Let’s dispense with the regular stuff today. It’s Friday, it’s finally May, and everyone’s in a good mood (unless you’re in Slovyansk). Yes, the drug companies are still rutting like caribou, the economy is looking a lot better, and the jobs report at 8:30 a.m. is forecast to be coming in fat. We’re expecting Berkshire Hathaway’s results today, too, but after this week of earnings and all this rain, you’re all beat. We know. We’ll pick up again on Monday.
BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse are upright citizens who are merely innocent victims of a couple bad apples, Harris Associates Chief Investment Officer David Herro says. These individuals, not the banks, should be the ones prosecuted for (according to the allegations) aiding tax evasion (in the case of Credit Suisse), or banking for rogue states with abysmal records on human rights or who are outwardly hostile to our national security or both (in the case of BNP Paribas).
These institutions should be excused because “they serve a purpose to society. They employ people, they have shareholders, people have their pensions in these businesses.”
The banks will suffer from a cynical ploy by the feds to exact a little “borderline extortion,” Herro says. Besides, it won’t matter because the penalties they extract will amount to little more than the cost of doing business.
Credit Suisse, “they’re going to have to pay, who knows, $1 billion or $2 billion,” he says. “It doesn’t have any material impact on the long term viability or earning power of the company.”
There you have it: the moral center of your industry.
Included in today’s reporting about chief executive officers resuming their personal use of the company jet is a logical explanation about the importance of the passenger and of his or her ability to travel quickly. We get it.
Also included is this: Sometimes the company pays the CEO for using the CEO’s jet. Larry Ellison, a billionaire with his own island and who has raked in $200 million in total compensation in the past three years, received $4.3 million over three years for lending his jet to Oracle (ORCL), his company.
Eric Schmidt, also worth billions, got $1.4 million back from Google (GOOG) last year for the same reason. The companies may be paying at or below market rates, and Google says Schmidt doesn’t profit from the arrangement, but still.
They’re not just employees, they’re founders and partial owners of those companies -- these are *their* companies. They couldn’t cut their own company some slack, like Warren Buffett? He nickel-and-dimes Berkshire Hathaway to death -- in the opposite direction.
Besides getting all Pope Francis with his travel policies, Buffett reimburses Berkshire Hathaway for everything, all the way “down to postage and phone calls that are personal,” Tom Black reports.
By the way, Marty, we borrowed some Bloomberg stationery.
Blue Bottle Coffee Inc. founder James Freeman sounds like a cross between the Soup Nazi and the honey badger.
The Soup Nazi (you’ll have to look up the clips on YouTube on your own until the Bloomberg terminal enters the 21st century) was a character on an episode of “Seinfeld,” and the honey badger became an Internet celebrity once his devil-may-care exploits were narrated by a fellow named Randall. The Soup Nazi was in no way as exacting as Freeman is with his brew, his shops and his culture; the honey badger definitely gives a crap more than Freeman does. Because Freeman isn’t selling just coffee, he’s selling elitism -- and he’s got more venture capital than he knows what to do with.
To have approached this tale earnestly would have been to deny the comedic tension, which brings us to Joel Stein, writing for Bloomberg Businessweek. If you’ve been looking for a clinic in drip-dry bemusement, this article is your university.
Freeman grew up in Humboldt County, California, but didn’t smoke pot. Well into his adulthood, he had never heard a Beatles song. He doesn’t want you hanging out in his cafés with your devices, and he’s not going to give you the electricity or Wi-Fi to do it. It’s all about the coffee.
“Someone who just gets a large iced latte in a to-go cup and sits in front of the computer doesn’t seem like they care much about the craft,” Freeman’s wife says while explaining her husband’s philosophy to Stein, who adds: “His level of obsession can annoy people.”
No coffee for you!
Spring is officially in full throat, especially in Washington, where you can tell by the cherry blossoms that it’s time for the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner and surrounding bacchanalia. This year is the WHCA’s 100th anniversary. At the first dinner, attendees rolled up to the event in their shiny Scripps-Booth Rockets, Finley-Robertson-Porter Runabouts and Mitchell Speedsters to hear Charlie Chaplin roast Woodrow Wilson in a room packed with celebrities like Romaine Fielding, Carlyle Blackwell, Maurice Costello and Leo Delaney. Accounts from the day said the gala was “a hoot.”
OK, we just made that all up. Except for the 100th anniversary.
But suffice it to say the gang of 1914 wouldn’t recognize the event today. First of all, there are women. Also because the dinner is now more of a break between parties to get enough food in you to keep yourself from falling down later -- not that it’s always successful, presumably.
Before the dinner tomorrow night -- which we hear is followed by a big party hosted by a couple of media companies -- the weekend gets started tonight with a party at the resident of the British ambassador.
The flavor this year is being provided by technology companies, Bloomberg’s Stephanie Green tells us. She’s been covering the prom for some years now.
“Google and YouTube and Yahoo News and Tumblr and Netflix -- all these more high-tech companies are really stepping up to the plate and having a presence here, and I haven’t noticed that before,” Green says. Netflix’s “House of Cards,” the series starring Kevin Spacey as Macbeth, is the belle of the ball, she says.
“Everybody in Washington watches that show and everyone in Washington identifies with a character on that show. So you’re going to see, I think, the entire cast of ‘House of Cards’ here,” Green says.
Your best moment covering this event?
“Right before the dinner in 2012, Kevin Spacey was there, and that dog Uggie from ‘The Artist’ was there. So, Kevin Spacey was, like, hanging out in the lobby (of the Washington Hilton) and he saw the dog and he says, ‘Oh my God, there’s Uggie,’ and he picked up Uggie and Uggie licked him right in the face. I happened to be there to see that. That was really cool.”
So, there you have it, folks. This is what you’re missing.
After several weeks of lamenting the choices at movie theaters, we’re entering the summer blockbuster season for U.S. releases. Not that these movies are going to going to be confused with art.
Case in point, this weekend’s favorite -- the California Chrome of the weekend (see below) -- is a sequel to a movie that itself was a remake of a 2002 movie: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” This movie has a marketing tie-in with the U.S. Postal Service’s priority mail option, which eludes us, but whatever.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the storyline, a young man gets bitten by a radioactive spider, develops the ability to shoot sticky, webby stuff out of his wrists and flies around the city fighting evil geniuses and getting the girl. In 3-D.
We’ve still never heard of Andrew Garfield, the actor who’s back in the title role, but we’ve heard of some of his costars: Jamie Foxx as one of the bad guys in what appears to be some kind of Ironman-ish armadillo suit, Paul Giamatti, and Sally Field is back as the love interest. Just kidding. Emma Stone is back as the love interest.
But the real star of the movie, as Anousha Sakoui and Christopher Palmeri report today, is a character a lot of you know well: New York.
In the process, Sakoui and Palmeri examine the financial incentives New York’s state film office offered to lure the production to Manhattan and how the industry is being pulled away from its customary Hollywood home.
So grab the kids, stop by the refreshment counter for some popcorn, check it for arachnids before sticking your hand in there, and enjoy your weekend. We’ll stick with baseball.
The only way David Papadopoulos’s handicapping of tomorrow’s Kentucky Derby could be any more entertaining is if there were horses named Paul Revere, Valentine or Epitaph in the field. It’s simply amazing that he has a day job leading emerging-markets coverage for Bloomberg News.
Following up his profile on Derby favorite California Chrome at the start of this week, Papadopoulos handicaps the entire field. We could take you through it, but that would rob you of the joy of his humor. We’ll cut to the chase and tell you that there’s California Chrome and there are the others. Papadopoulos relates to us a Kentucky saying that sums this up roughly as, you’re either backing this horsing or chasing it.
“I think that’s what this Derby’s become,” Papadopoulos says. “There’s him, and there are a few others sort of right around him -- Wicked Strong, Danza, Intense Holiday -- and there’s everybody else at 1,000-to-1.” This was an exaggeration, in case Fabrice Tourre is reading.
How did you know that Intense Holiday was “turning heads” during workouts at Churchill Downs when we know you’re in New York editing China Overnight?
He said he subscribes to a lot of research.
“There’s all kinds of clocker reports from guys who are railbirds. Their clockers will do podcasts and they’ll just give you all their impressions.”
So, is this a hobby for you or something a little more worrisome?
[Laughing]: “I like to think of it as a passion, probably an obsession. I look at it a little bit the way a golfer treats his handicap.”
He says he picked it up from his dad, who spent more time at the track than in class when he was attending Brown for mathematics, and now Papadopoulos is handing it down to his daughter.
“Victoria is becoming a very astute young handicapper.”
For the record, Victoria likes Wicked Strong at 6-1.
One game in the NHL playoffs last night and it was a pearl, with Montreal beating host Boston in double overtime 4-3 in the first game of their second-round series after P.K. Subban’s second goal of the night. Game 2 is tomorrow night in Boston.
In the NBA playoffs, three teams facing elimination won to force a Game 7 in each series. Indiana beat Atlanta 95-88, Oklahoma City blew past Memphis 104-84 with Kevin Durant’s 36 points, and Golden State edged the Los Angeles Clippers 100-99.
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