DealBook Briefing: Will Disney’s Bob Iger Ever Step Down?

DealBook Briefing: Will Disney’s Bob Iger Ever Step Down?

And here’s a lighter take on the Disney-Fox talks, courtesy of Paul Pendergass, formerly DealBook’s “Jack Flack” columnist.


Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin in New York, and Michael J. de la Merced and Amie Tsang in London.



Credit Jim Mone/Associated Press

UnitedHealth leads more upheaval in health care.

UnitedHealth’s $4.9 billion takeover of a physician group from DaVita may not be as big as CVS’s deal for Aetna. But it highlights how fast traditional boundaries in health care are dissolving.

UnitedHealth has been disrupting the industry for a long time. It already owns a pharmacy benefit manager and an outpatient services provider. Now the DaVita division will give it a doctor network.

Reed Abelson of the NYT quoted Craig Garthwaite, a health economist at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, on integration:

“There’s no chance that the existing companies, be they hospital or insurers, have the right configuration of assets to be successful” at turning health care into a business where the parties are able to produce better outcomes at a lower cost, he said.

Critics’ corner

• Brooke Sutherland and Max Nisen write, “Steady diversification with small deals is the kind of strategy that can win this race.” (Gadfly)

• Charley Grant writes, “With cheap credit readily available and UnitedHealth’s sparkling long-term returns as an inducement, the recipe for succeeding in health care is pretty clear.” (Heard on the Street)

Extra credit: Barclays and Goldman Sachs will each lend CVS $20 billion as part of the Aetna takeover, the kind of big deal lending that was traditionally the province of JPMorgan Chase, according to the WSJ.


Representative Kevin Brady of Texas said the proposal to eliminate the individual health care mandate had strong support among House Republicans. Credit Al Drago for The New York Times

Is the tax overhaul starting to fray at the seams?

A lot is still being changed. And not everything is going well.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is open to keeping more generous state and local tax deductions, a deal with Senator Susan Collins of Maine to help prop up the Affordable Care Act has been all but rejected by House Republicans, potentially jeopardizing her final vote.

Meanwhile, Republicans are looking at cuts to social welfare programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare to help pay for the bill — unpopular moves that would come ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

“Holy crap, what’s this?”: That’s what Greg Jenner, a former top tax official in George W. Bush’s Treasury Department, said of the tax legislation to Politico, describing how the new rules could be gamed.

How the business world is responding

Some analysts increasingly see no reason for investors to put more money into the stock market because of the tax legislation, since companies probably won’t spend as much on buybacks as people think.

Meanwhile, Citigroup says that it expects a $20 billion hit to its profits under the proposal, though it still plans to return some $60 billion to investors over the next three years.

But one of the private equity world’s biggest moguls is OK with the bill:


The Washington flyaround

· House Republican leaders believe they have the votes to avert a government shutdown. (Politico)

· Behind President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel: frustration from supporters like Sheldon Adelson. (NYT)

· Michael Flynn told a former business associate that economic sanctions would be “ripped up” in the Trump administration’s first days, according to a whistle-blower. (NYT)

· Senator Elizabeth Warren is in the same camp as Mr. Trump on megadeals, an alliance that puts more pressure on big mergers. (Breakingviews)


David Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president for devices and services, introducing new Echo products. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Tech’s big giants are turning on each other.

Spats like the one between Alphabet and Amazon — in which YouTube was pulled from Amazon’s Fire TV and Echo Show devices, and Amazon then appeared to stop selling Alphabet’s Nest devices — highlight a rise in the stakes as these companies battle for consumers’ minds and money.

It’s consumers who may lose out, the media analyst Dan Rayburn told the WaPo.

But Shira Ovide of Gadfly thinks that, in at least one case, tech companies should do more backbiting. She’s urging Twitter and Snapchat to team up against Facebook:

Snapchat’s rocky road in its first nine months as a public company has some echoes to Twitter’s rocky road since its initial public offering in 2013. It’s scary out there for each company on its own.

Who hacked Uber? A 20-year-old Florida man appears to have led the breach that resulted in the theft of millions of riders’ data — and then have been paid to keep quiet, according to Reuters.

Alexa, run my life: Katherine Bindley of the WSJ tried to see how much of her life she could outsource to Amazon products and services. Among her conclusions: “No matter how well the Echo Look functions, posing for it every morning is stressful.”


Credit Time

The latest in sexual misconduct news.

• Time named “the silence breakers” — women and men who spoke about harassment and assaults they suffered from powerful men — as its person of the year. (NYT)

• Democratic senators including Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have called upon Al Franken to resign. He could announce his plans to step down today. (The Hill)

• Six women have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Weinstein brothers and several business associates. (NYT)

• The venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck, who has been accused of misconduct, tweeted support for #MeToo. It didn’t go over well. (Quartz)


Credit Andrew White for The New York Times

The buyer of that controversial Leonardo painting is revealed.

It wasn’t a famous art collector like Steve Cohen who paid $450.3 million at auction last month for “Salvator Mundi.” It was a little-known Saudi prince with no history as a major art buyer, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud.

From David Kirkpatrick of the NYT:

Prince Bader splurged on this controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ at a time when most members of the Saudi elite, including some in the royal family, are cowering under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment.

As it happens, Prince Bader is a friend and associate of the leader of the purge: the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Bitcoin: now above $14,000.

And it’s still rising. That has Wall Street keeping a close eye on the digital currency and associated technologies like the blockchain.

But Bitcoin is being hoarded like virtual gold, and that has downsides.

Here’s what Brian Armstrong of Coinbase told the NYT:

“It’s probably a little bit too focused on the price or people trying to make money,” Mr. Armstrong said last week. “The thing I’m passionate about with digital currency is the world having an open financial system.”


Credit Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Roger Goodell has a new contract. What’s next?

The N.F.L. finally agreed to give him a new $200 million deal, though nearly all that money is tied to financial targets. Something of an uneasy peace has descended upon the league’s owners: Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys had briefly threatened to sue over the negotiations.

More from Ken Belson of the NYT:

The committee had been working since May on the new contract, which would take effect in March 2019. The owners were eager to finish the deal before talks to renegotiate the league’s labor and media deals begin in earnest in the next couple of years.

Caveat: The N.F.L. is far from in the clear. Ratings are still falling, critics are still worried about player safety and some fans are still incensed about player protests.

Revolving Door

Fraser Robinson, the top Uber deal maker who negotiated the company’s investment from Saudi Arabia last year, has stepped down. (FT)

Quote of the Day

“This is nothing more than a calculated move by Philippe to oust me from the company, and limit my role going forward.”

— Shari Redstone, in an email to Viacom associates, referring to Philippe Dauman, her main rival for control of her father’s Viacom media empire.

The Speed Read

• Oliver Schmidt, a top Volkswagen official in the United States, was sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in the German automaker’s decade-long scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests. (NYT)

• The wealthiest 1 percent of American households own 40 percent of the country’s wealth, according to a study based on the Survey of Consumer Finances — the highest share since at least 1962. (WaPo)

• A coalition of groups that includes conservationists and the founder of the outdoor brand Patagonia filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to protect the status of the Bears Ears National Monument. (ABC)

• China says it is open for business, but it seems to be curtailing foreign firms’ access to its consumers, in an effort to help Chinese companies forge ahead in sectors like electric cars and robots. (NYT)

• GVC Holdings, which owns online gambling platforms, is in advanced talks to buy the British betting-shop operator Ladbrokes Coral for as much as $5.2 billion. (Bloomberg)

• Ping An, the world’s largest insurer by market capitalization, has emerged as the second biggest shareholder in HSBC, according to a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. (FT)

• The proportion of merger and acquisition activity involving all-share deals has dropped to a record low this year, driven by access to cheap cash and doubts over equity market valuations in the United States. (FT)

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Follow Andrew Ross Sorkin @andrewrsorkin, Michael J. de la Merced @m_delamerced and Amie Tsang @amietsang on Twitter.

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