29-year-old billionaire founded FTX in 2019, and said he regrets spending his early years “playing video games.” Now, he’s trying to make up for lost time and the “low name recognition” of his crypto brands by hitching their wagon to bigger brands. FTX recently agreed to pay $135 million for the naming rights to the N.B.A.’s Miami Heat arena for 19 years.

Deals

  • ByteDance, the Chinese parent of TikTok, has reportedly delayed plans to go public because it hasn’t devised a corporate structure that would win approval from Washington and Beijing. (South China Morning Post)

  • A close look at the efforts by the Carlyle Group’s C.E.O., Kewsong Lee, to catch up to his private equity rivals. (WSJ)

Politics and policy

  • The law firm Jones Day has rehired at least seven lawyers who worked in the Trump administration, cementing its status as a top outpost for Republican legal experts. (FT)

  • Advisers to wealthy Americans are studying various strategies to minimize the hit from the Biden administration’s proposed tax hikes. (Bloomberg)

Tech

  • Ant Group, the Chinese fintech giant, reportedly plans to offer employees zero-interest loans backed by their stock options to bolster morale. (Bloomberg)

  • The culture of Travis Kalanick’s food-delivery start-up, CloudKitchens, is said to closely resemble the “bro-y” early days of Uber — and it’s losing workers as a result. (Insider)

Best of the rest

  • Honda said it expects all cars it sells will be electric by 2040. (Bloomberg)

  • One of the men who created the “Yale model” of endowment investing says the strategy is past its prime. (FT)

  • An eye-opening look inside the “slander industry.” (NYT)

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China Reveals Charges Against Outspoken Businessman

Sun Dawu, an outspoken rural businessman who has been a thorn in the side of China’s ruling Communist Party, has been formally arrested on a number of charges, months after being taken into detention.

Mr. Sun, who has been held in the northern province of Hebei since November, faces charges of illegal fund-raising and obstructing public service, among other offenses. He was formally arrested on Wednesday, according to an arrest notice provided on Saturday by one of his lawyers.

The arrest of Mr. Sun — a vocal critic of the Communist Party’s top leader, Xi Jinping, and his crackdown on civil society — comes amid broader efforts by Mr. Xi to muzzle business leaders and bring China’s private sector to heel.

Beijing has punished a number of high-profile tycoons recently. Ren Zhiqiang, a retired real-estate mogul who had called Mr. Xi a clown, was given an 18-year prison sentence last year. After Jack Ma, China’s most famous business leader, criticized Chinese regulators in October, his e-commerce empire Alibaba and fintech giant Ant Group became targets, and Mr. Ma has since kept an uncharacteristically low profile.

police notice.

The fates of the other people detained are not known. The authorities in Gaobeidian, the city in Hebei where Mr. Sun is being held in a detention center, did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Sun, a veteran of the People’s Liberation Army, worked at China’s state-owned Agricultural Bank of China before starting his own business, called Dawu Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Group, which now employs thousands of people.

He built a town in Hebei called Dawu City, complete with services like a 1,000-bed hospital, and cultivated the image of a benevolent corporate leader. His sayings, such as “I’d be honored if my hospital loses money,” were posted around his company’s campus.

Mr. Sun also provided venues for conferences held by liberal and reform-minded groups. He maintained friendships with dissidents long after they became politically toxic. When human rights lawyers were arrested, he offered to pay for their defense.

wrote, “will definitely go after him with murky laws.”

Cao Li contributed research.

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Jack Ma Shows Why China’s Tycoons Keep Quiet

Jack Ma, the most famous businessman China has ever produced, is avoiding the spotlight. Friends say he is painting and practicing tai chi. Sometimes, he shares drawings with Masayoshi Son, the billionaire head of the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank.

The wider world glimpsed Mr. Ma for the first time in months last week, during a virtual board meeting of the Russian Geographical Society. As President Vladimir V. Putin and others discussed Arctic affairs and leopard conservation, Mr. Ma could be seen resting his head on one hand, looking deeply bored.

For Mr. Ma — the charismatic entrepreneur who first showed, two decades ago, how China would shake the world in the internet age; whose face adorns shelves of admiring business books; who never met a crowd he couldn’t razzle-dazzle — it is a stark change of pace.

Beijing’s biggest targets yet, as officials start regulating the country’s powerful internet industry like never before.

snatched from a luxury Hong Kong hotel in 2017. Ye Jianming, an oil tycoon who sought connections in Washington, was detained, as was Wu Xiaohui, whose insurance company bought the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. Mr. Wu later went to prison. Lai Xiaomin, the former chairman of a financial firm, was executed this year.

“The general iron rule is that there should be no individual centers of power outside of the party,” said Richard McGregor, a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute and author of “The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers.”

Beijing’s clampdown on tech is already rippling through boardrooms beyond Alibaba’s.

Ant Group’s chief executive, Simon Hu, resigned in March. A few days later, Colin Huang stepped down as chairman of Pinduoduo, the mobile bazaar he founded and took public within a few short years. Pinduoduo announced his resignation the same day it said it had attracted 788 million shoppers over the previous 12 months — a bigger number than Alibaba.

proposed tougher rules for internet companies — or, as an official newspaper put it, “innovative methods of regulation and governance.”

China’s antitrust authority summoned 34 top internet companies to talk about new fair-competition rules. Within hours, they were discussing business changes and publicly pledging to stay in line.

“These new regulations are going to require internet platforms to look at how they innovate going forward, and the result is potentially less innovation,” said Gordon Orr, a nonexecutive board member at Meituan, the Chinese food delivery giant.

Even so, Alibaba and other internet titans have a status in China that could protect them from the most heavy-handed treatment. Officials have praised the titans’ economic contributions even as they tighten supervision. Mr. Xi wants China’s economy to be driven more by its own innovations than by those of fickle foreign powers.

That means it might be too soon to declare Jack Ma down for the count.

“His company is much more important to the success and functioning of the Chinese economy than any of the other entrepreneurs’,” Mr. McGregor said. “The government wants to continue to reap the benefits of his company — but on their terms. The government isn’t nationalizing Alibaba. It isn’t confiscating its assets. It’s simply narrowing the field in which it operates.”

Alibaba declined to comment.

Mr. Ma is no neophyte at dealing with the authorities in China.

He worked briefly and unhappily at a government-run advertising agency before founding Alibaba in 1999. At the time, China was still getting used to the idea of powerful private entrepreneurs, and Mr. Ma proved adept at charming government officials.

in the 2000s. “What a world-class company needs most is a soul, a commander, a world-class businessman. Jack Ma, I believe, meets this standard.”

Mr. Ma saw early on what success might bring with it in China, said Porter Erisman, an early Alibaba executive.

“There was only one person in the company who brought to our attention that one day we might face issues of being so big that we would come under pressure for having too much market power,” Mr. Erisman said. “And that was Jack.”

one of Alibaba’s biggest investors, Yahoo. Mr. Ma said the move had been necessary under new Chinese regulations. Alipay later became Ant Group.

“The Alipay transfer emboldened him,” said Duncan Clark, who has known Mr. Ma since 1999 and is chairman of BDA China, a consulting firm. “He kind of got away with it.”

work more closely with the state.

When Mr. Ma stepped down as Alibaba’s chairman in 2019, a commentary in the official Communist Party newspaper declared: “There is no so-called Jack Ma era — only Jack Ma as part of this era.”

China’s leaders need the private sector to help sustain economic growth. But they also do not want entrepreneurs to undermine the party’s dominance across society.

Last October, as Ant was preparing to go public, Mr. Ma spoke at a Shanghai conference and criticized China’s financial regulators. He had long seen Ant as a vehicle for disrupting the country’s big state-run banks. But there could scarcely have been a less opportune moment to press the point. Officials halted Ant’s share listing soon after.

In China, “it’s hard to say the emperor has no clothes these days,” said Kellee S. Tsai, a political scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Mr. Ma has largely vanished from sight within his companies, too. In January, he popped up in an internal chat group to answer a business question, according to a person who saw the message but was not authorized to speak publicly. Employees later shared Mr. Ma’s message to reassure nervous colleagues.

estimated that Mr. Ma was not, for the first time in three years, one of China’s three richest people. The country’s new No. 1 was Zhong Shanshan, the low-key head of both a bottled-water giant and a pharmaceutical business.

Chinese news reports about his sudden wealth had to explain to readers how to pronounce the obscure Chinese character in his name.

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Gary Gensler, Wall Street’s New Watchdog, Has a Full Plate

Mr. Gelzinis said Mr. Gensler would probably draw on his familiarity with the subject matter — he taught classes on blockchain technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — to approach regulation around digital currencies more strategically. That would be a departure from his predecessor Jay Clayton, who favored enforcement actions against initial coin offerings without providing much regulatory guidance, he added.

Paul Grewal, chief counsel of Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange that went public last week, said the industry was “hopeful” about Mr. Gensler, noting that he is fluent in its language. Mr. Grewal said the industry wanted Mr. Gensler to provide clarity on how securities regulators decide when a digital asset is considered a security and subject to S.E.C. review, as opposed to a currency that is largely free from S.E.C. oversight.

The question grew in importance after the S.E.C. sued the San Francisco company Ripple Labs in December over the sale of its popular digital tokens to the public. The S.E.C. said the company was selling unregistered securities, while Ripple and others said the tokens should be classified as a digital currency. The enforcement action was one of the last brought before Mr. Clayton stepped down as chairman in the waning days of the Trump administration.

More recently, a brokerage affiliated with Sustainable Holdings, a financial technology company, asked the S.E.C. to weigh in on whether nonfungible tokens, which are being used to create digital art, are securities that require registration. The company, in its letter, asked the S.E.C. “to engage in a meaningful discussion of how to regulate fintech companies and individuals that are creating NFTs that may be deemed digital asset securities.”

Mr. Gensler, while teaching at M.I.T., acknowledged that regulators had struggled with how to treat digital assets. In a 2018 interview, he said digital assets could at times appear to be both a commodity and a security. At his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr. Gensler spoke strongly for heightened requirements for companies to disclose climate risks and diversity efforts.

“Diversity in boards and senior leadership benefits decision-making,” he said.

Mr. Gensler declined to be interviewed.

One thing the past three months have shown is that the stock and bond markets have a way of quickly writing the agenda for anyone who leads the S.E.C. That means SPACs will almost certainly be scrutinized. In particular, Mr. Gensler will have to determine whether these blank-check companies are a good market innovation for taking fledgling companies public or an investment vehicle that has the potential to harm retail investors, Mr. Hawke of Arnold & Porter said.

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Corporate Giving Has Changed After the Capitol Riot, a Little

After the January 6 riot at the Capitol, scores of companies vowed to pause their political donations. Some stopped giving to all politicians, while others shunned only those 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the presidential election results. A recent deadline for candidates to release fund-raising details for the first quarter revealed more details about how corporate giving has changed.

Companies largely kept their word. Only a handful of corporate PACs gave to the Republican objectors, whose total corporate and industry PAC donations dropped precipitously in the first quarter versus the comparable period in the last election cycle. The losers include powerful party leaders like the House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, whose two PAC donations came from the California Beet Growers Association and the National Federation of Independent Business. Mr. McCarthy had more than 100 donations from business groups in the same period in 2017.

But there are shades of gray. Some companies gave money to specific Republicans, taking the view that not all of the 147 lawmakers are the same, a stance adopted by the Chamber of Commerce (and one that DealBook hears is being contemplated by other PACs).

  • Toyota gave to more than a dozen of the Republicans who voted against certifying the election results. A company spokesperson said Toyota “does not believe it is appropriate to judge members of Congress solely based on their votes on the electoral certification.” The company decided against giving to unspecified others, who “through their statements and actions, undermine the legitimacy of our elections and institutions.” After the Capitol riot, the company said it would assess its “future PAC criteria,” a more vague pledge than those of many other companies.

  • Cigna gave to Florida’s Byron Donalds, South Carolina’s Tom Rice and other House members after it said in January it would “discontinue support of any elected official who encouraged or supported violence, or otherwise hindered the peaceful transition of power.” A spokesperson for the insurer said that congressional votes are “by definition, part of the peaceful transition of power,” and that its cutoff of donations “applies to those who incited violence or actively sought to obstruct the peaceful transition of power through words and other efforts.”

Lawmakers at the forefront of the push to overturn the election raked in cash from other sources. Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas each brought in more than $3 million for the quarter, tapping into the outrage of their individual supporters. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia similarly raised $3.2 million, more than nearly every other member of House leadership. The financial haul for those with the loudest and most extreme voices, against the backdrop of the corporate pullback, highlights a shift in the Republican Party’s longtime coziness with corporate America. It also raises questions about big business’s ability to influence policy, as pressure builds on companies to weigh in on hot-button issues like restrictions on voting.

A decision on the pause to Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine could come soon. Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he expected federal health officials to decide whether to resume giving the shot as soon as Friday. The halt was reportedly imposed because of concerns that doctors would mistreat the rare instances of blood clots potentially related to the shot, according to The Wall Street Journal.

coalescing around 25 percent as the new rate, according to Axios — down from the 28 percent that President Biden has proposed, but up from the current 21 percent.

Crypto prices take a tumble. Over the weekend, cryptocurrencies suffered a big drop in value: Bitcoin, for instance, fell 15 percent. (It has since recovered somewhat.) The potential culprits: speculation about impending enforcement actions by financial regulators and power outages in the Chinese region that is home to major Bitcoin mining operations. Or crypto is just being volatile again.

selling his stake in Ant Group, the fintech company he co-founded, according to Reuters. The deliberations come amid pressure from Beijing officials on his business empire, including Ant and Alibaba.

withdrew after deciding it would be too difficult to turn The Chicago Tribune into a national publication, The Times’s Katie Robertson writes.

A dozen of the top European clubs announced plans to create a new soccer league that would rival the longstanding Champions League, The Times’s Tariq Panja reports. The plan could concentrate the billion-dollar sport’s economics with just a handful of teams — if it survives the potential legal challenges.

Meet the Super League. Twelve teams so far have signed up for the new league, which was hatched in secrecy over several months. Among them are Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United of England; Real Madrid and Barcelona of Spain; and AC Milan and Juventus of Italy. (A few more teams are expected to join.) The idea is for the league to hold exclusive midweek matches in between domestic league matches. The closed league would operate more like the N.F.L. or the N.B.A., doing away with different teams appearing in the pan-European Champions League tournament each year, based on their domestic league performance.

There’s a huge amount of money at stake. The Super League’s founding clubs would split 3.5 billion euros, or more than $4 billion, as part of its formation, or more than $400 million per team. That’s four times what the Champions League winner took home last year.

The news spurred an outcry from the establishment. The organizer of the Champions League, UEFA, criticized the proposal as a “cynical project” and has been exploring ways to block it. The governing body of European soccer also noted that FIFA, the global soccer governing body, has threatened to expel players who participate in unsanctioned leagues from tournaments like the World Cup.


— The Times’s Jeanna Smialek, on how the U.S. central bank is facing criticism as it wades into climate and racial equity issues, leading some to question its political independence.


increase in investor demand for company disclosures on things like climate-related risks, board and leadership diversity and political donations. Most recently, it issued a risk alert about the “lack of standardized and precise” definitions of E.S.G. products and services, which could lead to confusion among investors and inconsistent reporting by companies.

Blank-check companies: Special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, have been proliferating, raising many regulatory concerns. These include “risks from fees, conflicts, and sponsor compensation, from celebrity sponsorship and the potential for retail participation drawn by baseless hype, and the sheer amount of capital pouring into the SPACs,” said John Coates, the acting director of the S.E.C.’s corporate finance division, in a statement.

Bringing cryptocurrency into the mainstream: Mr. Gensler was confirmed on the day that the crypto exchange Coinbase went public, signaling a new era of legitimacy at a time when crypto rules are in flux. Blockchain executives and their growing lobby told DealBook that they welcome working with Mr. Gensler, who is more versed in crypto technology than most other policymakers. “He gets what’s going on,” Hester Peirce, an S.E.C. commissioner and vocal crypto champion, said of Mr. Gensler.

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Politics and policy

Tech

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How Can the City of London Survive Brexit?

LONDON — Coming out of Brexit this year, Britain’s government needed a new blueprint for the future of the nation’s financial services as cities like Amsterdam and Paris vied to become Europe’s next capital of investment and banking.

For some, the answer was Deliveroo, a London-based food delivery company with 100,000 riders on motor scooters and bicycles. Although it lost more than 226 million pounds (nearly $310 million) last year, Deliveroo offered the raw promise of many fast-growing tech start-ups — and it became a symbol of Britain’s new ambitions by deciding to go public and list its shares not in New York but on the London Stock Exchange.

Deliveroo is a “true British tech success story,” Rishi Sunak, Britain’s top finance official, said last month.

It was a false start. Deliveroo has since been called “the worst I.P.O. in London’s history.” On the first day of trading, March 31, the shares dropped 26 percent below the initial public offering price. (It has gotten worse.)

impacts from Brexit were immediate: On the first working day of 2021, trading in European shares shifted from venues in London to major cities in the bloc. Then London’s share of euro-denominated derivatives trading dropped sharply. There’s anxiety over what could go next.

Financial services are a vital component of Britain’s economy, making up 7 percent of gross domestic product — £132 billion in 2019, or some $170 billion. Exporting financial and other professional services is something Britain excels at. Membership in the European Union allowed London to serve as a financial base for the rest of the continent, and the City’s business ballooned. Four-tenths of financial services exports go to the European Union.

The government has begun hunting for ideas to bolster London’s reputation as a global finance center, in a series of reviews and consultations on a variety of issues, including I.P.O.s and trading regulations.

For many, the changes can’t come soon enough.

“The United Kingdom is not going to sit still and watch its financial services move across” to other European cities, said Alasdair Haynes, the founder of Aquis, a trading venue and stock exchange for equities in London. This will make the next three or four years exciting, he said.

But this optimism isn’t universal. The prospects of a warm and close relationship between Britain and the European Union have considerably dimmed. The two sides recently finished negotiations on a memorandum of understanding to establish a forum to discuss financial regulation, but the forum is voluntary, and the document has yet to be signed.

Duff & Phelps found that fewer see London as the world’s leading financial center but that it topped the leader board for regulatory environment.

Here are some of the plans.

Mr. Sunak told Parliament on March 3, the same day a review commissioned by the government recommended changes designed to encourage tech companies to go public in London. It proposed ideas, common in New York, that would let founders keep more control of their company after they began selling shares.

For example: allowing companies with two classes of shares and different voting rights (like Facebook) to list in the “premium” section of the London Stock Exchange, which could pave the way for them to be included in benchmark indexes. Or: allowing a company to go public while selling a smaller proportion of its shares than the current rules require.

The timing of Deliveroo’s I.P.O. wasn’t a coincidence. It listed with dual-class shares that give its co-founder William Shu more than half of the voting rights for three years — a structure set to “closely align” with the review’s recommendations, the company said.

But the idea may be a nonstarter among some of London’s institutional investors. Deliveroo flopped partly because they balked at the offer of shares with minimal voting rights.

the latest craze in financial markets, having taken off with investors and celebrities alike. SPACs are public shell companies that list on an exchange and then hunt for private companies to buy.

London has been left behind in the SPAC fervor. Last year, 248 SPACs listed in New York, and just four in London, according to data by Dealogic. In March, Cazoo, a British used car retailer, announced that it was going public via a SPAC in New York.

Already there are signs that Amsterdam could steal the lead in this booming business for Europe. There have been two SPACs each in London and Amsterdam this year, but the value of the listings in Amsterdam are five times that of London.

Britain’s financial regulatory agency said it would start consultations on SPACs soon and aim to have new rules in place by the summer.

regain ground lost to Germany, France and other European countries on the issuing of green bonds to finance projects to tackle climate change.

London’s finance industry isn’t in danger of imminent collapse, but because of Brexit a cornerstone of the British economy isn’t looking as formidable as it once did. And as London tries to keep up with New York, it is looking over its shoulders at the financial technology coming out of Asia.

The government has continuously billed Brexit as an opportunity to do more business with countries outside of the European Union. This will be essential as international companies begin to ask whether they want to base their European business in London or elsewhere.

When it comes to the future of Britain, it’s “almost a back-to-the-future approach of London as an international center as opposed to being an international and European center,” said Miles Celic, the chief executive of the CityUK, which represents the industry. “It’s doubling down on that international business.”

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