Monthly Archives: July 2013

Emma Jacobs

Usually limited to geeky product launches such as iPhones or high-street fashion collaborations, such as H&M’s tie-up with Karl Lagerfeld, the cronut queuers are inspired by similar motivations.

There are bonders who come to meet people who share their cake interests. And then there is the trophy value of being caught in the media and buzz. Even a humble cronut has bragging rights attached to it: “All day I waited for the flaky donut confection,” queuers will tell their children one day. Read more

Emma Jacobs

As a red-faced, red-haired infant who was close to her hands-on stepfather, the metaphor invoked by activist investor Dan Loeb that Sony treats its entertainment business like a “red-headed stepchild” has no personal resonance.

But I get it. Leaving aside any gripes from the ginger brigade, his accusation that the company treats this part of the group with disdain is clear.

This comes just days after the forthright statement from Mark Cutifani, chief executive of Anglo-American, condemned the mining company’s performance as “constipated” and promised to “get our arses into gear and start making a difference”. Read more

Ravi Mattu

I had an interesting reader email to my column today on why the improved relevance of the recommendations sent to me by social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn is not a good thing for managers. If you are only fed information based your likes and previous behaviour, you aren’t going to stumble on to ideas that challenge your assumptions, and that is surely bad for innovation and creative thinking.

So, the reader asked, does this mean he should also “stop reading the FT obsessively?”

Quite the opposite – but I suppose I would say that.

But this does highlight another risk for how you access news and information. Where in the past, readers relied on editors and trusted brands to do the curating for them, increasingly readers are doing this for themselves. Read more

John Gapper

Bobby Kotick always liked his independence.

The chief executive of Activision Blizzard, who has launched an $8.2bn buyout of most of Vivendi’s controlling stake of his company, is an entrepreneur who built Activision as a video games maker before merging it with Vivendi’s Blizzard, maker of the massively multiplayer phenomenon World of WarcraftRead more

John Gapper

The criminal indictment of SAC Capital, the hedge fund founded and run by Steve Cohen, left, is a seminal moment on Wall Street. It is also a relief that prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission have not backed down.

It looked dicey for a while, after SAC reached one of its infuriating “neither admit nor deny” civil settlements with the SEC on insider trading charges. The distinctive feature was that SAC paid $616m to settle, which a judge described as “counterintuitive and incongruous.” Read more

When Goldman Sachs bought the commodity trading house J Aron in 1981, it also took on Lloyd Blankfein, then a salesman of silver coins. Thirty-two years later, Mr Blankfein is Goldman’s chairman and chief executive and the bank owns, among other commodity assets, some aluminium warehouses near the ailing city of Detroit.

Detroit’s bankruptcy has many implications, but for Reid Hoffman it will reinforce the cautionary metaphor in his 2012 book The Start-Up of You: “When it comes to your career . . . you may be heading down the same path as Detroit.”

Ravi Mattu

It’s summer holiday time in the UK, which means a good chunk of the country decamps to France. For those who end up in Paris, things may be a bit more welcoming than in the past.

That’s because the city’s Chamber of Commerce for Business and Industry has just launched a guide for Parisians to help them respond better to foreign tourists. Do You Speak Touriste? has information on how to deal with visitors from 11 countries, from Brits, Americans and Italians to Chinese, Japanese and Brazilians. Read more

John Gapper

JK Rowling is very annoyed at Russells, a London law firm that specialises in entertainment and media, for leaking the fact that she had written The Cuckoo’s Calling under the name Robert Galbraith. Read more

John Gapper

How well is Wall Street doing? That depends on whether you are looking at their results as a casual observer, or a shareholder.

This is turning into one of the best earnings seasons on Wall Street since 2009, when banks made a rapid recovery from the 2008 crisis. Not only were they bailed out but supported by ultra-low interest rates and official backing for troubled assets. Read more

John Gapper

Alfred Marshall, the economist, wrote in 1890 that changes in technology and trade meant that “the operations in which a man exceptionally favoured by genius and good luck can take part are so extensive as to enable him to amass a large fortune with a rapidity hitherto unknown”.

Andrew Hill

Children learn that “copycat” is a term of abuse the first time they are punished or ridiculed for trying to replicate a friend’s work – or style – at school. In business, however, imitation can be a virtue, as Rocket Internet has discovered.

Newly endowed with $400m from billionaire Len Blavatnik and Kinnevik, the Swedish investment company, Rocket should now be able to launch even more companies into cyberspace. But Rocket, known and often criticised for cloning others’ internet successes in new territories and then selling them, needs to beware the old maxim “up like a rocket, down like a stick”. Read more

Andrew Hill

I’m intrigued by the possibility that the civil trial of Fabrice Tourre, the former Goldman Sachs banker, may hinge on whether an email to his girlfriend was a love letter or an injudicious admission that he was misleading investors about the complex mortgage-related securities he was selling.

The lead attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission said at the opening of the civil hearing on Monday that it was the latter. Mr Tourre’s lawyer asked the jury to put the language of the communication down to “youthful arrogance” and said it was “an old-fashioned love letter” to his girlfriend, who was a Goldman co-worker. Read more

It’s hard to hide from big data. After submitting its staff records for independent analysis, one retailer discovered it was paying more than 150 employees who had called in sick years earlier – and simply disappeared from the workplace. The human resources managers responsible were so terrified of the potential backlash if they revealed the figures to their chief executive, they decided to keep the job of handling absences in-house.

Not since Barings financed the Louisiana Purchase on behalf of Thomas Jefferson in 1803 has a UK enterprise had so much money riding on the Gulf of Mexico state. It isn’t working out as well for BP as for the former merchant bank.

Andrew Hill

The Ashes is regularly described as “one of the oldest rivalries in sport” – a phrase to get the blood running for English and Australian cricket fans as the latest series gets under way. But could the competitive edge that makes the Test matches so exciting lead to unethical behaviour on and off the field? It seems so.

Academics exploring the difference between healthy competition and sometimes unhealthy rivalry suggest that the latter is “associated with increased Machiavellianism, over-reporting of performance, willingness to employ unethical negotiation tactics, and unsportsmanlike behavior”. Read more

Andrew Hill

Ben van Beurden’s elevation to chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell doesn’t look that surprising to me. Granted, he wasn’t in the list of frontrunners, but a 55-year-old white Dutch male who has spent the past 30 years at the company is hardly a leftfield appointment. Read more

When Huawei’s new handset manufacturing complex opens in 2016 at Songshan Lake in southern China, it will include a building modelled on Krakow’s Wawel Castle. The former Polish royal residence was preferred over proposals based on other European beauty spots including the palace of Versailles, Granada’s Alhambra and Windermere in the English Lake District. That a fast-growing telecoms group should draw inspiration for the next phase of its assault on the 21st-century global phone market from a 16th-century castle is not as strange as it sounds.

After the 2008 financial crisis, the banking industry initially acted like a cartoon character who shoots over a cliff-edge at high speed and keeps going for a while before falling. Five years on, they are lying on the ground – and will never be allowed to return to their fast-paced ways.

Ravi Mattu

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that tech entrepreneurs are the new rock stars. Andrew Mason, ousted chief executive of online deals site Groupon, may have taken the comparison to heart.

On Monday, Mr Mason, who was sacked from the company he co-founded in February, released Hardly Workin’. The album, he writes on his blog, is “of music to help people get ahead in the workplace” and “pulls some of the most important learnings from my years at the helm of one of the fastest growing businesses in history, and packages them as music”.

While Mr Mason’s effort may be post-Groupon, there is a long (and dubious) history of employees taking to song to express their love for stakeholders, customers and the company they work for. Read more