Hello everyone! Welcome to this weekly roundup of stories from Insider from Business co-Editor in Chief Matt Turner. Subscribe here to get this newsletter in your inbox every Sunday.
Read on for the latest news, and more on Wall Street Bets, Black Comedy Central employees feeling tokenized, and the new face of Blackstone.
Read time: 5 minutes.
A troubling strain of the coronavirus has emerged, and it’s now spreading around the world, Andrew Dunn reported this weekend. From his story:
Potentially more troubling: A flurry of data released this week shows the virus has changed in ways that likely diminish the efficacy of leading vaccines.
“We can see that we are going to be challenged,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday, calling the most recent findings “a wake-up call for us to be nimble and to be able to adjust.”
Vaccine developers are relatively confident the current shots will still fight the pandemic, including the troubling variants. But the latest results show the world has entered a new phase of the pandemic, one that may challenge people’s expectations of a smoothly gliding return to normalcy once most people are vaccinated.
Read the full story here:
Coronavirus variants threaten to upend pandemic progress. Here’s how 4 top vaccine makers are fighting back.
Occupy Wall Street Bets
From Ben Winck:
The spirit of Occupy Wall Street is back. Only this time, it’s coming from inside the stock exchange.
Over the past few weeks, as internet-savvy traders led by the Reddit subgroup Wall Street Bets have furiously driven up the stock price of GameStop, short sellers who were betting against the video game retailer have been hit hard. According to the analytics firm S3 Research, losses on the single stock have totaled more than $19 billion.
Some market commentators argue that the sudden spike in flash rallies, which have spread to a wide range of other securities around the world, is an internet prank gone viral. Others see it as a dubious, get-rich-quick scheme cooked up by more experienced investors in the forum.
But much of the internal activity on Wall Street Bets suggests that the ferocious battle over left-for-dead stocks like AMC and Blackberry is being driven by something deeper and more transformative. Members of the subreddit portray themselves as Robin Hoods of the stock market, toppling elite investors and helping to reverse America’s unprecedented wealth gap. Posts disparaging renowned hedge funds and well-heeled short sellers garner thousands of enthusiastic comments.
Read the full story here:
- The GameStop mania driven by Reddit traders isn’t simple market trolling. It’s a populist movement threatening to disrupt the financial system to a degree Occupy Wall Street only dreamed of.
- Robinhood reveals new details on decision to limit trading, saying it suddenly had to post ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ in deposits
- A veteran options trader breaks down the intricate strategy that Reddit traders used to outsmart Wall Street’s bet against GameStop — and shares 2 ways the parabolic rally could permanently alter the stock market
- Jefferies says these 20 heavily shorted and lightly traded stocks could see big jumps in the event of a GameStop-like squeeze
- SIGN UP HERE: A conversation with Insider’s markets gurus on the GameStop and Reddit-trader phenomenon
Black Comedy Central employees felt tokenized
From Melkorka Licea:
On January 26, 2020, Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash. The next day, a Black assistant for Comedy Central’s in-house creative team was still reeling from the news.
“I could barely get on the subway,” she said. “I was crying and honestly really shouldn’t have gone in to work that day.”
She managed to make it to the network’s headquarters in New York City. When she arrived, she was immediately called into a daily meeting.
Chris McCarthy, the president of ViacomCBS’s MTV Entertainment Studios, had emailed the team that morning, instructing them to publish content memorializing the Los Angeles Lakers legend.
“Why the f— would we do that? Isn’t that BET’s job?” the former assistant said she recalled the VP who was leading the meeting saying, referring to the Black Entertainment Television channel.
The VP denied saying this. “The quotes attributed to me in the upcoming Business Insider article are false as stated,” the executive told Insider.
“It was a slap in the face,” the assistant said. “Executives didn’t understand how monumental of a day that was for Black employees.”
Read the full story here:
- Black Comedy Central employees felt tokenized and used as a ‘taste tester for racism’ by the network, while it showcased diversity on TV
The new face of Blackstone
From Casey Sullivan and Dan Geiger:
It was a meeting that Jon Gray couldn’t miss.
So when his transatlantic flight touched down in the early hours of a September 2019 morning, the president and chief operating officer of the nearly $600 billion alternative-asset manager Blackstone told his driver to head straight to the company’s headquarters on New York’s Park Avenue rather than his home on the Upper East Side.
Gray and Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone’s cofounder and CEO, had a breakfast planned with Whitney Wolfe Herd, the young founder of Bumble — a dating app where women make the first move and just the type of hip, fast-growing company in which Blackstone has increasingly sought to stake its continued expansion.
Herd, who was 30 at the time and a rising entrepreneur, had drawn investment interest from much of the private-equity world. But past partnerships had proved treacherous and Herd was cautious. Andrey Andreev, the Russian billionaire who owned Bumble via its parent company, MagicLab, had drawn scrutiny after allegations surfaced that he fostered a drug-fueled workplace where women were objectified.
Herd had sued her previous employer, the dating site Tinder, and its parent company, IAC, accusing Tinder’s top executive and chief marketing officer of sexual harassment.
Gray, a youthful 49, boundlessly affable, and the billionaire No. 2 at the largest private-equity firm, cast a different image from the traditional buyout titan.
His office was decorated with pictures of his wife, Mindy, and their four daughters. And despite a sleepless night, he was sharp, energetic, and down to earth.
“He’s really a humble, good person, and you can feel that within the first 10 seconds of meeting him,” Herd said. “He wanted to know about my parents and where did I grow up … not just ‘let’s talk about business.’ It was a genuine interest in getting to know the Whitney behind the Whitney.”
Read the full story here:
Jon Gray is the future of Blackstone. 50 insiders reveal how the superinvestor consolidated power, elbowed out rivals, and is remaking the firm in his golden-boy image.
- Inside the rise of Stephanie Cohen, the Goldman Sachs dealmaker leading a make-or-break push to take on Main Street
INVITE: What’s on tap for the red-hot IPO market in 2021
Join us Wednesday, February 3 at 2:30 p.m. ET, as Dakin Campbell moderates a panel featuring Kim Posnett, Goldman Sachs partner and Internet investment banking chief, Greg Rodgers, a Latham & Watkins LLP attorney and direct-listings expert, and Mitchell Green, a venture capitalist at Lead Edge Capital who backed Uber, Spotify, Asana, and Alibaba.
These IPO experts will discuss what you can expect for the year ahead and how recent changes have dramatically altered the calculus for startup entrepreneurs. They will also take reader questions.
Sign up here.
Here are some headlines from the past two weeks that you might have missed.
Insiders who worked with Instagram mega influencer Danielle Bernstein say she rips off fashion designers and gets away with it
Mike and Karen Pence are homeless and appear to be couch surfing their way through Indiana
Inside the rise of Andy Jassy, who built Amazon Web Services into a $40 billion business and sits ‘almost side-by-side’ with Jeff Bezos
We mapped out the power structure at Exxon and identified 138 of the oil giant’s top employees. Here’s our exclusive org chart.
Insiders at PR software giant Cision are wondering what’s next after layoffs and an exodus of top execs
12 companies that are ripe for acquisition as e-commerce takes off
The CEO of major health insurer Humana laid out why he’s betting big on primary care
Steve Gold sells some of NYC’s ritziest apartments and swears by this 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. schedule
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