Bitcoin Derivatives Sprout as Regulators Play Catch-Up (Bloomberg)
The closing of a major Bitcoin exchange in Japan not only focused attention on the digital currency’s risks, it also rattled a still-newer market that regulators are just starting to monitor: Bitcoin derivatives. George Samman, a former Wall Street investment adviser who in May helped start a platform for betting on Bitcoin’s price swings, saw trading on his BTC.sx website grow to more than $35 million by Jan. 21. After the shutdown at Mt. Gox, the Tokyo-based exchange for buying Bitcoins, BTC.sx suspended trading — because it had to find another exchange partner for its customers. “It is semi-Wild West, but that’s only because it’s new,” Samman said before the Mt. Gox shutdown.
Bitcoin owners find safe place for digital currency: on paper (Reuters)
Canadian mortgage broker and bitcoin enthusiast Chung Cheong writes out his secret number by hand and puts it in a safety deposit box. “The only way to ever access that address and those bitcoins is that piece of paper,” said Cheong. “I pray that there isn’t a big fire and the bank burns down. Because if that happens, I’m out of luck.”
Third Point’s Loeb Ramps Up Fight with Sotheby’s (WSJ)
Mr. Loeb nominated himself and two others to Sotheby’s board of directors early Thursday, setting up a potentially distracting fight for shareholder votes. The move came hours before the company said its profit jumped 37% in the fourth quarter amid strong sales of Asian and Impressionist art. The two sides are battling over Mr. Loeb’s arguments that Sotheby’s needs to improve its performance online and expand its presence in contemporary art. In a scathing letter to the board in October, Mr. Loeb criticized Sotheby’s as an “old master painting in desperate need of restoration.”
State Street Enters Fray as Corporate-Bond Broker (WSJ)
As Wall Street banks pull back from some corporate bond trades with clients, other large financial institutions are looking to step in. A State Street Corp. unit has begun handling corporate-bond trades between large investment firms as an intermediary, company officials said. That job is often done by a bank-owned broker-dealer. Rival Bank of New York Mellon Corp. is considering offering a similar service, said people familiar with the matter. The move marks the latest effort to profit from a gradual shift in how trades are handled in the $9.6 trillion corporate-bond market. As banks have retreated from acting as middlemen for bond trades, citing tough new regulations on their capital and risk-taking, a host of financial firms, including some small regional dealers, have looked to cash in on the void they leave behind.
Microsoft Chairman Says Company Must Focus Under Nadella (Bloomberg)
“The issue for us is, quite frankly, about focus,” Thompson said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “One of the reasons we chose Satya Nadella is he has a strong technology background. He understands exactly what needs to happen to move Microsoft forward.”
The Battle to Cheer Up Africa’s Last Polar Bear (WSJ)
Wang was sprawled on his back in the sweltering heat, when veterinarian Katja Koeppel approached with apple slices and the daunting task of cheering up Africa’s last polar bear. “Wang!” she called. “Here, Wang!” Ms. Koeppel threw the sliced green apples 30 feet down into his rock-and-grass enclosure. Wang ambled toward the apples, ate them and went back to lying listlessly on the grass. Ms. Koeppel looked resigned. It was another dreary day for one skinny, dirt-covered and depressed polar bear. Wang has been on his own since Geebee, his companion at the Johannesburg Zoo for nearly three decades, died of heart failure in January. Wang’s keepers fear grief on top of liver trouble and a summer heat wave in the Southern Hemisphere could combine to kill the 29-year-old bear. So they’re ramping up his behavior enrichment with a full regimen of toys, treats and psychological intervention aimed at lifting his spirits. On Valentine’s Day, keepers wrote “We love you, Wang” on a cardboard box filled with treats and lowered it into his enclosure. As couples watched from above, Wang nosed the package into a dark room, delicately opened the lid and devoured the fruit and heart-shaped beef steak within. “Wang is pining for Geebee,” says Ms. Koeppel, the zoo’s manager of veterinary services, “and is understandably very stressed.” As was true of Geebee, Wang is nearing the limits of polar-bear life expectancy, so the zoo says it’s too late for him to adjust to a new partner.
eBay ‘on guard’ after Icahn challenges board to TV duel (NYP)
Carl Icahn amped up his already fevered battle with eBay on Thursday — challenging the online auction retailer to a duel. Not the pistols-at-20-paces kind of duel, but a live TV debate that the activist investor hopes would settle his argument that the current eBay board is not fit to decide what is best for shareholders. Icahn, known for upping the stakes in his board battles, issued the challenge in his third letter to eBay shareholders this week. Icahn is trying to convince eBay’s shareholders to press the company to split off its financial transaction arm, PayPal. As a first step, he is seeking to add two allies to eBay’s board — and has attacked some current directors in an effort to get them off the board. EBay quickly rejected Icahn’s challenge. “We will not be going head-to-head against Icahn” on TV, a person close to eBay told The Post. The refusal prompted Icahn to compare the online retailer to a restrictive government regime. “It doesn’t surprise me they don’t want to have a debate because in a totalitarian state there are no debates,” Icahn told The Post.
Jos. A. Bank rejects Men’s Wearhouse bid, says open to talks (Reuters)
The company’s move is the latest in a saga that has played out since last October, when Jos. A Bank made an offer to buy out its larger rival. Men’s Wearhouse turned the tables with its own offer and then, in January, went hostile by taking its offer to its smaller rival’s shareholders.
A Bachelor Party House in Singapore (WSJ)
On the third floor, once a code is punched into a number pad, sliding doors reveal the over-2,600-square-foot bedroom and bathroom suite, plus an office and an entertainment room. On a translucent door leading to the bathroom is a depiction of the shadow of a woman, caught in the act of tossing back long hair, one hand pressed against the glass. The large, mosaic-tiled shower doesn’t have a door, but an entry shaped like a long capsule…Mr. Chan bought the property in 2007 for $4.7 million and hired Singapore architect Aamer Taher. Mr. Chan initially planned to build a home to house a multigenerational family, figuring that it could last him “until old age” or have wide appeal if he were ever to sell it. But as construction costs rose, Mr. Chan shortened the outlook and decided what he really wanted was an “all-out party house for myself.” After six months of planning, a year and a half of construction and an investment of about $2.1 million, he moved in. Mr. Chan now says the best party he’s ever thrown in his bachelor pad was his own wedding last May, attended by about 60 friends and family. “It was when the full architecture of the house all came together,” he says. “We had catering staff, chefs, all these people and I felt like the house could take it. It was the entertainment center I wanted.” Wife Calista Chan, a 26-year-old part-time business student, says she loves many things about their home, but that, looking ahead, “we probably will need to add more bedrooms and make it more family-friendly.” Mr. Chan has already offered up the office space next to their bedroom as a start. “It can always double up as a baby’s room,” he says.
Male ex-employee of Manhattan PR firm sues over alleged sexual harassment (NYDN)
Joseph Jackson, 41, claims he endured nearly seven months of verbal come-ons and overt touches from two women supervisors at Open Communications, one of whom allegedly sent him a text asking for a “bang sesh.” Even when John Morris, CEO of Open Communications, a Midtown digital strategy firm, witnessed the raunchy behavior, he simply rolled his eyes and shrugged, the lawsuit contends. Jackson claims he was fired Feb. 21 after formally complaining three times to Morris about inappropriate behavior from supervisors Sally O’Dowd and Katie Campisano. He filed his suit Monday, three days after he lost his job. According to Jackson’s suit, Campisano and O’Dowd started crossing boundaries about a month after he was hired in July. O’Dowd, 45, who co-founded the company, allegedly wrapped her arms around him when he attended her company birthday party in August. The leggy brunette hugged him three times even though he didn’t respond to her, the plaintiff says. “You are so handsome. You are so awesome …You are so talented,’ she allegedly whispered in his ear. Then she kissed him on the back of the neck,” the lawsuit said. The attention left Jackson “distraught,” according to the lawsuit, and he left the party. But the inappropriate contact continued, his suit asserts. Over the next few months, O’Dowd would run her hands over Jackson, touching his abs, massaging his arms and kissing his neck while telling him how “sexy” he was. She also made comments about her sexual escapades, once comparing Jackson to her “hot lover Apollo,” the suit said. Then she started forcing him to touch her, the plaintiff claims. “I’ve been doing these exercises and crunches. My body is so fit and tight. Poke my abdomen,” she allegedly told him Dec. 18…At the same time, he was getting unwanted sexual attention from 25-year-old Campisano, the suit says. “When are we going to have our bang sesh?” she allegedly wrote him in a November text.