Biden Confronts Coronavirus Vaccine Patents

WASHINGTON — President Biden, faced with surging Covid-19 crises in India and South America, is under intensifying pressure from the international community and his party’s left flank to commit to increasing the vaccine supply by loosening patent and intellectual property protections on coronavirus vaccines.

Pharmaceutical and biotech companies, also feeling pressure, sought on Monday to head off such a move, which could cut into future profits and jeopardize their business model. Pfizer and Moderna, two major vaccine makers, each announced steps to increase the supply of vaccine around the world.

The issue is coming to a head as the World Trade Organization’s General Council, one of its highest decision-making bodies, meets Wednesday and Thursday. India and South Africa are pressing for the body to waive an international intellectual property agreement that protects pharmaceutical trade secrets. The United States, Britain and the European Union so far have blocked the plan.

Inside the White House, health advisers to the president admit they are divided. Some say that Mr. Biden has a moral imperative to act, and that it is bad politics for the president to side with pharmaceutical executives. Others say spilling closely guarded but highly complex trade secrets into the open would do nothing to expand the global supply of vaccines.

promised the liberal health activist Ady Barkan, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S., that he would “absolutely positively” commit to sharing technology and access to a coronavirus vaccine if the United States developed one first. Activists plan to remind Mr. Biden of that promise during a rally scheduled for Wednesday on the National Mall.

proposal by India and South Africa would exempt World Trade Organization member countries from enforcing some patents, trade secrets or pharmaceutical monopolies under the body’s agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights, known as TRIPS. The idea would be to allow drug companies in other countries to make or import cheap generic copies.

Proponents say the waiver would free innovators in other countries to pursue their own coronavirus vaccines, without fear of patent infringement lawsuits. They also note that the proposed waiver goes beyond vaccines, and would encompass intellectual property for therapeutics and medical supplies as well.

“Many people are saying, ‘Won’t they need the secret recipe?’ That’s not necessarily the case,” said Tahir Amin, a founder of the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating health inequities. “There are companies that feel they can go it alone, provided they don’t have to look over their shoulder and feel like they are going to take someone’s intellectual property.”

The pharmaceutical industry counters that rolling back intellectual property protections would not help ramp up vaccine production. It says that other issues are serving as barriers to getting shots into arms around the world, including access to raw materials and on-the-ground distribution challenges.

And just as important as having the rights to make a vaccine is having the technical know-how, which would have to be supplied by vaccine developers like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — a process known as technology transfer.

on LinkedIn that his company would immediately donate more than $70 million worth of medicines to India and is also trying to fast-track the vaccine approval process in India. The company also posted on Twitter promising “the largest humanitarian relief effort in our company’s history to help the people of India.”

Moderna, which developed its vaccine with funding from American taxpayers, has already said it would not “enforce our Covid-19 related patents against those making vaccines intended to combat the pandemic.” But activists have been calling not just for the waiver, but for companies to share expertise in setting up and running vaccine factories — and for Mr. Biden to lean on them to do it.

issued an open letter calling on Mr. Biden to support the proposed waiver.

On Capitol Hill, 10 senators including Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, urged Mr. Biden to “prioritize people over pharmaceutical company profits” and reverse the Trump administration’s opposition to the waiver. More than 100 House Democrats have signed a similar letter.

a handful of governments, including those of Brazil and Thailand, bypassed patents held by the developers of antiviral drugs for H.I.V./AIDS in an effort to clear the way for lower-cost versions of the treatments.

H.I.V. drugs, however, involve a much simpler manufacturing process than the coronavirus vaccines, especially those using messenger RNA technology, which has never before been used in an approved product.

In a Twitter thread, Mr. Amin offered another example: In the 1980s, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline had developed recombinant hepatitis B vaccines and held a monopoly with more than 90 patents covering manufacturing processes. The World Health Organization recommended vaccination for children, but it was expensive — $23 a dose — and most Indian families could not afford it.

The founder of Shantha Biotechnics, an Indian manufacturer, was told that “even if you can afford to buy the technology your scientists cannot understand recombinant technology in the least,” Mr. Amin wrote.

But Shantha, he added, went on “to produce India’s first home-grown recombinant product at $1 a dose.” That enabled UNICEF to run a mass vaccination campaign.

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Biden Will Seek Tax Increase on Rich to Fund Child Care and Education

WASHINGTON — The next phase of President Biden’s $4 trillion push to overhaul the American economy will seek to raise taxes on millionaire investors to fund education and other spending plans, but it will not take steps to expand health coverage or reduce prescription drug prices, according to people familiar with the proposal.

Administration officials had planned to include a health care expansion of up to $700 billion, offset by efforts to reduce government spending on prescription drugs. But they have decided to instead pursue health care as a separate initiative, a move that sidesteps a fight among liberals on Capitol Hill but that risks upsetting some progressive groups that have pushed Mr. Biden to prioritize health issues.

The president is set to outline his so-called American Family Plan, which includes measures aimed at helping Americans gain skills throughout life and have more flexibility in the work force, before his first address to a joint session of Congress next week. Its details remain a work in progress and could change in the days before the announcement.

But after weeks of work, administration officials have closed in on the final version of what will be the second half of Mr. Biden’s sweeping economic agenda, which also includes the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan the president described last month. That plan focused largely on physical infrastructure spending, like repairing bridges and water pipes and building electric vehicle charging stations, and was funded by tax increases on corporations.

expanded tax credit for parents — which is essentially a monthly payment from the government for most families — that was created on a temporary basis by the $1.9 trillion economic aid package Mr. Biden signed into law last month. The duration of that extension was earlier reported by The Washington Post.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have urged Mr. Biden to instead make permanent that credit, which analysts say will drastically cut child poverty this year. Those pushing Mr. Biden include Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, along with Representatives Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Suzan DelBene of Washington and Ritchie Torres of New York.

“Expansion of the child tax credit is the most significant policy to come out of Washington in generations, and Congress has an historic opportunity to provide a lifeline to the middle class and to cut child poverty in half on a permanent basis,” the lawmakers said this week in a joint statement. “No recovery will be complete unless our tax code provides a sustained pathway to economic prosperity for working families and children.”

The family plan will also include some type of extension for an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, which was included in the earlier aid package on a one-year basis.

The plan’s spending and tax credits will total around $1.5 trillion, according to administration estimates, in keeping with early versions of the two-step agenda first reported last month by The New York Times.

To offset that cost, Mr. Biden will propose several tax increases he included in his campaign’s “Build Back Better” agenda. That starts with raising the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent, the level it was cut to by President Donald J. Trump’s tax overhaul in 2017. Mr. Biden would also raise taxes on capital gains — the proceeds of selling an asset like a stock or a boat — for people earning more than $1 million, effectively increasing the rate they pay on that income to 39.6 percent from 20 percent.

The president will also propose eliminating a provision of the tax code that reduces taxes for wealthy heirs who sell assets they inherit, like art or property, that have gained value over time. And he would raise revenue by increasing enforcement at the Internal Revenue Service to bring in more money from wealthy Americans who evade taxes.

Administration officials were debating other possible tax increases that could be included in the plan this week, like capping deductions for wealthy taxpayers or increasing the estate tax on wealthy heirs.

All of the tax provisions would keep with Mr. Biden’s campaign promise not to raise taxes on individuals or households earning less than $400,000 a year.

Previous versions of the family plan, circulated inside the White House, also called for raising revenues by enacting measures to reduce the cost of prescription drugs bought using government health care programs. That money would have funded a continued expansion of health coverage subsidies for insurance bought through the Affordable Care Act, which were also temporarily expanded by the economic aid bill earlier this year. Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California had pushed for that continued expansion.

Mr. Biden’s team was under pressure from Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and the chairman of the Budget Committee, to instead focus his health care efforts on a plan to expand Medicare. Mr. Sanders has pushed the administration to lower Medicare’s eligibility age and expand it to cover vision, dental and hearing services.

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More Companies Are Standing Up for Civil Rights

Andrew here. Yesterday’s guilty verdict against George Floyd’s murderer, a former Minneapolis police officer, was a symbol of something profound: a demonstrable shift in the way this country, increasingly supported by business, has strived for civil rights.

As we ponder the meaning of this decision, it is worth recalling a moment in 1965, in the middle of that era’s civil rights movement.

A Wall Street bond firm, C.F. Securities, told Alabama that it would “no longer buy or sell bonds issued by the state or any of its political subdivisions.” Gov. George C. Wallace, who objected to desegregation, had said the state shouldn’t pay for the National Guard to protect Martin Luther King Jr. and protesters in the Selma-to-Montgomery march.

The investment firm’s executive vice president, Donald E. Barnes, wrote to the governor that his failure “to protect the citizens of Alabama in their exercise of constitutional rights” amounted to “discouragements to Alabama’s economic future.” He insisted that the move was based on economic risk, but the letter made clear it was about more than that.

paid time off on Juneteenth; the N.B.A. emblazoned the words “Black Lives Matter” on courts; Netflix steered its cash into local banks that serve Black communities; Wall Street banks announced programs worth billions to support Black communities; and just last week, in perhaps the greatest demonstration of the new responsibility business is feeling, 700 companies and executives signed a letter opposing laws that make it harder for people to vote.

“The murder of George Floyd last Memorial Day felt like a turning point for our country. The solidarity and stand against racism since then have been unlike anything I’ve experienced,” Brian Cornell, the C.E.O. of Target, wrote in a note to employees of the Minneapolis-based retailer yesterday. “Like outraged people everywhere, I had an overwhelming hope that today’s verdict would provide real accountability. Anything short of that would have shaken my faith that our country had truly turned a corner.”

You know what? Justice is good for business.

The European Super League has collapsed. Plans to create a closed competition of top soccer clubs fell apart yesterday when six English teams withdrew, bowing to outrage from fans and threats by lawmakers. Shortly after, an official at the Super League said the project had been suspended, ending an effort to upend soccer’s multibillion-dollar economics.

outweigh a small risk of blood clots, but wants a warning added. U.S. regulators will decide whether to end a pause on the vaccine in the coming days.

Goldman Sachs releases worker diversity data. The Wall Street bank disclosed for the first time how many of its senior U.S. executives are Black: 49 out of more than 1,500. Banks agreed last year to publish more information about their work forces; Morgan Stanley has an even smaller share of Black executives than Goldman.

Apple’s new products raise competition concerns. The tech giant unveiled new iPads and iMacs, and a revamped podcast app. But its new AirTags, which attach to items to help find them, was criticized by the C.E.O. of Tile, which makes a similar product. Apple also said it would roll out new iOS privacy features — criticized by Facebook and other app makers — next week.

Lina Khan’s nomination to the Federal Trade Commission is one of the clearest signs of progressive influence in the Biden administration. A Columbia University scholar who worked on a major congressional report about Big Tech and antitrust last year, Ms. Khan is a star in the constellation of competition law experts known as “antimonopolists.” Her confirmation hearing with the Senate Commerce Committee is today.

power of internet giants, which could win her some conservative support. Having a “strong” perspective probably isn’t an obstacle to confirmation, Mr. Hoffman said.

Big Tech will be a likely focus at the hearing. But this would be a “disservice” to Ms. Khan, according to Mr. Hoffman. “At the F.T.C., a lot of the agenda is reactive,” he said. Companies file merger paperwork and regulators respond, whatever the industry. Ms. Khan has a broad perspective on competition law, Mr. Hoffman said, and today would be “a fair time” to ask what “objective standards” she’d apply.


— Ari Emanuel, the outspoken C.E.O. of the entertainment conglomerate Endeavor, speaking in a New Yorker profile about returning an investment from Saudi Arabia after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Separately, Endeavor disclosed yesterday that it hopes to be valued at more than $10 billion in an I.P.O.


Canadian National Railway yesterday offered to buy Kansas City Southern for $33.7 billion, topping a $29 billion bid last month by its rival Canadian Pacific. They’re jockeying over the chance to create the first railroad connecting major ports from Canada to Mexico. The bidding war reflects bullishness about an industry poised for growth if a post-pandemic boom ushers in this generation’s “Roaring Twenties.”

antitrust concerns made the counterbid “illusory and inferior.” Kansas City Southern said it would evaluate the new bid in accordance with its agreement with its original suitor.

mixed reception from freight shippers, who suffered in the last round of consolidation. And we haven’t yet heard from Senator Amy Klobuchar, who heads the antitrust subcommittee and represents key industrial interests in Minnesota.


The public listing of Coinbase, the largest crypto exchange in the U.S., generated a wave of excitement that competitors aim to ride. Among them is Binance.US, the third-ranked domestic crypto exchange, which yesterday named Brian Brooks — formerly Coinbase’s chief counsel and most recently acting U.S. comptroller of the currency — as C.E.O., beginning in May. “There’s a lot of buzz about my former employer, which is well-deserved,” Mr. Brooks told DealBook about Coinbase. “But it’s in everybody’s best interest if there’s more competition.”

Mr. Brooks’ first task is building trust with regulators. He says “managing reputation” is his biggest concern. Binance has shifted its operations throughout Asia since it was founded in 2017, and some say it played fast and loose with rules. The C.F.T.C. was reportedly investigating the company for allowing U.S.-based customers to trade crypto derivatives, which is banned (the agency declined to comment). Mr. Brooks insists he did “a lot” of due diligence on his new employer and dismisses “loose talk” about the exchange flouting regulations.

Binance.US sees potential to lead in undeveloped areas of the American crypto landscape, like derivatives and lending. Mr. Brooks said the company can learn from competitors like Coinbase and Kraken — and challenge them. That is, if he can convince regulators to bless its efforts to bring crypto into the financial mainstream, a preoccupation of players across the industry.


Yesterday, JPMorgan Chase’s co-heads of investment banking, Jim Casey and Viswas Raghavan, announced policies aimed at improving working conditions amid record deal volume and banker burnout. The company has attempted similar things before. DealBook spoke with Mr. Casey about the latest plan — and whether this one will stick.

JPMorgan has recently hired 65 analysts and 22 associates, and plans to add another 100 junior bankers and support staff, Mr. Casey said. It’s targeting bankers at rival firms, as well as lawyers and accountants interested in a career switch.

similar efforts to protect junior bankers’ hours in 2016, but “it wasn’t stringently enforced,” Mr. Casey said. Why not? “Laziness.” This time, junior bankers’ hours and feedback will figure in senior manager performance evaluation and compensation.

“It’s not a money problem,” Mr. Casey said, so there won’t be one-time checks or free Pelotons after a rush. Junior bankers will get their share of the record $3 billion in fees JPMorgan earned in the first quarter.

Some things won’t change. Because banking is a client-service job, managers sometimes have limited control over workloads and hours. “You might do 100 deals a year, but that client only does one deal every three years,” Mr. Casey said.

How the bank will measure success: “Ask me what our turnover ratio has gone to and I will tell you,” Mr. Casey said. The goal, he said, is “lower.”

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Voters Like Biden’s Infrastructure Plan; Taxes Are an Issue

Some Republicans are floating the possibility of putting forward a counterproposal that addresses more traditional infrastructure needs and removes the corporate tax increases. Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia suggested that such a proposal could be between $600 billion and $800 billion.

“I think the best way for us to do this is hit the sweet spot of where we agree, and I think we can agree on a lot of the measures moving forward,” Ms. Capito said on CNBC on Wednesday. She suggested that Democrats save proposals with less bipartisan support for the fast-track budget reconciliation process, which would allow the legislation to pass with a simple majority.

“If there are other things they want to do — they being the Democrats or the president — want to do in a more dramatic fashion that can’t attract at least 10 Republicans, that’s, I think, their reconciliation vehicle,” Ms. Capito added.

But several liberals have signaled a reluctance to whittle down Mr. Biden’s plan, with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, telling reporters that the tentative price range “is nowhere near what we need.”

The Biden administration is rolling out its infrastructure plans from a position of relative strength. Voters generally give Mr. Biden high marks for his performance in office, at least in comparison with Mr. Trump’s consistently low approval ratings, and Americans are becoming more optimistic about the economy in particular. Measures of consumer sentiment have been rising in recent months; SurveyMonkey’s consumer confidence index, which is based on five questions about people’s personal finances and economic outlook, rose in April to its highest level in six months.

But views of the economy remain starkly divided along partisan lines. Confidence among Democrats jumped when Mr. Biden was elected and has continued to rise since. Republicans, who had a rosier view of the economy than Democrats throughout Mr. Trump’s time in office, have turned pessimistic since the election.

About the survey: The data in this article came from an online survey of 2,640 adults conducted by the polling firm SurveyMonkey from April 5 to 11. The company selected respondents at random from the nearly three million people who take surveys on its platform each day. Responses were weighted to match the demographic profile of the population of the United States. The survey has a modeled error estimate (similar to a margin of error in a standard telephone poll) of plus or minus three percentage points, so differences of less than that amount are statistically insignificant.

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Beyond Pandemic’s Upheaval, a Racial Wealth Gap Endures

“I want to emphasize that,” he added. “Through no fault of their own.”

The pandemic has hit African-Americans and Latinos hardest on all fronts, with higher infection and death rates, more job losses, and more business closures.

Proposals that confront the wealth gap head on, though, are both expensive and politically charged.

Professor Darity of Duke, a co-author of “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century,” has argued that compensating the descendants of Black slaves — who helped build the nation’s wealth but were barred from sharing it — would be the most direct and effective way to reduce the racial wealth gap.

Vice President Harris and Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey have tended to push for asset-building policies that have more popular support. They have offered programs to increase Black homeownership, reduce student debt, supplement retirement accounts and establish “baby bonds” with government contributions tied to family income.

With these accounts, recipients could build up money over time that could be used to cover college tuition, start a business or help in retirement.

Several states have experimented with small-scale programs meant to encourage children to go to college. Though those programs were not created to close the racial wealth gap, researchers have seen positive side effects. In Oklahoma, child development accounts seeded with $1,000 were created in 2007 for a group of newborns.

“We have very clear evidence that if we create an account of birth for everyone and provide a little more resources to people at the bottom, then all these babies accumulate assets,” said Michael Sherraden, founding director of the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, which is running the Oklahoma experiment. “Kids of color accumulate assets as fast as white kids.”

Without dedicated funds — the kind of programs that enabled white families to build assets — it won’t be possible for African-Americans to bridge the wealth gap, said Mehrsa Baradaran, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap.”

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Jamie Dimon Sees a Boom Coming

The annual letter to shareholders by JPMorgan Chase’s chief Jamie Dimon was just published. The widely read letter is not just an overview of the bank’s business but also covers Mr. Dimon’s thoughts on everything from leadership lessons to public policy prescriptions.

“The U.S. economy will likely boom.” A combination of excess savings, deficit spending, a potential infrastructure bill, vaccinations and “euphoria around the end of the pandemic,” Mr. Dimon wrote, may create a boom that “could easily run into 2023.” That could justify high equity valuations, but not the price of U.S. debt, given the “huge supply” soon to hit the market. There is a chance that a rise in inflation would be “more than temporary,” he wrote, forcing the Fed to raise interest rates aggressively. “Rapidly raising rates to offset an overheating economy is a typical cause of a recession,” he wrote, but he hopes for “the Goldilocks scenario” of fast growth, gently increasing inflation and a measured rise in interest rates.

“Banks are playing an increasingly smaller role in the financial system.” Mr. Dimon cited competition from an already large shadow banking system and fintech companies, as well as “Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and now Walmart.” He argued those nonbank competitors should be more strictly regulated; their growth has “partially been made possible” by avoiding banking rules, he wrote. And when it comes to tougher regulation of big banks, he wrote, “the cost to the economy of having fail-safe banks may not be worth it.”

“China’s leaders believe that America is in decline.” While the U.S. has faced tough times before, today “the Chinese see an America that is losing ground in technology, infrastructure and education — a nation torn and crippled by politics, as well as racial and income inequality — and a country unable to coordinate government policies (fiscal, monetary, industrial, regulatory) in any coherent way to accomplish national goals,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, recently, there is a lot of truth to this.”

a leveraged buyout offer from the private equity firm CVC Capital, sending its shares to a four-year high. Toshiba has had a series of scandals, and faces pressure from activist investors.

raising the corporate rate to help pay for President Biden’s infrastructure plans — though he didn’t mention the White House’s proposed rate, 28 percent. Other corporate chiefs are privately criticizing the potential tax rise.

The company behind the Johnson & Johnson vaccine mix-up has a history of errors. Emergent BioSolutions, which the U.S. relied on to produce doses by J.&J. and AstraZeneca, had a made manufacturing errors before. Experts worry this may leave some Americans more wary of getting vaccinated, even as Mr. Biden has moved up the eligibility deadline for U.S. inoculations.

An electric aircraft maker sues a rival for intellectual property theft. Wisk, which is backed by Boeing and the Google founder Larry Page, said that former employees downloaded confidential information before joining Archer, a competitor. Archer, which is going public by merging with a SPAC run by Moelis & Company and which counts United Airlines as an investor, denied wrongdoing and said it was cooperating with a government investigation.

A blistering start for venture capital in 2021. Start-ups set a fund-raising quarterly record in the first three months of the year, raising more than $62 billion, according to the MoneyTree report from PwC and CB Insights. That’s more than twice the total a year earlier and represents nearly half of what start-ups raised in all of 2020.

Voting in the union election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., ended on March 29, and counting began the next day, but the outcome is still unknown. What’s going on? It’s less about the number of ballots than how they’re counted.

The stakes are high, for both Amazon and the labor movement. Progressive leaders like Bernie Sanders have argued a victory for the union, the first at an Amazon facility in the U.S., could inspire workers elsewhere to unionize. And Amazon is facing increased scrutiny for its market power and labor practices.

a painstaking process:


— Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the I.M.F., on how the uneven rollout of vaccines poses a threat to the global economic recovery.


After the 2008 financial crisis, Credit Suisse emerged battered by high-risk bets and promised to do better. A series of recent scandals suggests it hasn’t, The Times’s Jack Ewing writes.

A recap of the Swiss bank’s troubles over the past year or so:

30-day comment period on to-be-drafted regulations that would make it harder to obscure who controls a company. Among the details to be worked out are what entities should report and when; how to collect, protect and update information for a database; and the criteria for sharing with law enforcement.

“We could not be more excited,” Kenneth Blanco, the director of the Treasury’s Financial Criminal Enforcement Network (FinCEN), told bankers recently. The U.S. has been under pressure to address its vulnerability to money laundering and financial crimes:

New rules could make forming small businesses, special purpose vehicles and other closely held entities “significantly” more burdensome, said Steve Ganis of Mintz, an expert in anti-money laundering regulation. “FinCEN’s new regime will make things much more complicated for start-ups, where control and ownership are highly fluid,” he said. Public companies and many larger businesses would be exempt because they already face stricter scrutiny.

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Baseball Card Maker Topps Is Going Public via a SPAC

Topps, known for its trading cards and Bazooka gum, is going public by merging with a blank-check firm in a deal that values the company at $1.3 billion, the DealBook newsletter was the first to report.

The transaction includes an investment of $250 million led by Mudrick Capital, the sponsor of the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, along with investors including Gamco and Wells Capital. Michael Eisner, the chairman of Topps and former chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, will roll his entire stake into the new company and stay on.

“Everybody has a story about Topps,” Mr. Eisner said. That’s what initially attracted him to the trading card company, which he acquired in 2007 via his investment firm, Tornante, and Madison Dearborn for $385 million. Buying Topps was a bet on a brand that elicits an “emotional connection” as strong as Disney, the company Mr. Eisner ran for 21 years.

In the years since Mr. Eisner’s initial purchase, Topps has focused on a shift to digital, starting online apps for users to trade collectibles and play games. It also created “Topps Now,” which makes of-the-moment cards to capture a defining play or a pop culture meme. (It sold nearly 100,000 cards featuring Senator Bernie Sanders at the presidential inauguration in his mittens.) And it has moved into blockchain, too, via the craze for nonfungible tokens, or NFTs.

especially trading cards. Topps generated record sales of $567 million in 2020, a 23 percent jump over the previous year.

The secondhand market is particularly hot, with a Mickey Mantle card recently selling for more than $5 million. “Topps probably made something like a nickel on it, 70 years ago,” said Jason Mudrick, the founder of Mudrick Capital. NFT mania will allow Topps to take advantage of the secondhand market by linking collectibles to digital tokens. Topps is also growing beyond sports, like its partnerships with Marvel and “Star Wars.”

It continues to see value in its core baseball-card business, as athletes come up from the minor leagues more quickly. “The trading card business has been growing for the last several years,” Michael Brandstaedter, the chief executive of Topps, said. “While it definitely grew through the pandemic — and perhaps accelerated — it did not arrive with the pandemic.”

That resilience is part of the bet that Mudrick Capital is making on the 80-year old Topps. It’s a surer gamble, Mr. Mudrick said, than buying one of the many unprofitable start-ups currently courting SPAC deals. “Our core business is value investing,” he said.

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Contentious Union Vote at Amazon Heads to a Count

SEATTLE — By the end of Monday, thousands of yellow envelopes mailed to a squat brick building in Birmingham, Ala., will hold the fate of one of the most closely watched union elections in recent history, one that could alter the shape of the labor movement and one of America’s largest employers.

The envelopes contain the ballots of workers at an Amazon warehouse near Birmingham. Almost 6,000 workers at the building, one of Amazon’s largest, are eligible to decide whether they form the first union at an Amazon operation in the United States, after years of fierce resistance by the company.

The organizers have made the case in a monthslong campaign that Amazon’s intense monitoring of workers infringes on their dignity, and that its pay is not commensurate with the constant pressure workers feel to produce. The union estimates that roughly 85 percent of the work force at the warehouse is Black and has linked the organizing to the struggle for racial justice.

Amazon has countered that its $15 minimum wage is twice the state minimum, and that it offers health insurance and other benefits that can be hard to find in low-wage jobs.

stopped construction on an office tower when Seattle wanted to tax the company, and backed out of plans to build a second headquarters in New York City after facing progressive opposition.

But the company has committed more than $360 million in leases and equipment for the Bessemer warehouse, and shutting down the vote of a large Black work force could publicly backfire, said Marc Wulfraat, a logistics consultant who closely tracks the company.

Regardless of the outcome, Mr. Wulfraat said that the election is a sign Amazon has work to do. “For most companies that end up with labor organizing in some capacity,” he said, “it didn’t come about because they were doing a fantastic job managing people.”

If the union loses, Amazon will lose at least one customer: Michael Render, the rapper who goes by Killer Mike. Appearing alongside Mr. Sanders on Friday, he said, “If that vote does not go through, if these conditions do not improve, I won’t be ordering from Amazon again.”

Sonam Vashi contributed reporting from Bessemer, Ala.

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Amazon Walks a Political Tightrope in Its Union Fight

WASHINGTON — Amazon is aligned with the Biden administration on several fronts.

It backs a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. It has pledged to meet all the goals of the Paris climate agreement on reducing emissions. It has met with the administration to discuss how to help with the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

But a union drive at one of its warehouses in Alabama has the retailer doing a political balancing act: staying on the good side of Washington’s Democratic leaders while squashing an organizing effort that President Biden has signaled his support for.

Amazon workers in Bessemer, Ala., have been voting for weeks on whether to form a union. The voting ends Monday. Approval would be a first for Amazon workers in the United States and could energize the labor movement across the country.

Labor organizers have tapped into dissatisfaction with working conditions in the warehouse, saying Amazon’s pursuit of efficiency and profits makes the conditions harsh for workers. The company counters that its starting wage of $15 an hour exceeds what other employers in the area pay, and it has urged workers to vote against unionizing.

seized on the union drive, saying it shows how Amazon is not as friendly to workers as the company says it is. Some of the company’s critics are also using its resistance to the union push to argue that Amazon should not be trusted on other issues, like climate change and the federal minimum wage.

Amazon has always fought against unionizing by its workers. But the vote in Alabama comes at a perilous moment for the company. Lawmakers and regulators — not competitors — are some of its greatest threats, and it has spent significant time and money trying to keep the government away from its business.

Amazon’s business practices are the subject of antitrust investigations at the Federal Trade Commission and in multiple state attorney general offices. Mr. Biden on Monday nominated Lina Khan, a legal scholar who came to prominence with her critique of the company, for a seat on the F.T.C.

“I think everyone is seeing through the P.R. at this point and focusing on both their economic and political power,” Sarah Miller, a critic of Amazon, said about the company. Ms. Miller, who runs the American Economic Liberties Project, an antitrust think tank, added, “I think the narrative is cooked now on their status as a monopoly, their status as an abusive employer and their status as one of the biggest spenders on lobbying in Washington, D.C.”

Drew Herdener, Amazon’s vice president for worldwide communications, said in a statement that the company shared common ground with the Biden administration on climate change, immigration reform, the minimum wage and pandemic policy, and was “seeing really positive collaboration on those fronts” with the White House.

a national survey by The Verge, a technology news site, found that 91 percent had a favorable view of the retail giant. When professors at Georgetown and New York Universities asked Americans in 2018 which institutions they had the most confidence in, only the military ranked higher than Amazon.

Still, when Jeff Bezos, the chief executive, testified before Congress last year, he faced accusations that the company squeezes the small businesses that use its online marketplace. A liberal philanthropic organization funded a network of activists to press Amazon on privacy, competition and labor issues. They have also attacked Mr. Bezos, the richest person in the world by some measures, for his personal wealth.

Amazon has made efforts to reach out to the new administration. Dave Clark, who runs the company’s consumer business, sent a letter to the White House in January offering to help with the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine and met virtually with Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, to discuss the vaccine rollout.

appeared in a video that didn’t mention Amazon explicitly but was seen as a clear sign of support to the union. In the video, he said there “should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats” from employers in coming union elections, including in Alabama.

said on Twitter.

It recalled the message Amazon had waiting for a delegation of progressive lawmakers who met with union representatives in Alabama this month.

At the warehouse, workers held up a large banner with text in bold letters: “CONGRESS: PLEASE MATCH AMAZON’S $15/HOUR MINIMUM WAGE!”

Karen Weise contributed reporting.

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