Posts tagged with "Bloomberg"

The super-rich are forming an exclusive new club

October 25, 2021

Groucho Marx once said, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”

He wouldn’t have to worry about that problem at a new, invitation-only investment and networking group for people with a net worth of $100 million or more. The club, called R360, routinely turns away billionaires who aspire to a membership that includes rarified amenities.

Indeed, for $180,000, a three-year membership includes investments opportunities, access to West Point generals, confidential support groups, and private getaways, Bloomberg reports.

Recently, two billionaires were among those nominated to join R360. Neither of them made it past the membership committee, according to Charles Garcia, one of the group’s managing partners.

“I took some grief for that,” said the 60-year-old entrepreneur, a consummate networker who founded Sterling Financial Investment Group in the late 1990s and chaired South Florida chapters of wealth network Tiger 21– an exclusive peer membership organization of high-net-worth entrepreneurs, investors, and executives— for many years.

Garcia explains, “One person seemed to want to leverage the group to benefit their own business activities, and the other didn’t want to integrate his family.”

Neither of those are in line with the values considered core to the group. Members with those values — which include honor, entrepreneurial grit, and generosity of spirit — are invited to go on a “journey” to gain mastery across six kinds of capital: financial, intellectual, spiritual, human, emotional and social.

There are countless formal and informal networks for wealthy individuals and families, and R360 aims to find a place among them. Tiger 21, perhaps the most widely known group, has nearly 1,000 members paying dues of $30,000 a year.

For the ultra-wealthy, these groups provide a sort of confidential, supercharged coaching network on everything from figuring out one’s purpose in life to learning more about philanthropy to understanding the blockchain.

Then there are philanthropic networks, such as the invite-only Synergos Global Philanthropy Circle, founded by Peggy Dulany and her late father, David Rockefeller, with more than 100 member families around the world. Like R360, GPC describes membership as a journey—a year-long cycle of “inspiring, engaging and connecting philanthropists and social investors to create a better world.” Dues are $25,000 a year.

R360 is set up as a limited partnership, with 48 founding partner, who contribute  $350,000 each, which equates to about a 60% ownership. The group wants to add about 50 members a year until reaching 500 in the United States and 500 abroad.

 Garcia stresses that R360 will never be sold, and that “the idea is to have this around 100, 200 years from now.”

Research contact: @Bloomberg

Zillow pauses homebuying as tech-powered flipping hits snag

October 19, 2021

Zillow Group is taking a break from buying U.S. homes after the online real estate giant’s pivot into tech-powered house-flipping hit a snag. According to a report by Bloomberg, Seattle-based Zillow—which acquired more than 3,800 homes in the second quarter—will stop pursuing new purchases for the remainder of the year as it works through a backlog of properties already in its pipeline.

“We’re operating within a labor- and supply-constrained economy inside a competitive real estate market—especially in the construction, renovation and closing spaces,” Jeremy Wacksman, Zillow’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “We have not been exempt from these market and capacity issues and we now have an operational backlog for renovations and closings.”

Zillow shares dropped as much as 11.4%,to $83.54, in New York—the biggest intraday slide in more than seven months. The stock had slipped 31% this year through Friday’s close after nearly tripling in 2020.

Shares of Opendoor, one of Zillow’s competitors, jumped as much as 7.9% to $25.27 after the company said it was “open for business.”

Zillow is best known for publishing real estate listings online and calculating estimated home values—called Zestimates —that let users keep track of how much their home is worth. The popularity of the company’s apps and websites fuels profits in Zillow’s online marketing business.

But more recently, Zillow has been buying and selling thousands of U.S. homes. In 2018, the company launched Zillow Offers, joining a small group of tech-enabled home-flippers known as iBuyers. In the new business, Zillow invites homeowners to request an offer on their house and uses algorithms to generate a price. If an owner accepts, Zillow buys the property, makes light repairs and puts it back on the market.

Zillow said it will continue to market and sell homes during the break from new acquisitions and will close deals on houses that are under contract.

“Pausing new contracts will enable us to focus on sellers already under contract with us and our current home inventory,” Wacksman said.

The iBuying process is powered by algorithms and large pools of capital, but it’s also reliant on humans. Before Zillow signs a contract to buy a house, it sends an inspector to make sure the property doesn’t need costly repairs. After it buys a home, contractors replace carpets and repaint interiors.

Finding workers for those tasks has been challenging during a pandemic that has stretched labor across industries. Staffing shortages have been exacerbated by Zillow’s willingness to let customers set a closing date months into the future, meaning it could agree to buy a house in August and begin renovating it in November.

“Given unexpected high demand, Zillow Offers has hit its capacity for buying homes for the remainder of the year,” an employee who works in the company’s home-buying operation in two states wrote in an email to a business partner that was viewed by Bloomberg.

It’s not the first time that the company has halted purchases. Zillow stopped buying homes in the early days of the pandemic, as did its main competitor, Opendoor.  While the companies ultimately benefited from the housing boom that started when early economic lockdowns lifted, it took Zillow several months to resume purchasing homes at its pre-pandemic pace.

For now, the company plans to refer potential customers to traditional real estate agents.

Research contact: @futurism

Men need not apply to world’s largest e-scooter factory

September 15, 2021

Ola Electric Mobility’s new electric-scooter factory in India aims to build 10 million two-wheelers annually—or 15% of the world’s e-scooters by 2022—in an operation run and managed entirely by women, Bloomberg reports.

Led by Bhavish Aggarwal, the e-mobility business is a follow-up to ride-hailing startup Ola. It is expected to make its debut on public markets next year. The vision for his newest venture is to provide the world “clean mobility, a carbon-negative footprint, and an inclusive workforce,” the founder said.

The first group of workers started this week at the factory in Krishnagiri, about 2.5 hours southeast of Bangalore, which will cost $330 million to complete. “At full capacity, Futurefactory will employ over 10,000 women, making it the world’s largest women-only factory and the only all-women automotive manufacturing facility globally,” he wrote in a blog on Monday, September 13.

Backed by SoftBank Group and Tiger Global Management, Ola Electric looks to roll out a scooter every two seconds after completing a planned expansion next year.

According to Bloomberg, the factory will be substantially automated and include 3,000 robots working alongside the all-female workforce.

Aggarwal’s goal is to eventually assemble a full lineup of electric vehicles including three-wheelers and cars. Ola’s inaugural S1 e-scooter will be priced at 99,999 rupees ($1,360) to compete with traditional two-wheelers in India. Exports are to begin later this year.

“Enabling women with economic opportunities improves not just their lives, but that of their families and indeed the whole community,” Aggarwal said. Women’s participation in the local manufacturing industry stands at just 12% and, “for India to be the world’s manufacturing hub, we must prioritize upskilling and generating employment for our women workforce,” the founder said in the company’s blog.

Research contact: @business

Belgian study: Moderna creates more than twice as many COVID antibodies as Pfizer vaccine

September 2, 2021

Moderna’s COVID vaccine generated more than double the antibodies of a similar shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech SE in research that compared immune responses evoked by the two inoculations, Bloomberg reports.

The study is one of the first to compare levels of antibodies produced by the two vaccines, which are thought to be one of the important components of the immune response. It didn’t examine whether the antibody differences led to a difference in efficacy over time between the two shots—which both were more than 90% effective in final-stage clinical trials.

The research looked at antibody levels against the coronavirus spike protein in about 1,600 workers at a major Belgium hospital system whose blood samples were analyzed 6 weeks to 10 weeks after vaccination.

The participants hadn’t been infected with the coronavirus before getting vaccinated. Levels among those who got two doses of the Moderna vaccine averaged 2,881 units per milliliter, compared with 1,108 units per milliliter among those who received two Pfizer doses. 

The results—published on September 30 in a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA—suggested that the differences might be explained by the higher amount of active ingredient in the Moderna vaccine — 100 micrograms,versus 30 micrograms in Pfizer-BioNTech—or the slightly longer interval between doses of the Moderna vaccine —four weeks, versus three weeks for Pfizer-BioNTech.

Outside researchers said it was premature to conclude that the difference in antibody levels was medically important. Bloomberg notes.

“I would urge caution in making the conclusion that because Moderna demonstrated a slightly higher peak on average that its efficacy will be slower to wane,” said David Benkeser, a biostatistician at Emory University, in an email. “Such a conclusion requires a host of assumptions that have not yet been evaluated.”

Both vaccines produce high levels of antibodies, he noted, and other studies have shown even relatively low levels of antibodies are protective.

Still, it’s possible that higher initial antibody levels might correlate with longer duration of protection against mild breakthrough infections, said Deborah Steensels, a microbiologist at Ziekenhuis Oost-Limburg, a large hospital in Belgium, who was lead author on the study.  Also, if higher antibody levels are confirmed to be important, then the Moderna vaccine might be better for immunocompromised people who don’t respond well to vaccines, she said.

Pfizer said in a statement that its vaccine “continues to be highly efficacious” in preventing Covid-19, including against severe cases and hospitalization. A continuing analysis of its final-stage study has shown a decline of efficacy against symptomatic infection over time, the drugmaker said, but initial trial data also show that a third dose of the existing vaccine at least six months after the first two significantly raises neutralizing antibody levels.

Moderna’s vaccine was associated with a two-fold risk reduction against breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infections compared to Pfizer’s in a review of people in the Mayo Clinic Health System in the United States from January to July. The results were reported in a separate study released ahead of publication and peer review on August 9.

Research contact: @business

Major League Baseball visits Iowa’s Field of Dreams

August  9, 2021

This coming week, life will imitate art when a bunch of big-league ballplayers walk through a cornfield to reach a regulation, manicured—if comparatively secluded—diamond where they plan to play a game of baseball, Bloomberg reports.

On August 12, the Chicago White Sox will be the “home” team, taking on the New York Yankees at the site of the 1989 movie, “Field of Dreams” in front of 8,000 fans in Dyersville, Iowa.

It’ll be the first regular season Major League Baseball game in the state, Bloomberg notes—but maybe not the last.

This is the kind of exposure public officials dream about when they’re bitten by the economic-development bug. But the municipal market hasn’t quite caught up. Not yet.

Dyersville, with a population of roughly 4,100, was incorporated in 1872. It sold $3.9 million in general-obligation bonds during the first week of August to pay for capital improvements and a new skid loader and fire truck. The unrated offering included tax-exempt bonds due in 2037 that priced 84 basis points above top-rated munis.

The only mention of the thing that draws thousands of tourists to the city each year is contained in a single sentence of the official statement to the bonds: “The City is home to the National Farm Toy Museum and the Field of Dreams Movie Site.”

Such modesty is likely to fade after MLB comes to town with a national broadcast, no doubt to be filled with excerpts from the movie and swelling musical accompaniment in addition to glimpses of the charms of Dyersville’s downtown.

 The site has shown remarkable durability for the setting of a 32-year old movie. There’s not exactly a lot to do there. Visitors basically follow the script as laid out in the movie by James Earl Jones’s character, writer Terence Mann: “People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom.”

Right now, they come to soak up the atmosphere and maybe look to the surrounding cornfield in the hopes that Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other Black Sox will emerge, as they did in the film. And then maybe tour the farmhouse and buy a souvenir.

That’s it. And yet between 65,000 and 100,000 fans reportedly do this every year. That’s staying power, and a testament to the movie’s place in the culture.

A company called Go the Distance Baseball bought the parcel in 2011. A representative says it’s now waiting to acquire and confirm funding to start to build a complex of six fields for a youth sports center on the site. We have seen lots of municipal bond deals finance these projects. Sister company All-Star Ballpark Heaven now runs youth tournaments at city facilities.

The MLB game was originally scheduled for 2020, but the pandemic intervened, and the event was postponed to this week. The game isn’t being played on the actual field, but on a diamond constructed beside it, accessed by a pathway through the cornfield.

Mayor James Heavens of Dyersville has said the long-term goal is to make this a marketing opportunity for the town. But some fans apparently feel you can put a price on existential joy. On Friday, pairs of tickets—sold to Iowans by lottery for $375 apiece and also distributed to the two clubs— were being offered on StubHub, starting at $1,365 for each seat.

Research contact @business

This crumpled, derelict Jaguar sold for six times its value

June 2, 2021

For some collectors, the fun is buying a car they even can’t drive—yet. Indeed, Bloomberg reports, according to Jay Leno, some cars are so special that even if you find the scattered pieces of one, you should buy it.

And he should know: In the years since his final hosting gig on The Tonight Show, the 71-year-old car enthusiast has presented the popular Jay Leno’s Garage on NBC and YouTube and has grown what is one of the most valuable and diverse car collections in the world.

Indeed, that philosophy certainly applied to a 1960 Jaguar XK150 S that sold for $127,552 in a Bonhams auction on May 22. The hammer price on the crumpled, patina-riddled drophead coupe was six times over the sale estimate.

“The enthusiast market is in rude health at present,” Rob Hubbard, the head of Bonhams MPH—a car auctioneer in Bicester Village, Oxfordshire, England—told Bloomberg in what the business publication calls “the understatement of the month.” 

Sales of classic and collectable cars across the world have returned healthy numbers in recent weeks, with Bonhams and RM Sotheby’s selling more than $60 million worth of old cars in a single weekend in Florida. Dozens of the six- and seven-figure cars at the Amelia Island auctions sold for far more than even the high side of their estimated values.

According to Bloomberg, the “barn find” is a segment of car collecting that has exploded in the past year, with garages and restoration shops bulging at the seams with businesses. The term “barn find” applies to any variety of derelict vehicles that have been left forgotten for decades; they come in various states of disrepair—from rusted-out bodies and frames to non-existent or half-missing components like seats, brakes, headlights, wheels, and even engines. Most are riddled with cracked paint…and worse. Rodents living in the underbody, inhabited by stray cats, and covered in droppings from birds and bats are all expected scenarios. At least one car is rumored to be protected by a malicious ghost.

Amid Covid-19 fears, “car guys” have more time than ever to tinker in the shop or send their heretofore tabled restoration projects to the shop. But there must be more than bullish pandemic-pent-up buyers to make a smashed car worthy of such a high price. The Jaguar model itself is special enough to merit barn-find project status, even if the sum of its auction-price and the amount of money spent on restoring it might exceed the resulting value. 

“To be honest, we don’t really know why that much money is being spent,” says John Mayhead, the manager of Hagerty’s automotive Intelligence in the UK. He noted that sometimes it’s about timing—the exact right buyer finds the exact perfect project, and the two just click.

Other times, it’s about becoming a part of history: “The story to it sometimes encourages buyers to pay over the odds,” Mayhead says. “Owning a car like this is about continuing that story, and you want to be a part of it.”

Launched in 1957, Jaguar XK150s came in fixed-head or drophead coupe versions. They were known for their rounded, mod styling and progressive mechanics, like disc brakes (compared to the old-fashioned drum brakes) and powerful 3.8-liter engines that produced up to 265 horsepower engines. They could hit 60 mph in 7.3 seconds; top speeds exceeded 130 mph. All told, Jaguar made fewer than 3,000 Drophead coupes and even

In pristine form, the best Jaguar XK150 S is worth around $280,000, according to the Hagerty Price Guide. But prices vary widely. Most in good condition — the typical collector car— are worth closer to $163,000, Mayhead says. Last year, a pretty 1958 XK150 sold at auction for $176,000. In January, Bonhams sold a white one for $145,600. Meanwhile those in less-than-mint condition can be had for well under $100,000.

Owned by a single person since 1969, this XK50 in particular had a longstanding working history until “a wet day” in September 1996, according to the auction catalogue, when the owner of the car lost control and crashed it into a tree. The driver walked away unscathed; the car fared rather worse. It has remained inside a garage swathed in rust-riddled glory ever since. But it is actually good the car stayed squired away; it helped preserve what was left of it.

“Considering the date of the crash and being kept in dry storage, the car is still in a salvageable condition, and offers enormous potential as a rewarding project car,” the Bonhams auction catalogue notes. The dry storage is crucial, as it stalled the development of extreme rust, which can render a car nearly hopeless when it comes to repair.

Bonhams declined to share who bought the crashed Jag. But for those who buy such relics of time past, of course, the time and expense are all part of the fun.

Research contact: @Bloomberg

FBI probes campaign donations to Maine Senator Susan Collins

May 20, 2021

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been reviewing a possible scheme to funnel over six-figures in illegal donations to the 2020 re-election campaign of U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, recently unsealed court records in Washington, D.C., show, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The FBI is investigating whether Martin Kao, the former chief executive officer for Hawaii-based contractor Martin Defense Group, illegally donated money to the senator’s campaign, according to a search-warrant application filed in federal court in April. The contractor has offices in Maine, as well as other locations.

Overall, the prominent defense contractor has been charged with bank fraud and money laundering for bilking the federal government out of $12.8 million that should have been distributed to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program instituted during the COVID-19 crisis.

Specifically, according to the Bloomberg report, an FBI agent alleged in a court affidavit that Kao used a shell company to make a $150,000 donation to Collins’ re-election campaign and reimbursed family members for smaller donations. Under federal law, government contractors are prohibited from making donations to political committees. So-called “straw” donations in which a contributor uses someone else’s money also are illegal.

Annie Clark, a spokeswoman for Collins, told Bloomberg that the senator’s campaign “had absolutely no knowledge of anything alleged in the warrant.”

A lawyer for Kao did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The donations to Collins’ campaign under investigation were a small percentage of the more than $30 million in receipts her campaign raised in the last cycle. Outside PACs on both sides spent many millions more in one of the most expensive Senate races in the country.

In August 2019, Collins announced that Martin Defense Group, then known as Navatek, had received an $8 million Department of Defense contract. A press release on her website said she “strongly advocated” for the funding.

Research contact: @Bloomberg

Trading-card craze inspires new reality TV show from maker of ‘Pawn Stars’

May 10, 2021

The market for trading cards and other sports memorabilia, which boomed during the pandemic, is now getting the reality TV treatment, Bloomberg reports.

Brent Montgomery, the producer behind “Pawn Stars,” and Connor Schell, formerly of ESPN, are teaming up to make a show about trading-card impresario Ken Goldin and his company, Goldin Auctions. They’ve met with several streaming services and TV networks about the project, according to people familiar with the situation.

Interest in trading cards has skyrocketed over the past couple of years, fueled by younger people with spare cash treating cards like stocks or bonds, Bloomberg says. They buy cards of younger players they like, in the hopes that the value will increase as that athlete excels.

Goldin’s company has emerged as the leading auction house in the industry. It has already sold more than $150 million worth of merchandise this year, and is in the early stages of a new auction that Goldin believes will generate an additional $50 million or more.

What’s more, Montgomery and Schell believe, Goldin is the kind of outsized personality designed for reality TV. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of sports and memorabilia, and already goes live on Instagram several days a week to open new packs of cards. The proposed reality-TV show has become the subject of a bidding war, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the

Montgomery made a fortune with “Pawn Stars,” which chronicled a quirky family operated pawn shop a couple of miles off the Las Vegas Strip. The success of that show enabled him to sell a majority stake in his company, Leftfield Pictures, to British broadcaster ITV for $360 million.

Now, Bloomberg reports, Montgomery runs a company called Wheelhouse, which produces shows, and invests in media and commerce companies. For help with trading cards, he turned to Schell, who worked on the “30 for 30” documentary series at Walt Disneys ESPN. Schell left ESPN last year to start his own production company with financing from The Chernin Group (TCG).

The Chernin Group has its own connection to Goldin. It agreed to acquire a controlling stake in the auction house earlier this year.

Research contact: @Bloomberg

Terror is ‘still with us’: AG Garland warns of domestic terrorism at Oklahoma City bombing memorial

April 20, 2021

The terrorism that led to the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City almost three decades ago has morphed into a heightened threat from domestic violent extremists, Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Monday, April 19, in his first major public address, Bloomberg reports.

Garland, who oversaw the prosecution of bomber Timothy McVeigh and accomplice Terry Nichols, marked the 26th anniversary of the of the most deadly domestic assault in U.S. history—offering a stark reminder that the brand of terror unleashed by the bombers is “still with us, ” USA Today noted.

“It was night, but you would not have known it,” Garland told survivors and officials gathered on the grounds of the downtown memorial. “Bright lights lit the site up as if it were midday. The front of the (Alfred P.) Murrah Building was gone. The parking lot across the street still held cars that had been flattened by the blast.”

Garland’s remarks came just over three months since the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol—a stunning assault that has highlighted a reinvigorated domestic extremist movement. As in Oklahoma City more than two decades ago, Garland now oversees a far-reaching investigation into the siege that has so far resulted in charges against more than 400 people, USA Today said

The attorney general did not directly refer to the Capitol attack, but he cited a recent FBI warning in its aftermath of the “ongoing and heightened threat posed by domestic violent extremists.”

“Those of us who were in Oklahoma City in April 1995 do not need any warning; the  hatred expressed by domestic violent extremists is the opposite of the Oklahoma Standard,” Garland said, recalling the city’s response to the bombing and its continuing campaign against hate. “This memorial is a monument to a community that will not allow hate and division to win.”

Garland, who arrived in Oklahoma City just two days after the attack, has often described his association with the case and a deeply wounded community as “the most important thing I have ever done in my life.”

Indeed, USA Today noted, throughout the investigation and beyond, Garland was known to carry a list of the victims in his briefcase.

That connection was on display throughout his remarks Monday, when his voice quavered at times and paused to collect his emotions, the news outlet reported.

“Oklahoma City, you are always in my heart,” he said.

Research contact: USATODAY