LONDON — Disrupter, fixation, opportunity. The pandemic has been all that and more for jewelry fans and designers alike.
Just ask Sabine Roemer.
The German-born designer has two brands: the high jewelry line that carries her name (one-off pieces priced from 10,000 pounds, or about $14,095) and Atelier Romy, which sells trendy pieces like stackable chain necklaces and ear party studs online for £50 to £500.
And now that England is easing restrictions, she said, both lines are emerging as direct-to-consumer businesses — and are linked more closely to her own identity as a craftswoman.
“Workmanship is absolutely apparent in everything Sabine does,” said Marisa Drew, a senior investment banker in London who has jewelry from both of Ms. Roemer’s brands. “There’s always a personality in her pieces and she really approaches her designs with a story in mind.”
Ms. Drew said she likes Ms. Roemer’s transformable designs and strong attention to detail, features that also resonate with Sarah Giovanna, a managing director at a private equity firm in London.
“She sits down with you and really creates something that fits you. For me, it’s all about flexibility,” said Ms. Giovanna, who also wears both lines. “I work in a high-intensity environment, dealing with big businesses, and I want pieces that I can dress up and down. Both brands deliver that.”
Last year’s lockdown, however, was “a make-and-break moment,” Ms. Roemer said, especially for Atelier Romy, which was only three years old when the pandemic hit.
“I was forced to look at every single aspect of the business, and not just entrust it to others,” the 41-year-old designer said, admitting she had focused on creation and clients. Suddenly she couldn’t just help clients dream up high jewelry pieces like a pair of diamond and pearl earrings topped with 17-carat citrines or work on a philanthropic collaboration like the jeweled rendition of a postage stamp she created for the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust in 2017 to celebrate the queen’s 65 years on the British throne.
In March 2020, Ms. Roemer canceled her shipping agent. She hadn’t been entirely happy with its service and decided fulfillment should be handled in-house. “I packed, I shipped and tied the ribbon around every box,” she said. “I needed to learn everything — my accountant joked that it was like McDonald’s, where you have to start in the kitchen and work your way up.” (A handwritten card now accompanies every order.)
Ms. Roemer and her team also focused on Atelier Romy’s social media presence, creating stronger digital content and visuals that highlighted Ms. Roemer as the maker behind the jewels. She wouldn’t share sales figures, but Ms. Roemer said shoppers must have liked the changes, as sales increased fivefold.
It’s the kind of online marketing that is here to stay, said Juliet Hutton-Squire, head of global strategy at Adorn, a jewelry market intelligence firm.
When consumers couldn’t spend on travel, she said, they began spending more on luxury items and investment pieces. Fashion brands were well positioned to capture those sales, thanks to their early investments in digital, and “brands with an online presence or shoppable content on social media were even further ahead of the curve as mobile phones became the way we shop,” Ms. Hutton-Squire explained. “That is just going to continue. We are not going back from this.”
In many ways, Ms. Roemer’s early career — which began as a 15-year-old goldsmith apprentice in Germany — led to her roles as a businesswoman and jeweler today.
Crafting jewelry, she said, is not all about “tools, craft and creation,” as she had once imagined. “You soon realized you also have to be good at physics and math, chemicals and chemistry. Thankfully, those were my favorite subjects at school.”
Atelier Romy has exercised her mathematical brain even more. “I love data,” she said. “I find it fascinating sitting at home in lockdown and just looking at data and who’s coming into the virtual shop.”
After graduating from Pforzheim Goldsmith and Watchmaking School in Germany, Ms. Roemer joined Stephen Webster, a London designer she said she particularly admired as “a craftsperson and not just a designer.”
More work for other Bond Street houses followed, plus orders from private clients — turning the early 2000s into something of a golden era for Ms. Roemer’s high jewelry career. Her philanthropic work also was recognized, especially several custom pieces she made in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, like a gold, diamond and emerald bangle inscribed with the South African president’s prison number; Morgan Freeman wore the piece to the 2010 Oscars as a best actor nominee for “Invictus.”
Ms. Roemer said the experience showed her how jewelry could be a form of storytelling. “The easy thing to do was put a bling diamond piece that gets attention, but I wanted to put Mandela’s story on the red carpet,” she said. “In the end, jewelry is emotional — you wear it every day on your skin. I don’t wear my grandmother’s handbag every day but I do wear her ring. It’s close to me, and really carries that emotional value.”
That same year, her first high jewelry collection debuted at Harrods.
Atelier Romy — a name inspired by the birth of Ms. Roemer’s first daughter, Romy — was created as an affordable ready-to-wear line to be sold exclusively online. “I wanted to portray something a bit different,” she recalled. “Something with strong bold designs but still modern and zeitlos” — German for ageless — “depending on how you’d layer and make it your own.”
Soul and purpose
Valery Demure, the London-based brand consultant who represents several independent jewelers (but not Ms. Roemer), said: “Sabine interests me because she doesn’t come from a jewelry family. Everything she’s learned has been through hard work by herself, and the fact that she has all these skills. She is a woman with a real soul and purpose.”
That sense is increasingly relevant in a post-pandemic world. Ms. Hutton-Squire said the pandemic’s “enforced pause button” highlighted the importance of sustainability and the environment, spurring jewelers to act online in more authentic ways. Whether that was creating, for example, a playlist for meditation or sharing home recipes, “it wasn’t all about sell, sell, sell,” she said. “That really kind of separated the authentic bands from the less authentic ones.”
That also explains the growing demand for craft — something Ms. Roemer said she had experienced prepandemic with some of her high jewelry line’s female clients. “They have a very different mind-set: asking who made it and what it is. It’s less about the stone, how big it is and the carat size,” Ms. Roemer said. “They just want to express themselves and their personalities through jewelry.”
She has been bringing the sentiment online. Atelier Romy now has weekly drops of “how to style” videos and footage of Ms. Roemer at the workbench, cutting, soldering and shaping metal, always among her most popular posts. “Few people really know how jewelry is still made,” she said. “It was nice to take people into the workshop and show them the process.”
In March, Ms. Roemer introduced Cornerstones, her first high jewelry collection in more than 10 years. The extra time in lockdown has been a creative boon, she said (“I always found the best pieces happen in the workshop when you don’t have a plan”) and the collection of nine pairs of earrings were muses on travel, with multifunctional pieces like sea-inspired blue topaz, aquamarine and diamond transformable earrings that Ms. Drew purchased.
Ms. Roemer said she hopes to resume meeting clients from both brands, which, thanks to the pandemic, feel more complementary than ever. “It’s like having two babies — you can’t pick a favorite one, they’re equally important,” she said. “But also very different.”
The H.F.P.A. took advantage of its new prominence, too, polishing its reputation by hiring the savvy public relations firm Sunshine Sachs a decade ago. It has also increased its philanthropic contributions substantially. On its website it says it has given away $45 million over the past 28 years, with the money going to entertainment-related nonprofit organizations, college scholarships and the restoration of classic films.
The oddball accolades like Ms. Zadora’s in 1982 that used to be commonplace have been kept to a minimum. The last truly bizarre moment came in 2010, when voters nominated “The Tourist” for best comedy or musical. (It was neither. But it brought the movie’s stars, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, to the show.) And the members also started poking fun at themselves. Ricky Gervais, a frequent host of the Globes, said during the 2016 show that the awards were “a bit of metal that some nice old, confused journalists wanted to give you in person so they could meet you and have a selfie with you.”
Yet everyone got a cut. Publicists got paid to steer clients down the preshow red carpet. Award strategists began charging studios for advice about how to manipulate the Globes voters. The Los Angeles Times reported in February that an H.F.P.A. consultant can receive a $45,000 fee for his or her work, a $20,000 bonus if the film earns a best picture nomination and $30,000 if the film wins. Fees flowed to an army of stylists, limo drivers, spray tanners, banquet servers and red carpet-layers, as well as the trade magazines and newspapers that benefited from the additional advertising revenue.
Mainstream news outlets, including The New York Times, began to cover the Globes ceremony with greater intensity, generating enormous online interest and lending an aura of legitimacy to the proceedings, even if the awards still did not rival the Oscars as markers of artistic achievement.
“Fundamentally, all the people who were in a position to be critical enough that it would have an effect were part of the system: the trade press, the major newspapers, the actors and directors,” Mr. Galloway said. “Anybody who could stand up with legitimacy and say, ‘I don’t believe in this, I’m not doing it,’ had an incentive to keep going until finally, the potential damage to their own image made them turn the other way.”
LONDON — The body that awards Britain’s equivalent of the Oscars has suspended a prominent actor and director weeks after he received one of its top awards, following accusations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and bullying from 20 women.
Producers, actresses and production assistants said the actor, Noel Clarke, secretly filmed auditions in which they were naked, groped or forcibly kissed them, and sent unsolicited intimate pictures. The testimonies were detailed in a lengthy exposé published by The Guardian on Thursday evening.
Mr. Clarke, 45, grew up in London and established himself as an actor in the 2000s with the television series “Doctor Who.” He is well-known in Britain as a filmmaker and performer for his trilogy “The Hood,” about the lives of teenagers in West London, and for the TV police dramas “Bulletproof” and “Viewpoint.” His production company, Unstoppable Film & Television, has made more than 10 movies and television shows.
Mr. Clarke denied the all accusations through his lawyers, according to The Guardian, with the exception of an episode in which he was accused of making inappropriate comments about a woman. He said he later apologized in that case.
revelations about Harvey Weinstein in The New York Times that touched off the #MeToo movement. Mr. Clarke is one of the first prominent actors to face such allegations in Britain.
In a statement provided to The Guardian, Mr. Clarke said, “In a 20-year career, I have put inclusivity and diversity at the forefront of my work and never had a complaint made against me.”
“If anyone who has worked with me has ever felt uncomfortable or disrespected, I sincerely apologize,” Mr. Clarke said, denying any sexual misconduct or wrongdoing, and dismissing the accusations as false.
The extent of the potential consequences for Mr. Clarke became clear on Friday when the television network ITV took the unusual step of saying in a statement that it would not air the finale of “Viewpoint,” a drama starring the actor, on its main channel Friday night because of the accusations against him.
rising star award in 2009, said in an earlier statement, released shortly after the article was published, that it had suspended his award and membership of the academy “immediately and until further notice.”
The Guardian report cited nearly two dozen women in the movie industry who said they had been subjected to a range of abuses that include unwanted physical contact, groping and forced kisses, as well as unsolicited sexual behavior on set, including eight on the record.
The Norwegian film producer Synne Seltveit said Mr. Clarke slapped her buttocks in 2015, and later sent an unwanted explicit sexual picture. The actress Gina Powel said Mr. Clarke exposed himself to her in a car and later groped her in an elevator, also in 2015. Anna Avramenko, an assistantfilm director, said Mr. Clarke had forcibly kissed her on set in 2008 and had tried several times again after the incident.
intimacy coordinators,” are becoming a common presence on set. Their job is to ensure sex scenes don’t compromise or exploit the performers, and recent British and Irish shows like “It’s a Sin” and “Normal People” have featured intimacy coordinators among their crew.
Onscreen, the plots of some recent British hits, like “Sex Education” and “I May Destroy You,” have turned on questions of sexual consent.
The British actress and writer Michaela Coel, who created “I May Destroy You,” in which she plays a young Londoner who investigates her own rape, said in a statement she supported the women who accused Mr. Clarke.
“Speaking out about these incidents takes a lot of strength because some call them ‘gray areas.’ They are, however, far from gray,” Ms. Coel said.
“These behaviors are unprofessional, violent and can destroy a person’s perception of themselves, their place in the world and their career irreparably.”
In his speech at the BAFTA Awards this month, Mr. Clarke, who is Black, dedicated his award to the “underrepresented, anyone who sits at home believing that they can achieve more.”
last year announced a series of changes in its nomination and prize-giving process.
For this year’s awards, BAFTA’s 6,700 voting members had to undergo unconscious bias training and watch every nominated movie before they could cast their ballots for each category — an attempt to deter voters from focusing on the most hyped films.
In the statement on Friday, BAFTA said it had asked individuals to come forward with their accounts and identify themselves.
“We very much regret that women felt unable to provide us with the kind of firsthand testimony that has now appeared in The Guardian,” it said. “Had we been in receipt of this, we would never have presented the award to Noel Clarke.”
LOS ANGELES — In a break with tradition, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to end its Oscars ceremony on Sunday with the prize for best actor instead of the one for best picture.
It was easy to understand why. The late Chadwick Boseman, nominated for his visceral performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” was the runaway favorite, and an acceptance speech by his widow was sure to be an emotional moment. Further, the best actor prize had gone to a Black man only four times in 93 years, and celebrating Mr. Boseman at the night’s climax — after a year in which racial justice was at the forefront of the country’s consciousness — would put an exclamation point on the academy’s aggressive diversity and inclusion efforts over the past few years.
It backfired in spectacular fashion.
The film establishment instead went with Anthony Hopkins, rewarding his performance in “The Father” as a man suffering from dementia. Apparently certain that Mr. Boseman would win, Mr. Hopkins had decided not to attend the ceremony. With no one there to accept the award, the Oscars telecast abruptly ended, leaving the academy to face questions about whether it had misjudged its voting body.
“At 83 years old, I did not expect to get this award — I really didn’t,” Mr. Hopkins said in a video speech released Monday morning from his hometown in Wales and during which he paid tribute to Mr. Boseman.
all-white slates of acting nominees in both 2015 and 2016. It has scrambled to enact diversity-focused reforms, most notably inviting about 4,000 artists and executives — with a focus on women and people from underrepresented groups — to become members. The organization now has about 10,000 voters. It says that about 19 percent of its members are from underrepresented racial and ethnic communities, up from 10 percent in 2015.
This year’s ceremony had a chance to be a showcase for those efforts. Going into Sunday night, some awards handicappers predicted that movie history would be made, with all four acting Oscars going to people of color for the first time. Along with Mr. Boseman, Viola Davis was seen as a leading contender for the best actress prize for playing a blues singer in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Best actress instead went to Frances McDormand for playing a dour van dweller in “Nomadland.” It was her third best-actress statuette.
Daniel Kaluuya, who played the Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and Yuh-Jung Youn, for her comically cantankerous grandmother in “Minari.” She was the first Korean performer to win an acting Oscar, and only the second Asian woman. Chloé Zhao, who is Chinese, took home the best director prize, only the second woman to do so in Oscar history and the first woman of color.
Two Black women, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, won Oscars for makeup and hairstyling for the first time. Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) was the first woman to take home a solo screenwriting Oscar in 13 years. And the director Travon Free was the first Black man to win in the best live-action short category. He was recognized for “Two Distant Strangers,” a film about police brutality that he made with Martin Desmond Roe.
revealed that he did not accept the academy’s overtures.
Last year, the academy announced a plan that will require films to meet diversity criteria to be eligible for a best-picture nomination, starting with the 2024 awards.
Still, those who have been critical of the way the film industry operates are not ready to heap too much praise on the academy’s efforts.
“What we have to constantly recognize is that an institution like the academy didn’t give anything to Black people,” said Rashad Robinson, president of the racial justice organization Color of Change. “What the academy has done over the years is have a system and a set of rules that has stalled Black careers, which has prevented people from being able to be fully seen, which has had an economic impact on folks. Now that they are working to make some changes, let’s acknowledge those changes but let’s not give them any awards that they haven’t earned.”
resigned from the academy’s board in 2018.
“We have settled on numeric answers to the problem of inclusion, barely recognizing that this is the industry’s problem far, far more than it is the academy’s,” Mr. Mechanic wrote in his resignation letter, which was leaked to the news media. “Instead we react to pressure. One governor even went as far as suggesting we don’t admit a single white male to the academy, regardless of merit!”
At the same time, some people have turned away from the Oscars because of its lack of diversity. Under 10 million viewers tuned into Sunday night’s telecast, according to Nielson, a 58 percent drop compared with last year. One member of the academy’s board of governors, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality rules, said that market research had shown that people of color, upset about the racial disparity of nominees (and tired of seeing many of the same people get nominated over and over), had become less interested in the ceremony. A couple of smaller civil rights groups have called for viewing boycotts.
That was the case for April Reign, the campaign finance lawyer who originated the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag in 2015. Despite the changes at the organization, she said she believed the academy’s efforts to diversify its voting body had fallen short.
“It’s still a popularity contest among all the white men,” she said.
Others see reason for optimism in this year’s Oscars, no matter how they ended.
“To have a film about Fred Hampton that doesn’t demonize him but instead celebrates him, and provides this broader story from a group of Black filmmakers is, you know, kind of hard to believe that it would even be made much less be nominated,” Mr. Boyd said of “Judas and the Black Messiah.” “And we could go through each of these examples. It’s great. It’s wonderful. I just don’t want it to be an isolated incident.”
LOS ANGELES — For the film industry, which was already fighting to hold its place at the center of American culture, the Nielsen ratings for Sunday night’s 93rd Academy Awards came as a body blow: About 9.85 million people watched the telecast, a 58 percent plunge from last year’s record low.
Among adults 18 to 49, the demographic that many advertisers pay a premium to reach, the Oscars suffered an even steeper 64 percent decline, according to preliminary data from Nielsen released on Monday. Nielsen’s final numbers are expected on Tuesday and will include out-of-home viewing and some streaming statistics.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences declined to comment.
The academy had been bracing for a sharp ratings drop. Award shows have been struggling mightily during the pandemic, and the Oscars have been on a downward trajectory for years. But some academy officials had hoped Sunday’s telecast still might crack 10 million viewers and attract as many as 15 million.
Humiliating? Certainly. But hundreds of millions of dollars are also at stake.
Under a long-term licensing deal with ABC, which is owned by Disney, the academy stands to collect roughly $900 million between 2021 and 2028 for worldwide broadcasting rights to the Oscars. The funds are crucial to the academy’s operations, especially at a time when it is spending to open a museum in Los Angeles. But some of that money is threatened. Payments to the academy include a guarantee and then revenue sharing if certain ad sales thresholds are reached.
keep ad rates high because of the fragmentation of television viewing. Oscars night may be a shadow of its former self, but so is the rest of network television; the ceremony still ranks as one of the largest televised events of the year. Google, General Motors, Rolex and Verizon spent an estimated $2 million for each 30-second spot in Sunday’s telecast, only a slight decline from last year’s pricing, according to media buyers. ABC said on Thursday that it had sold out of its inventory.
ABC does not guarantee an audience size to Oscar advertisers, thus removing any potential for so-called make-goods (additional commercial time at a later date) to compensate for low ratings.
Some people in the entertainment industry, whether out of optimism or denial or both, believe award shows are going through a temporary downturn — that declining ratings for stalwarts like the Emmys (a 30-year low) and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (down 52 percent) reflect the pandemic, not a paradigm shift. Without live audiences, the telecasts have been drained of their energy. The big studios also postponed major movies, leaving this year’s awards circuit to little-seen art films.
The most-nominated movie on Sunday was “Mank.” It received 10 nods. Surveys before the show indicated most Americans had never even heard of it, much less watched it, despite its availability on Netflix. “Mank,” a love letter to Old Hollywood from David Fincher, won for production design and cinematography.
Still, the Oscars have been on a downward slide since 1998, when 57.2 million people tuned in to see “Titanic” sweep to best-picture victory.
Game Awards, which celebrates the best video games of the year and is streamed on platforms like YouTube, Twitch and Twitter.)
In many cases, analysts say, the telecasts are too long for contemporary attention spans. The ceremony on Sunday was one of the shorter ones in recent years, and it still ran 3 hours 19 minutes. Why slog through all that when you can catch snippets on Twitter? On Sunday, video from the ceremony showing Glenn Close twerking to “Da Butt” went viral.
down 53 percent) and Golden Globes (down 62 percent). Still, the Oscars ratings plunge in recent years has been more dramatic, and the Grammys is closing in on becoming the most-watched awards show, once an inconceivable notion. It had nearly 9 million viewers for its telecast last month.
The academy itself has played a role in the show’s demise, bungling efforts to make it more relevant (hastily announcing a new category honoring achievement in “popular” films and then backtracking) and refusing ABC’s plea to reduce the number of Oscars presented during the show.
housing and health care for Hollywood seniors.
A spokeswoman for the academy said the producers of the Oscars were not available on Monday to discuss their decisions.
SEOUL — “Minari,” the critically acclaimed movie about a hard-luck family of Korean immigrants in the United States, was not exactly a commercial blockbuster in South Korea: Fewer than a million people watched it in 54 days of screening across the country.
But when one of its stars, Yuh-Jung Youn, won the Academy Award for best supporting actress, South Koreans rejoiced not only because it was a first for a Korean actor, but also because of the recipient.
On Monday morning, the South Korean media sent out news flashes when Ms. Youn won her Oscar. Cable channels announced plans to screen her previous films. Social media was abuzz with fans congratulating her.
“Her performance brilliantly helped us relive the memories of our own mothers and grandmothers,” President Moon Jae-in said in a statement, referring to Ms. Youn’s character in the film.
“Woman of Fire,” but left acting to marry Jo Young-nam, one of South Korea’s best-known singers. In the 1970s, she followed him to the United States, where Mr. Jo tried on a career as a gospel singer. The marriage ended in divorce in the 1980s.
“A Good Lawyer’s Wife” (2003), many female actresses declined the role of a woman who has sex with another man while her husband is terminally ill. Ms. Youn took the role, saying she could used the money to redo her living room.
She once performed the role of a spiteful queen in a Korean soap opera so well that people often cursed when they saw her on the street.
“People like her because they know her life story,” said Huh Eun, a retired college media professor in Seoul. “When they think of her, they don’t think of the glorious spotlight usually associated with film stars, but of a woman who has struggled to make a living all these years like the rest of us.”
Ms. Youn’s global breakthrough came when she was offered a role in “Minari.”
quoted Ms. Youn as saying. “This is our first time living this life, so we can’t help but feel regretful and hurt.”
Ms. Youn’s Oscar acceptance speech went viral for a characteristic tongue-in-cheek attitude. The award was presented by Brad Pitt, whose production company financed the film. “Mr. Brad Pitt, finally, nice to meet you!” she said to the American superstar. “Where were you when we were filming in Tulsa?”
“Minari” depicts a Korean family struggling to build a life as farmers in rural Arkansas in the 1980s, when many poor Koreans headed for the United States for a better life. It is the second film about Koreans to make history at the Academy Awards, after “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon Ho, won four Oscars last year.
“Parasite” grossed more than 10 million viewers within two months of its release. Part of the reason “Minari” failed to achieve the same commercial success in South Korea is because the immigrant experience of the 1980s that it portrays is quickly fading.
These days, far fewer Koreans emigrate to the United States, and those who do are usually the children of rich families who go there to study. That may change, too, as Koreans watch hate crimes involving Asian-American victims soar in the United States.
But Ms. Youn struck a chord with South Koreans in her role as Soonja, the foul-mouthed but loving grandmother in “Minari” who moves from South Korea to the United States to take care of her grandchildren. Her grandson doesn’t consider Soonja a “real grandma” and complains that she “smells like Korea.” They slowly build a bond by playing cards together and sharing Mountain Dew, which Soonja seems to think is a health drink because it is made from “dew from the mountains.”
After “Minari” began accumulating awards at film festivals in recent weeks, fans started calling Ms. Youn “the Meryl Streep of Korea.” She has done what no other Korean actor or actress has done: while “Parasite” won best picture and best director, none of its actors were nominated for Oscars.
On Sunday night during the award ceremony, Ms. Youn said her true inspiration was her two children. “I’d like to thank my two boys who made me go out and work,” she said while holding her statuette.
“This is the result because mommy worked so hard.”
The Times’s David Gelles gives DealBook the backstory to his recent front-page article about rising C.E.O. pay during the pandemic.
Companies battered by the pandemic are handing out enormous pay packages to their C.E.O.s, highlighting the sharp divides in a nation on the precipice of an economic boom, but still wracked by steep income inequality.
Executive compensation has, of course, been soaring for decades now. Chief executives of big companies in the U.S. now make, on average, 320 times as much as the typical worker. In 1989, that ratio was 61 to 1.
Read the full story here.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
A deep split in pandemic fortunes highlights an uneven global recovery. On one hand: The E.U. could let vaccinated Americans visit this summer, bringing much-needed tourism revenue to the region. (One potential hangup is a rising number of people who aren’t getting their second doses.) On the other: India will receive emergency medical supplies from the U.S. as it reports half of all new Covid-19 cases worldwide.
Netflix had a big night at the Oscars. The streaming company won seven Academy Awards last night, the most of any studio, but again fell short in its quest to win Best Picture. (That went to Disney, whose Searchlight Pictures’ “Nomadland” won the big prize; Disney won five awards over all.) AT&T’s Warner Bros. won three Oscars, while Amazon took home two.
An activist investor steps up its challenge at Exxon Mobil. Engine No. 1 argues in a new presentation that the oil giant faces an “existential business risk” because it is not taking bolder steps to move away from fossil fuels, The Financial Times reports. (Exxon and other major producers are set to report earnings this week.)
Second Chance Business Coalition, which was announced today.
Elon Musk is hosting “S.N.L.” Yes, really. The Tesla chief is scheduled to host “Saturday Night Live” on May 8. (We bet S.E.C. officials will be watching.) John Authers of Bloomberg Opinion has an interesting take on it: The Tesla chief’s antics are doing more to encourage adoption of green technology than any amount of environmentalist scolding.
The ‘massive threat’ in a ‘measly’ Supreme Court case
Today the Supreme Court will hear a case that could upend American politics. It has largely escaped attention because it’s not obviously political at all. “Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Rodriquez” involves a fight over California’s donor disclosure requirements for charities and “may seem like a measly spat over state nonprofit rules,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, told DealBook. “But a massive threat lurks within.”
Today in Business
Nonprofits want more donor anonymity. Americans for Prosperity Foundation is a “social welfare” nonprofit arguing that the right to anonymous assembly guaranteed by the First Amendment extends to donor data. Critics say that a ruling in favor of the Koch-funded charity would allow more untraceable money to flow through groups designed to mask the outsize role that a few wealthy players have in American politics. If A.F.P.F. wins, “special interests will have a free pass to rig our democracy from behind a veil of secrecy,” Whitehouse said.
Companies secretly influence politics with “dark money” donations that are deliberately opaque. Basically, some “social welfare” groups are quasi-political yet don’t have the same reporting requirements as explicitly political groups. Similarly, trade groups take corporate donations and pass them on, obscuring the sources.
“The importance of dark money in society, the scope of it, is something people don’t really grasp, but it impacts everyday life,” said Anna Massoglia, a researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics.
A decision is expected around late June. Notably, the court took the case on Jan. 8, two days after the Capitol riot prompted a reckoning over corporate political donations. Both the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers filed briefs supporting A.F.P.F.’s case for anonymity, and Allen Dickerson of the Federal Election Commission argued the same in a Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday.
cottage industry of scammers.
Bain is buying $1 billion worth of desserts
Bain Capital Private Equity is buying Dessert Holdings in a deal that DealBook hears values the company at about $1 billion.
Dessert Holdings makes “Insta-worthy” cheesecakes and other desserts through three brands: The Original Cakerie, Lawler’s Desserts and Atlanta Cheesecake. The company, which sells to retailers and restaurants, was created through acquisitions led by its prior owner, Gryphon Investors. The dessert conglomerate emphasizes the “wow factor” of products like tuxedo truffle mousse cake that are made to look good on social media.
A sweet deal? In-store bakeries have held up well during the pandemic, while restaurants are expected to rebound post-Covid. There could be more consolidation in the industry, with George Weston announcing in March it plans to put its bakery business — which includes Wonder Bread in Canada — up for sale. Over the years, Bain has invested in a number of food service and restaurant brands, like Dunkin’ and Domino’s Pizza. It plans to develop “new and innovative products” as well as pursue more acquisitions after the Dessert Holdings deal, said Adam Nebesar, a managing director at the private equity firm.
Trevor Lawrence is getting paid in Bitcoin
As cryptocurrency goes more mainstream — thanks in part to the recent public listing of Coinbase — blockchain businesses are hustling for brand recognition. “We’re really trying to get our name out a lot,” said Sam Bankman-Fried, the C.E.O. of FTX, a crypto exchange that competes with Coinbase. One of FTX’s companies, the investment app Blockfolio, has signed an endorsement deal with Trevor Lawrence, the former Clemson quarterback and presumptive number-one pick in this week’s N.F.L. draft, DealBook is first to report.
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.
THE SPEED READ
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)
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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While the scaled-back Oscars in Los Angeles on Sunday made for a more subdued and intimate affair than usual, the evening was not without its moments.
Picking up his award for best supporting actor, the British actor Daniel Kaluuya managed to embarrass his proud mother. ‘It’s incredible. My mum met my dad, they had sex. It’s amazing, you understand. I’m here, you know what I mean?’
Glenn Close twerked and Frances McDormand howled like a wolf. Making history as the first Korean actor to win an Oscar, Youn Yuh-jung took a moment to appreciate Brad Pitt, who handed her the award. ‘Oh, Mr Brad Pitt, finally, nice to meet you. Where were you while we were filming, in person?’ she joked, to laughter