A few years ago, while on a work trip in Los Angeles, I hailed an Uber for a crosstown ride during rush hour. I knew it would be a long trip, and I steeled myself to fork over $60 or $70.
Instead, the app spit out a price that made my jaw drop: $16.
Experiences like these were common during the golden era of the Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy, which is what I like to call the period from roughly 2012 through early 2020, when many of the daily activities of big-city 20- and 30-somethings were being quietly underwritten by Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
For years, these subsidies allowed us to live Balenciaga lifestyles on Banana Republic budgets. Collectively, we took millions of cheap Uber and Lyft rides, shuttling ourselves around like bourgeois royalty while splitting the bill with those companies’ investors. We plunged MoviePass into bankruptcy by taking advantage of its $9.95-a-month, all-you-can-watch movie ticket deal, and took so many subsidized spin classes that ClassPass was forced to cancel its $99-a-month unlimited plan. We filled graveyards with the carcasses of food delivery start-ups — Maple, Sprig, SpoonRocket, Munchery — just by accepting their offers of underpriced gourmet meals.
tweeted, along with a screenshot of a receipt that showed he had spent nearly $250 on a ride to the airport.
“Airbnb got too much dip on they chip,” another Twitter user complained. “No one is gonna continue to pay $500 to stay in an apartment for two days when they can pay $300 for a hotel stay that has a pool, room service, free breakfast & cleaning everyday. Like get real lol.”
Some of these companies have been tightening their belts for years. But the pandemic seems to have emptied what was left of the bargain bin. The average Uber and Lyft ride costs 40 percent more than it did a year ago, according to Rakuten Intelligence, and food delivery apps like DoorDash and Grubhub have been steadily increasing their fees over the past year. The average daily rate of an Airbnb rental increased 35 percent in the first quarter of 2021, compared with the same quarter the year before, according to the company’s financial filings.
set up a $250 million “driver stimulus” fund — or doing away with them altogether.
I’ll confess that I gleefully took part in this subsidized economy for years. (My colleague Kara Swisher memorably called it “assisted living for millennials.”) I got my laundry delivered by Washio, my house cleaned by Homejoy and my car valet-parked by Luxe — all start-ups that promised cheap, revolutionary on-demand services but shut down after failing to turn a profit. I even bought a used car through a venture-backed start-up called Beepi, which offered white-glove service and mysteriously low prices, and which delivered the car to me wrapped in a giant bow, like you see in TV commercials. (Unsurprisingly, Beepi shut down in 2017, after burning through $150 million in venture capital.)
These subsidies don’t always end badly for investors. Some venture-backed companies, like Uber and DoorDash, have been able to grit it out until their I.P.O.s, making good on their promise that investors would eventually see a return on their money. Other companies have been acquired or been able to successfully raise their prices without scaring customers away.
Uber, which raised nearly $20 billion in venture capital before going public, may be the best-known example of an investor-subsidized service. During a stretch of 2015, the company was burning $1 million a week in driver and rider incentives in San Francisco alone, according to reporting by BuzzFeed News.
But the clearest example of a jarring pivot to profitability might be the electric scooter business.
Remember scooters? Before the pandemic, you couldn’t walk down the sidewalk of a major American city without seeing one. Part of the reason they took off so quickly is that they were ludicrously cheap. Bird, the largest scooter start-up, charged $1 to start a ride, and then 15 cents a minute. For short trips, renting a scooter was often cheaper than taking the bus.
But those fees didn’t represent anything close to the true cost of a Bird ride. The scooters broke frequently and needed constant replacing, and the company was shoveling money out the door just to keep its service going. As of 2019, Bird was losing $9.66 for every $10 it made on rides, according to a recent investor presentation. That is a shocking number, and the kind of sustained losses that are possible only for a Silicon Valley start-up with extremely patient investors. (Imagine a deli that charged $10 for a sandwich whose ingredients cost $19.66, and then imagine how long that deli would stay in business.)
Pandemic-related losses, coupled with the pressure to turn a profit, forced Bird to trim its sails. It raised its prices — a Bird now costs as much as $1 plus 42 cents a minute in some cities — built more durable scooters and revamped its fleet management system. During the second half of 2020, the company made $1.43 in profit for every $10 ride.
“DoorDash and Pizza Arbitrage,” about the time he realized that DoorDash was selling pizzas from his friend’s restaurant for $16 while paying the restaurant $24 per pizza, and proceeded to order dozens of pizzas from the restaurant while pocketing the $8 difference, stands as a classic of the genre.)
But it’s hard to fault these investors for wanting their companies to turn a profit. And, at a broader level, it’s probably good to find more efficient uses for capital than giving discounts to affluent urbanites.
Back in 2018, I wrote that the entire economy was starting to resemble MoviePass, the subscription service whose irresistible, deeply unprofitable offer of daily movie tickets for a flat $9.95 subscription fee paved the way for its decline. Companies like MoviePass, I thought, were trying to defy the laws of gravity with business models that assumed that if they achieved enormous scale, they’d be able to flip a switch and start making money at some point down the line. (This philosophy, which was more or less invented by Amazon, is now known in tech circles as “blitzscaling.”)
There is still plenty of irrationality in the market, and some start-ups still burn huge piles of money in search of growth. But as these companies mature, they seem to be discovering the benefits of financial discipline. Uber lost only $108 million in the first quarter of 2021 — a change partly attributable to the sale of its autonomous driving unit, and a vast improvement, believe it or not, over the same quarter last year, when it lost $3 billion. Both Uber and Lyft have pledged to become profitable on an adjusted basis this year. Lime, Bird’s main electric scooter competitor, turned its first quarterly profit last year, and Bird — which recently filed to go public through a SPAC at a $2.3 billion valuation — has projected better economics in the years ahead.
Profits are good for investors, of course. And while it’s painful to pay subsidy-free prices for our extravagances, there’s also a certain justice to it. Hiring a private driver to shuttle you across Los Angeles during rush hour should cost more than $16, if everyone in that transaction is being fairly compensated. Getting someone to clean your house, do your laundry or deliver your dinner should be a luxury, if there’s no exploitation involved. The fact that some high-end services are no longer easily affordable by the merely semi-affluent may seem like a worrying development, but maybe it’s a sign of progress.
Five years ago, a scan of Istu Prayogi’s lungs showed the kind of damage that comes from smoking cigarettes. But in his case, he had never smoked. Instead, he spent hours a day in traffic in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia and one of the world’s most polluted cities.
A computer science teacher, Mr. Istu began wearing a face mask, as his doctor recommended, but that was only a short-term solution. So he joined a rare citizen lawsuit against the government seeking to force Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, and other government officials to address the city’s pervasive pollution.
“For me personally, it’s very urgent,” he said, “because everyone needs air and everyone needs health.”
A three-judge panel is expected to rule as early as this week whether the president, three of his cabinet ministers and three provincial governors have been negligent by failing to curb the city’s air pollution.
prone to flooding.
The environmentalists who brought the suit say that many of the worst sources of pollution are outside Jakarta’s city limits and that presidential leadership and regional efforts are essential to address the problem.
A month after the lawsuit was filed, President Joko proposed moving the capital to a new city to be built on the island of Borneo, leaving Jakarta’s pollution problems behind.
A study released last week by the British consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft found that Jakarta was the city most at risk from environmental factors out of the 576 cities analyzed. The study noted that Jakarta is “plagued with dire air pollution” and faces threats from seismic activity and flooding.
One of the 32 plaintiffs in the suit is Yuyun Ismawati, a co-founder of the environmental group, Nexus3 Foundation, and a recipient of the 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize. She points out that Indonesia’s air pollution standards are much looser than the levels recommended by the World Health Organization. But even these standards are not adequately enforced, she said, and as a result, many people suffer from asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Children are especially vulnerable to ailments caused by pollution because their bodies are still developing, she said. “I am worried about the future of young people in Indonesia.”
Research indicates that long-term exposure to air pollution can worsen the effects of Covid-19. Indonesia, the world’s fourth-largest country, has reported more than 1.7 million cases, the largest number in Southeast Asia.
Studies show that vehicle emissions are the largest single source of air pollution in Greater Jakarta, followed by coal-fired power plants. Vehicle inspections, to the extent they occur, are inadequate, Ms. Yuyun said, and the power plants do not have adequate filters.
Another major source is small-scale industrial activity that often relies on primitive methods that lack environmental safeguards, such as melting and recycling lead batteries, and burning wood, plastic or tires to generate heat. These often go unregulated.
“Everyone has the right to live in a healthy environment,” Ms. Yuyun said.
The suit, which was filed in Central Jakarta District Court, names the president, the ministries of health, environment and home affairs and the governors of the three provinces, Jakarta, West Java and Banten.
In a brief submitted in support of the lawsuit, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David R. Boyd, pointed out that air pollution is the world’s deadliest environmental problem and is responsible for hundreds of thousands of premature deaths annually in Indonesia.
These deaths occur even though the solutions are well known and the government has a responsibility to implement them, he said.
“Protecting human rights from the harmful effects of air pollution is a constitutional and legislative obligation for governments in Indonesia, not an option,” he wrote.
Aditho Harinugroho, 36, began riding his bike on Jakarta’s crowded streets after a friend’s sudden death four years ago prompted him to change his lifestyle and embrace fitness. A freelance videographer, he sometimes rides 40 miles in a day.
Now, he is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Even though he wears a cloth mask for the pollution, getting stuck in traffic can lead to coughing fits, he said. And after riding, his skin is blackened by the soot in the air.
“When I pass through a traffic jam hot spot, I definitely cough after that,” Mr. Aditho said. “When I wipe my face, it is black and I imagine that’s what gets into my lungs. It is impossible not to cough.”
President Joko has made Indonesia’s economic development his top priority. But Mr. Aditho said the government is focused on helping the rich, not improving the lives of ordinary people.
“Our government doesn’t care at all about pollution or the air quality of Jakarta,” he said. “We can see that from their policies.”
Dera Menra Sijabat contributed reporting from Jakarta.
By the time Melinda French Gates decided to end her 27-year marriage, her husband was known globally as a software pioneer, a billionaire and a leading philanthropist.
But in some circles, Bill Gates had also developed a reputation for questionable conduct in work-related settings. That is attracting new scrutiny amid the breakup of one of the world’s richest, most powerful couples.
In 2018, Ms. French Gates wasn’t satisfied with her husband’s handling of a previously undisclosed sexual harassment claim against his longtime money manager, according to two people familiar with the matter. After Mr. Gates moved to settle the matter confidentially, Ms. French Gates insisted on an outside investigation. The money manager, Michael Larson, remains in his job.
On at least a few occasions, Mr. Gates pursued women who worked for him at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to people with direct knowledge of his overtures. In meetings at the foundation, he was at times dismissive toward his wife, witnesses said.
public view, Ms. French Gates was unhappy. She hired divorce lawyers, setting in motion a process that culminated this month with the announcement that their marriage was ending.
a public appearance in 2016.
Long after they married in 1994, Mr. Gates would on occasion pursue women in the office.
In 2006, for example, he attended a presentation by a female Microsoft employee. Mr. Gates, who at the time was the company’s chairman, left the meeting and immediately emailed the woman to ask her out to dinner, according to two people familiar with the exchange.
“If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened,” Mr. Gates wrote in an email, according to a person who read it to The New York Times.
in a column in Time magazine announcing the pledge.
money manager, earning solid returns on the Gateses’ and the foundation’s combined $174 billion investment portfolio through a secretive operation called Cascade Investment. Cascade owned assets like stocks, bonds, hotels and vast tracts of farmland, and it also put the Gateses’ money in other investment vehicles. One was a venture capital firm called Rally Capital, which is in the same building that Cascade occupies in Kirkland, Wash.
Rally Capital had an ownership stake in a nearby bicycle shop. In 2017, the woman who managed the bike shop hired a lawyer, who wrote a letter to Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates.
The letter said that Mr. Larson had been sexually harassing the manager of the bike shop, according to three people familiar with the claim. The letter said the woman had tried to handle the situation on her own, without success, and she asked the Gateses for help. If they didn’t resolve the situation, the letter said, she might pursue legal action.
The woman reached a settlement in 2018 in which she signed a nondisclosure agreement in exchange for a payment, the three people said.
While Mr. Gates thought that brought the matter to an end, Ms. French Gates was not satisfied with the outcome, two of the people said. She called for a law firm to conduct an independent review of the woman’s allegations, and of Cascade’s culture. Mr. Larson was put on leave while the investigation was underway, but he was eventually reinstated. (It is unclear whether the investigation exonerated Mr. Larson.) He remains in charge of Cascade.
published an article detailing Mr. Gates’s relationship with Mr. Epstein. The article reported that the two men had spent time together on multiple occasions, flying on Mr. Epstein’s private jet and attending a late-night gathering at his Manhattan townhouse. “His lifestyle is very different and kind of intriguing although it would not work for me,” Mr. Gates emailed colleagues in 2011, after he first met Mr. Epstein.
(Ms. Arnold, the spokeswoman for Mr. Gates, said at the time that he regretted the relationship with Mr. Epstein. She said that Mr. Gates had been unaware that the plane belonged to Mr. Epstein and that Mr. Gates had been referring to the unique décor of Mr. Epstein’s home.)
The Times article included details about Mr. Gates’s interactions with Mr. Epstein that Ms. French Gates had not previously known, according to people familiar with the matter. Soon after its publication she began consulting with divorce lawyers and other advisers who would help the couple divide their assets, one of the people said. The Wall Street Journal previously reported the timing of her lawyers’ hiring.
The revelations in The Times were especially upsetting to Ms. French Gates because she had previously voiced her discomfort with her husband associating with Mr. Epstein, who died by suicide in federal custody in 2019, shortly after being charged with sex trafficking of girls. Ms. French Gates expressed her unease in the fall of 2013 after she and Mr. Gates had dinner with Mr. Epstein at his townhouse, according to people briefed on the dinner and its aftermath. (The incident was reported earlier by The Daily Beast.)
For years, Mr. Gates continued to go to dinners and meetings at Mr. Epstein’s home, where Mr. Epstein usually surrounded himself with young and attractive women, said two people who were there and two others who were told about the gatherings.
Ms. Arnold said Mr. Gates never socialized or attended parties with Mr. Epstein, and she denied that young and attractive women participated at their meetings. “Bill only met with Epstein to discuss philanthropy,” Ms. Arnold said.
On at least one occasion, Mr. Gates remarked in Mr. Epstein’s presence that he was unhappy in his marriage, according to people who heard the comments.
Leon Black, the head of Apollo Investments who had a multifaceted business and personal relationship with Mr. Epstein, according to two people familiar with the meeting. The meeting was held at Apollo’s New York offices.
It is unclear whether Ms. French Gates was aware of the latest meetings with Mr. Epstein. A person who recently spoke to her said that “she decided that it was best for her to leave her marriage as she moved into the next phase of her life.”
LA TRINITÉ-SUR-MER, France — It was the setting for a straightforward origin story, or so it seemed. Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader aiming to be France’s next president, came to launch her latest campaign in the seaside resort where her firebrand father once announced his own bid for the presidency from the family home.
But the recent trip to the family base at La Trinité-sur-Mer in western France, where Ms. Le Pen posed for selfies with admirers, schmoozed with oystermen and took TV journalists on boat rides, was a critical part of a rebranding effort toward respectability.
Steering the motorboat was Florent de Kersauson, a prominent businessman who, after decades of backing center-right candidates, was switching to Ms. Le Pen’s National Rally. By embracing Mr. de Kersauson, a former senior executive at the telecommunications giant Alcatel, Ms. Le Pen latched on to the kind of establishment figure who could help persuade voters that her party was more than a scrappy, family business. And maybe even assuage doubts about her competence to move into the Élysée Palace.
“The National Rally, formerly the National Front, has gone from being a protest movement to an opposition movement, and is now a government movement,” Ms. Le Pen said.
poor campaign that was marred by an incoherent message and punctuated by a disastrous debate against Mr. Macron.
un-demonize” her party, which has long been associated with the anti-Semitism, xenophobia, Holocaust denialism and colonial nostalgia of Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father and the party’s founder.
Part of that has been an effort to humanize her. A flurry of recent news reports revealed that she loved cats so much she had become a certified breeder, specializing in Bengals and Somalis. The photos of her posing with the cuddly felines were visual evidence that the party no longer belonged to her father, known for his fondness of menacing Dobermans.
general national decline, Mr. Lebourg said.
Mr. Macron has also been bogged down in a series of crises, including the Yellow Vest movement. Attacks in recent months have also heightened fears of terrorism and accelerated Mr. Macron’s shift to the right to fend off Ms. Le Pen.
“I think I can win,” Ms. Le Pen said in an hourlong interview inside her office at the National Assembly in Paris, where copies of “The Philosopher Cat,” an illustrated volume of feline-themed aphorisms, and a blue binder marked “immigration” and “security” lay on her desk.
local governments that her party controls, mostly in depressed areas in the north and south of France.
In La Trinité-sur-Mer, she introduced Mr. de Kersauson, the former Alcatel executive, as the head of her party’s ticket in next month’s regional elections. Getting more defectors from the center-right — who are financially better off than the National Rally’s traditional backers, but who are also feeling unsettled by the social changes rippling through France — is one key to victory next year.
reported — killed one of her cats.
Ms. Le Pen said that dog was gentle, as had been her father’s Dobermans. “We shouldn’t indulge in caricatures,” she said. “Dobermans have a vicious image, but, in fact, they’re very gentle dogs.”
In the 1980s, Orvis expanded beyond waders and shotguns to offer women’s apparel and lifestyle items. The catalog also included etched whiskey tumblers, telephones shaped like duck decoys and even fatwood kindling, inspired by the trees on Mr. Perkins’s Florida property.
Dog beds were particularly popular, as were weatherproof jackets from the English apparel maker Barbour, which became de rigueur foul-weather wear for white-collar workers in Midtown Manhattan. Some die-hard sporting customers complained, but the business continued to grow.
Mr. Perkins insisted on conservationism as a company value, donating to wildlife organizations before such practices were widespread.
“It’s the right thing to do, and it’s also good business,” Simon Perkins said. “If people don’t have places to fish or hunt, you don’t have much of a future in the world of trying to sell fly fishing stuff.”
Mr. Perkins is survived by his third wife, Anne (Ireland) Perkins; three children from his first marriage, Leigh Jr., who goes by Perk, David and Molly Perkins; a daughter, Melissa McAvoy, from his second marriage, to Romi Myers; three stepchildren, Penny Mesic, Annie Ireland and Jamie Ireland; 11 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A son from his first marriage, Ralph, died in 1969.
According to his son Perk, for Mr. Perkins fishing was not a competitive, but rather a restorative pursuit. Even into his 90s, Mr. Perkins still trundled down to the Battenkill on summer evenings — with a rod and a cocktail — to cast for trout as the sun went down.
“There is only one reason in the world to go fishing: to enjoy yourself,” Mr. Perkins told The New York Times in 1992. “Anything that detracts from enjoying yourself is to be avoided.”
Maybe it was the frozen pizza. Or the cheesy snack crackers she mindlessly nibbled on as she worked from home over the past year. Or those darn cookies.
Whatever the cause, Jessica Short stepped onto the scale this spring and found she was 25 pounds heavier than before the pandemic.
“I had to leave the house for several days in a row and realized then that none of my pants fit,” said Ms. Short, a 39-year-old conservation program assistant in Lansing, Mich. Determined not to buy a whole new wardrobe, Ms. Short signed up for her first weight-loss program in early April. In three weeks, she was down five pounds using the Noom app. “My goal is to lose the whole 25 pounds,” she added.
While some spent the year of the pandemic creating healthy meals or riding their Pelotons for hours, many others managed their anxiety and boredom through less healthy means. They spent the pandemic sitting on their couches, wearing baggy sweatsuits, drinking chardonnay and munching on Cheetos.
according to the analysis firm Research and Markets.
Many of these companies shy away from using the dreaded four letter word — diet — to describe what they sell, instead leaning into updated phrases like “health” and “wellness” to promote their programs.
“We see Covid as accelerating trends around health and wellness that already existed and will persist long after, and we believe that the desire to live a healthier lifestyle and placing a prioritization on one’s health is permanent,” a spokeswoman for Noom said in a statement.
It is clear that numerous people put on weight during the pandemic. A small study of individuals under shelter-in-place orders found that they gained more than a half a pound every 10 days. If they continued to live as if they were in lockdown conditions, they could have put on 20 pounds over the year, concluded the authors of the study, which was published in March in the peer-reviewed JAMA Network Open.
Today in Business
Still, critics of many of the popular weight-loss programs note that while people are likely to lose weight if they follow the strict guidelines of meal-replacement plans, for many that weight will eventually come back.
“If you have a wedding to go to in two weeks, a meal-replacement program, for instance, can be helpful,” said Dr. Susan Roberts, a professor of nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and a professor of psychiatry at the university’s School of Medicine. “The problem is, it doesn’t train people how to eat when the program ends, so weight regain is pretty common.”
Dr. Roberts developed her own weight loss diet, called the Instinct diet, that aims to retrain people’s brains around food.She claims participants on her plan achieve weight loss by reducing hunger and unhealthy cravings.
Despite the criticism, many people coming out of the pandemic and preparing to re-enter the world are turning to the diet industry for help.
After spending much of the past year holed up in her apartment in Austin, Texas, studying for her Ph.D. in nursing from the University of Oklahoma, Brenda Olmos, 31, realized the steady stream of takeout food and snacks she’d been eating had resulted in an additional 15 pounds. In early April, she signed up for the Optavia plan and quickly lost 4.5 pounds.
“I had tried intermittent fasting, and I couldn’t stop thinking about food because I couldn’t have it,” Ms. Olmos said. “I tried keto, but I couldn’t stop thinking about carbs. I’m giving myself six months to lose 30 pounds.”
Likewise, Stacey Moskowitz, a 57-year-old retired elementary schoolteacher from New City, N.Y., said she had tried many other diets over the years.
“I would lose the weight, and then it would inch back,” she said. “I exercised a lot and lost some weight, but not as much for the amount of effort I was putting in.”
She became concerned about her overall health after she contracted Covid-19 in late February 2020. When she began seeing her weight creep back up last fall, Ms. Moskowitz decided to try Optavia. She has since lost 37 pounds and hopes to drop an additional 20 to 25 pounds.
“This is not about me looking a certain way or wearing a certain outfit,” she said. “I’m not going to put on a bikini. It’s about my health.”
Ms. Moskowitz said there was one problem with the Optavia program: It has gotten so popular the company has struggled to fulfill orders.
“I had a particular shake, the Tropical Fruit Smoothie, that I liked. I had it for a month, and now it’s gone,” Ms. Moskowitz said, noting that she has become dependent on the program, which costs $400 a month and provides five of her daily six meals. “You order every month, and it’s taking them two weeks to get the order to you. And I know some people are ordering extra food and hoarding because they’re worried they won’t get their next order in time.”
Last week, executives at Medifast told Wall Street analysts that they hoped to have expanded manufacturing by the end of the second quarter and distribution by the end of the third to meet demand.
“I’m very happy with the program,” Ms. Moskowitz said. “But I’m very nervous about whether I’ll get my next order in time.”
MELBOURNE, Australia — An Australian company’s long-shot bid to scrap a U.S. trademark on the word “Ugg” has suffered another blow after an American appeals court rejected its argument, in a loss that could have far-reaching consequences for Australian makers of the sheepskin boots.
It’s the latest step in a five-year, high-stakes legal battle between the brand’s owner in the United States, Deckers Outdoor Corporation, and a company called Australian Leather. They have been wrangling over ownership of the name of a shoe that has been derided as unfashionable and downright ugly but that has still found its way onto the feet of celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Tom Brady.
The Australian news media called the lawsuit a “David vs. Goliath” battle, and the case hit a nerve for many Australians, who consider the footwear a national, albeit unfashionable, symbol. The case also illustrated how global access to products on the internet could create clashes between local legal systems.
Australian Leather’s owner, Eddie Oygur, said after the court ruling on Friday that he would take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
2020 annual report.
The stakes for both companies were high. Before the verdict, Nicole Murdoch, an intellectual property lawyer at Eaglegate Lawyers in Brisbane, Australia, said a legal success for Mr. Oygur would have a “catastrophic effect for Deckers,” costing the company the trademark on which it had built its brand.
Mr. Oygur said before the verdict, “All the ugg boot makers in Australia will turn to imports because of the prices, and Australia will lose what’s been Australian since the 1930s.”
Personally, he had put everything on the line: the business he had run for nearly 40 years and a house he had mortgaged to pay his legal fees. He said he had spent over a million dollars on the case, lost the majority of his staff and seen the legal challenge scare off many of his customers.
“God help me, I’m not going to back down,” he said. “They gave me no choice. Absolutely no choice.”
After Michael Jackson died in 2009, at age 50, the executors of his estate began shoring up the shaky finances of the onetime King of Pop, settling debts and striking new entertainment and merchandising deals. Before long the estate was in strong shape, with debts reduced and millions of dollars in earnings.
But there was another matter that has taken more than seven years to litigate: Jackson’s tax bill with the Internal Revenue Service, in which the government and the estate held vastly different views about what Jackson’s name and likeness were worth when he died.
The I.R.S. thought they were worth $161 million. The estate put it at just $2,105 — arguing that Jackson’s reputation was in tatters at the end of his life, after years of lurid reporting on his eccentric lifestyle and a widely covered trial on child molestation charges, in which Jackson was acquitted.
On Monday, in a closely watched case that may have implications for other celebrity estates, Judge Mark V. Holmes of United States Tax Court ruled that Jackson’s name and likeness were worth $4.2 million, rejecting many of the I.R.S.’s arguments. The decision will significantly lower the estate’s tax burden from the government’s first assessment.
But the tax case turned on the value of Jackson’s public image at the time of his death. His reputation had been badly damaged, and since 1993, Judge Holmes noted, Jackson had no endorsements or merchandise deals unrelated to a musical tour or album.
Yet the judge found that the estate’s estimate of $2,105 was just too low and that the estate was “valuing the image and likeness of one of the best known celebrities in the world — the King of Pop — at the price of a heavily used 20-year-old Honda Civic” (complete with a footnote citation to a used car price guide).
In a 271-page ruling dotted with literary references to Hemingway and Plutarch, Judge Holmes — who is noted for his clear and sometimes humorous writing style summarizing dense tax cases — summed up the vicissitudes of Jackson’s life, public reputation and finances.
$750 million to buy out its share of that catalog.)
The Jackson case has been watched closely as a guide for how celebrity estates may be valued, and for their tax liabilities. Among the major estates with large tax issues still before the I.R.S. are those of Prince and Aretha Franklin.
In a statement, John Branca and John McClain, co-executors of the Jackson estate, called the decision “a huge, unambiguous victory for Michael Jackson’s children.”
“For nearly 12 years Michael’s estate has maintained that the government’s valuation of Michael’s assets on the day he passed away was outrageous and unfair, one that would have saddled his heirs with an oppressive tax liability of more than $700 million,” Branca and McClain said. “While we disagree with some portions of the decision, we believe it clearly exposes how unreasonable the I.R.S. valuation was and provides a path forward to finally resolve this case in a fair and just manner.”
The I.R.S. did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday night.
BYRON BAY, Australia — The moral quandaries of life as an Instagram influencer in the famously idyllic town of Byron Bay are not lost on Ruby Tuesday Matthews.
Ms. Matthews, 27, peddles more than vegan moisturizers, probiotic powders and conflict-free diamonds to her 228,000 followers. She is also selling an enviable lifestyle set against the backdrop of her Australian hometown’s crystalline coves and umbrellaed poolsides.
It’s part of the image-making that has helped transform Byron Bay — for better or worse — from a sleepy beach town drawing surfers and hippies into a globally renowned destination for the affluent and digitally savvy.
“I do kind of have moments where I’m like, ‘Am I exploiting this town that I live in?” Ms. Matthews said recently as she sat at The Farm, a sprawling agritourism enterprise that embodies the town’s wellness ethos. “But at the same time, it’s my job. It puts food on the table for my children.”
advertised on Instagram that morning. “They’re basically branding our town.”
The backlash has raised questions about who is entitled to control and capitalize on the cult of Byron Bay, a place now known for its slow and escapist lifestyle, where the bohemian has been glossed into a unified jungalow aesthetic of tasseled umbrellas, woven lanterns, linen clothing and exotic plants.
Some argued that the reality show would focus on a sliver of influencers whose picture-perfect presences on Instagram don’t represent the “real” Byron Bay. In doing so, they said, the show would expose the town to unwelcome outsiders.
“What right do they have to exploit grand Byron?” said Tess Hall, a filmmaker who moved to Byron Bay in 2015 and organized the petition and paddle out. She added that she feared the show would draw “the wrong type of person” to the region and share the town’s secret beach spots with the rest of the world.
“We’re not Venice Beach,” she said. “It’s a different vibe.”
moved to town.
a culture of localism is marketed on a global scale. “Our values of sustainability have powered a market of unsustainability,” she said. “Byron has become a victim of its own brand.”
according to a recent government street count.
Along the coast, some people sleep in tent shantytowns in the sand dunes and bushes, while others — many of them in stable employment — move between short-term accommodations, friends’ couches and their cars.
John Stephenson, a 67-year-old massage therapist, has spent several years living out of his station wagon. “It’s embarrassing,” he said as he gathered belongings from a storage unit before moving into temporary accommodation. “I don’t look like a bum, but I feel like one.”
In other parts of town, though, the illusion remains intact.
One balmy evening at the Cape Byron Lighthouse, a man dressed in a feathered fedora, a bolo tie and neck-to-ankle denim was photographing two of his children picking flowers. He was so consumed with capturing the moment that he did not notice that his third child, sitting behind him, was at risk of falling down the hill.
A woman with a yoga mat slung over her shoulder shouted to him. The woman, Lucia Wang, had just moved to Byron Bay the previous evening. She had come, she said, for the town’s beauty and healing properties.
“The first thing you need to do is just go to the ocean and have a swim,” she said. “Everything will be OK.”
Ole (pronounced O-lee) Edward Anthony was born on Oct. 3, 1938, in Saint Peter, Minn., about 70 miles southwest of Minneapolis. He grew up in Wickenburg, Ariz., a town 60 miles northwest of Phoenix that once billed itself as the “dude ranch capital of the world.” His father, Rudolph Anthony, left his family soon after the move, and Ole and his sister, Sandra, were raised by their mother, Edna (Norell) Anthony, a nurse who ran a retirement home.
Mr. Anthony’s sister died in 2019. He had no immediate survivors.
His childhood, he said, was marked by drug abuse and crime, both petty and felonious — at one point he and a friend set fire to a 40-foot-tall wooden cross outside Wickenburg. He joined the Air Force in 1956 after being offered the choice of military service or prison.
Mr. Anthony was trained in electronics, and in 1958 he was sent to an island in the South Pacific, where he was supposed to watch a small nuclear test many miles away. But the explosion was much larger than expected, and the radiation left him with scores of knobby tumors throughout his body.
He left the military in 1959 and took a job with Teledyne, a defense contractor. In a 2004 profile in The New Yorker, he told the journalist Burkhard Bilger that he had continued his work for the Air Force, sneaking behind the iron and bamboo curtains to install long-range sensors to detect Chinese and Soviet nuclear tests, though a later investigation by The Dallas Observer, a weekly newspaper, called that claim into question.
Mr. Anthony moved to Dallas in 1962 and became involved in Republican politics, working on campaigns and, in 1968, narrowly losing a race for the State Legislature. He was, by his own account, living large, with a luxury high-rise apartment, a $70,000 annual salary (about $550,000 today) and a rotating series of girlfriends.