Jeff Bezos steps down as Amazon CEO [NBC News]
Bezos will transition to the role of executive chair in the third quarter of this year, which starts July 1, the company said. Andy Jassy, the chief executive of Amazon Web Services, will take over as CEO of Amazon.
In a memo to employees, Bezos said the transition will give him "the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions…." It remains to be seen how active Bezos will be in Amazon’s business in his new role. Several major tech executives have stepped down as CEO and remained intimately involved in their companies’ business, including Larry Ellison at Oracle and Bill Gates at Microsoft. Bezos remains one of Amazon's biggest shareholders.

Democrats Speed Ahead on Economic Aid Package [NYT]
“We are not going to dilute, dither or delay,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on the Senate floor. “There’s nothing about the process itself that prevents bipartisanship….”
While Mr. Biden said he told Republicans he was willing to make some modifications to his proposal, he and Ms. Yellen told the group that if the Senate embraced the Republican plan, “we’d be mired in the Covid crisis for years,” according to Mr. Schumer.

CCC Information Services to Go Public in $6.5 Billion SPAC Merger [WSJ]
[CEO Gitesh Ramamurthy] said CCC was approached by several SPACs about a deal as it was preparing for an IPO. It opted to engage solely with Dragoneer because of the investment firm’s record and experience working with technology companies…. In addition to Dragoneer, which is known for backing tech startups like Airbnb Inc., Snowflake Inc. and Slack Technologies Inc., CCC will add mutual-fund firms Fidelity Investments and T. Rowe Price Group Inc., as well as Michael Bloomberg’s family office, Willett Advisors, as investors.

Hedge Fund Superstar Pierre Andurand Sets His Sights On Clean Energy After 154% Gain [Forbes]
In March, oil markets briefly went negative, as Andurand had predicted, and the industry faced its deepest slump in decades. According to sources, Andurand’s various funds gained between 60% and 155% that month as energy prices plunged…. While Andurand entered the new year unwilling to get substantially long energy markets, he’s found opportunity in commodities that touch the clean energy revolution. In fact, Andurand is bearish on oil’s long-term prospects and sees the renewable energy industry at the market to go long….
“For COVID, there is the vaccine,” says Andurand, “But for climate change, it gets worse every year, and then you get stuck… The price to put carbon in the atmosphere should be really punitive.”

Hedge-Fund Manager Ackman Raises Bet on Housing in Texas, Hawaii, Las Vegas [WSJ]
Pershing Square Capital Management LP recently increased its stake in Howard Hughes Corp. to nearly 25%.... “It’s not a Wall Street bet. It’s a generational bet,” said Mr. Ackman, who is also chairman of Howard Hughes’s board…. While many Americans were already leaving colder, more dense cities for more temperate and affordable places to live, the pandemic and the shift toward work from home accelerated those trends last year.

Former ECB Chief Mario Draghi Tapped to Lead Italy Out of Its Crisis [Bloomberg]
The appointment of a crisis-fighter of Draghi’s caliber could put an end to the political intrigue that threatened to make Italy ungovernable. But he would need to gain a majority in both houses of parliament, and this may not prove easy as some parties have said they won’t back him.

Alibaba plans up to $5 billion U.S.-dollar bond issuance: term sheet [Reuters]
Investor response to the deal will test sentiment towards Alibaba amid a regulatory heat for founder Jack Ma’s business empire, triggered by a speech in late October in which he publicly criticised the country’s regulatory system.
That set off a chain of events that resulted in the halting of affiliate Ant Group’s $37 billion stock market listing…. Alibaba said in a statement that the bond proceeds would be used in part for projects pertaining to “green buildings, COVID-19 crisis response, renewable energy, and circular economy and design.”

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Opening Bell: 1.6.21

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Ackman Applauds Call For Herbalife Investigation (AP) The National Consumers League said that it wants the FTC to investigate the claims against Herbalife as well as the vitamin and supplement products company's responses. Ackman alleged in December that Herbalife was a pyramid scheme and made a bet the stock would fall, arguing that the company makes most of its money by recruiting new salespeople rather than on the products they sell. Herbalife disputes that. In a statement late Tuesday, Pershing Square Capital Management's Ackman said that he was pleased that the NCL was requesting an FTC investigation and believes it will show that the company is a pyramid scheme. On Wednesday, Herbalife said in a statement that "We regret that the National Consumers League has permitted itself to be the mechanism by which Pershing Square continues its attack on Herbalife." Troika, Cyprus In Talks To Shrink Bailout Package (WSJ) Officials from the troika of lenders—the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund—are working with the Cypriot government to bring the headline figure for the bailout package to about €10 billion ($13.03 billion), two officials said. The aid package had been earlier expected to be as much as €17 billion—with just shy €10 billion of that going for bank recapitalizations. Big Sugar Set For Sweet Bailout (WSJ) The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering buying 400,000 tons of sugar—enough for 142 billion Hershey's Kisses—to stave off a wave of defaults by sugar processors that borrowed $862 million under a government price-support program. The action aims to prop up tumbling U.S. sugar prices, which have fallen 18% since the USDA made the nine-month operations-financing loans beginning in October. The purchases could leave the price-support program with an $80 million loss, its biggest in 13 years, said Barbara Fecso, an economist at the USDA, in an interview. U.S. Tax Cheats Picked Off After Adviser Mails It In (Bloomberg) Everybody knows the danger of sending things inadvertently in an e-mail. Beda Singenberger’s case shows you also have to be pretty careful when you mail things the old-fashioned way. Over an 11-year period, federal prosecutors charge, Swiss financial adviser Singenberger helped 60 people in the U.S. hide $184 million in secret offshore accounts bearing colorful names like Real Cool Investments Ltd. and Wanderlust Foundation. Then, according to a prosecutor, Singenberger inadvertently mailed a list of his U.S. clients, including their names and incriminating details, which somehow wound up in the hands of federal authorities. Now, U.S. authorities appear to be picking off the clients on that list one by one. Singenberger’s goof has already ensnared Jacques Wajsfelner, an 83-year-old exile from Nazi Germany, and Michael Canale, a retired U.S. Army surgeon, court records show. Another customer, cancer researcher Michael Reiss, pleaded guilty, though his court records don’t mention the list. White Pressed On Past Representing Banks (WSJ) Since 2002, President Barack Obama's pick to become chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission has worked for the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLC, where she often represented large corporations and banks. Members of the Senate Banking Committee, often from the president's own party, pressed her to guarantee that her law-firm work wouldn't stop her from taking on Wall Street's wrongdoers. "What have you done [in] the last decade that ordinary investors can look at and be assured that you will advocate for them?" Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) asked Ms. White. Wearing a bright red jacket, her hands neatly folded on the table before her, Ms. White said her work at Debevoise "hasn't changed me as a person." Killer Ukrainian dolphins on the loose (JustinGregg) After rebooting the Soviet Union’s marine mammal program just last year with the goal of teaching dolphins to find underwater mines and kill enemy divers, three of the Ukrainian military’s new recruits have gone AWOL. Apparently they swam away from their trainers this morning ostensibly in search of a “mate” out in open waters. It might not be such a big deal except that these dolphins have been trained to “attack enemy combat swimmers using special knives or pistols fixed to their heads.” Dimon’s Extra $1.4 Million Payout Hangs on Fed Decision (Bloomberg) That’s how much extra income Dimon could get from his stake of about 6 million shares if his New York-based bank raises its payout as much as analysts predict. The sum dwarfs the combined $73,300 of new annual dividends at stake for his CEO peers at Bank of America Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co., based on forecasts compiled by Bloomberg. Bankers will find out whether they get any boost tomorrow when the Fed announces which capital plans at the 18 largest U.S. lenders won approval. Regulators have pressed firms since the 2008 credit crisis to give executives more stock and less cash to align their interests with those of shareholders. CEOs are poised to get a windfall if payouts increase and shares rise -- or to suffer with their investors if results sputter. BofA Ordered to Pay Ex-Merrill Banker Jailed in Brazil (Bloomberg) Sao Paulo’s 26th labor court said it was “incontrovertible” that the imprisonment was because of his position as a junior financial consultant at Merrill Lynch, now a division of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America, according to a document published in the nation’s official Gazette earlier this month. Caiado wasn’t convicted of any wrongdoing. Caiado, 42, was jailed in June 2006 in a Curitiba federal prison over allegations he helped Merrill’s clients make illegal overseas money transfers. His arrest was part of an investigation that resulted in indictments of 18 bankers at Credit Suisse AG and UBS AG in Brazil. Merrill fired Caiado nine months later, saying the dismissal was part of a restructuring. Carlyle Group Lowers Velvet Rope (WSJ) In the latest effort by private-equity firms to broaden their customer base, Carlyle Group is letting some people invest in its buyout funds with as little as $50,000. 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The Social Democratic Siumut party collected 43% of the votes in an election held Tuesday, enabling the party to leapfrog the ruling Inuit Ataqatigiit, which over the past four years has worked to open up the secluded country to mining companies and others capable of advancing industry. Greenland is believed to have a vast supply of untapped rare-earth minerals, oil, gas and other resources. Blankfein On Trader Talent Hunt At Morgan Stanley (NYP) The Goldman Sachs CEO is taking dead aim at Morgan Stanley’s most prized assets — its best and brightest employees — after his rival decided to defer pay for senior bankers. Blankfein, as a big game hunter, recently landed 13-year Morgan Stanley veteran Kate Richdale, head of its Asia Pacific investment banking business. The CEO’s talent hunt is continuing, sources said. Goldman currently is in selective talks with other Morgan Stanley bankers and has also lured a handful of traders from the bank. Golfer Survives Fall Into Course Sinkhole (AP) Mark Mihal was having a good opening day on the links when he noticed an unusual depression on the 14th fairway at Annbriar Golf Club in southern Illinois. Remarking to his friends how awkward it would be to have to hit out of it, he went over for a closer look. One step onto the pocked section and the 43-year-old mortgage broker plunged into a sinkhole. He landed 18 feet down with a painful thud, and his friends managed to hoist him to safety with a rope after about 20 minutes. But Friday's experience gave Mihal quite a fright, particularly after the recent death of a Florida man whose body hasn't been found since a sinkhole swallowed him and his bedroom. "I feel lucky just to come out of it with a shoulder injury, falling that far and not knowing what I was going to hit," Mihal, from the St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur, told The Associated Press before heading off to learn whether he'll need surgery. "It was absolutely crazy."

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Opening Bell: 7.14.20

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