point out flaws — understaffing, insufficient training, low seniority pay, all of which they want to improve — they embrace Starbucks and its distinctive culture.

They talk up their sense of camaraderie and community — many count regular customers among their friends — and delight in their coffee expertise. On mornings when Ms. Brisack’s store isn’t busy, employees often hold tastings.

A Starbucks spokesman said that Mr. Schultz believes employees don’t need a union if they have faith in him and his motives, and the company has said that seniority-based pay increases will take effect this summer.

onetime auto plant. The National Labor Relations Board was counting ballots for an election at a Starbucks in Mesa, Ariz. — the first real test of whether the campaign was taking root nationally, and not just in a union stronghold like New York. The room was tense as the first results trickled in.

“Can you feel my heart beating?” Ms. Moore asked her colleagues.

win in a rout — the final count was 25 to 3. Everyone turned slightly punchy, as if they had all suddenly entered a dream world where unions were far more popular than they had ever imagined. One of the lawyers let out an expletive before musing, “Whoever organized down there …”

union campaign he was involved with at a nearby Nissan plant. It did not go well. The union accused the company of running a racially divisive campaign, and Ms. Brisack was disillusioned by the loss.

“Nissan never paid a consequence for what it did,” she said. (In response to charges of “scare tactics,” the company said at the time that it had sought to provide information to workers and clear up misperceptions.)

Mr. Dolan noticed that she was becoming jaded about mainstream politics. “There were times between her sophomore and junior year when I’d steer her toward something and she’d say, ‘Oh, they’re way too conservative.’ I’d send her a New York Times article and she’d say, ‘Neoliberalism is dead.’”

In England, where she arrived during the fall of 2019 at age 22, Ms. Brisack was a regular at a “solidarity” film club that screened movies about labor struggles worldwide, and wore a sweatshirt that featured a head shot of Karl Marx. She liberally reinterpreted the term “black tie” at an annual Rhodes dinner, wearing a black dress-coat over a black antifa T-shirt.

climate technology start-up, lamented that workers had too little leverage. “Labor unions may be the most effective way of implementing change going forward for a lot of people, including myself,” he told me. “I might find myself in labor organizing work.”

This is not what talking to Rhodes scholars used to sound like. At least not in my experience.

I was a Rhodes scholar in 1998, when centrist politicians like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were ascendant, and before “neoliberalism” became such a dirty word. Though we were dimly aware of a time, decades earlier, when radicalism and pro-labor views were more common among American elites — and when, not coincidentally, the U.S. labor movement was much more powerful — those views were far less in evidence by the time I got to Oxford.

Some of my classmates were interested in issues like race and poverty, as they reminded me in interviews for this article. A few had nuanced views of labor — they had worked a blue-collar job, or had parents who belonged to a union, or had studied their Marx. Still, most of my classmates would have regarded people who talked at length about unions and class the way they would have regarded religious fundamentalists: probably earnest but slightly preachy, and clearly stuck in the past.

Kris Abrams, one of the few U.S. Rhodes Scholars in our cohort who thought a lot about the working class and labor organizing, told me recently that she felt isolated at Oxford, at least among other Americans. “Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was much room for discussion,” Ms. Abrams said.

typically minor and long in coming.

has issued complaints finding merit in such accusations. Yet the union continues to win elections — over 80 percent of the more than 175 votes in which the board has declared a winner. (Starbucks denies that it has broken the law, and a federal judge recently rejected a request to reinstate pro-union workers whom the labor board said Starbucks had forced out illegally.)

Twitter was: “We appreciate TIME magazine’s coverage of our union campaign. TIME should make sure they’re giving the same union rights and protections that we’re fighting for to the amazing journalists, photographers, and staff who make this coverage possible!”

The tweet reminded me of a story that Mr. Dolan, her scholarship adviser, had told about a reception that the University of Mississippi held in her honor in 2018. Ms. Brisack had just won a Truman scholarship, another prestigious award. She took the opportunity to urge the university’s chancellor to remove a Confederate monument from campus. The chancellor looked pained, according to several attendees.

“My boss was like, ‘Wow, you couldn’t have talked her out of doing that?’” Mr. Dolan said. “I was like, ‘That’s what made her win. If she wasn’t that person, you all wouldn’t have a Truman now.’”

(Mr. Dolan’s boss at the time did not recall this conversation, and the former chancellor did not recall any drama at the event.)

The challenge for Ms. Brisack and her colleagues is that while younger people, even younger elites, are increasingly pro-union, the shift has not yet reached many of the country’s most powerful leaders. Or, more to the point, the shift has not yet reached Mr. Schultz, the 68-year-old now in his third tour as Starbucks’s chief executive.

She recently spoke at an Aspen Institute panel on workers’ rights. She has even mused about using her Rhodes connections to make a personal appeal to Mr. Schultz, something that Mr. Bensinger has pooh-poohed but that other organizers believe she just may pull off.

“Richard has been making fun of me for thinking of asking one of the Rhodes people to broker a meeting with Howard Schultz,” Ms. Brisack said in February.

“I’m sure if you met Howard Schultz, he’d be like, ‘She’s so nice,’” responded Ms. Moore, her co-worker. “He’d be like, ‘I get it. I would want to be in a union with you, too.’”

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Bitcoin Plummets Below $20,000 for First Time Since Late 2020

Square, another payments company, bought $50 million of Bitcoin and changed its name to Block, in part to signify its work with blockchain technology. Tesla bought $1.5 billion of it. The venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz raised $4.5 billion for a fourth cryptocurrency-focused fund, doubling its previous one.

Excitement hit a peak in April last year when Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange, went public at an $85 billion valuation, a coming-out party for the industry. Bitcoin topped $60,000 for the first time.

Last summer, El Salvador announced that it would become the first country to classify Bitcoin as legal tender, alongside the U.S. dollar. The country’s president updated his Twitter profile picture to include laser eyes, a calling card of Bitcoin believers. The value of El Salvador’s $105 million investment in Bitcoin has been slashed in half as the price has fallen.

Senators and mayors around the United States began touting cryptocurrency, as the industry spent heavily on lobbying. Mayor Eric Adams of New York, who was elected in November, said he would take his first three paychecks in Bitcoin. Senators Cynthia Lummis, Republican of Wyoming, and Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, proposed legislation that would create a regulatory framework for the industry, giving more authority to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, an agency that crypto companies have openly courted.

Through the frenzy, celebrities fueled the fear of missing out, flogging their NFTs on talk shows and talking up blockchain projects on social media. This year, the Super Bowl featured four ads for crypto companies, including Matt Damon warning viewers that “fortune favors the brave.”

That swaggering optimism faltered this spring as the stock market plummeted, inflation soared and layoffs hit the tech sector. Investors began losing confidence in their crypto investments, moving money to less risky assets. Several high-profile projects crashed amid withdrawals. TerraForm Labs, which created TerraUSD, a so-called stablecoin, and Celsius, an experimental crypto bank, both collapsed, wiping out billions in value and sending the broader market into a tailspin.

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A Chinese Entrepreneur Who Says What Others Only Think

China’s entrepreneur class is grappling with the worst economic slump in decades as the government’s zero Covid policy has shut down cities and kept would-be customers at home. Yet they can’t seem to agree on how loudly they should complain — or even whether they should at all.

A tech entrepreneur wrote in a big group chat in May that many members were too critical. “What people here do every day is criticizing the government and the system,” she wrote. “I can’t see any entrepreneurship in this.”

A top venture capitalist told his nearly nine million social media followers that as much as everyone had suffered from the pandemic, they should try to stay away from negative news and information.

zero Covid policy, which has put hundreds of millions of people under some kind of lockdowns in the past few months, costing jobs and revenues. He’s saying what many others are whispering in private but fear to say in public.

“The questions we should ask ourselves are,” he wrote in an article that was censored within an hour of posting but shared widely in other formats, “what caused such widespread negative sentiment across the society? Who should be responsible for this? And how can we change it?”

He said the lockdowns in Shanghai and other cities made it clear that wealth and social status meant little to a government determined to pursue its zero Covid policy. “We’re all nobodies who could be sent to the quarantine camps, and our homes could be broken into,” he wrote. “If we still choose to adapt to and put up with this, all of us will face the same destiny: trapped.”

staying out of politics is no longer an option for China’s business leaders. But some of his peers are reluctant, given the potential penalties.

steered away from the market economy and cracked down on some industries. It demonized entrepreneurs and went after some of the most prominent of them. Then when the mild, albeit contagious, Omicron variant of the coronavirus emerged in China this year, the government meddled with free enterprise as it hadn’t in decades.

The lockdowns and restrictions have done so much damage to the economy that Premier Li Keqiang summoned about 100,000 cadres to an emergency meeting in late May. He called the situation “severe” and “urgent,” citing sharp drops in employment, industrial production, electricity consumption and freight traffic.

Many business leaders believe that it will be hard to reverse the damage if the government doesn’t stop the zero Covid policy. Yet they feel that there’s nothing they can do to make Beijing change course.

The chairman of a big internet company told me that with all the pandemic restrictions, he and others were operating as if dancing with shackles on while expecting the sword of a lockdown to strike at any moment. With a big public company to run, he said, it would be too risky to be vocal. He hoped the economists could be more outspoken.

The chairman of a publicly listed conglomerate with many consumer-facing businesses said he had to shut down a few of his companies and let people go as revenues dropped off a cliff. He’s not a Christian, he said, but he has been praying to God every day to help him get through this tough period.

articles that compared the pros and cons of different pandemic policies. Then, in mid-May, his social media Weibo account was suspended.

Jack Ma, the founder of the e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, largely disappeared from public view after he criticized banking regulators in late 2019. The regulators quashed the initial public offering of Ant Group, the tech and financial company controlled by Mr. Ma, and fined Alibaba a record $2.8 billion last year.

Ren Zhiqiang, a retired real estate developer, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on charges of committing graft, taking bribes, misusing public funds and abusing his power. His real crime, his supporters say, was criticizing Mr. Xi’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020.

Mr. Zhou, 49, is known as a maverick in Chinese business circles. He founded his first business in stereo systems with his brother in the mid-1990s when he was still in college. In 2010, he started Yongche, one of the first ride-hailing companies.

Unlike most Chinese bosses, he didn’t demand that his employees work overtime, and he didn’t like liquor-filled business meals. He turned down hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and refused to participate in subsidy wars because doing so didn’t make economic sense. He ended up losing out to his more aggressive competitor Didi.

He later wrote a best seller about his failure and became a partner at a venture capital firm in Beijing. In April, he was named chairman of the ride-sharing company Caocao, a subsidiary of auto manufacturing giant Geely Auto Group.

A Chinese citizen with his family in Canada, Mr. Zhou said in an interview that in the past many wealthy Chinese people like him would move their families and some of their assets abroad but work in China because there were more opportunities.

Now, some of the top talent are trying to move their businesses out of the country, too. It doesn’t bode well for China’s future, he said.

“Entrepreneurs have good survivor’s instinct,” he said. “Now they’re forced to look beyond China.” He coined a term — “passive globalization” — based on his discussions with other entrepreneurs. “Many of us are starting to take such actions,” he said.

The prospect depressed him. China used to be the best market in the world: big, vibrant, full of ambitious entrepreneurs and hungry workers, he said, but the senseless and destructive zero Covid policy and the business crackdowns have forced many of them to think twice.

“Even if your company is a so-called giant, we’re all nobodies in front of the bigger force,” he said. “A whiff of wind could crush us.”

All the business leaders I spoke to said they were reluctant to make long-term investment in China and fearful that they and their companies could become the next victim of the government’s iron fist. They’re focusing on their international operations if they have them or seeking opportunities abroad.

Mr. Zhou left for Vancouver, British Columbia, in a hurry in late April when Beijing was locking down many neighborhoods. Then he wrote the article, urging his peers to try to speak up and change their powerless status.

He said he understood the fear and the pressure they faced. “Honestly speaking, I’m scared, too.” But he would probably regret it more if he did nothing. “Our country can’t go on like this,” he said. “We can’t allow it to deteriorate like this.”

In recent years, a few of Mr. Zhou’s articles and social media accounts have been deleted. His outspokenness has caused uneasiness among his friends, he said. Some have told him to shut up because it didn’t change anything and was creating unnecessary risks for himself, his family, his companies and the stakeholders in his businesses.

But Mr. Zhou can’t help himself. He’s worried that China could become more like it was under Mao: impoverished and repressive. His generation of entrepreneurs owes much of their success to China’s reform and opening up policies, he said. They have the responsibilities to initiate change instead of waiting for a free ride.

Maybe they can start by speaking up, even if just a little bit.

“Any change starts with disagreement and disobedience,” he said.

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European Green Energy Firms Often Fall Short on Financing

LONDON — When Jakob Bitner was 7, he left Russia for Germany with his parents and sister. Twenty-eight years later, he is set on solving a vexing green-energy problem that could help Germany end its dependence on imported energy from Russia, or anywhere.

The problem: how to make wind and solar energy available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even if the sun is not shining or the wind not blowing.

The company that Mr. Bitner co-founded in Munich in 2016, VoltStorage, found some success selling storage battery packs for solar power to homeowners in Europe. Now the company is developing much larger batteries — each about the size of a shipping container — based on a chemical process that can store and discharge electricity over days, not just hours like today’s most popular battery technology.

These ambitions to overcome the unreliable nature of renewable energy fit perfectly with Europe’s targets to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. But Mr. Bitner’s company is facing a frustrating reality that threatens to undercut Europe’s plans and poses a wider challenge in the global fight against climate change: a lack of money to finish the job.

plenty of capital available globally for the multitrillion-dollar task of funding this transition to greener energy.

The war in Ukraine has made Europe’s energy transition even more urgent. The European Union has said it will cut imported Russian natural gas by two-thirds this year and completely by the end of the decade. While some of that supply will be made up by imports from other countries, such as the United States and Qatar, expanding domestic renewable energy capacity is a critical pillar to this plan.

But attracting investors to projects trying to move beyond mature technologies like solar and wind power is tough. Venture capitalists, once cheerleaders of green energy, are more infatuated with cryptocurrencies and start-ups that deliver groceries and beer within minutes. Many investors are put off by capital-intensive investments. And governments have further muddied the water with inconsistent policies that undermine their bold pledges to reduce carbon emissions.

Tony Fadell, who spent most of his career trying to turn emerging technologies into mainstream products as an executive at Apple and founder of Nest, said that even as the world faced the risks of climate change, money was flooding into less urgent developments in cryptocurrency, the so-called metaverse and the digital art collections sold as NFTs. Last year, venture capitalists invested $11.9 billion in renewable energy globally, compared with $30.1 billion in cryptocurrency and blockchain, according to PitchBook.

Of the $106 billion invested by venture capitalists in European start-ups last year, just 4 percent went into energy investments, according to PitchBook.

“We need to get real,” said Mr. Fadell, who now lives in Paris and has proposed ideas on energy policy to the French government. “Too many people are investing in the things that are not going to fix our existential problems. They are just investing in fast money.”

It has not helped that the industry has been burned before by a green tech boom. About 15 years ago, environmentally conscious start-ups were seen as the next big thing in Silicon Valley. One of the premier venture capital firms, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, made former Vice President Al Gore a partner and pledged that clean energy would eventually make up at least a third of its total investments.Instead, Kleiner became a cautionary tale about the risks of investing in energy-related companies as the firm missed out on early backing of social media companies like Facebook and Twitter.

There is evidence that these old fears are receding. Two years ago 360 Capital, a venture capital firm based in Paris and Milan dealing in early-stage investment, introduced a dedicated fund investing in clean energy and sustainability companies. The firm is now planning to open up the fund to more investors, expanding it to €150 million from a €30 million fund.

There are a growing number of dedicated funds for energy investments. But even then there is a tendency for the companies in them to be software developers, deemed less risky than builders of larger-scale energy projects. Four of the seven companies backed by 360 Capital’s new fund are artificial intelligence companies and software providers.

Still, the situation has changed completely since the company’s first major green-energy investment in 2008, Fausto Boni, the firm’s founder, said. “We see potentially lots of money coming into the sector, and so many of the issues we had 15 years ago are on their way to being overcome,” he said. But the availability of bigger investments needed to help companies expand in Europe still lags behind, he added.

Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, which is backed by Bill Gates, is trying to fill the gap. It was formed in late 2021 to help move promising technology from development to commercial use. In Europe, it is a $1 billion initiative with the European Commission and European Investment Bank to support four types of technologies — long-duration energy storage, clean hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuels and direct air capture of carbon dioxide — that it believes need to scale quickly.

In Europe, there are “significant difficulties with the scaling-up phase,” said Ann Mettler, the vice president for Europe at Breakthrough Energy and a former director general at the European Commission. There is money for start-ups, but when companies become reasonably successful and a bit larger, they are often acquired by American or Chinese companies, she said. This leaves fewer independent companies in Europe focused on the energy problems they set out to solve.

Companies that build complex — and often expensive — hardware, like Mr. Bitner’s batteries for long-duration energy storage, have an especially hard time finding investors willing to stomach the risks. After a few investment rounds, the companies are too big for early-stage investors but too small to appeal to institutional investors looking for safer places to park large amounts of cash.

“If you look at typical climate technologies, such as wind and solar and even the lithium-ion batteries, they took well over four decades to go from the early R&D to the large-scale commercialization and cost competitiveness,” Ms. Mettler said, referring to research and development. “Four decades — which obviously we don’t have.”

There are some signs of improvement, including more funds focused on clean energy or sustainability and more companies securing larger investment rounds. But there is a sense of frustration as investors, companies and European governments agree that innovation and adoption of new technology need to happen much more quickly to reduce carbon emissions sharply by 2030.

“You won’t find a place in the world that is more attuned to what is needed than Europe,” Ms. Mettler said. “It’s not for lack of ambition or vision — it’s difficult.”

But investors say government policy can help them more. Despite climate pledges, the regulations and laws in place haven’t created strong enough incentives for investments in new technologies.

Industries like steel and concrete have to be forced to adopt greener methods of production, Mr. Boni, the 360 Capital founder, said.

For energy storage, hydrogen, nuclear power and other large-scale projects, the government should expedite permitting, cut taxes and provide matching funds, said Mr. Fadell, who has put his personal fortune into Future Shape, which backs start-ups addressing societal challenges.

“There are few investors willing to go all in to put up $200 million or $300 million,” Mr. Fadell said. “We need to know the government is on our side.”

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Elon Musk Makes Offer to Buy Twitter

Credit…Laura Morton for The New York Times

Twitter’s board is considering a defensive move known as a poison pill that would severely limit Elon Musk’s ability to acquire the social media giant, two people with knowledge of the situation said.

The board met on Thursday to discuss Mr. Musk’s offer to buy the company, according to one of the people, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. The directors are weighing whether to move ahead with the poison pill — formally called a shareholder rights plan — that would limit the ability of a single shareholder, like Mr. Musk, to acquire a critical mass of shares in the open market and force the company into a sale.

The poison pill defense is a common tactic used by companies that want to fend off unwelcome takeover offers. It essentially lets the company flood the market with new shares or allow existing shareholders other than the potential acquirer to buy shares at a discount. This dilutes the bidder’s stake and makes buying shares more expensive.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that Twitter was weighing a poison pill.

If Twitter’s board rejects Mr. Musk’s bid, he could put his offer directly to shareholders, rather than the board, by launching a so-called tender offer. If Twitter’s other shareholders like Mr. Musk’s offer, which is currently at $54.20 a share, they could sell their stock directly to the billionaire, allowing him to gain control of the company.

“It would be utterly indefensible not to put this offer to a shareholder vote,” Mr. Musk said in a Twitter post on Thursday. “They own the company, not the board of directors.”

But Twitter’s investors on Thursday seemed underwhelmed with Mr. Musk’s bid, potentially over concerns as to how he would finance it. While shares of companies typically rise when there is takeover speculation, Twitter’s were down almost 2 percent on Thursday.

Prince Al Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, who described himself as one of Twitter’s largest and most long-term shareholders, said that Twitter should reject Mr. Musk’s because the offer was not high enough to reflect “intrinsic value” of the company.

Twitter’s other top shareholders, according to FactSet, include the Vanguard Group, the company’s largest shareholder, with a 10.3 percent stake; Morgan Stanley Investment Management, with a 8 percent stake; and BlackRock Fund Advisors, with a 4.6 percent stake. Vanguard and Morgan Stanley Investment Management declined to comment on Mr. Musk’s bid. BlackRock did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Musk turned down a seat on Twitter’s board over the weekend, leaving directors who had recently welcomed him to their ranks to weigh a proposal in which Mr. Musk said he had no confidence in their management of the company.

The board is made up of Twitter insiders, including Jack Dorsey, a co-founder, and its chief executive, Parag Agrawal, in addition to independent directors.

Bret Taylor, the co-chief executive of the business technology company Salesforce, chairs the board. Mr. Musk texted Mr. Taylor on Wednesday evening, making his intent to buy Twitter known, according to a regulatory filing. “After the past several days of thinking this over, I have decided I want to acquire the company and take it private,” Mr. Musk wrote.

Salesforce considered purchasing Twitter in 2016, but the deal never materialized. Mr. Taylor, who has been on Twitter’s board since 2016, joined Salesforce a year later after it acquired his own company, Quip.

Another key player on the board is Egon Durban, the co-chief of Silver Lake, a private investment firm. Mr. Durban joined Twitter’s board in 2020 as part of a deal the company struck with another activist investor who wanted to shake up Twitter’s management.

At the time, Silver Lake invested in Twitter and helped steady its management, preventing the immediate ouster of Mr. Dorsey. Because Silver Lake has helped Twitter out of a difficult situation in the past, Mr. Durban could face questions about whether his firm can double down and help fend off Mr. Musk.

Mr. Dorsey could also influence the decision. He is friendly with Mr. Musk and initially celebrated Mr. Musk’s investment in the company and decision to join the board. But Mr. Dorsey has often delegated major decisions to his team, preferring to rely on their expertise. And Mr. Dorsey is also set to leave the Twitter board next month, which could give him another reason to recuse himself.

His allies on the board are Mr. Agrawal, who was named as his successor late last year, and Patrick Pichette, a general partner at the venture capital firm Inovia Capital and the former chief financial officer at Google.

Mr. Agrawal and Mr. Dorsey have been closely aligned on a vision to make Twitter’s technology more decentralized, and Mr. Pichette has been a close confidant of Mr. Dorsey in discussions about the long-term plan for Twitter. Mr. Pichette may also have experience negotiating with Mr. Musk — he was at Google in 2013 when it considered buying Tesla.

Mike Isaac contributed reporting.

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Twitter Grapples With an Elon Musk Problem

SAN FRANCISCO — Bright and early on Monday, Elon Musk sent the government a surprising new document.

In it, the world’s wealthiest man laid out his possible intentions toward Twitter, in which he has amassed a 9.2 percent stake, underlining how drastically his position had changed from a week ago.

Mr. Musk could, if he chose, buy more shares of Twitter and increase his ownership of the company, according to the document, which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He could freely express his views about Twitter on social media or other channels, the document noted. And he reserved the right to “change his plans at any time, as he deems appropriate.”

It was a promise — or perhaps it was a threat. Either way, the filing encapsulated the treacherous situation that Twitter now finds itself in. Mr. Musk, 50, Twitter’s largest shareholder and one of its highest-profile users, could very well use the social media platform against itself and even buy enough shares to take over the company.

“Twitter has always suffered more than its fair share of dysfunction,” said Jason Goldman, who was on Twitter’s founding team and served on its board of directors in the past. “But at least we weren’t being actively trolled by prospective board members using the product we created.”

Twitter’s 11-person board and agreed to not own more than 14.9 percent of the company or take it over. Then on Sunday, Twitter abruptly said all of those bets were off and that Mr. Musk would not become a director.

What exactly went on between Mr. Musk, who has more than 81 million followers on Twitter, and the company’s executives and board members is unclear. But it leaves Twitter — which has survived founder infighting, boardroom revolts and outside shareholder ire — with an activist investor unlike any other.

Mr. Musk, who also leads the electric carmaker Tesla and the rocket company SpaceX, is known for being unpredictable and outspoken, often using Twitter to criticize, insult and troll others. By no longer joining the board, he liberated himself from corporate governance rules that would have required him to act in the best interests of the company and its shareholders.

Mr. Musk leaned into that freedom after his decision was communicated to the company on Saturday morning. He proclaimed on Twitter that he was in “goblin mode” and suggested changes such as removing the “w” from the company’s name to make it more vulgar and opening its San Francisco headquarters to shelter the homeless. He later deleted some of the posts.

“This is not typical activism or, frankly, anything like activism that we’ve seen before,” said Ele Klein, co-chair of the global Shareholder Activism Group at the law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel. “Elon Musk doesn’t do things that people have seen before.”

a post on Sunday. Twitter, which published a biography of Mr. Musk as a member of its board that was still visible late Sunday, declined to comment on Monday.

Credit…via Twitter

Mr. Musk has long shown significant disrespect for corporate governance rules. In 2018, he faced securities fraud charges after inaccurately tweeting that he had secured funding to take Tesla private. Mr. Musk later agreed to pay a $20 million fine to the S.E.C. and step aside as Tesla chairman for three years.

He also agreed to allow Tesla to review his public statements about the company. But in 2019, the S.E.C. asked a judge to hold him in contempt for violating the settlement terms by continuing to errantly tweet about Tesla.

Inside Twitter on Monday, employees were dismayed and concerned by Mr. Musk’s antics, according to half a dozen current and former workers, who were not authorized to speak publicly. After the billionaire suggested over the weekend that Twitter convert its headquarters into a homeless shelter because “no one shows up anyway,” employees questioned how Mr. Musk would know that given that he hadn’t visited the building in some time. They also pointed out that Mr. Musk, whose net worth has been pegged at more than $270 billion, could easily afford to help San Francisco’s homeless himself.

Elliott Management accumulated a 4 percent stake and used its position to press for changes, including an ouster of Jack Dorsey as chief executive and more aggressive financial growth. Mr. Dorsey stepped down in November.

Elliott’s approach followed the typical formula for activist investors: Acquire a significant stake in a company and then press for governance and strategy changes to drive up the stock price.

“Normally an activist is very clear in their intentions,” said Rich Greenfield, an analyst at LightShed Ventures, a venture capital investment fund. But “we don’t know what Elon Musk’s true motivation is. Is this Elon having fun? Is this Elon trying to effect change? Is this Elon trying to drive the stock higher?”

Twitter is particularly susceptible to activists, analysts said, because its founders did not structure the company’s shares in a way that gave themselves more control. The founders of Google and Facebook have maintained voting power over the shares, providing them with an outsize grip over the direction of their companies.

Natasha Lamb, a managing partner at Arjuna Capital, an activist investment firm that owns some Twitter stock, said Mr. Musk was taking a more casual approach than other activist investors.

“Musk is using Twitter to have his opinions heard, but it’s not a core activity,” she said. “It appears to be what he does for fun.”

What is fun for Mr. Musk may turn out to be less so for Twitter. The relief among Twitter employees that he was no longer joining the board was short-lived, the current and former employees said, when they realized that he was no longer bound by an agreement to not buy more stock or take over the company.

Mr. Musk could continue toying with Twitter, the current and former employees said they had realized. Several added that they were afraid of what might come next.

Lauren Hirsch contributed reporting.

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Factbox: How Western sanctions target Russia, article with image

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Skyscrapers of the Moscow International Business Centre, also known as “Moskva-City”, are seen from Ostankino tower on a frosty winter day in Moscow, Russia January 8, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

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NEW YORK, April 6 (Reuters) – The West’s punishment of Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine ramped up this week following the discovery of civilians shot dead at close range in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, seized from Russian forces. read more

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The U.S. imposed “full blocking sanctions” on Sberbank (SBER.MM), which holds one-third of Russia’s total banking assets, and Alfabank, the country’s fourth largest financial institution. That means U.S. persons cannot do business with the lenders, while any of their assets that touch the U.S financial system are frozen.

Britain also on Wednesday froze Sberbank’s assets.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday was set to sign an executive order prohibiting new investment in Russia by U.S. persons, which includes a ban on venture capital and mergers, U.S. officials said. read more

Previous sanctions by the U.S., Britain and other Western allies in the days following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, which it calls “a special military operation,” kicked the vast majority of Russian banking assets out of those countries, although some activities were allowed to continue.

U.S. banks were required to sever correspondent banking ties, which allow banks to make payments between one another, with Sberbank. Russian lenders VTB, Otkritie, Novikombank and Sovcombank, were also subject to full blocking sanctions.

European Union sanctions hit 70% of the Russian banking system. read more

INDIVIDUALS

The United States on Wednesday announced sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s wife and daughter, and senior members of Russia’s security council.

Separately, the U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday said it charged Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev with violating existing sanctions, saying he provided financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea. read more

The U.S. government on Feb. 25 joined European countries in slapping sanctions on Putin and Lavrov.

More than 100 Russian elites, including members of Putin’s inner circle, members of the Russian parliament, and Russian executives and businessmen, have been sanctioned since Feb. 24 by Western nations. read more

SWIFT BAR read more

The United States, Britain, Europe and Canada in February and March blocked certain Russian lenders’ access to the SWIFT international payment system, preventing the lenders from conducting most of their financial transactions worldwide.

The movealso placed restrictions on the Russian central bank’s international reserves, the nations said in a joint statement. read more

SWIFT is used by more than 11,000 financial institutions in over 200 countries.

SOVEREIGN DEBT & CAPITAL MARKETS

This week, the United States stopped the Russian government from paying holders of its sovereign debt more than $600 million from reserves held at U.S. banks.

Under earlier sanctions, foreign currency reserves held by the Russian central bank at U.S. lenders were frozen, but the Treasury had allowed Moscow to use those funds to make coupon payments on dollar-denominated sovereign debt on a case-by-case basis. On Monday, Washington decided to cut off Moscow’s access to the funds, according to a U.S. Treasury spokesperson.

In late February, Britain, the European Union and the United States put new restrictions on dealing in Russian sovereign debt. read more

Britain announced a ban on Russian sovereign debt sales in London, the European Union banned EU investors from trading in Russian state bonds, and U.S. investors, who were already barred from investing in Russian sovereign debt directly, were banned from purchasing it in the secondary market from March 1.

ENERGY

U.S. President Biden on March 8 imposed an immediate ban on Russian oil and other energy imports and Britain said it would phase out imports through the end of 2022. read more

Berlin on Feb. 22 halted the certification of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline project designed to double the flow of Russian gas direct to Germany. The following day the United States imposed sanctions on the company in charge of building the pipeline. read more

The United States and the EU already had sanctions in place following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea on Russia’s energy and defense sectors, with state-owned gas company Gazprom (GAZP.MM), its oil arm Gazpromneft and oil producers Lukoil, Rosneft and Surgutneftegaz (SNGS.MM) facing various types of curbs on exports/imports and debt-raising.

CURBING TECHNOLOGY

Sanctions proposed by the European Union on Tuesday, which the bloc’s 27 member states must approve, would bar Russian imports worth 9 billion euros ($9.8 billion) and exports to Russia worth 10 billion euros, including semiconductors and computers, and stop Russian ships entering EU ports. read more

The EU earlier vowed to introduce measures to crimp Russia’s technological position in key areas – from high-tech components to cutting-edge software.

The U.S. Commerce Department imposed export controls that severely restrict Russia’s access to semiconductors, computers, telecommunications, information security equipment, lasers, and sensors that it needs to sustain its military capabilities.

Similar measures were deployed during the Cold War, when sanctions kept the Soviet Union technologically backward and crimped economic growth.

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Reporting by John McCrank in New York, Michelle Price in Washington, Karin Strohecker and Catherine Belton in London; Editing by Chris Reese

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Trump’s Truth Social Is Poised to Join a Crowded Field

For months, former President Donald J. Trump has promoted Truth Social, the soon-to-be-released flagship app of his fledging social media company, as a platform where free speech can thrive without the constraints imposed by Big Tech.

At least seven other social media companies have promised to do the same.

Gettr, a right-wing alternative to Twitter founded last year by a former adviser to Mr. Trump, bills itself as a haven from censorship. That’s similar to Parler — essentially another Twitter clone backed by Rebekah Mercer, a big donor to the Republican Party. MeWe and CloutHub are similar to Facebook, but with the pitch that they promote speech without restraint.

Truth Social was supposed to go live on Presidents’ Day, but the start date was recently pushed to March, though a limited test version was unveiled recently. A full rollout could be hampered by a regulatory investigation into a proposed merger of its parent company, the Trump Media & Technology Group, with a publicly traded blank-check company.

If and when it does open its doors, Mr. Trump’s app will be the newest — and most conspicuous — entrant in the tightly packed universe of social media companies that have cropped up in recent years, promising to build a parallel internet after Twitter, Facebook, Google and other mainstream platforms began to crack down on hate speech.

211 million daily active users on Twitter who see ads.

Many people who claim to crave a social network that caters to their political cause often aren’t ready to abandon Twitter or Facebook, said Weiai Xu, an assistant professor of communications at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. So the big platforms remain important vehicles for “partisan users” to get their messages out, Mr. Xu said.

Gettr, Parler and Rumble have relied on Twitter to announce the signing of a new right-wing personality or influencer. Parler, for instance, used Twitter to post a link to an announcement that Melania Trump, the former first lady, was making its platform her “social media home.”

Alternative social media companies mainly thrive off politics, said Mark Weinstein, the founder of MeWe, a platform with 20 million registered users that has positioned itself as an option to Facebook.

certain subscription services. His start-up has raised $24 million from 100 investors.

But since political causes drive the most engagement for alternative social media, most other platforms are quick to embrace such opportunities. This month, CloutHub, which has just four million registered users, said its platform could be used to raise money for the protesting truckers of Ottawa.

Mr. Trump wasn’t far behind. “Facebook and Big Tech are seeking to destroy the Freedom Convoy of Truckers,” he said in a statement. (Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said it removed several groups associated with the convoy for violating their rules.)

Trump Media, Mr. Trump added, would let the truckers “communicate freely on Truth Social when we launch — coming very soon!”

Of all the alt-tech sites, Mr. Trump’s venture may have the best chance of success if it launches, not just because of the former president’s star power but also because of its financial heft. In September, Trump Media agreed to merge with Digital World Acquisition, a blank-check or special purpose acquisition company that raised $300 million. The two entities have raised $1 billion from 36 investors in a private placement.

But none of that money can be tapped until regulators wrap up their inquiry into whether Digital World flouted securities regulations in planning its merger with Trump Media. In the meantime, Trump Media, currently valued at more than $10 billion based on Digital World’s stock price, is trying to hire people to build its platform.

Trump supporter, and the venture fund of Mr. Thiel’s protégé J.D. Vance, who is running for a Senate seat from Ohio.

Rumble is also planning to go public through a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company. SPACs are shell companies created solely for the purpose of merging with an operating entity. The deal, arranged by the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald, will give Rumble $400 million in cash and a $2.1 billion valuation.

The site said in January that it had 39 million monthly active users, up from two million two years ago. It has struck various content deals, including one to provide video and streaming services to Truth Social. Representatives for Rumble did not respond to requests for comment.

removed it from their app stores and Amazon cut off web services after the riot, according to SensorTower, a digital analytics company.

John Matze, one of its founders, from his position as chief executive. Mr. Matze has said he was dismissed after a dispute with Ms. Mercer — the daughter of a wealthy hedge fund executive who is Parler’s main backer — over how to deal with extreme content posted on the platform.

Christina Cravens, a spokeswoman for Parler, said the company had always “prohibited violent and inciting content” and had invested in “content moderation best practices.”

Moderating content will also be a challenge for Truth Social, whose main star, Mr. Trump, has not been able to post messages since early 2021, when Twitter and Facebook kicked him off their platforms for inciting violence tied to the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

With Mr. Trump as its main poster, it was unclear if Truth Social would grow past subscribers who sign up simply to read the former president’s missives, Mr. Matze said.

“Trump is building a community that will fight for something or whatever he stands for that day,” he said. “This is not social media for friends and family to share pictures.”

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Peter Thiel, the Right’s Would-Be Kingmaker

Mr. Thiel has attracted the most attention for two $10 million donations to the Senate candidates Blake Masters in Arizona and J.D. Vance in Ohio. Like Mr. Thiel, the men are tech investors with pedigrees from elite universities who cast themselves as antagonists to the establishment. They have also worked for the billionaire and been financially dependent on him. Mr. Masters, the chief operating officer of Thiel Capital, the investor’s family office, has promised to leave that job before Arizona’s August primary.

Mr. Thiel, who declined to comment for this article, announced last week that he would leave the board of Meta, the parent company of Facebook, which conservatives have accused of censorship. One reason for the change: He plans to focus more on politics.

Born in West Germany and raised in South Africa and the San Francisco Bay Area, Mr. Thiel showed his provocative side at Stanford in the late 1980s. Classmates recalled Mr. Thiel, who studied philosophy and law, describing South Africa’s apartheid as a sound economic system. (A spokesman for Mr. Thiel has denied that he supported apartheid.)

Mr. Thiel also helped found The Stanford Review, a conservative campus paper that sought to provide “alternative views” to what he deemed left-wing orthodoxy.

In 1995, he co-wrote a book, “The Diversity Myth,” arguing that “the extreme focus on racism” had caused greater societal tension and acrimony. Rape, he and his co-author, David Sacks, wrote, sometimes included “seductions that are later regretted.” (Mr. Thiel has apologized for the book.)

In 1998, Mr. Thiel helped create what would become the digital payments company PayPal. He became Facebook’s first outside investor in 2004 and established the venture capital firm Founders Fund a year later. Forbes puts his fortune at $2.6 billion.

one 2009 piece, Mr. Thiel, who called himself a libertarian, wrote that he had come to “no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” arguing that American politics would always be hostile to free-market ideals, and that politics was about interfering with other people’s lives without their consent. Since then, he has hosted and attended events with white nationalists and alt-right figures.

His political giving evolved with those views. He donated lavishly to Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns before turning to candidates who were more extreme than the Republican establishment.

In 2013, Curtis Yarvin, an entrepreneur who has voiced racist beliefs and said democracy was a destructive system of government, emailed Mr. Thiel. Mr. Yarvin wrote that Mr. Cruz, then a newly elected senator, “needs to purge every single traitor” from the Republican Party. In the email, which The Times obtained, Mr. Yarvin argued that it didn’t matter if those candidates lost general elections or cost the party control in Congress.

Mr. Thiel, who had donated to Mr. Cruz’s 2012 campaign, replied, “It’s relatively safe to support Cruz (for me) because he threatens the Republican establishment.”

Mr. Thiel used his money to fund other causes. In 2016, he was revealed as the secret funder of a lawsuit that targeted Gawker Media, which had reported he was gay. Gawker declared bankruptcy, partly from the costs of fighting the lawsuit.

proud to be a gay Republican supporting Mr. Trump. He later donated $1.25 million to the candidate.

After Mr. Trump won, Mr. Thiel was named to the president-elect’s executive transition team. At a meeting with tech leaders at Trump Tower in Manhattan in December 2016, Mr. Trump told Mr. Thiel, “You’re a very special guy.”

A month later, Mr. Thiel, a naturalized American, was revealed to have also obtained citizenship in New Zealand. That prompted a furor, especially after Mr. Trump had urged people to pledge “total allegiance to the United States.”

During Mr. Trump’s presidency, Mr. Thiel became frustrated with the administration. “There are all these ways that things have fallen short,” he told The Times in 2018.

In 2020, he stayed on the sidelines. His only notable federal election donation was to Kris Kobach, a Trump ally and former secretary of state of Kansas known for his hard-line views on immigration. (Mr. Kobach lost his primary bid for the Senate.)

Mr. Thiel’s personal priorities also changed. In 2016, he announced that he was moving from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The next year, he married a longtime boyfriend, Matt Danzeisen; they have two children.

Mr. Thiel reduced his business commitments and started pondering leaving Meta’s board, which he had joined in 2005, two of the people with knowledge of his thinking said. At an October event held by a conservative tech group in Miami, he alluded to his frustration with Facebook, which was increasingly removing certain kinds of speech and had barred Mr. Trump.

a $13 million mansion in Washington from Wilbur Ross, Mr. Trump’s commerce secretary. In October, he spoke at the event for the Federalist Society at Stanford and at the National Conservatism Conference.

He also rebuilt his relationship with Mr. Trump. Since the 2020 election, they have met at least three times in New York and at Mar-a-Lago, sometimes with Mr. Masters or Mr. Vance. And Mr. Thiel invested in Mr. McEntee’s company, which is building a dating app for conservatives called the RightStuff.

Mr. McEntee declined to answer questions about his app and said Mr. Thiel was “a great guy.” Mr. Trump’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Thiel’s political giving ramped up last spring with his $10 million checks to PACs supporting Mr. Vance and Mr. Masters. The sums were his biggest and the largest ever one-time contributions to a PAC backing a single candidate, according to OpenSecrets.

Like Mr. Trump in 2016, Mr. Vance and Mr. Masters lack experience in politics. Mr. Vance, the venture capitalist who wrote the best-selling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” met Mr. Thiel a decade ago when the billionaire delivered a lecture at Yale Law School, where Mr. Vance was a student.

Zero to One.” In 2020, Mr. Masters reported more than $1.1 million in salary from Thiel Capital and book royalties.

Mr. Vance, Mr. Masters and their campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.

Both candidates have repeated the Trumpian lie of election fraud, with Mr. Masters stating in a November campaign ad, “I think Trump won in 2020.” They have also made Mr. Thiel a selling point in their campaigns.

In November, Mr. Vance wrote on Twitter that anyone who donated $10,800 to his campaign could attend a small group dinner with him and Mr. Thiel. Mr. Masters offered the same opportunity for a meal with Mr. Thiel and raised $550,000 by selling nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, of “Zero to One” digital art that would give holders “access to parties with me and Peter.”

a 20-minute speech at the National Conservatism Conference in October, he said nationalism was “a corrective” to the “brain-dead, one-world state” of globalism. He also blasted the Biden administration.

“We have the zombie retreads just busy rearranging the deck chairs,” he said. “We need dissident voices more than ever.”

Cade Metz contributed reporting. Rachel Shorey and Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Tech Start-Ups Reach a New Peak of Froth

Astonishing data for 2021 tell the story. U.S. start-ups raised $330 billion, nearly double 2020’s record haul of $167 billion, according to PitchBook, which tracks private financing. More tech start-ups crossed the $1 billion valuation threshold than in the previous five years combined. The median amount of money raised for very young start-ups taking on their first major round of funding grew 30 percent, according to Crunchbase. And the value of start-up exits — a sale or public offering — spiked to $774 billion, nearly tripling the prior year’s returns, according to PitchBook.

The big-money headlines have carried into this year. Over a few days this month, three private start-ups hit eye-popping valuations: Miro, a digital whiteboard company, was valued at $17.75 billion; Checkout.com, a payments company, was valued at $40 billion; and OpenSea, a 90-person start-up that lets people buy and sell nonfungible tokens, known as NFTs, was valued at $13.3 billion.

Investors announced big hauls, too. Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm, said it had raised $9 billion in new funds. Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins, two other venture firms, each raised nearly $2 billion.

The good times have been so good that warnings of a pullback inevitably bubble up. Rising interest rates, expected later this year, and uncertainty over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus have deflated tech stock prices. Shares of start-ups that went public through special purpose acquisition vehicles last year have slumped. One of the first start-up initial public offerings expected this year was postponed by Justworks, a provider of human resources software, which cited market conditions. The price of Bitcoin has sunk nearly 40 percent since its peak in November.

But start-up investors said that had not yet affected funding for private companies. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more competitive market,” said Ambar Bhattacharyya, an investor at Maverick Ventures.

Even if things slow down momentarily, investors said, the big picture looks the same. Past moments of outrageous deal making — from Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp to the soaring private market valuations of start-ups like Uber and WeWork — have prompted heated debates about a tech bubble for the last decade. Each time, Mr. Bahat said, he thought the frenzy would eventually return to normal.

Instead, he said, “every single time it’s become the new normal.”

Investors and founders have adopted a seize-the-day mentality, believing the pandemic created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shake things up. Phil Libin, an entrepreneur and investor, said the pandemic had changed every aspect of society so much that start-ups were accomplishing five years of progress in one year.

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