bags with their rightful owners are being stretched to their limits by the current crisis—which affected Joanne Prater and her family in ways they never anticipated. Prater, who is Scottish and lives in the United States, says her 50-day quest to recover a checked bag has made her painfully aware of the inconvenience, stress, and emotional impact that people can experience over checked items that go missing. Longing to visit her family in Scotland, Prater scored a deal for half-price airfare: $500 per person, including checked bags. She, her husband, and their three sons drove from their Cincinnati-area home to Chicago. On June 6, they boarded an Aer Lingus flight and were bound for Dublin, Ireland, and Glasgow, Scotland. But when the family arrived at their destination, one bag belonging to her two youngest sons, ages 12 and 8, was missing. As a result, the boys had only “the clothes on their backs,” Prater said. Worse yet, the bag contained a varsity jacket that holds special meaning for the family, along with team jerseys that the boys wanted to show off to their relatives. “How do you explain to your children that their favorite clothes are missing?” Prater said. After it became clear that the boys’ bag wouldn’t materialize anytime soon, the family purchased several outfits for them, paying the U.S. equivalent of about $500. Prater repeatedly called the airline, sometimes stuck on hold for 45 minutes, only to have the call disconnected or to be in touch with a representative with whom she had communication difficulties. She finally resorted to returning to the Glasgow airport during her vacation, hoping that in-person contact would prove more fruitful than phone calls or electronic messages. At the airport, an Aer Lingus employee did seem sympathetic to her concerns. To Prater’s surprise, the employee escorted her into a corridor that was outside public view. There, a sight took Prater’s breath away: the hallway was lined with hundreds of pieces of luggage and other lost articles, such as strollers, car seats, and golf clubs. “People save all their lives for a dream vacation to come to my country, Scotland, where golf was invented, only to have their golf clubs lost? I mean, men collect clubs, and they’re expensive; you’re not bringing Fisher-Price clubs to Scotland to play golf,” Prater said. “It was just gut-wrenching to me. I’m standing there thinking about all of these poor families without their strollers, without their car seats, without their clothing.” Despite repeated attempts to find the missing suitcase,  the Praters returned home to the United States without it.  Prater continued her attempts to file various complaints with the airline, to no avail. Prater said she feels a kinship with other people who have formed groups on social media to vent their frustrations and to try to help each other locate their lost belongings. As of July 26, there was still no sign of the Praters’ bag, which was last seen in Dublin in early June, Prater said she was told. When The Epoch Times asked Aer Lingus for comment on Prater’s situation, the airline responded via email: “We understand the concern and frustrations felt by our customers whose baggage has been delayed and the impact this has had on their travel plans. Regrettably, our airline is being impacted by widespread disruption and resource challenges.” The airline also said it is taking steps to resolve the issues, including enlisting help from third-party companies to return items to their owners. Prater said she isn’t holding out much hope that the lost bag can be found, yet she still isn’t giving up because, “at this point, it’s about accountability.” It angers her that airlines seem to have offered flights and baggage services that they were ill-equipped to provide. “I’m probably never going to check a bag again because of this experience,” she said. Ratliff, the aviation expert, said he doesn’t see the airline crisis abating quickly. He predicts issues could persist into mid-2023. In his view, “If the airlines have packed airplanes now, treating passengers the way they’re treating them, there’s not really an incentive for them to change how they’re doing things.” Troubleshooting Tips for Travelers Jay Ratliff, an aviation expert, provides these tips for avoiding airline-related hassles: Make your reservations as far in advance as possible, which also protects you from fare increases. Catch the first flight in the morning. “There is no more important flight of the day for an airline than that first flight of the day,” he said because airlines know that if that flight goes out on time, it’s more likely that the rest of that day’s flights will follow suit. “And,” Ratliff said, “it’s going to be the cleanest airplane because no one has been flying in it yet.” Put a copy of your itinerary into your bag before you close it, increasing the chances that an airline employee will be able to return your bag to you if it is lost. Consider purchasing a tracking device such as Apple’s AirTag or a Tile. Take a photograph of your bag as you’re checking in to aid in locating it. Make sure you never put essential items such as medication or car keys into a checked bag. Allow extra time at the airport, reducing the chance you’ll miss your flight and face a nightmare rebooking it. “Let’s not play the game of ‘let’s see how close we can cut it,’” he said. If you have an important event such as a cruise ship departure or a wedding to attend at your destination, build a “buffer” into your travel plans. If your flight is delayed or canceled, use social media to contact airlines because they likely have more people working on social media than they do working the phones, Ratliff said. Be succinct in sharing what’s going on and what you need. If all else fails and you have a horrible experience with your flight or luggage, fill out an airline complaint form with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). “That completely changes the tone of the conversation,” Ratliff said. “The airlines can ignore us (individual passengers), but they can’t ignore the DOT.” Tyler Durden Thu, 07/28/2022 - 23:10.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJul 29th, 2022

With the State of the World in the Hands of Big Business, Some Executives Think It Can Pay to Do Good

As global leaders discuss how to build a better future in a post-pandemic world, business executives weigh profits and purpose Even by the pandemic’s standards of Zoom fatigue, the hours-long virtual meeting one Sunday in March 2021 was draining. Around 2 a.m., the board members of the global food giant Danone finally wound down their fractious arguments, and announced they had fired the company’s CEO and chairman Emmanuel Faber—a stunningly swift end to his 24 years at the company. The ouster of an executive at a Paris-based multinational might have been a passing, internal disruption, but for one fact: Faber had become a champion among environmentalists and climate activists for having turned Danone into a company that focused not only on making money and increasing its share price, but also on trying to remake the agricultural business, an industry with a far-reaching impact on the environment. Faber had in 2020 declared Danone—maker of products like Activia and Actimel yogurts, and Evian water—France’s first enterprise à mission, a public company whose goals included targets aimed at bettering the world, akin to an American B Corp. Inserting climate change into Danone’s core strategy, Faber introduced a so-called carbon-adjusted earnings-per-share indicator, measuring the company’s value not only by its profits and revenues—as virtually every business in the world does—but by its environmental footprint too. The slogan he devised: “One planet, one health.” [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] His firing was also one sucker punch, which Faber says felt like being cast adrift, or “leaving your family,” as he put it to TIME. The reasons were complex, including the fact that the company’s share price on the stock markets—the financial world’s key measure of success—had risen a minuscule 2.7% in Faber’s six years in charge, compared with the rocketing growth of Danone’s competitors Unilever and Nestlé. Its revenues plummeted during work-from-home lockdowns, too, when items like bottled water were suddenly less relevant. Even so, Faber’s departure provoked a deeper question, one that lingers nearly a year later: Do CEOs risk a backlash from their investors if they make a point of putting the planet’s health above purely financial returns? Answering that question could hardly be more urgent. An ever growing share of the global economy is in the hands of private business. By 2021, businesses accounted for 72% of the economic output in major industrial countries—triple what they did 60 years before—and, of that, more than one-third of the gross value comes from just 5,000 companies, like Danone, with revenues topping $1 billion, according to a study by the intergovernmental Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the consultancy McKinsey. How those companies succeed in cutting their carbon emissions—or in tackling problems like human-rights abuses, inequality or racial justice—will have a significant impact on the state of the world, for better or worse. Of the 2,000 companies analyzed by the organization Net Zero Tracker, 682 have declared target dates by which they aim to zero out their carbon emissions. Brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have vowed to cut plastic waste, and automakers like GM and Volkswagen say they aim to end the production of fossil-fuel cars within the near future. There are holes in all these promises, but one thing is now clear: for companies, it has become a risk not to make them. The actual debate now is whether tackling those issues—“purpose-driven capitalism,” as it is known—is in sync or in conflict with what businesses have always thought was their main job: making money. Read more: What Kind of Capitalism Do We Want? “People ask me, ‘Is there a dissonance between profits and purpose?’” says Dan Schulman, PayPal’s president and CEO, who has said he aims to bring his social views to the financial tech giant, where he has hiked pay and cut employees’ health care costs. “My view is that profits and purpose are fully linked together,” he tells TIME from his home in Palo Alto, Calif. “We cannot be about just maximizing our profit next quarter. We need to be part of our societies,” he says. “We need to think about the medium term and the long term, and we need to act accordingly.” More and more business leaders have begun to echo that opinion. Those voices were especially loud during the months leading up to the COP26 climate talks last fall, when corporate executives and government officials converged in Glasgow for the biggest such negotiations ever. In advance of the gathering, hundreds of companies raced to declare commitments to environmental and social issues, and to set net-zero targets. Net zero is a mammoth job. Take, for example, the oil major BP, whose CEO Bernard Looney became one of the first fossil-fuel executives, in February 2020, to declare a net-zero goal for the company (its target date is 2050); BP alone adds a huge 415 million metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere each year, all of which, according to Looney, the company intends to zero out with oil-production cuts, ramped-up renewable energy and the use of carbon capture—technology, with still uncertain results, that removes carbon from the air. “We’re reallocating capital, we’re restructuring the company,” Looney told TIME during a November interview in his London office. “We are all in on the transition.” It is easy to dismiss the proclamations of corporate executives like Looney—and many surely do. After all, their hugely profitable business operations have clashed with environmentalists for decades; in the run-up to COP26, organizers told oil and gas executives, including Looney, that they could play no formal role in the talks because it was “unclear whether their commitments stack up yet.” Plus, despite all the talk of purpose-driven business, the world has yet to invent any sure way to measure whether companies in fact make good on their environmental commitments. “There is no universally agreed system,” says Ian Goldin, professor of globalization at Oxford University. “The counting relies on self-reporting.” That system is deeply faulty at a time when companies are making promises about limited solutions like carbon capture or committing to planting billions of trees in order to “offset” their emissions. “You say you’re planting a forest, or the airline is offsetting your air miles,” Goldin says. “Is anyone tracking if that forest is there? Has someone also claimed that forest? There is no system in place that has accountability to it.” Read More: As More Companies Make Net-Zero Pledges, Some Aren’t as Good as They Sound And yet the fact that so many corporate executives feel compelled to make such statements signals just how drastically the climate crisis and social upheavals have impacted business decisions within a very brief period of time. The onrush seemed to begin in earnest in January 2020, when Larry Fink, head of BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset-management company, announced in a letter to CEOs that “climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects.” Though that fact seemed obvious to climate activists, the statement was widely regarded in the financial world as a game changer. Fink—whose firm manages close to $10 trillion in assets—was telling companies, and their potential investors, that those without a climate strategy faced a shaky future. “We are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” he wrote. It is no surprise that companies have since rushed to put climate policies in place. “We have seen quite significant commitments made,” says Paul Polman, co-author of the book Net Positive and co-founder of IMAGINE, a sustainability-focused business consultancy based in London. Until three years ago, Polman was CEO of Unilever, the $135 billion consumer-goods behemoth, where he drove a dramatic overhaul of the company, implementing environmental commitments and lobbying officials on issues of poverty and climate. In a move that was hugely controversial at the time, Polman scrapped Unilever’s quarterly earnings reports—standard for publicly traded companies—on his first day in office in 2009, saying the practice forced CEOs into short-term decisions in order to push up share prices, at the expense of longer-term social issues. Although that angered some investors, Polman told Harvard Business Review, “I figured I couldn’t be fired on the first day.” Now, principles for which Polman fought a relatively solitary battle for years have been adopted by countless other business leaders. “There has been more progress in the last year and a half than the previous five years,” he tells TIME. Even Emmanuel Faber still thinks purpose-driven capitalism brings with it more reward than risk. By his telling, his firing had little to do with his environmental commitments. In his mind, it resulted from the intense financial pressure the pandemic brought, which prompted him to impose layoffs and cuts; Danone’s shares sank 27% on the French stock exchange in 2020. Activist shareholders from two funds in London, who together owned less than 4% of Danone, blamed the company’s difficulties on Faber’s management, and they pressed board members to fire him. “The mess in the Danone boardroom is a reminder that distractions from the core goal of making a profit can be dangerous,” the Financial Times opined days after he was fired. Within hours of the meeting, Danone released a statement saying that the board “believes in the necessity of combining high economic performance and the respect of Danone’s unique model of a purpose-driven economy”—perhaps hinting that the high returns were lacking. “A few people saw a window of opportunity at the moment when it was easy to destabilize the governance of the company,” Faber tells TIME, over tea in Paris. “In no way should that discourage progressive CEOs,” he says. “They have, ultimately, the backing of large shareholders.” Mario Fourmy—Sipa/APFaber presents sales results as CEO of Danone in 2019 To Polman, the saga at Danone brought back memories of the battle he fought five years ago, while he was CEO of Unilever. In February 2017, the U.S. conglomerate Kraft Heinz launched a hostile takeover bid worth about $143 billion against his company. Back then, Polman was spending considerable time traveling the world, meeting government officials and NGOs about issues like mass poverty and clean water. “There is no better way than using companies like this to drive development,” Polman told me then, just weeks before Kraft Heinz made its hostile bid. When I asked Polman whether he was prepared to be fired as CEO, if shareholders finally grew tired of his busy social campaigning, he said, “I never wanted to be a CEO, and I don’t really care about that.” Kraft Heinz’s 2017 bid collapsed within days, after most shareholders backed Polman. But five years on, Polman is still deeply marked by the episode, which he says crystallized a fraught conflict within the world’s biggest companies. “These were two opposing economic models,” he says. “One focused on a few billionaires; the other focused on serving billions of people.” He believes Kraft Heinz “would have milked the company.” Both Polman and Faber saw their companies as a means to improve the world, rather than simply profitmaking machines. Yet there were crucial differences between their situations. For one thing, Unilever was able to try save the world while making boatloads of profit; shareholder return was about 290% over Polman’s decade running the company. Danone, by comparison, struggled. That left Faber vulnerable to doubts and hostile challenges, even while he gained fans outside the financial world, and many inside too. Still, not even Polman’s profitable returns at Unilever sheltered him from shareholders growing irked as he focused on campaigning for a better world. British shareholders shot down his plan in 2018 to close Unilever’s London headquarters and consolidate at the company’s other base, the Dutch port of Rotterdam; Polman resigned within months. Read more: Good Intentions Are Not Enough. We Must Reset for a Fairer Future Despite the trend toward purpose-driven capitalism, one fundamental truth remains: companies need to be profitable. “If you go bankrupt, or get taken over, you certainly cannot be investing in the long term,” says Goldin, the Oxford professor, whose 2021 book Rescue examined how businesses have weathered the pandemic. “You need to be successful in the short term to think about the long term,” he says. The optimistic view is that those two needs—short-term profits and long-term vision—might finally be inching closer together, after decades in which the first has dominated the second. One hint is the steep rise in ESG (environmental, social and governance) investment funds that focus on those issues. Even though the vast majority of regular people have little idea of what harm the companies in their pension funds might wreak on the planet or in communities—and it’s still unclear how quickly that might change—the new money plowed into those funds, which claim to be attracting trillions of dollars, more than doubled from 2019 to 2020. And increasingly, CEOs realize they can hire top talent and keep customer loyalty if their companies are seen as championing environmental and social issues. “I am beginning to see more and more shareholders embrace that concept,” says PayPal CEO Schulman. He says that major shareholders had told him in a meeting the previous day that they appreciated the company’s diversity and equity program. “We do it regardless, because it is the right thing to do,” he says. “But it is nice it is being noticed.” —With reporting by Eloise Barry.....»»

Category: topSource: timeJan 21st, 2022

The demand for airline-sized private jets has boomed over the years and Boeing has stepped up with its fleet of luxury bizliners — see the 25-year history of Boeing Business Jets

The program officially launched on July 2, 1996, and the first BBJ 737-700 aircraft rolled out of production on July 26, 1998. Boeing Business Jets.Boeing Boeing Business Jets celebrated its 25-year anniversary in July, having dreamt up the first BBJ concept in 1996. The program targeted a niche market of ultra-wealthy customers who wanted bigger, more comfortable bizjets. Boeing has added many aircraft types to the BBJ line, like the 737 MAX, 787 Dreamliner, 777, and the 747-8. 2021 marks the 25-year anniversary of Boeing Business Jets, which launched in 1996. The company has a long history of manufacturing aircraft for both commercial and private use but eventually combined the two products into an official line of bizjets.Boeing Business JetsBoeingSource: Boeing spokespersonWhile the official BBJ brand launched in the 1990s, it was not the first private plane the company built for executive flying.Jet Edge International's Boeing Business Jet 737.Jet Edge InternationalSource: Boeing spokespersonIn 1930, Standard Oil of California, now known as Chevron, ordered a specially modified three-engine Model 80A, or Model 226, to fly its executives from city to city. The Model 80 was Boeing's first plane engineered for passenger operations.Boeing Model 80A.PhotoQuest/Getty ImagesSource: Museum of Flight, Boeing spokespersonAccording to Boeing, the Model 80A was successful because it got its private passengers to their destinations quicker than by train without sacrificing comfort.Boeing Model 80A.National Library of FranceSource: Boeing spokespersonIn 1943, Boeing's Model 314 aircraft played a significant role for the US government. The plane operated as a private service to shuttle President Franklin D. Roosevelt to meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Casablanca conference.Boeing Clipper 314 on takeoff.Museum of Flight/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty ImagesSource: Boeing spokespersonThe flight pre-dated the "Air Force One" call sign and was the first time a sitting president flew on an airplane.Former President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt celebrates his birthday on board a Boeing 314 flying boat.Museum of Flight/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty ImagesSource: Boeing spokespersonPresident Eisenhower also had private planes manufactured by Boeing at his disposal. Specifically, he had three VC-137s, the Air Force derivative of the 707, and was the first to use the "Air Force One" call sign.Air Force One taking off from Heathrow Airport, at the end of President Eisenhower's state visit to the United Kingdom, 2nd September 1959Terry Fincher/Mirrorpix/Getty ImagesSource: Air and Space, Boeing spokespersonBoeing also developed the VIP VC-137C, which was the first jet aircraft built for presidential use. The plane was a highly-modified 707-320B airliner and carried eight presidents, like John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. The most famous was SAM 26000.SAM 26000 VC-137C.US Air ForceSource: US Air ForceOne of the most impressive converted Boeing private jets was the Qatari Royal Family's lavish Boeing 747-SP. It featured a dining room, a master bedroom and bathroom, a spiral staircase, business class seats, and an economy cabin.Qatar Amiri Flight Boeing 747-8 BBJ.Jetlinerimages/Getty ImagesSource: Sam ChuiAccording to Boeing, over the years, the company's private planes have been referred to as the "flying penthouse," the "apartment in the sky," and the "flying business offices."Howard Hughes' Boeing 307 VIP plane known as the "Flying Penthouse."Bettmann/Getty ImagesSource: Boeing spokespersonAfter nearly 70 years of converting airliners into business jets for companies, government departments, and private individuals, Boeing decided to create a series of large, customizable planes for the corporate market.Boeing Business JetsBoeingSource: Boeing spokespersonThe first Boeing Business Jet concept was imagined in 1996 by Phil Condit, president of Boeing, and Jack Welch, chairman and CEO of General Electric as a joint venture project. Their first proposal was based on the Next-Generation 737-700 jet.BBJ 737NG.BoeingSource: BoeingThe plane could fly over 6,000 nautical miles nonstop, connecting cities like New York to Tokyo and London to Johannesburg, and offered ample cabin space.BBJ 737NG.BoeingSource: Jet OptionsAccording to Boeing, Condit was passionate about the idea because he saw a promising market for customers who may want a bigger, more comfortable private jet.BBJ 737NG.BoeingSource: Boeing spokespersonThe program officially launched on July 2, 1996, and the first BBJ 737-700 aircraft rolled out of production on July 26, 1998.BBJ 737NG.BoeingSource: BoeingThe plane took its first flight on September 4, 1998, captained by Mike Hewett and Mike Carriker. The 737 took off at 9:12 a.m. from Renton, Washington.Mike Hewett flying the first BBJ.BoeingSource: BoeingThe plane was used as a demonstrator aircraft and was certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and Europe's Joint Aviation Authorities on October 30, 1998.First BBJ flight.BoeingSource: Boeing spokespersonThe first two BBJ 737s were delivered the week of November 23, 1998, with one going to General Electric and the other going to an undisclosed buyer.BBJ delivered to first owner.BoeingSource: BoeingFrom the beginning, BBJs have included integrated air stairs that allow the plane to access airfields that lack ground support equipment. Moreover, the 737 can operate at small airports with short runways.BBJ air stairs.Mehdi Photos/ShutterstockSource: Boeing spokespersonThe original BBJ was based on the 737-700, but Boeing created more variants based on its later 737 planes.A PrivatAir Boeing Business Jet 737.Vytautas Kielaitis/ShutterstockSource: Aerospace TechnologyThe BBJ2, which is derived from the Boeing 737-800, was launched in 1999. It added 25% more cabin space and 100% more cargo capacity compared to the BBJ1. The first BBJ2 was delivered in March 2001.Indonesian presidential BBJ2.Nieto Azzam/ShutterstockIn November 2005, BBJ3 was revealed. The plane was based on the 737-900ER, offering 35% more cabin space than BBJ1 and 11% more cargo capacity than BBJ2.State of Kuwait's BBJ3.Oleksandr Naumenko/ShutterstockSource: Aerospace Technology, Global AirIn 2014, Boeing launched the Boeing MAX bizjet family, which offered lower cabin altitude, advanced fuel-saving systems, and enhanced passenger comfort.BBJ MAX Family.BoeingSource: BoeingThe MAX family includes the BBJ MAX 7, BBJ MAX 8, and BBJ MAX 9.Rendering of BBJ MAX.BoeingSource: BoeingThe first delivery was a BBJ MAX 8, which operated its first "flyaway" in April 2018 and was delivered in October 2018. The plane is fitted with an external fuel tank, allowing it to fly over 7,600 miles.First BBJ MAX 8 flyaway.BoeingSource: BoeingIn addition to narrowbody planes, Boeing also created widebody bizjets, including The BBJ 777 and 777X that can connect virtually any two cities worldwide...BBJ 777X.BoeingSource: AinonlineThe BBJ 787-8 and BBJ 787-9 Dreamliners...BBJ 787 Dreamliner.BoeingSource: BoeingAnd the BBJ 747-8, which is the world's largest private jet.BBJ 747-8.Cabinet Alberto PintoSource: InsiderThe planes come with several unique interior options that are created in partnership with Boeing and design companies, which can be customized by the buyer. Some options include Mark Berryman's yacht concept for the BBJ MAX...Boeing Business Jets 737 MAX ConceptBoeingBoeing teamed up with a yacht interior design company to create a private jet cabin for the 737 MAX — see insideThe sky-inspired Genesis concept from SkyStyle and KiPcreating for the BBJ MAX...Courtesy of Boeing/SkyStyle & KiPcreatingThis Boeing 737 Max private jet interior design looks more like a futuristic spaceship than it does a private jetThe Lotus concept from Greenpoint Technologies for the BBJ 777X...BBJ Lotus design.Greenpoint TechnologiesBoeing's new $400 million 777X private airliner is a flying mansion that can go halfway around the worldAnd the Cabinet Alberto Pinto design for the BBJ 747-8.Cabinet Alberto Pinto BBJ 747-8 interior design.Cabinet Alberto PintoSee inside the world's largest private jet: a Boeing 747 with an interior so large it took 4 years to design and buildBoeing has solidified 260 orders of its BBJs to date, having sold to a small market of deep-pocket individuals, royal families, as well as government entities worldwide.BBJ 777.BoeingSource: Aviation Pros, Simple FlyingCustomers include people like Tony Robbins, a motivational speaker in the US...Tony Robbins' BBJ.Silver AirSource: Simple Flying, An airline is offering Tony Robbins' Boeing 737 private jet featuring an onboard shower for charter. Take a look inside.And the Dutch royal family.Dutch Royal Family's BBJ 737.Patrick van Katwijk/GettySee inside the 'Dutch Air Force One': a Boeing 737 private jet that the king of the Netherlands flies himselfThese ultra-rich buyers are taking a new interest in BBJs as travel restrictions ease, with Boeing receiving a new order of its BBJ 737-800 this year.Jet Edge International's Boeing Business Jet 737.Jet Edge InternationalSource: AOPA, Ultra-wealthy travelers are ditching traditional private jets and buying airliners. See inside 2 airliner-turned-private-jets from Airbus and Boeing.According to BBJ, business aviation traffic is up 15% compared to 2019, with first-time buyers fueling the demand.BBJ 777-9.BoeingSource: AOPA"Private aviation is attracting those who have previously flown first or business class," BBJ director of marketing Alex Fecteau told AOPA. "More than 30 percent of our new orders are from first-time buyers."BBJ 747-8.BoeingSource: AOPARead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 26th, 2021

Inside Frances Haugen’s Decision to Take on Facebook

Blowing the whistle against a multibillion-dollar tech company is no small feat Frances Haugen is in the back of a Paris taxi, waving a piece of sushi in the air. The cab is on the way to a Hilton hotel, where this November afternoon she is due to meet with the French digital economy minister. The Eiffel Tower appears briefly through the window, piercing a late-fall haze. Haugen is wolfing down lunch on the go, while recalling an episode from her childhood. The teacher of her gifted and talented class used to play a game where she would read to the other children the first letter of a word from the dictionary and its definition. Haugen and her classmates would compete, in teams, to guess the word. “At some point, my classmates convinced the teacher that it was unfair to put me on either team, because whichever team had me was going to win and so I should have to compete against the whole class,” she says. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Did she win? “I did win,” she says with a level of satisfaction that quickly fades to indignation. “And so imagine! That makes kids hate you!” She pops an edamame into her mouth with a flourish. “I look back and I’m like, That was a bad idea.” She tells the story not to draw attention to her precociousness—although it does do that—but to share the lesson it taught her. “This shows you how badly some educators understand psychology,” she says. While some have described the Facebook whistle-blower as an activist, Haugen says she sees herself as an educator. To her mind, an important part of her mission is driving home a message in a way that resonates with people, a skill she has spent years honing. Photograph by Christopher Anderson—Magnum Photos for TIME It is the penultimate day of a grueling three-week tour of Europe, during which Haugen has cast herself in the role of educator in front of the U.K. and E.U. Parliaments, regulators and one tech conference crowd. Haugen says she wanted to cross the Atlantic to offer her advice to lawmakers putting the final touches on new regulations that take aim at the outsize influence of large social media companies. The new U.K. and E.U. laws have the potential to force Facebook and its competitors to open up their algorithms to public scrutiny, and face large fines if they fail to address problematic impacts of their platforms. European lawmakers and regulators “have been on this journey a little longer” than their U.S. counterparts, Haugen says diplomatically. “My goal was to support lawmakers as they think through these issues.” Beginning in late summer, Haugen, 37, disclosed tens of thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents to Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The documents were the basis of a series of articles in the Wall Street Journal that sparked a reckoning in September over what the company knew about how it contributed to harms ranging from its impact on teens’ mental health and the extent of misinformation on its platforms, to human traffickers’ open use of its services. The documents paint a picture of a company that is often aware of the harms to which it contributes—but is either unwilling or unable to act against them. Haugen’s disclosures set Facebook stock on a downward trajectory, formed the basis for eight new whistle-blower complaints to the SEC and have prompted lawmakers around the world to intensify their calls for regulation of the company. Facundo Arrizabalaga—EPA/EFE/ShutterstockHaugen leaves the Houses of Parliament in London on Oct. 25 after giving evidence to U.K. lawmakers. Facebook has rejected Haugen’s claims that it puts profits before safety, and says it spends $5 billion per year on keeping its platforms safe. “As a company, we have every commercial and moral incentive to give the maximum number of people as much of a positive experience as possible on our apps,” a spokesperson said in a statement. Although many insiders have blown the whistle on Facebook before, nobody has left the company with the breadth of material that Haugen shared. And among legions of critics in politics, academia and media, no single person has been as effective as Haugen in bringing public attention to Facebook’s negative impacts. When Haugen decided to blow the whistle against Facebook late last year, the company employed more than 58,000 people. Many had access to the documents that she would eventually pass to authorities. Why did it take so long for somebody to do what she did? Read More: How Facebook Forced a Reckoning by Shutting Down the Team That Put People Ahead of Profits One answer is that blowing the whistle against a multibillion-dollar tech company requires a particular combination of skills, personality traits and circumstances. In Haugen’s case, it took one near-death experience, a lost friend, several crushed hopes, a cryptocurrency bet that came good and months in counsel with a priest who also happens to be her mother. Haugen’s atypical personality, glittering academic background, strong moral convictions, robust support networks and self-confidence also helped. Hers is the story of how all these factors came together—some by chance, some by design—to create a watershed moment in corporate responsibility, human communication and democracy. When debate coach Scott Wunn first met a 16-year-old Haugen at Iowa City West High School, she had already been on the team for two years, after finishing junior high a year early. He was an English teacher who had been headhunted to be the debate team’s new coach. The school took this kind of extracurricular activity seriously, and so did the young girl with the blond hair. In their first exchange, Wunn remembers Haugen grilling him about whether he would take coaching as seriously as his other duties. “I could tell from that moment she was very serious about debate,” says Wunn, who is now the executive director of the National Speech and Debate Association. “When we ran tournaments, she was the student who stayed the latest, who made sure that all of the students on the team were organized. Everything that you can imagine, Frances would do.” Haugen specialized in a form of debate that specifically asked students to weigh the morality of every issue, and by her senior year, she had become one of the top 25 debaters in the country in her field. “Frances was a math whiz, and she loved political science,” Wunn says. In competitive debate, you don’t get to decide which side of the issue you argue for. But Haugen had a strong moral compass, and when she was put in a position where she had to argue for something she disagreed with, she didn’t lean back on “flash in the pan” theatrics, her former coach remembers. Instead, she would dig deeper to find evidence for an argument she could make that wouldn’t compromise her values. “Her moral convictions were strong enough, even at that age, that she wouldn’t try to manipulate the evidence such that it would go against her morality,” Wunn says. When Haugen got to college, she realized she needed to master another form of communication. “Because my parents were both professors, I was used to having dinner-table conversations where, like, someone would have read an interesting article that day, and would basically do a five-minute presentation,” she says. “And so I got to college, and I had no idea how to make small talk.” Today, Haugen is talkative and relaxed. She’s in a good mood because she got to “sleep in” until 8:30 a.m.—later than most other days on her European tour, she says. At one point, she asks if I’ve seen the TV series Archer and momentarily breaks into a song from the animated sitcom. After graduating from Olin College of Engineering—where, beyond the art of conversation, she studied the science of computer engineering—Haugen moved to Silicon Valley. During a stint at Google, she helped write the code for Secret Agent Cupid, the precursor to popular dating app Hinge. She took time off to undertake an M.B.A. at Harvard, a rarity for software engineers in Silicon Valley and something she would later credit with helping her diagnose some of the organizational flaws within Facebook. But in 2014, while back at Google, Haugen’s trajectory was knocked off course. Haugen has celiac disease, a condition that means her immune system attacks her own tissues if she eats gluten. (Hence the sushi.) She “did not take it seriously enough” in her 20s, she says. After repeated trips to the hospital, doctors eventually realized she had a blood clot in her leg that had been there for anywhere between 18 months and two years. Her leg turned purple, and she ended up in the hospital for over a month. There she had an allergic reaction to a drug and nearly bled to death. She suffered nerve damage in her hands and feet, a condition known as neuropathy, from which she still suffers today. “I think it really changes your priorities when you’ve almost died,” Haugen says. “Everything that I had defined myself [by] before, I basically lost.” She was used to being the wunderkind who could achieve anything. Now, she needed help cooking her meals. “My recovery made me feel much more powerful, because I rebuilt my body,” she says. “I think the part that informed my journey was: You have to accept when you whistle-blow like this that you could lose everything. You could lose your money, you could lose your freedom, you could alienate everyone who cares about you. There’s all these things that could happen to you. Once you overcome your fear of death, anything is possible. I think it gave me the freedom to say: Do I want to follow my conscience?” Once Haugen was out of the hospital, she moved back into her apartment but struggled with daily tasks. She hired a friend to assist her part time. “I became really close friends with him because he was so committed to my getting better,” she says. But over the course of six months, in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, she says, “I just lost him” to online misinformation. He seemed to believe conspiracy theories, like the idea that George Soros runs the world economy. “At some point, I realized I couldn’t reach him,” she says. Soon Haugen was physically recovering, and she began to consider re-entering the workforce. She spent stints at Yelp and Pinterest as a successful product manager working on algorithms. Then, in 2018, a Facebook recruiter contacted her. She told him that she would take the job only if she could work on tackling misinformation in Facebook’s “integrity” operation, the arm of the company focused on keeping the platform and its users safe. “I took that job because losing my friend was just incredibly painful, and I didn’t want anyone else to feel that pain,” she says. Her optimism that she could make a change from inside lasted about two months. Haugen’s first assignment involved helping manage a project to tackle misinformation in places where the company didn’t have any third-party fact-checkers. Everybody on her team was a new hire, and she didn’t have the data scientists she needed. “I went to the engineering manager, and I said, ‘This is the inappropriate team to work on this,’” she recalls. “He said, ‘You shouldn’t be so negative.’” The pattern repeated itself, she says. “I raised a lot of concerns in the first three months, and my concerns were always discounted by my manager and other people who had been at the company for longer.” Before long, her entire team was shifted away from working on international misinformation in some of Facebook’s most vulnerable markets to working on the 2020 U.S. election, she says. The documents Haugen would later disclose to authorities showed that in 2020, Facebook spent 3.2 million hours tackling misinformation, although just 13% of that time was spent on content from outside the U.S., the Journal reported. Facebook’s spokesperson said in a statement that the company has “dedicated teams with expertise in human rights, hate speech and misinformation” working in at-risk countries. “We dedicate resources to these countries, including those without fact-checking programs, and have been since before, during and after the 2020 U.S. elections, and this work continues today.” Read More: Why Some People See More Disturbing Content on Facebook Than Others, According to Leaked Documents Haugen said that her time working on misinformation in foreign countries made her deeply concerned about the impact of Facebook abroad. “I became concerned with India even in the first two weeks I was in the company,” she says. Many people who were accessing the Internet for the first time in places like India, Haugen realized after reading research on the topic, did not even consider the possibility that something they had read online might be false or misleading. “From that moment on, I was like, Oh, there is a huge sleeping dragon at Facebook,” she says. “We are advancing the Internet to other countries far faster than it happened in, say, the U.S.,” she says, noting that people in the U.S. have had time to build up a “cultural muscle” of skepticism toward online content. “And I worry about the gap [until] that information immune system forms.” In February 2020, Haugen sent a text message to her parents asking if she could come and live with them in Iowa when the pandemic hit. Her mother Alice Haugen recalls wondering what pandemic she was talking about, but agreed. “She had made a spreadsheet with a simple exponential growth model that tried to guess when San Francisco would be shut down,” Alice says. A little later, Frances asked if she could send some food ahead of her. Soon, large Costco boxes started arriving at the house. “She was trying to bring in six months of food for five people, because she was afraid that the supply lines might break down,” Alice says. “Our living room became a small grocery store.” After quarantining for 10 days upon arrival, the younger Haugen settled into lockdown life with her parents, continuing her work for Facebook remotely. “We shared meals, and every day we would have conversations,” Alice says. She recalled her daughter voicing specific concerns about Facebook’s impact in Ethiopia, where ethnic violence was playing out on—and in some cases being amplified by—Facebook’s platforms. On Nov. 9, Facebook said it had been investing in safety measures in Ethiopia for more than two years, including activating algorithms to down-rank potentially inflammatory content in several languages in response to escalating violence there. Haugen acknowledges the work, saying she wants to give “credit where credit is due,” but claims the social network was too late to intervene with safety measures in Ethiopia and other parts of the world. “The idea that they don’t even turn those knobs on until people are getting shot is completely unacceptable,” she says. “The reality right now is that Facebook is not willing to invest the level of resources that would allow it to intervene sooner.” A Facebook spokesperson defended the prioritization system in its statement, saying that the company has long-term strategies to “mitigate the impacts of harmful offline events in the countries we deem most at risk … while still protecting freedom of expression and other human rights principles.” What Haugen saw was happening in nations like Ethiopia and India would clarify her opinions about “engagement-based ranking”—the system within Facebook more commonly known as “the algorithm”—that chooses which posts, out of thousands of options, to rank at the top of users’ feeds. Haugen’s central argument is that human nature means this system is doomed to amplify the worst in us. “One of the things that has been well documented in psychology research is that the more times a human is exposed to something, the more they like it, and the more they believe it’s true,” she says. “One of the most dangerous things about engagement-based ranking is that it is much easier to inspire someone to hate than it is to compassion or empathy. Given that you have a system that hyperamplifies the most extreme content, you’re going to see people who get exposed over and over again to the idea that [for example] it’s O.K. to be violent to Muslims. And that destabilizes societies.” In the run-up to the 2020 U.S. election, according to media reports, some initiatives proposed by Facebook’s integrity teams to tackle misinformation and other problems were killed or watered down by executives on the policy side of the company, who are responsible both for setting the platform’s rules and lobbying governments on Facebook’s behalf. Facebook spokespeople have said in response that the interventions were part of the company’s commitment to nuanced policymaking that balanced freedom of speech with safety. Haugen’s time at business school taught her to view the problem differently: Facebook was a company that prioritized growth over the safety of its users. “Organizational structure is a wonky topic, but it matters,” Haugen says. Inside the company, she says, she observed the effect of these repeated interventions on the integrity team. “People make decisions on what projects to work on, or advance, or give more resources to, based on what they believe is the chance for success,” she says. “I think there were many projects that could be content-neutral—that didn’t involve us choosing what are good or bad ideas, but instead are about making the platform safe—that never got greenlit, because if you’ve seen other things like that fail, you don’t even try them.” Being with her parents, particularly her mother, who left a career as a professor to become an Episcopal priest, helped Haugen become comfortable with the idea she might one day have to go public. “I was learning all these horrific things about Facebook, and it was really tearing me up inside,” she says. “The thing that really hurts most whistle-blowers is: whistle-blowers live with secrets that impact the lives of other people. And they feel like they have no way of resolving them. And so instead of being destroyed by learning these things, I got to talk to my mother … If you’re having a crisis of conscience, where you’re trying to figure out a path that you can live with, having someone you can agonize to, over and over again, is the ultimate amenity.” Haugen didn’t decide to blow the whistle until December 2020, by which point she was back in San Francisco. The final straw came when Facebook dissolved Haugen’s former team, civic integrity, whose leader had asked employees to take an oath to put the public good before Facebook’s private interest. (Facebook denies that it dissolved the team, saying instead that members were spread out across the company to amplify its influence.) Haugen and many of her former colleagues felt betrayed. But her mother’s counsel had mentally prepared her. “It meant that when that moment happened, I was actually in a pretty good place,” Haugen says. “I wasn’t in a place of crisis like many whistle-blowers are.” Read More: Why Facebook Employees ‘Deprioritized’ a Misinformation Fix In March, Haugen moved to Puerto Rico, in part for the warm weather, which she says helps with her neuropathy pain. Another factor was the island’s cryptocurrency community, which has burgeoned because of the U.S. territory’s lack of capital gains taxes. In October, she told the New York Times that she had bought into crypto “at the right time,” implying that she had a financial buffer that allowed her to whistle-blow comfortably. Haugen’s detractors have pointed to the irony of her calling for tech companies to do their social duty, while living in a U.S. territory with a high rate of poverty that is increasingly being used as a tax haven. Some have also pointed out that Haugen is not entirely independent: she has received support from Luminate, a philanthropic organization pushing for progressive Big Tech reform in Europe and the U.S., and which is backed by the billionaire founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar. Luminate paid Haugen’s expenses on her trip to Europe and helped organize meetings with senior officials. Omidyar has also donated to Whistleblower Aid, the nonprofit legal organization that is now representing Haugen pro bono. Luminate says it entered into a relationship with Haugen only after she went public with her disclosures. Haugen resigned from Facebook in May this year, after being told by the human-resources team that she could not work remotely from a U.S. territory. The news accelerated the secret project that she had decided to begin after seeing her old team disbanded. To collect the documents she would later disclose, Haugen trawled Facebook’s internal employee forum, Workplace. She traced the careers of integrity colleagues she admired—many of whom had left the company in frustration—gathering slide decks, research briefs and policy proposals they had worked on, as well as other documents she came across. Read more: Facebook Will Not Fix Itself While collecting the documents, she had flashbacks to her teenage years preparing folders of evidence for debates. “I was like, Wow, this is just like debate camp!” she recalls. “When I was 16 and doing that, I had no idea that it would be useful in this way in the future.” Jabin Botsford—Getty ImagesHaugen testifies on Oct. 5 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. In her Senate testimony in early October, Haugen suggested a federal agency should be set up to oversee social media algorithms so that “someone like me could do a tour of duty” after working at a company like Facebook. But moving to Washington, D.C., to serve at such an agency has no appeal, she says. “I am happy to be one of the people consulted by that agency,” she says. “But I have a life I really like in Puerto Rico.” Now that her tour of Europe is over, Haugen has had a chance to think about what comes next. Over an encrypted phone call from Puerto Rico a few days after we met in Paris, she says she would like to help build a grassroots movement to help young people push back against the harms caused by social media companies. In this new task, as seems to be the case with everything in Haugen’s life, she wants to try to leverage the power of education. “I am fully aware that a 19-year-old talking to a 16-year-old will be more effective than me talking to that 16-year-old,” she tells me. “There is a real opportunity for young people to flex their political muscles and demand accountability.” I ask if she has a message to send to young people reading this. “Hmm,” she says, followed by a long pause. “In every era, humans invent technologies that run away from themselves,” she says. “It’s very easy to look at some of these tech platforms and feel like they are too big, too abstract and too amorphous to influence in any way. But the reality is there are lots of things we can do. And the reason they haven’t done them is because it makes the companies less profitable. Not unprofitable, just less profitable. And no company has the right to subsidize their profits with your health. Ironically, Haugen gives partial credit to one of her managers at Facebook for inspiring her thought process around blowing the whistle. After struggling with a problem for a week without asking for help, she missed a deadline. When she explained why, the manager told her he was disappointed that she had hidden that she was having difficulty, she says. “He said, ‘We solve problems together; we don’t solve them alone,’” she says. Never one to miss a teaching opportunity, she continues, “Part of why I came forward is I believe Facebook has been struggling alone. They’ve been hiding how much they’re struggling. And the reality is, we solve problems together, we don’t solve them alone.” ShutterstockFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced the company was rebranding as Meta. It’s a philosophy that Haugen sees as the basis for how social media platforms should deal with societal issues going forward. In late October, Facebook Inc. (which owns Facebook, Whats App and Instagram) changed its name to Meta, a nod to its ambition to build the next generation of online experiences. In a late-October speech, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he believed the “Metaverse”—its new proposal to build a virtual universe—would fundamentally reshape how humans interact with technology. Haugen says she is concerned the Metaverse will isolate people rather than bring them together: “I believe any tech with that much influence deserves public oversight.” But hers is also a belief system that allows for a path toward redemption. That friend she lost to misinformation? His story has a happy ending. “I learned later that he met a nice girl and he had gone back to church,” Haugen says, adding that he no longer believes in conspiracy theories. “It gives me a lot of hope that we can recover as individuals and as a society. But it involves us connecting with people.” —With reporting by Leslie Dickstein and Nik Popli.....»»

Category: topSource: timeNov 22nd, 2021

Taibbi: Hamilton 68 Stealth Edits Website After Bombshell Report

Taibbi: Hamilton 68 Stealth Edits Website After Bombshell Report Addendum by Matt Taibbi via Racket, Hamilton 68 responded to a #TwitterFiles thread Friday with a series of claims, including that their site was always intended to be understood as “nuanced,” that they always maintained that “witting or unwitting” accounts could be on their list, and that “some accounts we track are automated bots, some are trolls, and some are real users.” They could also have inserted the disclaimer added to the new Hamilton 2.0 page, which as a helpful reader noted this morning, includes in red font a blaring warning to all that it would INCORRECT to label anyone or anything that appears on their dashboard “as being connected to state-backed propaganda”: Thank heaven for the Wayback Machine. Here’s what was written on the original Hamilton page: These accounts were selected for their relationship to Russian-sponsored influence and disinformation campaigns, and not because of any domestic political content. We have monitored these datasets for months in order to verify their relevance to Russian disinformation programs targeting the United States. …this will provide a resource for journalists to appropriately identify Russian-sponsored information campaigns. High on that original page, the Hamilton founders explained they monitored two types of accounts: There are two components to the dashboard featured here. The first section, “Overt Promotion of Content,” highlights trending content from Twitter accounts for media outlets known to be controlled by the Russian government. The second section, “Content Tweeted by Bots and Trolls,” highlights themes being pushed by Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence campaigns. The Hamilton list tracked overt Russian media on the one hand, and “bots and trolls” on the other. Note the difference between that language and the language Friday: “Some accounts we track are automated bots, some are trolls, and some are real users.” That Hamilton Friday was also trying to distance itself from headlines about “bots” is particularly grotesque, given that it was so overt in identifying the composition of its list this way at the start. I encourage everyone to read language from the original site, then look at Friday’s ironically named “Fact sheet,” and compare for yourselves. Finally I want to note a passage from the Friday “fact sheet” I somehow overlooked: Individual accounts were algorithmically selected based on analytic techniques developed by J.M. Berger that were used to identify the most influential accounts within those networks. The Hamilton 68 team did not individually review or verify all accounts because the focus of the dashboard was to analyze behavior in aggregate networks, not specific accounts. Translating: individual accounts were chosen through a method developed by J.M. Berger, a writer and think-tanker whose usual specialty is extremism (he’s written about ISIS and domestic white nationalism in the U.S.). Still, it wasn’t even Berger’s fault that ordinary Americans ended up in the list, since said people were chosen “algorithmically.” The Hamilton 68 team also “did not individually review or verify” all the names, because their “focus” was “aggregate networks,” not “specific accounts.” So, nobody looked at the list. The list that was “the fruit of more than three years of observation and monitoring.”’ Sounds solid. Yes? No? *  *  * Authored by Matt Taibbi via Racket, Days before yesterday’s Twitter Files report about Hamilton 68, I wrote the public relations officers of both of the sites’ parent organizations, the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD) and the German Marshall Fund (GMF). I told them I was in possession of the Hamilton 68 list, which purported to track “Russian influence activities.” I said I had a slew of internal Twitter documents that among other things identified their project as “bullshit.” Toward the end I added: Given the sheer quantity of news stories sourced to Hamilton 68, this has to go down as one of the great media frauds of all time. Unless you have an explanation for how and why hundreds of non-Russians like Dennis Michael Lynch, Patrick Hennigsen, Joe Lauria, and [I inserted the name of a San Diego school board member] came to be on this list, there’s no other conclusion.  I hope you will treat this matter with respect and answer this query. My story is going to identify not just people like Clint Watts but members of the ASD advisory board as party to this.  The story eventually published, “Move Over, Jayson Blair: Meet Hamilton 68, The New King of Media Fraud,” was based on email assessments of Twitter executives like Yoel Roth and Nick Pickles, the forensic analysis Roth had done in 2017 and which was excerpted yesterday, and interviews with people on the list. These elements — especially the interviews — made for a pretty ironclad case that the much-ballyhooed Hamilton 68 “dashboard” was a sham, that took real opinions of real people and falsely declared them part of a “network” of “Russian influence activities.” On the remote chance Hamilton 68 had inside information legitimizing the linking of Dennis Michael Lynch, David Horowitz, and @TrumpDyke to “Russian influence activities,” I not only reached out to Hamilton’s creators, but when they were quiet, threw a tantrum on Twitter, tagging every member of the ASD advisory board in an effort to hear from them pre-publication. I genuinely wanted to hear an innocent explanation if they had one. They still said nothing. Only after the story blew up online yesterday did they put out an explanation. “FACT SHEET: Hamilton 68 Dashboard (2017-2018)” is embarrassing. I’ve been told by several people since yesterday that Clint Watts is a sweet guy and a devoted family man. But the response he put out starts dissembling in the lead paragraph: By analyzing a dynamic list of more than 600 Twitter accounts linked, wittingly or unwittingly, to Russian influence activities online, the dashboard provided a window into Russian propaganda and disinformation efforts online… Let’s explore “wittingly or unwittingly.” Forget that Hamilton 68’s original dashboard said it was “tracking Russian propaganda” and “Russian disinformation” (and not tweets by Consortium, The Sirius Report, and Liberals are Dumb). Forget even that co-founder Jamie Fly regularly compared the Russian cyber threat to al-Qaeda, and used language describing the Hamilton 68 accounts as if they were a front for a league of sleeper cells: The approximately 600 accounts are a sample of a much wider network of pro-Kremlin accounts… These accounts should be viewed as a sample of distinct networks of Russian-linked accounts that were identified over the course of roughly three years of analysis. They are very likely only the tip of the iceberg.  Hamilton’s claims were even more concrete than that. Its founders told reporters they couldn’t disclose account names because “the Russians will simply shut them down,” implying direct control of Moscow. This is from a Politico interview with co-founder Laura Rosenberger: Here’s one of Hamilton’s favorite journalists, Ken Dilanian of NBC, offering the same line about how Russia would simply marionette all of its cyber-agents back into darkness if the list were to be released: By yesterday, the site was claiming its reason for secrecy was that it “took data privacy seriously and worked to maintain the anonymity of monitored accounts to avoid doxing or harassment.” This explanation changed a lot over time. We’ll come back to that, because it’s important. What if reporters simply misunderstood Hamilton 68? What if the media overreacted? That was the next explanation: The dashboard’s original methodology acknowledged that “the content within the network is complex and should be understood in a nuanced way.” Members of the media, pundits, and even some lawmakers often failed to include appropriate context when using the dashboard’s data… We’re meant to believe that through a propaganda campaign that began in the summer of 2017 and saw people like Watts, Fly, and co-founder Laura Rosenberger make regular breathless public appearances about the Russian menace they were tracking, in stories with headlines like “The Russian Bots Are Coming,” was — a misunderstanding. Reporters went overboard, ignoring Hamilton demands for context and “nuance”! Last night they even disavowed the notion that they were responsible for headlines about “bots.” This was first on a list of “false or misleading claims”: Claim: The Hamilton 68 team selected accounts based on a determination that they were “Russian bots.” Here’s Watts on NPR on August 20, 2017, responding to a question from host Lulu Garcia-Navarro, who introduced Watts by saying, “The #FireMcMaster hashtag was promoted by computer software known as bots, according to our next guest,” before adding: “What’s the evidence that Russia is using bots to spread stories against McMaster, and how certain can you be of the source?” The response: WATTS: So we start with Russian state-sponsored outlets. We look at what they're talking about. We then move to what we see are overt Russian supporters. These are people that openly declare and state that they're pushing Russian propaganda and Russian interests. And then over time, we watch as this community grows. And that's when we start to pick up on the bots that amplify it. Once we can identify the message, we essentially do a key network monitor. We build out some algorithms, and we zero down on what is being amplified the most. That's where we pick up on the bots. Did Watts ever say, “Lulu, they weren’t all bots? In fact, one’s the editor of Consortium, and another does Trump-themed porn”? He did not. In this early period, Hamilton’s spokespeople never insisted on “nuance,” nor did its patrons. On Christmas day, 2017, two members of the ASD advisory committee — former acting CIA chief Michael Morell and former House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers — wrote a piece called, “Russia never stopped its cyberattacks on the United States” in the Washington Post. The co-written piece cited Hamilton 68 in asserting, again without equivocation, that they were tracking social media cyberattacks directed by Moscow: Moscow used these accounts to discredit the FBI after it was revealed that an agent had been demoted for sending anti-Donald Trump texts; to attack ABC News for an erroneous report involving President Trump and Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser; to critique the Obama administration for allegedly "green lighting" the communication between Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; and to warn about violence by immigrants after a jury acquitted an undocumented Mexican accused of murdering a San Francisco woman. The first link in that passage was to the Hamilton dashboard. As the site Moon of Alabama wittily noted at the time, the top trend on the board that day was actually “Merry Christmas.” In between discrediting the FBI and trying to stir up the locals around the trial of a Mexican immigrant in San Francisco, “Moscow” took time for holiday greetings: A few weeks later, Rosenberger gave an interview to Vice called “The Former Hillary Clinton Advisor Tracking Russian Bots and Trolls.” She spoke about Hamilton’s relationship with the media: ROSENBERGER: We do a lot of work with journalists to try to better inform their reporting. Journalists watch the dashboard, see what stories are trending, and think about why they might be promoting this particular story. They can incorporate this knowledge into their reporting. We also do a lot of work with policy makers to make sure they are informed. This was after Fortune wrote a story called, “Former FBI Agent Says Russian Twitter Bots Were Behind Push for McMaster Firing,” after Mother Jones wrote “Twitter Bots Distorted the 2016 Election—Including Many Likely From Russia,” and after Bloomberg wrote “Pro-Russian Bots Sharpen Online Attacks for 2018 U.S. Vote.” Rosenberger’s Vice interview was also just before “policymakers” like congressman Adam Schiff and Senator Dianne Feinstein cited them in issuing a joint statement about “Russian Bot Activity in the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign.” Subscribers to Racket can read the rest here... Tyler Durden Sun, 01/29/2023 - 12:33.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytJan 29th, 2023

A high school basketball coach is still out $10,000 after Southwest canceled a flight and left his whole team stranded in Las Vegas for 5 days over Christmas. They ended up chartering a bus to drive 18 hours home in the snow.

Southwest tried to send them on "flights to nowhere," the coach said, before a local businessman finally chartered a bus for $15,000 to get them home. The Rainier Beach High School boys basketball team.Virginia Bethea A Seattle high school basketball team spent Christmas in Vegas after a canceled Southwest flight. The coaches spent days and thousands of dollars taking care of the players and trying to get them home. In the end, a businessman paid nearly $15,000 to charter a bus to bring them home. An entire high school basketball team from Seattle, Washington, ended up stranded in Las Vegas for five days over Christmas after Southwest canceled their flight and left them scrambling to get home, spending thousands of dollars, and eventually driving 18 hours on a bus through the snow.The Rainer Beach High School team, a powerhouse that has produced several NBA players under its current coaching staff, was in Las Vegas for the Tarkanian Classic, an elite annual tournament attended by NBA executives and scouts.The trip was planned months in advance for December 19 to 23 and was attended by more than 30 people, including 15 players, coaching staff, and some parents. But in the early morning of December 23, just hours before it was time to head to the airport, they got a text from Southwest Airlines saying their flight was canceled."In most cases, the airline would go ahead and reschedule you," Michael Bethea, the team's head coach, told Insider. "When I contacted the airline, it was basically, to sum it up, 'You're on your own.'"Bethea and his wife, Virginia Bethea, who also works at the school as a family support specialist, would spend the next five days traveling back and forth from the airport, trying to get the boys on flights home to Seattle, and in the meantime covering costs of the hotel rooms, rental cars, and food. The couple said altogether they spent over $10,000.Other coaches, including assistant coach Harold Wright, also spent money and time taking care of and feeding the players, who were often sprawled out in the hotel lobby waiting to find out if they'd make it home for Christmas. Meanwhile, some of the parents and coaches were worried about losing their jobs due to missing work.After many hours of trying to get help from the airline, Southwest said it could try splitting up the team and getting them out on separate flights — but not necessarily to Seattle."They were going to put us on flights to nowhere. They were going to send eight kids to Phoenix with no connecting flight to Seattle, eight kids to Sacramento with no connecting flights," Bethea said. "So I said, 'That's your answer? What are they supposed to do once they get there?""Well, we're getting them on planes," Southwest responded, according to Bethea.The Rainier Beach High School boys basketball team stuck in Vegas.Virginia BetheaEventually, they worked out a situation to send the players on flights to Seattle in groups, each accompanied by an adult, on separate planes and even separate days, but every one of those flights also got canceled.Finally, after being stuck in Vegas over Christmas and being told by Southwest the earliest they could fly out was December 31 — more than a week after their initial flight — the Betheas spoke to a friend of theirs and a local businessman from back home who wanted to help."He was like, 'I just want to get those kids home safely,'" Virginia Bethea said. "And he doesn't even know these kids."The man paid nearly $15,000 to charter a bus, which they got at a discount, to drive the entire team, staff, and family members 18 hours home to Seattle, at times through the snow and sketchy road conditions, on December 28.'We're really going to miss Christmas with our families?'When the original flight was first canceled, the coaches initially tried to be optimistic that the team would still make it home for Christmas. But reality eventually sunk in. During a team meeting, one of the coaches with two kids in grade school had to walk out of the room because they were crying."A lot of the kids were honestly in disbelief, like, 'We're really going to miss Christmas with our families?'" Bethea said.Still, the team tried to make the most of the situation, including by taking everyone to a buffet dinner on Christmas day. Michael and Virginia Bethea even went out and bought each of the kids a Christmas gift."It kind of brightened up everybody's attitude," assistant coach Wright said. "They still felt like they were worthy of something.""Christmas is a big deal for most of these kids," he explained, adding that it's the first time they get new sneakers or other things.The team took a bus 18 hours home to Seattle, driving through snowy roads.Virginia BetheaEven though the coaches also missed their family Christmas plans, they said there were a lot of positives to come out of the situation."This is probably the best Christmas, in all honesty," Virginia Bethea said, adding "just to be able to serve people through this time. This is what Christmas is all about."Wright said he also enjoyed getting to spend additional time with the players, becoming even more of a family and helping them feel better through tough circumstances."That's what I was trying to project into them: That through adversity, we can still manage a good situation," Wright said. "'Keep your heads up and we're going to get through this, but we're going to have to do it together."The team will take more trips, but likely not on SouthwestAs of Friday, the team had been partially refunded for the canceled flights but was still waiting on the full amount. They also said they were told they would be able to get some of the incidental expenses covered, but have not been told how much."The refunds for the team's outbound flights that were interrupted are in process for a full refund and the reimbursements are currently being reviewed for consideration," a spokesperson for Southwest told Insider, adding: "We continue to process requests daily to help make things right for this group of Customers and the others whose travel plans were disrupted."The Betheas said the line to talk to a Southwest agent spanned the length of the terminal.Virginia BetheaThe team was among thousands of travelers across the country who experienced canceled flights over Christmas. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has said airlines were required to issue refunds "within seven business days if a passenger paid by credit card, and within 20 days if a passenger paid by cash, check, or other means." He also called on them to cover ground transportation, hotels, and meals for stranded passengers.The coaches said that when the initial flight was canceled, they struggled to even get a Southwest customer service agent on the phone. When they finally did, the agent apologized but didn't have any answers. Bethea said the first person he talked to spoke with him, and hung up on him, in two separate calls, and then: "The third time I called him he said, 'Is this Mr. Bethea?' I said, 'Yes.' And he hung up on me."He said the team will continue to travel for national tournaments every year. They stressed the success of the school's basketball program under coach Bethea and assistant coach Wright, who have coached at the school for 28 years, and the opportunities it's provided the players."They put more Black boys in college than all high school basketball programs combined in the state of Washington," Virginia Bethea said. Her husband added that the program has been responsible for millions of dollars in educational scholarships that players have received.So they will continue to maintain the program and travel to elite tournaments with the team. Just not on Southwest.Have a news tip or a travel story to share? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJan 29th, 2023

Taibbi Shreds Hamilton 68 "Laughable And Damning" Response To Being Exposed As Frauds

Taibbi Shreds Hamilton 68 'Laughable And Damning' Response To Being Exposed As Frauds Authored by Matt Taibbi via Racket, Days before yesterday’s Twitter Files report about Hamilton 68, I wrote the public relations officers of both of the sites’ parent organizations, the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD) and the German Marshall Fund (GMF). I told them I was in possession of the Hamilton 68 list, which purported to track “Russian influence activities.” I said I had a slew of internal Twitter documents that among other things identified their project as “bullshit.” Toward the end I added: Given the sheer quantity of news stories sourced to Hamilton 68, this has to go down as one of the great media frauds of all time. Unless you have an explanation for how and why hundreds of non-Russians like Dennis Michael Lynch, Patrick Hennigsen, Joe Lauria, and [I inserted the name of a San Diego school board member] came to be on this list, there’s no other conclusion.  I hope you will treat this matter with respect and answer this query. My story is going to identify not just people like Clint Watts but members of the ASD advisory board as party to this.  The story eventually published, “Move Over, Jayson Blair: Meet Hamilton 68, The New King of Media Fraud,” was based on email assessments of Twitter executives like Yoel Roth and Nick Pickles, the forensic analysis Roth had done in 2017 and which was excerpted yesterday, and interviews with people on the list. These elements — especially the interviews — made for a pretty ironclad case that the much-ballyhooed Hamilton 68 “dashboard” was a sham, that took real opinions of real people and falsely declared them part of a “network” of “Russian influence activities.” On the remote chance Hamilton 68 had inside information legitimizing the linking of Dennis Michael Lynch, David Horowitz, and @TrumpDyke to “Russian influence activities,” I not only reached out to Hamilton’s creators, but when they were quiet, threw a tantrum on Twitter, tagging every member of the ASD advisory board in an effort to hear from them pre-publication. I genuinely wanted to hear an innocent explanation if they had one. They still said nothing. Only after the story blew up online yesterday did they put out an explanation. “FACT SHEET: Hamilton 68 Dashboard (2017-2018)” is embarrassing. I’ve been told by several people since yesterday that Clint Watts is a sweet guy and a devoted family man. But the response he put out starts dissembling in the lead paragraph: By analyzing a dynamic list of more than 600 Twitter accounts linked, wittingly or unwittingly, to Russian influence activities online, the dashboard provided a window into Russian propaganda and disinformation efforts online… Let’s explore “wittingly or unwittingly.” Forget that Hamilton 68’s original dashboard said it was “tracking Russian propaganda” and “Russian disinformation” (and not tweets by Consortium, The Sirius Report, and Liberals are Dumb). Forget even that co-founder Jamie Fly regularly compared the Russian cyber threat to al-Qaeda, and used language describing the Hamilton 68 accounts as if they were a front for a league of sleeper cells: The approximately 600 accounts are a sample of a much wider network of pro-Kremlin accounts… These accounts should be viewed as a sample of distinct networks of Russian-linked accounts that were identified over the course of roughly three years of analysis. They are very likely only the tip of the iceberg.  Hamilton’s claims were even more concrete than that. Its founders told reporters they couldn’t disclose account names because “the Russians will simply shut them down,” implying direct control of Moscow. This is from a Politico interview with co-founder Laura Rosenberger: Here’s one of Hamilton’s favorite journalists, Ken Dilanian of NBC, offering the same line about how Russia would simply marionette all of its cyber-agents back into darkness if the list were to be released: By yesterday, the site was claiming its reason for secrecy was that it “took data privacy seriously and worked to maintain the anonymity of monitored accounts to avoid doxing or harassment.” This explanation changed a lot over time. We’ll come back to that, because it’s important. What if reporters simply misunderstood Hamilton 68? What if the media overreacted? That was the next explanation: The dashboard’s original methodology acknowledged that “the content within the network is complex and should be understood in a nuanced way.” Members of the media, pundits, and even some lawmakers often failed to include appropriate context when using the dashboard’s data… We’re meant to believe that through a propaganda campaign that began in the summer of 2017 and saw people like Watts, Fly, and co-founder Laura Rosenberger make regular breathless public appearances about the Russian menace they were tracking, in stories with headlines like “The Russian Bots Are Coming,” was — a misunderstanding. Reporters went overboard, ignoring Hamilton demands for context and “nuance”! Last night they even disavowed the notion that they were responsible for headlines about “bots.” This was first on a list of “false or misleading claims”: Claim: The Hamilton 68 team selected accounts based on a determination that they were “Russian bots.” Here’s Watts on NPR on August 20, 2017, responding to a question from host Lulu Garcia-Navarro, who introduced Watts by saying, “The #FireMcMaster hashtag was promoted by computer software known as bots, according to our next guest,” before adding: “What’s the evidence that Russia is using bots to spread stories against McMaster, and how certain can you be of the source?” The response: WATTS: So we start with Russian state-sponsored outlets. We look at what they're talking about. We then move to what we see are overt Russian supporters. These are people that openly declare and state that they're pushing Russian propaganda and Russian interests. And then over time, we watch as this community grows. And that's when we start to pick up on the bots that amplify it. Once we can identify the message, we essentially do a key network monitor. We build out some algorithms, and we zero down on what is being amplified the most. That's where we pick up on the bots. Did Watts ever say, “Lulu, they weren’t all bots? In fact, one’s the editor of Consortium, and another does Trump-themed porn”? He did not. In this early period, Hamilton’s spokespeople never insisted on “nuance,” nor did its patrons. On Christmas day, 2017, two members of the ASD advisory committee — former acting CIA chief Michael Morell and former House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers — wrote a piece called, “Russia never stopped its cyberattacks on the United States” in the Washington Post. The co-written piece cited Hamilton 68 in asserting, again without equivocation, that they were tracking social media cyberattacks directed by Moscow: Moscow used these accounts to discredit the FBI after it was revealed that an agent had been demoted for sending anti-Donald Trump texts; to attack ABC News for an erroneous report involving President Trump and Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser; to critique the Obama administration for allegedly "green lighting" the communication between Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; and to warn about violence by immigrants after a jury acquitted an undocumented Mexican accused of murdering a San Francisco woman. The first link in that passage was to the Hamilton dashboard. As the site Moon of Alabama wittily noted at the time, the top trend on the board that day was actually “Merry Christmas.” In between discrediting the FBI and trying to stir up the locals around the trial of a Mexican immigrant in San Francisco, “Moscow” took time for holiday greetings: A few weeks later, Rosenberger gave an interview to Vice called “The Former Hillary Clinton Advisor Tracking Russian Bots and Trolls.” She spoke about Hamilton’s relationship with the media: ROSENBERGER: We do a lot of work with journalists to try to better inform their reporting. Journalists watch the dashboard, see what stories are trending, and think about why they might be promoting this particular story. They can incorporate this knowledge into their reporting. We also do a lot of work with policy makers to make sure they are informed. This was after Fortune wrote a story called, “Former FBI Agent Says Russian Twitter Bots Were Behind Push for McMaster Firing,” after Mother Jones wrote “Twitter Bots Distorted the 2016 Election—Including Many Likely From Russia,” and after Bloomberg wrote “Pro-Russian Bots Sharpen Online Attacks for 2018 U.S. Vote.” Rosenberger’s Vice interview was also just before “policymakers” like congressman Adam Schiff and Senator Dianne Feinstein cited them in issuing a joint statement about “Russian Bot Activity in the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign.” Subscribers to Racket can read the rest here... Tyler Durden Sat, 01/28/2023 - 18:30.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJan 28th, 2023

Businesses, not governments, will need to lead the transition to clean energy, executives say

Firms must take swift action to get to net zero, execs say, but changing everyone's minds and actions requires trust, transparency, and cooperation. Joan Motsinger from Seagate and Jamie Gamble from PwC talked with Insider about the role of business in addressing the climate crisis.PwC Getting companies and consumers to be sustainable will require transparency, cooperation, and trust. The transition to clean energy isn't a choice, executives told Insider. The net-zero shift must be "affordable, safe and reliable, and clean." The US is about a decade behind where it should be to reach some of its net-zero goals. To make progress, business can't wait for the government to fix the problem.That assessment came from Joan Motsinger, the senior vice president of sustainability and transformation at Seagate, a data-storage company, in a recent discussion with Insider at PwC's Trust Leadership Institute. Getting boards, employees, and, finally, consumers to agree to and then implement strategies, adopt new technologies, and use more-sustainable products isn't easy and will require a high level of trust, transparency, and cooperation, Motsinger and two other executives told Insider.Motsinger and Kevin Fitzgerald — the chief utility officer at Energy Impact Partners, a venture-capital firm focused on sustainable energy with more than $3 billion in assets under management — had a conversation at the Trust Leadership Institute with Jamie Gamble, a PwC managing director, on shaping strategies around sustainability and the importance of transparency. The professional-services firm runs the Trust Leadership Institute — which aims to help C-suite and senior-level executives and directors think about the evolving and increasingly complex role that trust places in business, including public policy, data and technology, cybersecurity, workforce management, governance, and sustainability. The institute is part of PwC's $300 million commitment to push leaders to embed trust-based fundamentals into their day-to-day and long-term management styles and business practices. Motsinger said the move to sustainable business practices, infrastructure, supply chains, and products couldn't wait for the government to mandate such moves."Businesses are going to have to lead in the collective," she said.Some investments in the economic transition will be home runsGamble told Insider that leaders should think of the shift to net zero not in terms of cost but of investment. Fitzgerald agreed: "We're investing, not driving up costs," he said, adding that sustainable products and services had to be "affordable, safe and reliable, and clean." Of course, a change of this scale will be costly. Fitzgerald pointed to one estimate that it would take $9.2 trillion in annual investment to transform the global economy to net zero by 2050.Motsinger is concerned that many people are taking too long to understand the threat posed by the climate crisis. Fitzgerald added that it's key to develop trust among all sides so that businesses could roll out new technology. Gamble noted that in any industry or transition, such as what's needed to tackle the climate emergency, there will always be investments that fail. Yet that risk might not put off some investors. Fitzgerald said there were hundreds of billions of dollars that venture firms wanted to invest in sustainable startups, projects, and technology. Some of these investment areas are proven, while others aren't ready to be commercialized and are higher risk, such as zero- or low-emitting aviation fuel."It's worth the bet because if it works, it's a game changer, but it's a high-tech risk. If it goes to market and fails, then they need to move on," Fitzgerald said.VC funds are looking at sustainability projects and startups for one to two home runs out of 20 to 30 swings, Fitzgerald said. Many of these technologies have to be deployed by 2030, and some, like clean electricity across an upgraded grid, are high priority. Once we have safe, reliable, and affordable options in those areas, Fitzgerald said attention might turn to areas considered harder to decarbonize — processes like steelmaking, cement production, and construction. Technology is key to progress in sustainabilityThere are bellwether industries that will help tell the world how well things are going, Fitzgerald said, citing transportation. In the future, electric vehicles will likely dominate the roads, yet there are many questions about how we'll get there.The US electrical grid will require a major overhaul to deliver sufficient power for charging EVs. Fitzgerald said a passenger plaza along a highway serving cars and trucks could require enough electricity to power a small town."How much capacity do we have on the grid for that?" he said. "What kind of infrastructure needs to be built around that? What kinds of chargers do we need? And can we roll those out quickly?"While the transition of transportation to electrification is in its infancy, it's a great space to watch to see how the implementation of clean energy is going, Fitzgerald said. He added that investments in areas like battery-storage tech and even software for battery storage would serve as indicators of how quickly the US might reach its climate goals."It may be bumpy," he said.Fitzgerald said the technological evolution of many of Energy Impact Partners' companies and how far they'd come, and what'd been deployed for wider use, "shows that this can be done." But he added that as the world accelerated the clean-energy transition, issues would arise. There needs to be a continued focus on reliability and affordability for this to work."I have faith in innovators and faith in technology," Motsinger said, particularly because investors are putting money into more sustainable technologies and standards.Gamble said the transition wasn't a choice: "The world has moved, and leaders have to react to it in a positive way and creatively think."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJan 27th, 2023

I film skiers doing tricks. Here"s how I taught myself to shoot and landed gigs that let me travel the world.

Gavin Rudy, a cinematographer, grew up skiing in his native Colorado and started out filming his friends as a hobby. A still from one of the Gavin Rudy's films.Gavin Rudy Gavin Rudy films professional skiers performing tricks. He grew up skiing in Colorado and started out filming his friends as a hobby. This winter, he plans to film in Austria and Japan. He works for the US Forest Service in summer. This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Gavin Rudy, a self-employed cinematographer, about making ski films. It has been edited for length and clarity.I'm a self-employed cinematographer, editor, and artist. I primarily make ski films — action-sports movies that feature professional skiers doing tricks on mountains and in urban settings.I grew up skiing in Colorado. I loved skiing when I was younger and wanted to get out there and ski with my friends. I also liked making videos as a hobby, so I put the two together and started filming my friends doing ski tricks. I had fun doing it, even though we weren't pros.I didn't go to school specifically for film – I studied mechanical engineering in college. Instead, I picked up a camera and learned as I went.I was able to learn some things about camera work in a high-school class, but the most important thing was that I already knew how to ski. I don't have to think about my skiing when I'm filming, which makes it easier to focus on the shot I want to get.I started out using an old Canon helmet camera in the early 2000s and got a GoPro when they came out. Now I mostly like to film with an old tape camcorder.Even though camera technology has come a long way since I started, I'm not always inspired by the newest technology. I like the feel an old tape camcorder gives to the films; it's more grounded and looks less overproduced.My career got started when I shot some professional skiers at resorts in Colorado. Eventually, I went to shoot at Windells, a summer training camp in Mount Hood, Oregon, for professional and up-and-coming skiers. I worked with Newschoolers, a prominent website in the free-skiing world.Eventually, I began working on projects with a production company called Strictly. One of the coolest projects I got to work on was our film "Strictly Business." We shot professional freestyle skiers all over western North America.I work full time as a freelancer, which means I have to actively seek out work throughout the seasonI don't like to take on work that doesn't directly inspire me, like commercials. During the winter, I make some of my money by making ski films — as both a cinematographer and an editor.I also make some money selling my art — woodblock prints, sketches, and digital works. The price depends on the piece, but my benchmark is 2 ½ times the cost it takes to make.In the summer, I pick up other jobs, like working as a wilderness ranger for the US Forest Service. This means in the winter, I can take jobs that allow me to use my creativity with filming and editing."The films I make are the products of a lot of hard work from both the skiers and me. You're not just going out and skiing with your friends," Rudy said.Gavin RudyI usually take on jobs filming professional skiers for wider brand projects. Both me and the skiers are paid by the sponsors. I'm normally paid a flat rate on a per-project basis, but sometimes I'm paid an hourly rate.What I make from a single project varies, though it's often about $5,000 with all my travel expenses covered. I live frugally so I can afford to capitalize on projects that I'm excited about.Making ski films for a living has taken me to some exciting destinations. This winter, my two main jobs will be in Austria and Japan.To get the footage, we often have to follow the forecast. We keep an eye on where it's snowing and follow big storms whenever possible.Other times, with bigger international trips, we have to make plans and hope that the conditions are good for skiing and filming. If a storm rolls in or lighting is bad for filming, we might have to wait for things to clear up or get creative with filming tactics. We can usually make it work.The skiers and I normally plan every part of the trip togetherWe have to use our budget from the sponsors to pay for expenses like transportation and lodging. Usually, the leftover money at the end of this is what I get paid.Skiing powder — where you ski on lighter, fluffier snow — and doing tricks looks like a lot of fun on the screen, and it is. But the films I make are the products of a lot of hard work from both the skiers and me. You're not just going out and skiing with your friends.If we're filming tricks in urban areas, it requires a bigger team to get everything set up. We have to build the jumps and make sure the features are good to go. This might mean packing snow to make a ramp for a jump or moving snow onto pavement to create a landing at the end of a rail.On top of that, we have to help direct the shots and make sure the lighting is right. Sometimes we have to set up a generator for light if we're filming at night. When we're filming powder skiing and backcountry skiing, we have to be aware of avalanche conditions and carry extra gear for safety.At the end of a shooting day, the work isn't over for meI usually spend the rest of my day uploading footage to my computer — and ensuring it's well organized and backed up on hard drives so that I don't lose any of it.At the end of the winter season, after we've finished filming, I spend part of the summer editing the footage.This work gives me the freedom to work creatively and travel to interesting places.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJan 27th, 2023

Starbucks is inviting social workers to assist homeless people at some of its cafés

Starbucks contracts with outreach workers in eight US cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Starbucks is inviting social workers to assist homeless people in its cafes.Jeff Greenberg / Getty Images Since 2018, Starbucks has had an open-bathroom policy for nonpaying customers.  But as homeless people seek refuge in cafés, Starbucks has invited outreach workers to talk them.  Starbucks contracts with outreach workers in eight US cities, including Los Angeles and Seattle.  Starbucks' "third place" ethos has evolved beyond being a community hub for coffee lovers.Over the years, cafés have become makeshift offices for remote workers as well as temporary shelters for homeless people. But the latter can challenge store workers who are not trained to help people in crisis. Recently, the Seattle-based chain has opted to bring in outreach workers to assist homeless people, The Guardian reported.Starbucks cafés in eight US cities, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Chicago, are part of the two-year-old program, according to the article. The chain contracts with various nonprofit partners who send outreach workers to visit cafés to consult with and offer services to homeless people, such as information on local shelters and soup kitchens.Starbucks did not immediately return a request for comment.  A chain spokesperson told The Guardian that the program, launched in 2020, aims to support and strengthen the communities around its stores. It's also made help available to employees.With this program specifically, Starbucks "wanted to be a part of the solution" alongside nonprofits with experience in this area, the spokesperson told the Guardian.The Starbucks program underscores how top national chains have adopted policies to assist employees and the wider public, filling a role traditionally met by local and federal agencies. In 2020, Starbucks, Chipotle, and Costco led the way in mandating mask-wearing in their stores.Since 2018, Starbucks has had an "open door" policy to give bathroom access to nonpaying customers. The company changed its bathroom policy after a racial-discrimination incident in which a Black customer was denied access to the bathroom."We don't want to become a public bathroom, but we're going to make the right decision a hundred percent of the time and give people the key," Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told the Seattle Times at the time.But last year, citing safety concerns for its employees, Schultz, who is now the interim CEO, hinted that the policy might change. "I don't know if we can keep bathrooms open," he said during the New York Times's DealBook D.C. policy forum.In 2022, Starbucks said it closed 16 stores to protect the health and safety of its employees. At the time, the company said modifying bathroom policies and "partnering with local outreach workers" is one way Starbucks is working to help stores. "We want you to know that creating a safe, welcoming, and kind third place is our top priority. Because simply put, we cannot serve as partners if we don't first feel safe at work," company executives told employees last year. According to federal data, the number of homeless people has remained relatively flat since the pandemic. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development said in a December report that about 582,462 people were without shelter on a single night in January 2022. That's up .3%, or 1,996 people, since 2020. Last year, Starbucks pledged nearly $500,000 to support homeless programs in Seattle, where the chronic homeless population has increased 42% annually over the past four years. Are you a fast food insider with insight to share? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at nluna@insider.com or via Signal encrypted number 714-875-6218.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 25th, 2023

Nike"s messy dispute over who gets credit for signing Michael Jordan is hitting the big screen in film starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon

While there's debate about who should get the most credit for signing the NBA legend, there's no debate about Jordan's importance to Nike. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon while filming 'Air,' a movie that recounts how Nike signed Jordan.Bauer Griffin/Bellocqimages/GC Images/Getty Images "Air" will tell the story of how Nike convinced Michael Jordan to sign with the company.  The central players have given differing accounts of who should get the credit. The movie is set for a theatrical release on April 5, followed by a release on Prime Video. Michael Jordan's Nike deal is the gold standard for athletic endorsements. There's no debate. But there's a lot of debate about who should get the credit for it.That debate will get renewed attention in April when Ben Affleck and Matt Damon release "Air," a movie that recounts how Nike signed Jordan. Don't expect the movie to settle the debate, but get ready for a refresher course in the staggering competitiveness of the industry's pioneers and a reminder that Nike wasn't always a goliath. The movie stars Damon as Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro and Affleck as Nike cofounder Phil Knight, two sportswear icons who have differing views on how the Jordan deal materialized. Affleck also directed the film."The signing of Michael Jordan, yeah, success has a thousand fathers, and failure is an orphan," Knight told USA Today in 2015. "A lot of people want to take credit for signing Michael Jordan, most obviously Sonny Vaccaro.""Everyone's trying to rewrite history," Vaccaro responded in the same article. "It goes beyond Jordan. I am the savior of Nike.''USA Today in 2015 characterized Jordan as "slightly amused" by the debate. His performance on the court, after all, gave the deal its gilded value, not a handful of meals, meetings, and phone calls."It's a lot of people who think they created the success of the Jordan Brand, which is kind of ironic in some ways," Jordan said. The "Air" script was written by Alex Convery, named a Variety "screenwriter to watch." In October, Variety described the movie as a "witty boardroom procedural zeroing in on a few fateful days in the life of Sonny Vaccaro." "Being able to portray this now-billion-dollar company as an underdog, and Michael as a sort of unknown quantity, those two things in parallel really interested me," Convery told Variety.It's unclear if Vaccaro spoke with Knight, Vaccaro, or Jordan or if he relied on existing sources, including "Sole Man," an ESPN documentary about Vaccaro. Several books and news stories also have recounted how the Jordan deal came about, including parts of "Just do it," "Swoosh," and a sweeping 1992 story in the Washington Post. The Post story, like the others, outlines the underdog narrative the movie will likely highlight. While it was one of the defining corporate success stories of the 1970s, in the early 1980s, Nike was flailing, having whiffed on the aerobics boom. "Orwell was right: 1984 was a tough year," Knight wrote in that year's annual shareholder report. That same year Nike had a rare round of layoffs and Fortune roasted it for its woeful performance. "Nike loses its footing on the fast track," reads the headline of a November 1984 Fortune article. "Earnings are dismal, management is shuffling, and many wonder if founder Philip Knight has run out of breath." Knight conceded to Fortune that selling the company wasn't out of the question.But that's also when Nike signed Jordan. Landing him wasn't a sure thing. While it seems almost automatic today given Nike's dominance, that wasn't the case in 1984. Converse had Julius Erving, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. New Balance had James Worthy. But somehow, Nike convinced Jordan to take a chance on a company whose sales had slowed to a 6% gain in 1984, after averaging 77% annually over the previous 10 years. The cast of "Air" includes Jason Bateman as Rob Strasser, Matthew Maher as Peter Moore, and Marlon Wayans as George Raveling, three additional Nike executives who have gotten some credit for the Jordan deal. Knight told USA Today that Vaccaro "helped" with the deal, but Strasser and Moore were the "MVPs." Jordan gave Raveling credit. Knight fired Vaccaro in 1991. Strasser and Knight never reconciled after Strasser went to work for Adidas. In his memoir, Knight called it "an intolerable betrayal."Regardless of the movie's spin on events, the Jordan deal was a pivotal moment for Nike.Nike did $130 million in sales of Jordan's signature shoe in its inaugural year, according to the Washington Post, millions more than expected. In fact, Nike wanted an out clause in Jordan's deal if it couldn't sell $3 million in product, according to David Falk, Jordan's longtime agent. By 1988, riding the success of Jordan and a suite of new Nike Air products, the company was at the start of a six-year run of double-digit sales increases. Within six years, it more than doubled in size. It also regained the No. 1 position in the industry from Reebok, a lead that it's never relinquished. Jordan played his last NBA game in 2003, but his signature shoes remain wildly popular with collectors and even casual sneaker fans. The Jordan brand did $5.1 billion in sales in Nike's most recent fiscal year. Nike had $46.7 billion in sales in its most recent fiscal year, making it by far the biggest company in the industry.  Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 24th, 2023

Nashville execs weigh in: Butch Spyridon "brought Music City to the It City"

Nashville executives discuss outgoing CEO of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp Butch Spyridon's legacy. "I think his legacy is creating something we can all rally around to really bring about any outcome that we want,” Sean Henry, CEO and president of the Nashville Predators said......»»

Category: topSource: bizjournalsJan 24th, 2023

Crash of the iBuyers: Housing Markets Feel the Hangover

The so-called "instant" home buyers added good liquidity and fast options that will be missed by some. (1:00) - iBuyer Impact On the Housing Market(8:00) - Are the iBuyers Over and Done?(11:35) - Home Builder Trends for Investors(23:50) - Impact of Rising Interest Rates on New Buyers/Investors?(33:15) - Finding Trends: Where Should Investors Research RE Markets?(40:45) - Where's the Housing Market Heading in 2023?Podcast@Zacks.com Welcome back to Mind Over Money. I’m Kevin Cook, your field guide and storyteller for the fascinating arena of behavioral economics.If you bought or sold a house during the pandemic shutdown, you are intimately familiar with the surge in home prices that seemed driven by the combo of “work-from-anywhere” freedom and rivers of stimulus money floating by.I remember talking to one of my 20-something sons about looking for his first house in Q1 of 2020, with many starter/fixers available near $100K in our area.That completely changed a year later when the same houses were going for double!Another factor of this surge that I did not understand at the time was the participation of the iBuyers. I knew that PE firms like Steve Schwarzman’s Blackstone had been in the market since 2012.But I didn’t know the extent of house buying programs from Zillow Z, Redfin RDFN, and another company called Opendoor OPEN until Zacks resident real estate expert Tracey Ryniec gave us an internal presentation in November.I didn't even know that the "i" in iBuyers stood for instant.Since then, I have become vastly interested in real estate investing in my neck of the woods in Northern WI. Since I missed the pandemic bubble, I want to be ready to scoop some bargains as the market comes down after the bubble pop.So I wanted to bring Tracey on to discuss all things housing. We’ll talk about the death of the iBuyers and the current state of the market overall -- since she listens to all the major homebuilder conference calls too, like Toll Brothers TOL, and has her finger on the pulse of the housing markets, of which there are hundreds.I start by asking Tracey if the iBuyers are gone and we can get back to normal markets. She basically concludes that the party is indeed over as prices peak, interest rates prohibit speculation, and big chunks of new buyers are priced-out of the market.And while the iBuyers may have helped many homeowners, it's also possible that they distorted the market with their cash piles and forced other less-financed investors out of the housing market.In the end, Zillow and Redfin have bowed out as they can't make a sustainable business out of overpaying for homes any longer.From a “Sellers’ Market” to How Low Will They Go? Existing home sales declined 1.5% in December to a 4.02 million annual rate, beating the consensus expected of 3.95 million. Sales are down 34.0% versus a year ago, and December marked the lowest level of sales in over a decade.An interesting anecdote Tracy shared after our interview was this Twitter post from appraiser Ryan Lundquist who goes by @SacAppraiser…Opendoor bought Zillow's last home in Sacramento and it's now pending- Zillow bought $700K (11/2021)- On market 119 days (canceled $624,900)- Opendoor bought $354,500 (discounted price)- Some improvements made- Listed 90 days later $632,000- Pending after 22 daysIt looks like Opendoor may be the last one out to shut off the lights.But another interesting player I didn’t know of is Offerpad OPAD, whose model evolved to give home sellers either a quick cash offer in a matter of days -- and a closing in a matter of weeks -- or a solid back-up offer even if they decided to still list with an agent on the MLS.They even help home sellers move locally and bundle other home buying/selling services to ease the stress.From their website “about” story…After many years spent buying, selling, renting, and renovating nearly 100,000 homes across the country, Brian Bair and his executive team gained a deep understanding of the challenges people face when selling their homes.They found that even successful sellers were overwhelmed by the stress of selling – trying to guess what their home would sell for, prepping for showings, negotiating a deal, finding movers, and waiting for a closing date. Why wasn’t there a better way?Recognizing the industry was long overdue for a change and equipped with a wealth of first-hand knowledge, Brian and his fellow executives set out to offer something completely new. Their goal was clear: reinvent the home sale process and provide sellers with the convenience, control, and certainty they’d been lacking under the outdated system.In 2015, Offerpad was born. Pairing ground-breaking real estate technology with fundamental industry experience, they created a platform where sellers could receive a strong purchase offer for their home, quickly contract and close, and avoid the hassles associated with traditional real estate selling.Offerpad By the NumbersI thought it would be interesting to dissect the business of one of the smaller players, who once claimed to be #2 in homes bought.The company went public in December 2020 around $10. It now trades for under $1 and a market cap of $150 million.I just went through their November investor presentation slide deck and found many interesting elements about the industry and their business model. First, they estimate that for a $2.5 trillion housing market, there is only 1% digital penetration.One KPI (key performance indicator) Offerpad measures its success with is “time to cash,” or the number of days between the acquisition of a house and its eventual sale. Since 2017, they have dropped this metric by 43% from 133 days to just 76.After doing $2.1 billion in home sales and services revenues in 2021, Offerpad expanded to a total of 29 markets across the West, South, Midwest and Southeast. They are projected to deliver topline revenues of $3.82 billion for 2022, representing nearly 85% growth.But bottom line profits are expected to plummet 820% from a nickel last year to -$0.36 cents, with a record 3,600 homes sold in Q1’22 on operating expenses of only 6.4%. Profit margins have dropped considerably as Q3 saw 1,847 homes acquired and 2,280 homes sold for a net income loss of $80 million.For their Q4, the company expected about 1,425-1,850 homes sold for between $500 and $650 million in revenue and an EBITDA loss of $40 to $60 million. Offerpad reports earnings in late February.Be sure to check out the Mind Over Money podcast interview with Tracey where we also look at the overall housing market and its outlook for 2023.Kevin Cook is a Senior Stock Strategist for Zacks Investment Research where he runs the TAZR Trader portfolio. Zacks Names "Single Best Pick to Double" From thousands of stocks, 5 Zacks experts each have chosen their favorite to skyrocket +100% or more in months to come. From those 5, Director of Research Sheraz Mian hand-picks one to have the most explosive upside of all. It’s a little-known chemical company that’s up 65% over last year, yet still dirt cheap. With unrelenting demand, soaring 2022 earnings estimates, and $1.5 billion for repurchasing shares, retail investors could jump in at any time. This company could rival or surpass other recent Zacks’ Stocks Set to Double like Boston Beer Company which shot up +143.0% in little more than 9 months and NVIDIA which boomed +175.9% in one year.Free: See Our Top Stock And 4 Runners UpWant the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report Toll Brothers Inc. (TOL): Free Stock Analysis Report Zillow Group, Inc. (Z): Free Stock Analysis Report Opendoor Technologies Inc. (OPEN): Free Stock Analysis Report Redfin Corporation (RDFN): Free Stock Analysis Report Offerpad Solutions Inc. (OPAD): Free Stock Analysis ReportTo read this article on Zacks.com click here.Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksJan 24th, 2023

Elliott Management"s Jesse Cohn just picked his next target for an activist campaign: an ailing software giant

Elliott Management's Jesse Cohn is leading the hedge fund's latest activist campaign against tech giant Salesforce. Good morning! Dan DeFrancesco in NYC, and I'm getting a good chuckle out of the wild outfits celebs are wearing at Paris Fashion Week.On tap, we've got stories on how a PE firm uses the public cloud as part of its pitching process, good and bad VC returns for one investment firm, and why it pays to be nice at work.But first, let's get ready to rumble.If this was forwarded to you, sign up here. Download Insider's app here.A battle is on the horizon between Jesse Cohn and Salesforce.Fox 2000 Pictures/Regency Enterprises/Linson Films1. How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?The first rule of Fight Club is you DON'T talk about Fight Club. But the first rule of activist investing is you HAVE to talk about your activist investment.Jesse Cohn, a managing partner at the hedge fund Elliott Management, is leading his firm's latest activist campaign against troubled tech giant Salesforce via a multibillion-dollar stake.Activist investing, as we've previously covered, is set to be all the rage in 2023. Investors have no shortage of companies with lagging share prices and nervous shareholders. But, like ranch dressing on pizza, just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.Activist investing might seem easy on paper: identify and invest in a company in turmoil; develop a thesis for how to fix it; gain shareholder support and control; execute on said plan and sell for a profit. But the current market environment (i.e. - high rates) doesn't lend itself to deals, which complicates an exit strategy. However, this isn't Cohn's first rodeo. Despite being only 42 years old, Cohn has seen his fair share of activist battles. He's spent nearly two decades working under billionaire Paul Singer, a legendary activist investor in his own right. Meanwhile, Salesforce has already conducted layoffs and seen top executives leave, which makes some wonder what type of turnaround Cohn will suggest. (More on that here.) As for Salesforce's current employees, some fear there might be even deeper cuts to come as a result of Elliott's campaign, Insider's Ashley Stewart and Ellen Thomas report.Click here to learn more about Jesse Cohn, a tenacious activist investor who just set his sights on Salesforce.In other news:Jerks don't always get ahead at work, contrary to popular opinion.Universal Pictures2. Can I interest you in a shift to the cloud? THL managing director Mark Benaquista details how the public cloud has become a key part of the private-equity firm's pitch to acquisition targets. Here's how THL incorporates the cloud in its investing playbook.3. More cuts at Goldman. Don't worry, we're not talking about people this time. Instead, the bank is trimming some of its $59 billion worth of alternative investments within its asset management group, Reuters reports. More on the dead weight it's looking to drop.4. Who's earning their fees among the VCs. Insider got its hands on the investment returns for the firm that manages $65 billion of endowments from some Texas universities. Check out the VCs that have posted big returns for investors and the ones who are leaving something to be desired.5. Banks are teaming up to compete with PayPal and Apple. From the great minds that brought you Zelle, big banks like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are joining forces to launch a digital wallet, The Wall Street Journal reports. Here's more on their plan to fight back against some payment players.6. Meet the Square syndicate. Insider mapped out 15 people who got their start at payments giant Square, now known as Block, before going out on their own. Check out the startups these former employees have gone on to build.7. Bill Ackman backs Bremont. The billionaire personally participated in a $60 million funding round for the British watch brand, the Financial Times reported. More on Ackman's latest bet, along with his philosophy on personal investments.8. It's nice to be nice. Turns out that nice people don't always finish last when it comes to their careers. A recent study found that people who are selfish, combative, and manipulative might not always end up at the top of the corporate ladder. More on why the bad guys don't always win.9. Dear AI, please save my portfolio. Insider's Phil Rosen wanted some investing advice from ChatGPT. What he got was a five-part strategy. Is it better than a human finanical advisor? You be the judge.10. Boxers, briefs, or bare bottoms? It turns out going commando might actually have some health benefits. But, to be clear, going sans underwear comes with its own set of... risks. Read more here.Curated by Dan DeFrancesco in New York. Feedback or tips? Email ddefrancesco@insider.com, tweet @dandefrancesco, or connect on LinkedIn. Edited by Jeffrey Cane (tweet @jeffrey_cane) in New York and Hallam Bullock (tweet @hallam_bullock) in London.  Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 24th, 2023