View Source

L.A. Schools Superintendent Austin Beutner Stepping Down

Austin Beutner, who took the helm of the Los Angeles public school system, the second-largest in the nation, during a leadership crisis and shepherded it through the coronavirus pandemic, says he will leave his post as superintendent at the end of June.

“This job is extraordinarily demanding, even in ordinary times,” Mr. Beutner, 61, said in an interview, adding, “It’s been a long three years.”

Los Angeles school trustees had asked him to extend the three-year contract he signed in 2018. But Mr. Beutner, a former financier who has served as a publisher of The Los Angeles Times and a deputy mayor, wrote in a letter to the board on Wednesday that he preferred to move on.

Across the country, pandemic-fatigued civic leaders are reassessing their service.

Nearly one-fifth of the mayors in Massachusetts have said they will not run for re-election. In San Francisco, where political controversies over school names consumed the school board while families clamored for a return to face-to-face classes, the superintendent decided to stay on only after the board agreed in writing not to adopt any new mandates unrelated to reopening, for the time being.

settled after six days. Then in 2020 came the pandemic, emptying classrooms of the roughly 650,000 students the district serves, most of them from low-income households.

Operating under emergency powers and leveraging his contacts in the philanthropic and private sectors, Mr. Beutner was both praised and criticized for his handling of the pandemic.

The district set up an extraordinary social-service net, providing more than 123 million meals to needy children and adults, more than 30 million masks and other items, as well as mass Covid-19 testing and vaccination.

But California was among the last states to resume in-person instruction, in part because Mr. Beutner had agreed with the district’s teachers to make reopening conditional on access to vaccination.

View Source

Lina Khan, a progressive trustbuster, displays get-tough approach to tech in confirmation hearing.

Lina Khan, a Democratic nominee to the Federal Trade Commission, outlined strong concerns over competition in the tech industry during her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

Ms. Khan, a law professor and a former staffer at the F.T.C. who President Biden nominated to the agency in March, warned of the cascading power of tech companies that has allowed them to easily expand their reach across markets.

At the Senate Commerce committee hearing, Ms. Khan, 32, said she was “seeing whole range of potential risks. One that comes up across board is that the ability to dominate one market gives companies, in some instances, the ability to expand into adjacent markets.”

She also focused on the online advertising market and how the consumer data mining that fuels it poses potential harms for consumers. The business model, she said, incentivizes more and more data collection.

In a 2017 Yale Law Journal article titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” she questioned the bias of antitrust experts toward consumer prices as the key metric for antitrust violation. Even though Amazon offers consumers lower prices in many cases, she argued the company could harm competition by squeezing out small-business rivals who rely on its marketplace.

President Biden’s nomination of Ms. Khan to one of three Democratic seats at the F.T.C. has been taken as a sign of how the White House plans to be tough on tech. Tim Wu, a progressive critic of Facebook and other big tech companies, was also recently named to a role in the White House.

Ms. Khan said in Wednesday’s hearing that approvals of tech mergers during the Obama administration were a “missed opportunity” to slow the growth of the companies.

Tech mergers approved during that time underestimated the particular economics of tech companies, she said. Regulators that approved the deals may have also assumed the dynamics of the tech market would allow for new entrants to go up against the bigger companies, she added.

her past work investigating the tech giants for the House antitrust subcommittee. The House released a report in October that found the digital platforms were monopolies.

Ms. Khan said she would follow ethics rules that prohibit her involvement in investigations into companies where she has financial and personal ties. She said she did not have those ties to any tech giants.

View Source

Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley Leaving Searchlight Pictures

LOS ANGELES — One of corporate Hollywood’s most enduring double acts is calling it quits.

Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley, senior executives at Searchlight Pictures for 21 of its 27 years, who shaped global culture with Oscar-winning hits like “12 Years a Slave,” “Black Swan,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” announced their surprise retirement on Tuesday. They will leave the Disney-owned specialty studio by the end of June, adding to a conspicuous changing of the guard at Walt Disney Company.

“You don’t want to be the show that stays on the air two seasons too long,” Ms. Utley said. “Get out while everything is still going well.”

She was joking — mostly. Searchlight has long been the gold standard of art film studios, packing its slate with diverse offerings long before Hollywood got the memo, and thriving in a changing marketplace — the DVD collapse, the rise of streaming competitors — even as once-formidable competitors like the Weinstein Company imploded. If the latest Searchlight success, “Nomadland,” wins the Academy Award for best picture on Sunday, as many expect, Mr. Gilula, 70, and Ms. Utley, 65, will have taken the top prize in four of the last eight ceremonies. That is a run unmatched by any specialty studio, even Miramax, which at its height won three best-picture Oscars.

The Shape of Water” (2018), “Birdman” (2015) and “12 Years a Slave” (2014). “Slumdog Millionaire” won in 2009.

The Trial of the Chicago 7.” Netflix has been chasing such a victory for years as the ultimate symbol of supremacy in Hollywood.

Searchlight has been rising to the challenge of streaming. “Nomadland,” from the Chinese-born filmmaker Chloé Zhao, was released in theaters and on Hulu, a Disney streaming service. But competing with Amazon, Apple and Netflix — and their seemingly bottomless wallets — for talent and material has become harder and harder. That has made the art film market more precarious for traditional studios like Searchlight, which will now be run by David Greenbaum and Matthew Greenfield, the current presidents.

“Every time my contract was up, to be candid, I always questioned whether I had the intestinal fortitude to fight through the next set of changes,” Mr. Gilula said. “Ultimately, pride and loyalty kept me going. And there has always been another fantastic film in the pipeline. Well, maybe after ‘Shape of Water,’ maybe after ‘Three Billboards.’ But this is it. With ‘Nomadland,’ which has shown that we haven’t lost our edge at all, adapting quickly to the pandemic, there is a great feeling of fulfillment.”

Robert A. Iger, executive chairman, is departing in December after 26 years at the company. Alan F. Horn, the top creative executive at Walt Disney Studios, has been edging toward retirement, as has Alan N. Braverman, Disney’s top lawyer. Jayne Parker, Disney’s powerful human resources chief, will step down in June after 33 years at the company.

“The people you mentioned have contributed mightily — myself excluded; I’m not talking about myself in this regard — to the success of the company, and in doing so have groomed people behind them who will take over the mantle,” Mr. Iger said. “I try to ease people’s concerns as much as possible. It’s certainly way too premature to express concern.”

Searchlight was one of the assets that Disney acquired from Rupert Murdoch in 2019. Mr. Iger, who orchestrated the deal, heaped praise on Ms. Utley and Mr. Gilula. “It takes a really deft hand to bring these smaller but extremely high-quality films to market, and they have Ph.D.’s in it,” he said.

Does their retirement signal a change in direction for Searchlight? The mini-studio, which has about 100 employees, is beloved by fans of grown-up cinema, especially as Hollywood has leaned harder toward all-audience franchise films.

“No, not at all,” Mr. Iger said. “We haven’t been particularly vocal about this, but we intend for Searchlight to play a big part in supplying content, not just for theaters but for our streaming platforms. We are going to invest more and more. Expect more output rather than less.”

Summer of Soul,” a documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival from Ahmir Thompson, better known as Questlove; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” a comedy-drama-romance; and Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley,” about a manipulative carnival worker. Searchlight also has six television shows on the way with stars and directors that include Keira Knightley, Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”) and Darren Aronofsky.

Thomas E. Rothman, who is now Sony’s movie chief. At the time, specialty films — auteur-minded cinematic trinkets — were raking in money at the box office. “The Full Monty,” released by Searchlight in 1997, cost $3.5 million to make and took in $258 million worldwide (or nearly $430 million in today’s money). Over the years, market conditions changed markedly, particularly in the late 2000s, when an economic downturn dried up production financing.

As competitors like Rogue Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Picturehouse and Miramax faded away, Ms. Utley and Mr. Gilula kept Searchlight vibrant. Her specialty has been marketing, scripts and casting. He is a distribution ace who co-founded the Landmark Theaters chain in 1974. “There has never been a spreadsheet that Steve didn’t love,” Ms. Utley said dryly.

Aside from exquisite cinematic taste, the two executives, who both hail from the Midwest, are the rarest of species in Hollywood: genuinely nice people. Neither craves the spotlight. They are widely known in the film industry for campaigning for awards with integrity.

“Hopefully, we have set an example,” Mr. Gilula said, “showing that you don’t have to be the other kind of person to be successful in this business.”

Both insisted that Disney’s takeover of Searchlight (called Fox Searchlight while owned by Mr. Murdoch) played no role in their decision to retire.

“We were frustrated at Fox because Fox just didn’t have a streaming strategy and was very slow to react to marketplace changes,” Ms. Utley said, adding, “I think the transition to Disney has gone really smoothly, which is one reason I have all the faith in the world about the future of Searchlight.”

View Source

Raúl Castro to Step Down as Head of Cuba’s Communist Party

Raúl Castro announced Friday that he was handing over leadership of Cuba’s powerful Communist Party to a younger generation “full of passion and anti-imperialist spirit,” leaving the island nation without a Castro at its helm for the first time in over 60 years.

Mr. Castro, who turns 90 in June, reiterated his long-expected intention to step down in a speech kicking off the Communist Party congress on Friday. He is expected to formally step down and announce his replacement before the conference ends on Monday.

After serving two terms as Cuba’s president, Mr. Castro stepped down from that office in 2018, replaced by his handpicked successor, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez.

Cuba’s leadership will likely announce further reforms during the party congress, to reorient the country toward a socialist system and away from the more austere Communist model that fueled the revolution that brought Mr. Castro and his brother, Fidel, to power in 1959.

View Source

Goldman Sachs’s Top Image Maker, Jake Siewert, Will Leave

Elliott may start a fight at GlaxoSmithKline. The big activist hedge fund has taken a multibillion-pound stake in the British medical and consumer products giant, DealBook has learned. The Financial Times, which first reported the news, said it came as other investors expressed worries that the company was underperforming, particularly in its drug pipeline.

Amazon published its founder’s latest letter to shareholders yesterday. It is likely the last such letter written by Jeff Bezos as C.E.O., since he plans to step down later this year and become executive chairman. In the letter, Mr. Bezos, the richest man in the world, laid out his view of Amazon’s impact during his 27-year tenure.

Mr. Bezos calculated the value he thinks Amazon creates for society. The total came to $301 billion last year, he said, with more than half going to customers (via time savings and the cost improvements of cloud computing), followed by employees (via compensation), third-party sellers (via profits from selling on Amazon) and finally shareholders (via the company’s net income). “Draw the box big around all of society, and you’ll find that invention is the root of all real value creation,” Mr. Bezos wrote. “And value created is best thought of as a metric for innovation.”

Mr. Bezos said that Amazon’s goal is to become “Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.” He disputed the characterization of Amazon warehouse employees as “being treated as robots” (the jobs have been criticized over workplace safety measures during the pandemic, algorithmic management and productivity quotas), and highlighted Amazon’s $15 minimum hourly wage, which one study suggested led to increased wages at other businesses nearby.

The letter ended on a philosophical note. “We all know that distinctiveness — originality — is valuable,” Mr. Bezos wrote. “We are all taught to ‘be yourself.’ What I’m really asking you to do is to embrace and be realistic about how much energy it takes to maintain that distinctiveness. The world wants you to be typical — in a thousand ways, it pulls at you. Don’t let it happen.”


— Jane Fraser, the C.E.O. of Citigroup, reporting a tripling of profit in its latest quarter.


Greenlight Capital’s quarterly report is out and the hedge fund’s founder, David Einhorn, has a lot to say.

He blames Chamath and Elon for the GameStop frenzy. “The real jet fuel on the GME squeeze came from Chamath Palihapitiya and Elon Musk, whose appearances on TV and Twitter, respectively, at a critical moment further destabilized the situation,” Mr. Einhorn wrote.

He’s not a fan of payment for order flow, which is how Robinhood makes money on free trading. It’s “just disguised commission,” Mr. Einhorn said.

View Source

Gustavo Dudamel, Superstar Conductor, Is to Lead Paris Opera

In a coup for the venerable Paris Opera, founded in 1669 by Louis XIV, the company announced on Friday that the superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel would be its next music director.

The musical leader of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2009 and the rare classical artist to have crossed into pop-culture celebrity, Dudamel has led only a single production in Paris: “La Bohème,” in 2017. And while he has dipped his toe into the operatic repertory in Los Angeles, at the Metropolitan Opera and elsewhere, he has been largely known as a symphonic conductor.

But another big appointment will come as little surprise to those who have watched Dudamel rise steadily over the past 15 years. The new position is a milestone in the heady career of an artist who made his name as a wunderkind with orchestras in North and South America and who is now, at 40, taking the reins at one of Europe’s oldest opera companies. His tenure will start in August, for an initial term of six years, overlapping for much of that period with his position in Los Angeles, where his current contract runs through the 2025-26 season.

Dudamel — who was born in Venezuela in 1981 and trained there by El Sistema, the free government-subsidized program that teaches music to children, including in some of its poorest areas — occupies a unique position in music. He is sought by leading orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic. But he also appeared in a Super Bowl halftime show; was the classical icon Trollzart in the animated film “Trolls World Tour”; is conductor of the score for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film version of “West Side Story”; and inspired a messy-haired main character in the Amazon series “Mozart in the Jungle.” In 2019 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

started last fall — has expanded its audience in recent years, but still faces the pressure of roiling debates about racial representation and the relevance of expensive-to-produce classical art forms.

It is no longer the norm — especially outside German-speaking countries — for opera music directors to start as pianists and singer coaches and work their way up through the company ranks, as Philippe Jordan, 46, Dudamel’s predecessor in Paris, did. While Dudamel lacks that preparation, he is not unknown in major opera houses. He made his debut at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan in 2006, when he was in his mid-20s, and at the Berlin State Opera the following year. He first appeared at the Vienna State Opera in 2016, and at the Met in 2018, with Verdi’s “Otello”; on Wednesday he finished a run of “Otello” in Barcelona.

In Los Angeles, he has contributed to the Philharmonic’s robust educational outreach, especially the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, a program inspired by El Sistema that was founded in 2007. He also continues to hold the post of music director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, but after he criticized the government there in 2017, the country canceled his planned international tour with that ensemble.While he has not been able to perform with the Simón Bolívar since then, he still works with the ensemble remotely and has sometimes met outside Venezuela with groups of its players.

Dudamel’s appointment comes two months after the release of a report on discrimination and diversity at the Paris Opera, focusing on changes to the repertory, school admissions process and racial and ethnic makeup of its in-house ballet company.

Around the world, opera companies, too, have been called on to make their staffs, artistic lineups and repertories more representative. Alongside Ching-Lien Wu, the Paris Opera’s newly appointed (and first female) chorus master, Dudamel’s hiring is part of an effort to change the face of the company’s executive ranks and how it thinks about diversity and equity.

View Source

CBS News names two to replace outgoing president.

Two years ago, CBS picked the ultimate insider to run its broadcast news division: Susan Zirinsky, whose decades-long tenure at the network stretched to the days of Walter Cronkite.

Now the network is turning to a pair of outsiders — one from the world of newspapers and digital publishing — to restore the fortunes of a news division that still trails its rivals at ABC and NBC.

CBS said on Thursday that Ms. Zirinsky would be succeeded by Neeraj Khemlani, a vice president at the publishing powerhouse Hearst and a relatively little-known figure in the TV news industry, and Wendy McMahon, a former ABC executive. The two will serve as presidents and co-heads of a CBS News division that will also include local stations owned by the network.

In the gossipy world of TV news, neither executive had been rumored to be a candidate for the top CBS role. Mr. Khemlani worked at CBS News from 1998 to 2006 as a producer at its “60 Minutes” franchise, but he left television to work at the news arm of the web giant Yahoo before going to Hearst in 2009.

announcing the hires.

View Source

ABC News names Kimberly Godwin as its new president.

Kimberly Godwin, a veteran CBS News executive, was named the next president of ABC News on Wednesday, making her the first Black woman to lead a major broadcast network’s news division.

Ms. Godwin replaces James Goldston, who announced his departure from ABC in January. Her appointment was guided by Peter Rice, the chairman of general entertainment at The Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC. She will begin in her job in early May.

Her promotion is just one of several changes in the world of broadcast news as the industry adjusts to the end of Donald J. Trump’s presidency and to shifting viewing habits among audiences who are showing signs of fatigue after years of devouring TV news.

CBS News is expected to announce in the coming days a successor for its own president, Susan Zirinsky, who is leaving to take on a producing role at ViacomCBS. CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker, said he will depart the cable network by the end of the year, and Rashida Jones recently became the new president of MSNBC. When Ms. Jones took over MSNBC, she became the first Black woman to run one of the three major cable news channels.

evening newscasts are down considerably from a year ago, when the onset of the pandemic spurred significant interest.

ABC News also grappled with internal tensions last year, after an investigation backed complaints about racially insensitive comments made by a longtime top executive, Barbara Fedida, who has since left the network.

View Source

Toshiba CEO Resigns Amid Company Turmoil

Toshiba announced on Wednesday the resignation of its top executive, Nobuaki Kurumatani, a move that comes as the Japanese conglomerate faces a potential buyout and a shareholder-initiated investigation into its management practices.

The board appointed Satoshi Tsunakawa — the current chairman and previous president — to replace Mr. Kurumatani, the company said in a brief statement. It did not explain the reason for the change.

Toshiba, once among the crown jewels of Japanese industry, a maker of products ranging from personal printers to railroad locomotives, has struggled in recent years, overshadowed by the legacy of a major accounting scandal and its acquisition of the American nuclear power company Westinghouse, which declared bankruptcy in 2017.

Seeking to rebuild, Toshiba looked for a new leader from outside its own ranks, and in 2018 it appointed Mr. Kurumatani, an executive with CVC Capital Partners, a private equity company based in Europe, as chief executive. It was an unusual decision for a company that had long been headed by company insiders. Last year, he was appointed president, solidifying his control over the firm.

During a news conference Wednesday, board member Osamu Nagayama deflected questions about the resignation, saying that Mr. Kurumatani, 63, had been considering the move for months and had come to the decision with his family. Unusually, Mr. Kurumatani did not make an appearance, but in a letter that was read aloud to reporters, he said he had chosen to resign after “achieving my mission to rebuild the company.”

The announcement on Wednesday followed months of unrest at Toshiba as disgruntled shareholders agitated for reforms aimed at improving the company’s performance and increasing its value.

Toshiba investors tried to shake up the company’s management at the annual general meeting last summer. But Mr. Kurumatani was re-elected — albeit with less than 60 percent of the vote — following a showdown that angered some key shareholders and raised questions about whether the company had inappropriately interfered in the decision.

Effissimo Capital Management, a Singapore-based hedge fund that holds about 10 percent of the company and had led the campaign to unseat its management team, subsequently called for an investigation into the outcome. Other shareholders agreed, voting, over management’s objections, to begin an independent inquiry in March.

Earlier this month, Toshiba announced that it had received a buyout offer from CVC Capital Partners for a reported $20 billion, a substantial premium on the company’s share price. The offer has raised questions of conflict of interest, as Mr. Kurumatani had previously served as president of CVC’s Japan office.

In recent years, Japanese companies have increasingly been the focus of activist investors from abroad, who believe that sclerotic management and opaque governance practices have prevented many of Japan’s blue chip firms from achieving their full value.

Hisako Ueno contributed reporting.

View Source