$$$ Two bullet-proof doors and one small sign are the only clues that this is the control center of a financier who’s helped turn some of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies into multibillionaires. For a man who honed his trade in the hushed back rooms of Vienna and Zurich during the Cold War and who is now, as friends say, the most secretive banker in a country run by a former spy, this is how it should be. [Bloomberg]
Airbnb valued at $13B ahead of staff stock sale (FT)
Airbnb’s valuation is set to rise to $13 billion, up from $10 billion earlier this year, as it prepares an employee stock sale, according to people familiar with its plans. The valuation would make the accommodation site second only to Uber in the rankings of Silicon Valley’s most valuable private companies, at a time when some venture capitalists are becoming concerned about the rate at which start-ups are spending capital. Airbnb, which overhauled the design of its site and apps this summer, is without a chief financial officer after the departure of Andrew Swain last month, which may make an initial public offering unlikely in the near term.
Paul Allen To Give $100 Million To Tackle Ebola Crisis (NYT)
The billionaire Paul G. Allen said on Thursday that he would donate $100 million to the fight against Ebola, which has killed almost 5,000 people so far and crippled Western Africa. The amount roughly quadruples his earlier commitment of about $26 million to nonprofit groups and government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making him one of the largest individual donors in the Ebola crisis. “Everybody feels called sometimes to really pursue a certain thing that resonates with them, and this has resonated with me,” Mr. Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. He said when he first began hearing about the Ebola outbreak in July, he had a “nagging sense” that it could spiral out of control. “We’re up against an extremely tough opponent here,” he said. “The exponential nature of the growth of this disease is really a challenge — we’ve already seen in the U.S. where one case quickly became two.”
KKR Signals Buying Opportunities Amid Volatile Markets (WSJ)
Echoing sentiments from other private-equity executives, one of the top lieutenants to KKR co-founders Henry Kravis and George Roberts on Thursday said recent whipsawing markets could work to the firm’s advantage. “We like investing in complex situations when other investors may be nervous,” said Scott Nuttall, head of KKR’s global capital and asset management group, during a Thursday earnings call with analysts. “We’re hopeful this environment will lead to more opportunities. So, if the world gets difficult, we’ll be ready to capitalize.”
Unused vacation days at 40-year high (CNBC)
U.S. workers are using only 77 percent of their paid time off, according to the research group’s report released Tuesday. And the decline is not just tied to recent economic worries; use of vacation days are at their lowest point in the past four decades. In 2013, U.S. workers took an average of 16 days of vacation compared with 20.3 days in 2000, according to the report.
Thirty-one banks prepare for Fed tests (FT)
Global banks will have to show how they can withstand a spike in oil prices, a rise in the US unemployment rate and an increase in risky corporate loans as part of the 2015 Federal Reserve stress tests. Passing the stress tests and related capital planning review is a top priority for banks, because this determines whether they can pay additional dividends or buy back shares. Companies that fail the test, which is aimed at showing how a bank would deal with a crisis situation, can also take a reputational hit. Citigroup suffered an embarrassing blow when it failed to pass the last review, and executives are determined not to repeat that mistake in 2015. The US units of HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander, which took the tests for the first time last year, also failed. Fed officials have warned they will continue to raise the bar on expectations for banks, putting additional pressure on them. Thirty-one banks will participate in the 2015 capital planning scenarios, including Deutsche Bank for the first time. It is already under pressure from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which has told it in a private letter that its regulatory reports were “low quality, inaccurate and unreliable”.
Supermarket Says Sorry For Selling Hitler Coffee Creamer (AP)
A leading Swiss supermarket chain is apologizing for what it calls an “unforgivable blunder”: distributing mini-containers of coffee cream bearing portraits of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Migros, which also sells electronics and household goods, says it is immediately withdrawing boxes containing hundreds of the coffee cream containers and is breaking all ties with Karo-Versand, the small Swiss company that designed the collectible series of 55 different motifs — including likenesses of the German and Italian fascist dictators. In a statement Wednesday, Migros described the incident as an internal failure and vowed to “tighten our controls for these products drastically” to ensure no more such mistakes. Read more »
Credit Suisse Profit More Than Doubles as Trading Rises (Bloomberg)
Net income more than doubled to 1.03 billion Swiss francs ($1.08 billion), the Zurich-based bank said today in a statement. That compares with 454 million francs a year ago and beat the 809 million-franc average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Chief Executive Officer Brady Dougan said earnings at the investment bank reflected “robust client activity” across businesses, while October has been “mixed.” Last week, he promoted two investment bankers in a revamp that boosts the influence of the securities unit within the executive board. Trading activity has benefited from price swings stemming from a stronger U.S. dollar and a slowdown in the European economy.
Hedge Funds Add To Venture Capital Bounty (WSJ)
Maverick Capital Ltd., one of the oldest hedge-fund firms, plans to launch its first venture-capital fund on Jan. 1, according to investors, with hopes of raising $400 million to take stakes in young companies. In pitching the fund at Maverick’s annual investor meeting last week, one investor said, founder Lee Ainslie III said the New York firm was seeing the best opportunities in many years for making early-stage investments in private companies. Such deals aren’t the bread and butter of hedge funds, which typically bet on the moves of stocks and other publicly traded assets. But Maverick, with roughly $9 billion under management, is among a growing number of Wall Street firms that are trying to get a piece of the lofty valuations being achieved by startups in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. New York investment firms Tiger Global Management LLC and Coatue Management LLC have been players on the West Coast venture-capital market. Tiger Global, which started as a hedge fund, now manages more money in its venture funds than in its hedge funds, according to a person familiar with the firm. Hedge-fund firm Valiant Capital Management LP, out of San Francisco, has also been active.
UBS Hunts for Millionaires in Hong Kong’s Nine Dragons (Bloomberg)
UBS is seeking to bolster its position as the largest manager of private wealth in Asia by looking for millionaires in an unlikely place: the lower-income part of Hong Kong. Switzerland’s largest bank is searching for clients in Kowloon, a name derived from the Cantonese translation for “nine dragons,” and the New Territories, said Amy Lo, the Hong Kong and Greater China head for UBS’s wealth unit. While average incomes are 27 percent lower on the north side of Victoria Harbour than on Hong Kong Island, the business people include toy, electronic and plastics entrepreneurs who like being closer to their factories in mainland China. UBS is targeting as many as 25,000 such individuals who each have at least $1 million in cash and liquid assets, according to Lo.
As Facebook Eyes China, Zuckerberg Makes Ties With Chinese Business School (BusinessWeek)
In its quest to dominate the social media industry worldwide, Facebook has long hankered after China, where the company been been banned since 2009. Facebook may have just gained a foothold to help it infiltrate the Chinese market: the appointment of Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to the board of one of China’s top business schools, the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management.
California venture firm does not have to release documents in discrimination suit (Reuters)
California’s privacy laws have saved a high-profile venture capital firm from having to release potentially embarrassing information about a former partner in a discrimination lawsuit by a former female partner. A judge ruled Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, defending itself against allegations of discrimination and retaliation, will be able to keep to itself any other harassment complaints against former male partner at the center of the lawsuit, Ajit Nazre, in part because producing such complaints would hurt the privacy rights of other Kleiner employees. The suit, brought in 2012 by former partner Ellen Pao, claims discrimination and retaliation at the firm and helped kick off a broad and ongoing discussion in Silicon Valley about sexism in technology.
Could Allen Stanford go free? Convicted fraudster appeals (CNBC)
Jailed financier R. Allen Stanford, convicted in 2012 of running a massive global Ponzi scheme that rivals the Madoff scandal, says he is the victim of an illegal prosecution, and “the clearest of assaults on the U.S. Constitution.” The comments come in Stanford’s formal appeal of his conviction, filed in federal court on Wednesday. Stanford wrote the appeal himself at the prison in Florida where he is serving a 110-year sentence. Having fired the last of a string of court-appointed attorneys, and with no funds to hire a replacement, he is representing himself even though he has no legal background. He has also asked to argue his case in person before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, a task normally handled by experienced attorneys. Stanford calls the case against him a “reckless action,” and accuses authorities of a “by-any-means pursuit” of him to cover up their missteps in the still-unfolding financial crisis.
Romanian Princess Irina Walker Sentenced For Cockfighting (AP)
A Romanian princess was sentenced Wednesday to probation after apologizing for her role in an Oregon cockfighting enterprise that she said brought shame to her and her family. “I’m very sorry about my involvement in this business,” Irina Walker told a federal judge before she was given three years’ probation. “It was not my intention to go against the law.” She and her husband John Walker both pleaded guilty in July to operating an illegal gambling business. John Walker, a former sheriff’s deputy, was also sentenced to probation by U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman…Irina Walker, 61, is the third daughter of former Romanian King Michael I, who was forced to abdicate by communists in 1947. The judge agreed to let the Walkers travel internationally during their probation after their attorneys said the 93-year-old former king has health problems and Irina wants to visit while he’s still alive. The Walkers were arrested in 2013 after authorities said they staged at least 10 cockfighting derbies in a barn at their ranch in Irrigon, 175 miles east of Portland. The Walkers charged spectators each $20 to watch roosters with knives attached to their legs fight to the death. Crowds generally exceeded 100 people, and the couple also made money from the sale of alcohol. Authorities said the people who brought roosters paid $1,000 to enter the fights, and the prizes ranged from $10,000 to $18,000. The person whose roosters won the most matches took home the money, except for 10 percent kept by referees. Read more »
Yahoo Delivers Message to Activist Starboard: Back Off (Bloomberg)
Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer delivered a message yesterday to activist shareholder Starboard Value LP: I’ve got this. Mayer began a defense of her leadership yesterday with a third-quarter earnings report that included sales that topped analysts’ estimates. She followed up with a conference call where she talked up her stewardship of the company, ticking off a list of points to show that her turnaround effort is making progress. Mayer argued she has a clear acquisition strategy for growth and said she is focused on maximizing value for shareholders. The shares jumped as much 5.8 percent today, for the biggest intraday increase in more than six months.
Russian Economy Stops Growing (WSJ)
Russia’s economy, hit by Western sanctions, stopped growing in September, data from the economy ministry showed Wednesday. Russia this year is on track to post its lowest growth since 2009. Russia’s standoff with the West over the Ukrainian crisis adds downside pressure on the economy as sanctions and geopolitical uncertainty fuel capital flight and kill investment activity. Alexei Ulyukayev, Russia’s economy minister, said that in the first nine months of 2014 the economy grew by 0.8%, Interfax news agency reported.
Goldman Sachs Shows Investors Path Out of Economic ‘Wonderland’ (Bloomberg)
Just as Alice was confused by the strange world she found herself in, Peter Oppenheimer said in a report published yesterday that investors face the unfamiliar in an environment of zero interest rates and low economic growth. Further complicating matters is that some old relationships have also broken down since the financial crisis. “Curiouser and curiouser,” he writes, quoting from Alice, in noting equities and bonds have often both performed well at the same time. Some of the strongest market performances have also been in the weakest economies.
‘Cannibal Cop’ interested in attending law school (NYP)
Notorious “Cannibal Cop” Gilberto Valle is “interested in attending law school,” his younger brother revealed in a letter to Manhattan federal Judge Paul Gardephe. “I even bought him a number of LSAT books which he completed, and he did very well on the practice tests at the end of the books,” wrote Daniel Valle The younger Valle was one of more than a dozen people who wrote letters on the ex-cop’s behalf before he is sentenced Nov. 4 for illegally using a police database. Gardephe overturned Valle’s conviction for conspiracy to murder in July. Read more »
$$$ Lawton police said Kristi Rhines ordered food and several alcoholic drinks Friday at El Chico and later told workers she didn’t have any money, but her husband would soon arrive to pay her tab. Rhines soon clarified her husband was Jesus Christ, but she admitted the union was not solidified with a marriage license. The woman, who managers said insisted the Christian savior would soon be arriving to pay in cash, was arrested on a fraud charge when police arrived and determined she had no means of paying the bill. [UPI] Read more »
Misery Widespread At Hedge Funds (WSJ)
This month’s turmoil in financial markets has been a “bloodbath” for hedge funds, inflicting large losses at an array of multibillion-dollar firms in the industry’s worst stretch since late 2011. It isn’t unusual for one segment of the $2.8 trillion hedge-fund world to find itself caught in a downdraft. But in October, the pain has been widespread. There were casualties among funds that make bets based on their fundamental analysis of companies, events like takeovers and broad economic trends. The losses came amid sharp volatility in stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities. Top firms including Jana Partners LLC, Discovery Capital Management LLC and Paulson & Co. have posted losses ranging from 5% to 11% for the month, according to investors…One hedge-fund manager told clients Monday that market activity reminded him of a “familiar plotline” from the “Jaws” movies. “An idyllic investment environment amid an improving economy…and then cue the music…dun-dun…dun-dun…dun-dun,” Paul Westhead, chief executive of $4 billion fund Rimrock Capital Management LLC, wrote in a letter to investors.
Fed to Banks: Shape Up or Risk Breakup (WSJ)
Federal Reserve officials sent a warning shot across Wall Street on Monday, telling bank executives they must do more to curb excessive risk-taking and improve employee behavior at their firms or face stiff repercussions, including being broken into smaller pieces. Federal Reserve Gov. Daniel Tarullo and Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley , in closed-door speeches Monday to bank executives gathered at the New York Fed, said Wall Street must clean up its behavior and image, according to copies of their remarks provided by the Fed. The regulators made it clear they aren’t satisfied with bank’s efforts in the six years since the financial crisis shattered public trust in big banks, citing ongoing probes of banks for currency-market and interest-rate manipulation, tax evasion and efforts to skirt international sanctions. Mr. Dudley raised the specter of breaking up big banks, saying if firms don’t prove they can comply with the law, “the inevitable conclusion will be reached that your firms are too big and complex to manage effectively. In that case, financial-stability concerns would dictate that your firms need to be dramatically downsized and simplified so they can be managed effectively.”
Private Equity Titans Open Cloistered World to Smaller Investors (Dealbook)
Carlyle, the Washington-based giant that Mr. Rubenstein co-founded in 1987, is at the forefront of an effort to open the cloistered and risky world of private equity to doctors, lawyers, well-heeled entrepreneurs and others with a brokerage account or, one day, a robust 401(k). The firm is close to establishing a new way to give individual investors direct access to a selection of Carlyle’s private equity funds, according to people briefed on the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly about the private fund-raising campaign in progress. Not just anyone can jump in. Investors — who must be so-called qualified purchasers, or those who own at least $5 million in investible assets — are required to commit a minimum of $250,000, which is divided evenly across four of Carlyle’s current funds. But the structure sharply lowers the bar on a per-fund basis for direct investment with Carlyle.
Heroin blamed in Google prostitute murder case (AP)
Defense attorneys for a high-priced prostitute accused of giving a Google executive a fatal dose of heroin on his yacht say their client had also injected herself, clouding her judgment…Gerald Christensen, Tichelman’s second attorney, says the death was an accident and not malicious. Police say surveillance video shows Tichelman gather her belongings, casually step over the body of 51-year-old Forrest Hayes to finish a glass of wine, clean up a counter, then lower a blind before leaving the yacht on Nov. 23.
Microsoft CEO Nadella Received Pay Package of $84 Million (Bloomberg)
Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella was given a compensation package worth as much as $84.3 million for the software maker’s latest fiscal year, about 11 times his pay from the previous year. Nadella was named CEO about five months before the end of the year, which ended in June. He was granted share awards potentially worth $59.2 million in connection with his promotion to CEO, according to a filing today. He also received a one-time retention award worth $13.5 million. The disclosure of Nadella’s compensation follows a gaffe about raises he made earlier this month at a women’s conference. He said he was advised early in his career to stop bucking for a promotion and that those who take the long view will eventually be rewarded. He later apologized for those statements, saying that they didn’t help to close the gender gap in pay.
Cops: Losers Of Beer Pong Match Opened Fire On Fellow Texas Partygoers (TSG)
The 1:20 AM shooting Sunday took place at a residence in Ames, a city 45 miles from Houston. According to the Liberty County Sherriff’s Office, investigators are searching for two men who allegedly shot up the party after losing at the beer pong table. Deputies identified the suspects as Decoris “Red” Rucker, 24, and Chris “Crazy Chris” Hackett. Rucker and Hackett were among a group of five men who became upset after losing a backyard beer pong game. The men, witnesses said, ran from the home while firing wildly at partygoers. An 18-year-old woman was shot in the thigh during the gunfire. Rucker, Hackett, and the other men fled in a 2006 Buick. Read more »