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James Bond, Meet Jeff Bezos: Amazon Makes $8.45 Billion Deal for MGM

“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of I.P. in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said in a statement.

Amazon’s appetite for movies became ravenous during the pandemic. It paid $125 million for the rights to “Coming 2 America,” $80 million for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” and $200 million for “The Tomorrow War,” a Chris Pratt adventure that will arrive on Prime on July 2. Amazon also has Oscar ambitions, buying the rights to “Sound of Metal,” which was nominated for best picture and other top awards at this year’s ceremony.

When it comes to making its own hit films, Amazon has long struggled. MGM managers could help: Michael De Luca, MGM’s movie chairman, has a track record that includes, at various companies, the “Rush Hour,” “Austin Powers” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchises.

MGM also has a 17,000-episode television library and a TV studio that makes “Vikings,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Fargo” and various “Real Housewives” shows. In 2014, MGM acquired Mark Burnett’s production company, One Three Media, which holds rights to competition series like “The Voice.” Mr. Burnett, a contentious figure in Hollywood because he helped shape Donald J. Trump’s image with “The Apprentice” and remained close to him during his divisive presidential term, serves as MGM’s television chairman.

Anchorage Capital, a New York investment firm, has been the majority owner of MGM for more than a decade. Before that, MGM was tossed between owners and, bitten by falling DVD revenue, eventually ending up in bankruptcy. It was worth about $2 billion in 2010, according to analysts.

Kevin Ulrich, Anchorage’s chief executive and MGM’s chairman, formally put the studio on the block late last year. Anchorage has been under pressure from various stakeholders to exit the investment, with some agitators complaining that Mr. Ulrich was overly enamored with Hollywood and should have sold years ago.

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Lordstown Motors halves the number of vehicles it will make in 2021.

Lordstown Motors, a start-up aiming to make electric pickup trucks, said on Monday that it would “at best” make just 50 percent of the vehicles it had previously hoped to this year.

Lordstown gained attention because it purchased an auto plant in Lordstown, Ohio, that General Motors had closed. It was also once hailed by former President Donald Trump for saving manufacturing jobs.

The company, which said Monday it was on track to start production in September, became a publicly traded company last year by merging with a special purpose acquisition vehicle, a company set up with cash from investors and a stock listing. Several other electric vehicle and related businesses have gone public through similar mergers in recent months taking advantage of investors desire to find the next Tesla.

Lordstown, which is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, said it lost $125 million in the first quarter of 2021, but ended the period with $587 million in cash.

After the news of its production outlook was released, Lordstown’s stock fell about 8 percent in after-hours trading, to just under $9. The stock briefly traded at about $30 last year.

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Disney Could Have Bought Time Warner in 2016

“About $20 billion of long positions were liquidated last week,” Sam Bankman-Fried, the C.E.O. of the crypto derivatives exchange FTX, told DealBook. “In terms of price movements: the biggest part of it is liquidations,” he said, suggesting the worst is over. But he also noted news from China late Friday of a crackdown on Bitcoin mining and trading. This added to other news of official scrutiny that has spooked crypto investors in recent days:

  • Financial regulators in Hong Kong announced support for a legislative proposal to create a licensing scheme for virtual asset exchanges and to ban trading for investors without a minimum of $1 million in their portfolios.

  • The Bank of Canada cited crypto concerns in its annual financial system review, saying that “the rapid evolution in cryptoasset markets is an emerging financial vulnerability.”

  • Gary Gensler, the chair of the S.E.C., said that American regulators “should be ready to bring cases” involving wrongdoing in crypto markets.

  • The Treasury Department noted in a report on tax proposals that “cryptocurrency already poses a significant detection problem by facilitating illegal activity broadly including tax evasion.” The I.R.S. said it would require more extensive reporting of crypto transactions.

Companies with Bitcoin on their balance sheets may be getting nervous. For accounting purposes, crypto is valued at its purchase price. If it goes up in value, this isn’t reflected in a company’s accounts but if it falls, the value is impaired and puts a dent in quarterly profits. Let’s check in on the three big corporate Bitcoin holders — Tesla, MicroStrategy, and Square — shall we?

  • Tesla: The electric vehicle company bought $1.5 billion in Bitcoin last quarter, at an average price of about $34,700 per coin, not far from its current price. Elon Musk has signaled that Tesla isn’t selling, but it probably isn’t buying, either.

  • MicroStrategy: The business intelligence software company has spent about $2.2 billion on Bitcoin, at an average price of $24,450. The company bought more last week and is still sitting on big gains.

  • Square: The payments company, led by the Twitter C.E.O. Jack Dorsey, bought two batches of Bitcoin for its treasury — $50 million in October at a price of about $10,600 and $170 million in February at a price of around $51,000. It took a $20 million impairment on its holdings last quarter, stemming from the drop in value from its most recent purchase. It doesn’t plan to buy any more, its C.F.O. said this month.


Barry Diller, when asked by Andrew on CNBC’s Squawk Box whether he thinks Disney’s C.E.O., Bob Chapek, has pushed his predecessor, Bob Iger, to the sidelines, as he suggested earlier in the interview. (And “not very nicely,” per Diller.)


The investment bank Lazard has hired William McRaven, the retired Navy admiral who led the U.S. Special Operations Command, as a senior adviser for its financial advisory business. McRaven oversaw the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.

His hiring underscores business’ concerns about geopolitics. The pandemic has highlighted the potential business risks of global interconnectedness and China’s increasing assertiveness, among the many fault lines that multinational companies face.

McRaven is the latest financial outsider to join Lazard. Memorably, the firm hired the late Vernon Jordan, the civil rights leader with a gold-plated Rolodex, in 2000. “It’s not a place that is big on golfing,” said Peter Orszag, the head of financial advisory at Lazard, himself a veteran of the Clinton and Obama administrations. Bringing such people on board brings both intellectual “content” and deep relationships around the world, Orszag said.


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Discovery and AT&T: How a Huge Media Deal Was Done

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Deals are rarely smooth, and an anomaly with Discovery’s share price dovetailed with the negotiations. Discovery’s stock began to inexplicably rocket in February and March to $75 from $45 because of a convoluted trading scandal involving Archegos, a little-known private investment firm that bet big on Discovery and other companies via derivatives using billions in borrowed money.

With banks forced to buy shares to hedge their spiraling exposure to Archegos, Discovery’s market value jumped nearly 60 percent, for no obvious reason to outsiders. But by May, the stock had returned to where it was during Mr. Zaslav’s initial approach, and the two sides ultimately forged a deal that gave 71 percent of the new company to AT&T shareholders and 29 percent to Discovery.

Now, the trick was closing it before word could leak out.

One awkward conversation awaiting Mr. Stankey was with Jason Kilar, the former chief of Hulu tapped by AT&T, with great fanfare, just a year earlier to lead WarnerMedia. To mark the occasion of his first anniversary on the job, Mr. Kilar had agreed — with AT&T’s blessing — to be profiled by The Wall Street Journal. He invited a reporter in late April to interview him on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Calif., unaware that across the country, his colleagues were feverishly working to close the deal.

At some point during the week of May 3, Mr. Stankey dropped the bomb: He informed Mr. Kilar that the company would soon change hands, and it was unclear what Mr. Kilar’s role might be. The 2,600-word Journal profile of Mr. Kilar, which included a quote from Mr. Stankey, was published on May 14, three days before the deal was announced.

Usually a cheerful presence on Twitter, Mr. Kilar didn’t bother sharing the article with his 37,000 followers. By the weekend, Mr. Kilar had retained the entertainment power lawyer Allen Grubman to start negotiating his exit.

A little after 7 a.m. on Sunday, Mr. Zaslav boarded a corporate jet at a small airport on the East End of Long Island, not far from his home, to head to AT&T’s Dallas headquarters to put the finishing touches on the deal. But just over an hour into the flight, word got out through Bloomberg’s black-and-orange terminal screens: “AT&T is in talks to combine content assets with Discovery.”

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Big Hospital Chains Get Covid Aid, and Buy Up Competitors

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While most of the provider aid has been distributed, the Biden administration is expected to begin doling out the remaining funds, estimated at $25 billion of the original $178 billion, said Kristen O’Brien, a vice president for McDermott+Consulting in Washington, D.C. Hospitals are asking for more time to spend the money.

How the aid was spent has not been fully documented. While the larger hospital networks aggressively sought the funds from the start, smaller organizations, children’s hospitals and those in rural areas or serving large numbers of low-income patients had more difficulty securing the aid because of the way the funding formula was structured.

In a later round of funding decisions, officials with the Department of Health and Human Services reviewed applications more closely, and in some cases, reduced or denied requests, Ms. O’Brien said.

Grants given after the initial rush were more targeted, to those hospitals in Covid hot spots or rural areas. A few large chains, including HCA Healthcare and the Mayo Clinic, returned at least some of the money, in the wake of disclosures that wealthier hospitals had received far more aid while reporting healthy profits.

Overall, the aid program did prevent hospital closings, said Ken Marlow, a lawyer with K&L Gates in Nashville, who advises hospitals. “We haven’t seen a real avalanche of these distressed hospitals coming on the market.”

But some may no longer be able to resist takeovers or mergers. “Those providers are potentially more distressed as a result of the stress of the pandemic and will have to be thinking hard about the future, their survival,” said Torrey McClary, a lawyer with Ropes & Gray who also counsels hospitals.

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Sale of Tribune Newspaper Chain to Hedge Fund Faces One Last Challenge

The hedge fund that wants to buy Tribune Publishing, the owner of some of the nation’s major metropolitan newspapers, has one final hurdle to cross.

Shareholders of the newspaper company, whose titles include The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and The New York Daily News, will vote on Friday on whether to approve the company’s sale to Alden Global Capital, an investor with a reputation for slashing costs and cutting jobs at the approximately 200 newspapers it already owns.

Alden’s effort to buy Tribune has faced resistance: Journalists at Tribune’s papers protested the sale and publicly pleaded for another buyer to step in. A Maryland hotel executive who had planned to purchase the The Baltimore Sun offered a glimmer of hope when he emerged with a last-minute offer for the entire company. He was backed for a brief time by a Swiss billionaire.

But the rival bid never fully came together, so the choice facing Tribune’s shareholders is to approve or reject Alden’s offer. Tribune’s board has recommended that they vote for the sale.

Chicago Tribune Guild president, begged Dr. Soon-Shiong to vote “No” on Friday.

“As Tribune Publishing’s second-largest shareholder, you can single-handedly keep Alden from sealing the deal,” Mr. Pratt wrote. “We’re not asking you to buy the company, though that would be great. But we are asking you to use your power to stop Alden from consolidating its own.”

Alden began buying up news outlets more than a decade ago and owns MediaNews Group, the second-largest newspaper group in the country, with titles including The Denver Post and The Boston Herald. While buying a newspaper may sound like a questionable investment in an era of shrinking print circulation and advertising, Alden has found a way to eke out a profit by laying off workers, cutting costs and selling off real estate.

“Alden’s playbook is pretty straightforward: Buy low, cut deeper,” said Jim Friedlich, the chief executive of The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, a journalism nonprofit that owns The Philadelphia Inquirer. “There’s little reason to believe that Alden will approach full ownership of Tribune any differently than they have their other news properties.”

Stewart W. Bainum Jr., the hotel magnate from Baltimore who made a last-ditch effort to rival Alden’s bid.

“This is the strategic logic of the acquisition, and one would hope — but not expect — that the savings from these synergies will be reinvested in local journalism and digital transformation,” he said.

Tribune, Alden Global Capital and Mr. Bainum declined to comment ahead of the vote.

Tribune agreed in February to sell to Alden, which had pursued ownership for years, in a deal that valued Tribune at roughly $630 million.

While a sale to Alden now seems inevitable, the twists and turns of recent weeks had seemed to favor Tribune’s reporters.

Mr. Bainum emerged as a potential savior in February, when he announced that he would establish a nonprofit to buy The Baltimore Sun and other Maryland newspapers from Alden once its purchase of Tribune went through. But his deal with Alden soon ran aground as negotiations stalled over the operating agreements that would be in effect as the papers were transferred.

So Mr. Bainum made a bid for the whole company on March 16, outmatching Alden with an offer that valued the company at about $680 million. He was then joined by Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire who lives in Wyoming and had expressed an interest in owning The Chicago Tribune. Mr. Bainum would have put up $100 million, with Mr. Wyss financing the rest.

Tribune agreed to consider the bid from the pair, who formed a company called Newslight, saying on April 5 that it would enter negotiations because it had determined that the deal could lead to a “superior proposal.” Part of the discussions included access to Tribune’s finances.

exiting the bid after his associates reviewed the books. Part of the reason for his decision, according to people with knowledge of the matter, was the realization that his plans to transform the Chicago newspaper into a competitive national daily would be near impossible to pull off.

Mr. Bainum notified Tribune on April 30 that he would increase the amount of money that he would personally put toward the financing from $100 million to $300 million, as he hunted for like-minded investors to replace Mr. Wyss. In addition to needing to fund the balance of his bid, $380 million, Mr. Bainum’s offer was contingent on finding someone to take on responsibility for The Chicago Tribune, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

His effort seems to have fallen short.

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Healthcare Start-Up Ro to Acquire Modern Fertility

Ro, the parent company of Roman, the brand that is best known for delivering erectile dysfunction and hair loss medication to consumers, announced on Wednesday that it would acquire Modern Fertility, a start-up that offers at-home fertility tests for women.

The deal is priced at more than $225 million, according to people with knowledge of the acquisition who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not public. It is one of the largest investments in the women’s health care technology space, known as femtech, which attracted $592 million in venture capital in 2019, according to an analysis by PitchBook.

Modern Fertility was founded in 2017 with its flagship product: a $159 finger prick test that can estimate how many eggs a woman may have left, which can help determine which fertility method might be best.

“We essentially took the same laboratory tests that women would take in an infertility clinic and made them available to women at a fraction of the cost,” said Afton Vechery, a founder and chief executive of Modern Fertility, noting that her own test at a clinic set her back $1,500.

valued in March at about $5 billion, has in recent years expanded into telehealth, including delivering generic drugs by mail. In December, Ro acquired Workpath, which connects patients with in-home care providers, like nurses.

The global digital health market, which includes telemedicine, online pharmacies and wearable devices, could reach $600 billion by 2024, according to the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. And yet, by one estimate, only 1.4 percent of the money that flows into health care goes to the femtech industry, mirroring a pattern in the medical industry, which has historically overlooked women’s health research.

“Gender bias in health care research methods and funding has really contributed to sexism in medicine and health care,” said Sonya Borrero, director of the Center for Women’s Health Research and Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh. “I think we’re seeing again — gender bias in the venture capital sector is going to exactly shape what gets developed.”

That underinvestment was part of the reasoning behind the acquisition, said Zachariah Reitano, Ro’s chief executive. The company developed a female-focused online service in 2019 called Rory.

“We’re going to continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years into women’s health,” Mr. Reitano said, “because ultimately I think women’s health has the potential to be much larger than men’s health.”

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After Media Detour, AT&T Confronts Old Problems

“It would have been an amazing merger,” said David Barden, a senior research analyst at Bank of America. “It would have kind of perpetuated the AT&T juggernaut of growth through acquisition — not through organic — but it failed.”

Mr. Stephenson then looked to the attractive profit margins found in media and entertainment. In 2014, he announced a deal for DirecTV, a transaction that he promised would “redefine the industry.”

But AT&T bought into the pay-TV industry at its peak. Not long after it acquired the satellite service, consumers left in droves.

“One thing they didn’t — they could not have anticipated, was that 2014 was the last year linear video would grow,” Mr. Barden, referring to the cable TV business. “Because who was out there in the wings? This little company called Netflix.” Customers began to cut their cords and cable subscriptions began their descent.

Then came Time Warner. Numerous analysts pointed out that owning a company that makes money by distributing shows and films as widely as possible wouldn’t give AT&T any advantage. In other words, it would still have to license HBO and CNN to rivals like Verizon’s television service, or to cable giants like Comcast. AT&T would have a hard time justifying keeping the content for itself.

The Justice Department sued AT&T to block the deal, but it lost its case in court.

Makan Delrahim, the former Justice Department antitrust chief who oversaw the suit, said in an interview that AT&T’s rampant deal making was a “classic case” of corporate misbehaving. The company “did a series of mergers and acquisitions and really were not rational for their business execution,” he said, “T-Mobile, DirecTV and Time Warner. And this is the result.”

Mr. Whitacre, the founding chief executive of the modern AT&T, offered another view.

“The deals we made while I was chairman — which was a long time — was acquiring the businesses that we were familiar with, the businesses we were in,” he said in an interview. “And when I left, that changed.”

Mr. Whitacre, who is still an AT&T shareholder, said he liked the Discovery deal, getting the company back to “where we came from, if you would.”

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