Big-Name Donors Are Moving On From Trump
He’s running.Credit…Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Donald Trump, as expected, announced on Tuesday night that he’ll run for president again in 2024, despite being twice impeached, castigated for fomenting the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, investigated for potential fraud at his family’s business and blamed for Republicans’ weak showing in last week’s midterm elections.
But while the former president is counting on faithful Republicans to once again flock to him, he appears to be losing supporters — including deep-pocketed conservative donors who are instead looking for alternatives. Just this morning, Stephen A. Schwarzman of Blackstone, a longtime ally of Trump’s, told Axios that he would back someone from a “new generation” of Republicans. And the attendee list for Tuesday night’s announcement was telling: Loyalists like Roger Stone and Mike Lindell, the C.E.O. of MyPillow, were there, but few members of Congress made the trip.
Mr. Trump outlined what a second term would look like. In his meandering 63-minute speech, he focused on issues like improving the economy and clamping down on immigration and crime.
Other onetime allies have turned on Mr. Trump, particularly after his handpicked candidates largely lost races across the country, denying Republicans a much-expected “red wave.” Mike Pence, his former vice president, suggested in an interview with The Times that he would not support Trump again. Fox News and other outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch have criticized Trump for dampening Republicans’ electoral performance — “Trumpty Dumpty” led an issue of The New York Post last week — while promoting Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida as the new G.O.P. standard-bearer. So too have stalwart conservative groups like the Club for Growth, which shared with Politico a poll showing Mr. Trump trailing Mr. DeSantis in early primary states.
Perhaps as important, at least some G.O.P. backers seem to be feeling Trump fatigue. Aside from Mr. Schwarzman, Kenneth C. Griffin, the hedge-fund billionaire and one of the biggest donors to Republicans, is openly backing DeSantis. Keep an eye on other megadonors like Richard Uihlein, Jeffrey Yass and Larry Ellison.
And Mr. Trump still faces a host of legal problems. The Justice Department continues to investigate his mishandling of classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago club. The former C.F.O. of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, began testifying against the company on Tuesday in a case brought by the Manhattan district attorney. And New York’s attorney general has sued Mr. Trump and others over fraud allegations as well.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
A big activist investor calls on Google’s parent company to get leaner. TCI Fund Management, which owns about $6 billion in Alphabet shares, urged the tech giant to slash costs, particularly at money-losing units like its Waymo autonomous vehicles division, and lay off employees. It’s the latest sign of pressure on Silicon Valley companies to tighten their belts.
Elon Musk sets an ultimatum for Twitter workers. The billionaire emailed employees overnight, ordering them to pledge themselves to a new “hardcore” version of the company by 5 p.m. on Wednesday or receive three months of severance pay. He also set Nov. 29 as the debut of a revised Twitter Blue subscription service, after an earlier rollout led to a rash of impersonation.
Goldman Sachs reportedly paid $12 million to settle an ex-partner’s sexism claims. The executive had accused the Wall Street bank of tolerating a toxic workplace environment for women, including pay disparities and vulgar comments by David Solomon, its C.E.O., and others, according to Bloomberg. Goldman said the report had “factual errors” but didn’t elaborate.
Understand the Outcomes of the 2022 Midterm Elections
What we know. It seemed as if the conditions were ripe for a red wave in the 2022 midterms, but in the end Republicans generated no more than a red ripple, leading to an improbable, still-undecided election. Here’s what the results tell us so far:
Biden beat the odds. President Biden had the best midterms of any president in 20 years, avoiding the losses his predecessors endured and maintaining the Democrats’ narrow hold on the Senate, which provides him with a critical guardrail against Republicans should they win the House.
G.O.P. faces a reckoning. A thin Republican majority in the House appears likely, but a poor midterms showing has the party wrestling with what went wrong: Was it bad candidates, bad messaging or the electoral anchor that appeared to be dragging the G.O.P. down, Donald J. Trump?
Trump under fire. Mr. Trump has faced unusual public attacks from within the G.O.P. after a string of losses by his handpicked candidates. There are also signs of an effort to inch the party away from the former president ahead of his expected announcement of a third White House bid.
Abortion mattered. In the first major election since the fall of Roe v. Wade, abortion rights broke through, as Democrats seized on the issue to hold off a red wave. In all five states where abortion-related questions were on the ballot, voters chose to protect access or reject further limits on it.
Voters rejected election deniers. Every 2020 election denier who sought to become the top election official in a critical battleground state lost at the polls this year. Voters roundly rejected extreme partisans who promised to restrict voting and overhaul the electoral process.
Moderation won. In battleground states and swing districts, voters shunned extremists from the right and the left. Republicans received an especially sweeping rebuke from Americans who made clear they believe that the G.O.P. has become unacceptably extreme.
Ford’s C.E.O. warns that making electric vehicles involves far fewer workers. Jim Farley, whose company is betting heavily on a transition to E.V.s, said that their production requires 40 percent less labor than traditional cars. He added that the solution may involve carmakers like Ford creating more components in-house to limit job reductions.
Taylor Swift fans crashed Ticketmaster. “Historically unprecedented” demand for presale tickets for the singer’s Eras tour took down the ticket giant’s website on Tuesday. That inspired Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, to call for Ticketmaster to be broken up over its “monopoly” on ticket sales.
Global markets steady after missiles hit Poland
Investors are breathing a sigh of relief after President Biden said this morning that it was unlikely that the missile blast on Tuesday that hit a Polish village, a few miles from the Ukraine border, was fired from Russia as part of a fierce barrage on a number of Ukrainian cities. Poland later backed this assessment, describing the fatal explosion as “an unfortunate accident.”
Global markets are steady on Wednesday, following a choppy session on Tuesday. As of 6 a.m. Eastern, European stocks were mixed and U.S. futures were slightly higher.
Despite the attacks, U.S. stocks closed higher on Tuesday, after sinking midday on the initial reports of the missile blast. Over the past four trading sessions, the Nasdaq has risen 9.7 percent, as inflation data showed a moderation in the rise of consumer and producer prices. That has fueled investor hopes that the Fed will slow its pace of interest rate increases.
Commodities are also soaring. Gold has jumped nearly 10 percent over the past two weeks, as have other major industrial metals like aluminum and copper. That surge in commodity prices isn’t just “Fed-focused speculation,” according to Tom Price, the head of commodities strategy for Liberum: Signs of an improving U.S. economy and China’s recent move to prop up its ailing property market are drawing buyers to the metals market.
But there’s no relief in crypto. Bitcoin is trading below $17,000, and Ethereum remains in the red this morning. Trading in digital currencies has been extremely volatile in recent days following the collapse of FTX.
S.B.F. hasn’t stopped tweeting
Sam Bankman-Fried continues to grapple with the implosion of his crypto empire, including the exchange FTX and the hedge fund Alameda Research, which may have over a million creditors. And he faces investigations by authorities in the United States and the Bahamas.
But for some reason the fallen crypto entrepreneur, known widely as S.B.F., is still active on Twitter, posting unverified assertions about FTX’s assets and its still-murky relationship with Alameda. Legal experts DealBook has spoken to questioned the wisdom of speaking out when he faces multiple investigations and lawsuits.
S.B.F. made a number of claims on Twitter, including that Alameda — whose sudden need for cash was behind transfers of assets out of FTX, including the potentially improper movement of customer funds — had more assets than liabilities as of Nov. 7. “Not everyone necessarily agrees with this,” he added. (He acknowledged that Alameda’s assets weren’t necessarily liquid, or easily sellable.)
The FTX founder said he intended “to do right by customers,” including by trying to raise money to make customers whole. (The Wall Street Journal notes that he hasn’t yet been successful, and that, besides, raising money would require negotiating with creditors and the federal bankruptcy court.)
His tweets are under a lot of scrutiny, with online sleuths tracking deletions. Over 100 have disappeared from his timeline over the past week, including retweeted messages from people like Tom Brady who are now looking to distance themselves from FTX. Other notable deletions include one from before FTX’s implosion in which S.B.F. wrote that the firm had enough assets “to cover all client holdings” and that “we don’t invest client assets.”
More on the fallout from FTX:
BlockFi, a crypto lender that FTX bailed out in July, is preparing for a potential bankruptcy filing of its own.
Others in the crypto industry are calling for more regulation: Circle, the issuer of a so-called stablecoin, wrote to Congress yesterday urging it to “act now.”
FTX’s in-house coach and psychiatrist spoke with The Times’s Kevin Roose, saying he hadn’t seen any signs of wrongdoing, and offered an inside look at the firm’s “tame” and “undersexed” workplace.
Estée Lauder buys into high fashion
Estée Lauder said yesterday that it would buy the Tom Ford fashion label for $2.8 billion, the biggest luxury sector deal this year. The acquisition marks the beauty giant’s first foray into clothing and makes Tom Ford’s eponymous owner — the designer, movie director, art collector and more — a billionaire.
The deal was born out of their existing partnership. Estée Lauder already has a licensing agreement to sell Tom Ford beauty products, including its popular high-end perfumes like Black Orchid and Tobacco Leather that sell for over $100. The fragrance business has been a winner during the pandemic for Estée Lauder, whose brands include Clinique and Jo Malone. “It represented a self-pampering opportunity for people,” Tracey Thomas Travis, the company’s C.F.O., said in June.
The deal also points to luxury brands’ efforts to find growth outside of China, given geopolitical tensions and the country’s pandemic lockdowns. Estée Lauder this month cut its full-year forecasts and partly blamed Covid curbs in China, saying 2023 net sales would fall 6 to 8 percent, compared to forecasts of 3 to 5 percent growth.
But Estée Lauder doesn’t have apparel experience, which set it apart from other bidders such as Kering, the luxury conglomerate that owns Gucci (Mr. Ford’s former employer), YSL and Balenciaga. As part of the deal, Estée Lauder will give Ermenegildo Zegna, the brand that has produced Tom Ford clothing since 2006, the sole apparel license, making it responsible for fashion shows and stores. Marcolin, which has made Tom Ford eyewear since 2006, will stay on as well.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ford himself will stick around through the end of 2023. He shot to fame as Gucci’s head designer, revitalizing the luxury house with his opulent and sexy designs. But Mr. Ford and Domenico De Sole, his business partner, left the brand in 2004 following a power struggle when the house was sold to PPR, the conglomerate that was later renamed Kering.
THE SPEED READ
SpaceX is said to be seeking new funding at a valuation of more than $150 billion; Elon Musk, its C.E.O., called the report “false” without elaborating. (Bloomberg, @elonmusk)
Bird, the once-popular scooter start-up, said it may need to file for bankruptcy if it can’t raise more money. (FT)
CVC Capital and Group Black are reportedly teaming up on a potential takeover bid for Vox Media. (Axios)
A panel commissioned by Congress urged the White House to review China’s trade practices and suspend normal trade ties if Beijing violated a 1999 agreement. (WSJ)
People of color have been hurt the most by foreign trade competition, a new study found. (NYT)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain told corporate leaders to “embrace” lower pay during a cost-of-living crisis — but his finance minister, Jeremy Hunt, plans to lift a cap on bankers’ bonuses. (FT, Bloomberg)
Best of the rest
NASA finally launched its Artemis I rocket to the moon, ushering in a new era of American space exploration. (NYT)
“Engineers From Taiwan Bolstered China’s Chip Industry. Now They’re Leaving.” (NYT)
After years of breakneck expansion, tech giants are dumping vast amounts of office space. (WSJ)
Protocol, the tech-focused news site launched by the founder of Politico, has shut. (Protocol)
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