I can’t remember a declaration of war as emphatic as the one made by Neil Ashe of Walmart on Wednesday. The chief executive of the US retailer’s ecommerce arm told the FT:
We own what we own, and we’re going after what we don’t. We can get to every customer in the world via ecommerce. It doesn’t matter where they live or how much they earn.
In Walmart’s sights: Amazon, the online jungle’s biggest beast. Read more
Infuriated by Fleet Street’s tabloids, the House of Lords this week nodded through a law to curb the British press. It authorised a Royal Charter that defines how self-regulation will work after the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking.
Like thousands of parents inspired by the story of 17-year-old “software prodigy” Nick D’Aloisio, I’ve just asked my teenage son what he’s doing on his computer that might later be worth $30m.
Mr D’Aloisio’s tale has all the elements to make pushy parents sweat: the boy had the idea for his news reader app Summly, just bought by Yahoo, while revising for his history exam, for goodness’ sake! Read more
US chief executives are beginning to wean themselves from their perplexing attachment to the role of chairman. But at a few large banks, the addiction persists.
The chaos over the rescue of Cyprus – under which insured bank deposits were initially threatened but have been reprieved – has raised questions about whether depositors in other eurozone countries will feel safe.
But I wonder if the bigger long-term effect will be on offshore banking centres in general, rather than the eurozone. After all, Cyprus shows that a small financial centre that becomes overwhelmed by financial difficulties cannot stand behind a banking system several times the size of its economy. Read more
Depositors of banks in Cyprus now fear they have less money than they thought while US corporations have plenty of cash to hand – $1.45tn and rising, according to Moody’s. But whose money is it, anyway?
Warren East’s unexpected retirement as chief executive of Arm Holdings, comes at “an inflection point” for the chip designer, according to the FT. Which raises the question: why go now, then?
Andy Grove, former chief executive of chipmaker Intel, wrote in his book Only The Paranoid Survive that he worried most about strategic inflection points. The book is full of valuable tips about how to tackle such moments, but quitting is not one of them. On the contrary. Read more
The first two rules of Fight Club, according to the film of the same name, are “You do not talk about Fight Club” and “You DO NOT talk about Fight Club”. Studies of corporate success follow the opposite code. Since Tom Peters and Robert Waterman published In Search of Excellence in 1982, readers have not stopped talking about whether the lessons taught by such books are valid.
I struggle to see any logic behind the European Parliament’s latest initiative to crack down on financial industry pay, beyond a dislike of bonuses. The idea that investment funds should be treated similarly to systemically important banks has even less merit than the original idea.
The basis on which the EU proposed to rein in bank bonuses – despite UK opposition and criticism from supervisors including Andrew Bailey, the incoming head of the Prudential Regulation Authority – was that excessive bonuses gave bankers a perverse incentive to take risks. Read more
HSBC’s strategic overhaul is already heading for a place in the business school curriculum. This was, after all, the group that called itself “the world’s local bank” in its advertising campaigns and once relocated its chief executive to its traditional Asian hub in Hong Kong. But current, (firmly London-based) incumbent Stuart Gulliver has more modest international ambitions. Read more
It has been a frustrating week for well-intentioned and interventionist political leaders. Michael Bloomberg and David Cameron have been roundly defeated in their efforts to prod citizens into health.
Pat Howard is getting some undeserved flak for suspending four players from Australia’s national cricket team.
The manager was once chief operating officer of a listed company, but never in his corporate management career can he have taken a more controversial decision. Read more
The debate about “work-life balance” will generate contributions weightier than Erin Callan’s short article in last weekend’s New York Times, but few will be sadder.
The article by Erin Callan, former chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers, on how she lost herself in work, is an interesting reflection not only on women on Wall Street, but also on how relentlessly many bankers work.
Ms Callan, who lost her job in 2008 “amid mounting chaos and a cloud of public humiliation only months before the company went bankrupt”, writes in the New York Times of the extreme work culture at the top of the former investment bank: Read more
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is unhappy with Forbes magazine, accusing it of prejudice in estimating his wealth at $20bn – a mere 26th among the world’s 1,426 billionaires. The Saudi investor has broken off his “longstanding relationship with the Forbes billionaires list” and sought comfort in the Bloomberg Billionaires ranking.
Microsoft has been fined by the European Commission. Getty Images
Jaron Lanier is a “partner architect” at Microsoft but he doesn’t speak for the software company. As the scientist, composer and author explained to an audience at The Economist’s Technology Frontiers conference on Tuesday, what he says “probably horrifies any number of individuals within the company”.
Even so, in retrospect, it his hard not to read some of his remarks differently, in the light of the European Commission’s €561m fine for Microsoft, confirmed on Wednesday, for breaching a high-profile competition agreement with the European Union. Read more
In Jo Nesbo’s thriller Headhunters, “king of the heap” search consultant Roger Brown has to fund his extravagant lifestyle by stealing art from the walls of candidates’ homes while his colleagues are interviewing them.
There are plenty of interesting ironies raised by the news that investment banks are charging asset managers up to $20,000 an hour for access to chief executives, often unbeknown to the executives themselves.
One is that chief executives themselves are no strangers to “cash for access”. It’s a perennial political “scandal” that big corporate donors to political parties get to rub shoulders with the prime minister or his cabinet at private parties and dinners. The last time such a hoo-ha erupted, in 2012, the FT wrote that prominent City figures were “bemused at the outrage” surrounding the affair, describing it as “a healthy part of the democratic process”. One said: Read more
Groupon. Getty Images
Andrew Mason should have been fired as chief executive of Groupon a long time ago. The other pair of insiders that control Groupon should also take responsibility for the disaster of the online coupon company.
Mr Mason’s departure leaves his partners Eric Lefkofsy and Brad Keywell firmly in charge, since they control a majority of the voting shares. Never was the principle of buyer beware more apposite than in Groupon’s dual voting structure. Read more