Opening Bell 7.19.18

Packer quits; Wendy's and Papa John's merger talks; A war on football and more!
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Billionaire James Packer quits 22 boards, deepens corporate withdrawal [Reuters]

The major shareholder of casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd (CWN.AX) cited mental illness as the reason for his quitting that firm’s board in March, following a tumultuous period in his life, which included a break-up with singer Mariah Carey and the failure of Crown’s expansion strategy.

He quit the board of his private company Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH) on June 27, and corporate records show he resigned from 19 other directorships on the same day, plus another two since.

Wendy's had preliminary deal talks with Papa John's before founder's scandal erupted [CNBC]

The talks cooled after Schnatter's use of a racially charged slur led to his resignation. Schnatter still sits on Papa John's board and has a nearly 30 percent stake in the company.

Shares of the pizza company jumped after the Wall Street Journal first reported news of the talks, and ended the day up 4 percent at $53.60.

The source requested anonymity because the information is confidential. Both Wendy's and Papa John's told CNBC they do not comment on market rumors or speculation. Representatives for Schnatter declined to comment.

Exclusive: Amazon denies it will challenge Cisco with switch sales [MarketWatch]

Amazon.com Inc.’s top cloud-computing executive has officially denied that Amazon Web Services plans to start selling network switches to other businesses, after a report last week claiming that move was in the works damaged stocks of Cisco Systems Inc. and other major networking companies.

“Cisco and AWS have a longstanding customer and partner relationship, and during a recent call between Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins and AWS CEO Andy Jassy, Andy confirmed that AWS is not actively building a commercial network switch,” a Cisco Systems Inc. spokesman told MarketWatch on Wednesday.

Musk Enlisted Sierra Club to Deflect Flak Over GOP Donation [Bloomberg]

Elon Musk personally dialed up the head of the environmental group the Sierra Club and asked him to help deflect criticism over donations to Republicans by Tesla Inc.’s chairman, according to an email that the head of the nonprofit sent to his staff.

Musk on Saturday called Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director, and asked that he make public more than $6 million in contributions to the group that had been anonymous, Brune wrote in the email. The billionaire also enlisted Brune to vouch for him on Twitter to quell a firestorm over his $38,900 contribution to a committee that benefits congressional Republicans including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Brune is now dealing with blow-back within his own organization for complying with Musk’s requests. Two posts from his personal account and one sent from the Sierra Club’s Twitter handle that were laudatory of Tesla’s chief executive officer and his commitment to fighting climate change rankled some Sierra Club staff, who objected to Brune’s defense of an executive who funds Republicans and has bashed the United Auto Workers.

“I appreciate the concerns that I’ve seen online and in email that the tweets may be at odds with our support for workers’ rights and defeating the GOP agenda across the country,” Brune wrote in the email to his staff on Tuesday. “I don’t agree, but I see the risk and understand the concerns. Musk has made unhelpful anti-union statements and Tesla’s labor practices are also cause for concern, so I take your comments seriously.”

Trump Threatens Auto Tariffs Despite Widespread Opposition [WSJ]

A bipartisan group of 149 House members also urged the president not to move forward with the tariffs. Auto unions were among the few industry players offering qualified support for the tariffs.

Still, at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Trump threatened “tremendous retribution” against the European Union, specifically mentioning auto tariffs, if his meeting with EU officials next week doesn’t yield what he considers a fair auto trade deal.

Mr. Trump is seeking to refocus attention on his trade agenda, while his administration at the same time is contending with criticism over his comments this week on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

UNC coach Larry Fedora says the attack on football will be 'the decline of our country' [USA Today]

North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora took the podium at Wednesday’s ACC media day, and by all indications, he had some extremely puzzling takes about football and this country.

According to reporters Nicole Auerbach and Brendan Marks, Fedora warned that changing football would lead to the very downfall of America. He believed that the game was under attack.

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