Monday's economy & business stories

Companies face pressure to conduct racial audits

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Here's the new battleground for racial justice in corporate America: shareholder meetings currently underway.

Why it matters: Advocates see this year's proxy season as an ultimate test for corporations that made statements against systemic racism in the past year.

Bill and Melinda Gates announce split

Bill and Melinda Gates in 2006. Photo: Simon Hayter/Getty Images

Bill and Melinda Gates announced Monday they are getting divorced after 27 years of marriage.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Ina Fried: Both Bill and Melinda had already made giving away their wealth through philanthropy a shared priority and said Monday they will continue to work together at their foundation.

May 3, 2021 - Technology

The explosion of the gaming economy

Research shows that 55% of Americans picked up a video game during the pandemic, and by December 2020, the global gaming industry was estimated to have generated $160 billion in revenue that year. Gaming has never been bigger and keeps growing — and that means the stakes of gaming as a digital economy and as a social ecosystem keep getting higher.

Axios Re:Cap is joined by Axios Gaming newsletter writers Stephen Totilo and Megan Farokhmanesh to discuss the launch of their newsletter and why gaming matters now more than ever.

Corporates step up to support Asian American causes

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Following more than a year of rising anti-Asian sentiment, prominent business leaders and corporates are pooling millions to fight discrimination and to reverse economic and cultural exclusion. 

Driving the news: Saturday marked the start of Asian Pacific American Heritage month and numerous organizations and companies have launched platforms and programs to coincide with the time period.

  • Facebook and BMW are working with non-profit Gold House to grow Asian-led small businesses through an accelerator program and e-commerce sales campaign — like Amazon's Prime Day — called Gold Rush.
  • AT&T-owned HBO, Comcast NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS networks are launching campaigns like "See Us" and "We Belong" and special events to spotlight Asian creators. Comcast is also committing $2 million in direct support for social justice organizations.
  • Big banks like UBS and Citigroup, as well as Amazon, Walmart and Coca-Cola are part of a new $250 million effort to aid Asian American and Pacific Islander causes through The Asian American Foundation, which launched Monday

Why it matters: America's centuries-long history of excluding Asians has led to widespread systemic marginalization. The rise in attacks — many violent in nature — has galvanized the larger community to overhaul systems simultaneously.

What they're saying: “AAPI communities need systemic change to ensure we are better supported, represented, and celebrated across all aspects of American life," Sonal Shah, a former Obama official and now president of The Asian American Foundation, said in a statement.

  • In media, actors of Asian descent are still largely underrepresented.
  • In the workforce, workers of Asian descent are often left out of diversity initiatives and are the least likely group to be promoted into management.
  • In philanthropy, communities of Asian Pacific Islanders have received less than 0.5% of charitable giving.

The bigger picture: People of Asian descent currently make up about 7% of the U.S. population at 23 million and is the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group.

  • By 2060, the number of Asians in the U.S. is expected to reach nearly 36 million people, or more than 3x their population in 2000, according to Pew.

Apple v. Epic Games trial provides heavily redacted peek inside the industry

Photo: Microsoft

Court filings from the Apple and Epic Games faceoff offer a peek at the inner workings of some major players in gaming.

Why it matters: Gaming is as secretive an industry as it gets, and companies such as Microsoft are locked into years-long competitive cycles against the likes of Nintendo and Sony.

NYC to resume 24-hour subway service, businesses to fully reopen

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Mike Segar/Pool/Getty Images

New York City will resume its 24-hour subway service on May 17, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday, along with fast-tracking the city's plans to fully reopen businesses.

The big picture: The return is a key part of the tri-state area's efforts to increase economic activity and bring back crowds.

Warren Buffett names Greg Abel as Berkshire Hathaway successor

Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Berkshire Hathaway has chosen Greg Abel, chief executive of the company's energy business and head of Berkshire's non-insurance operations, to succeed Warren Buffett as CEO when he departs, Buffett told CNBC on Monday.

Why it matters: The choice answers a question that had loomed over Berkshire and its 90-year-old CEO for decades.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Updated May 3, 2021 - Economy & Business

Warren Buffett hasn't made an "elephant" megadeal since before the pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Warren Buffett doesn't have much use for unicorns, instead building his Berkshire Hathaway empire by hunting for the sort of asset-heavy megadeals that he calls "elephants."

Driving the news: Berkshire hasn't fired a shot from its elephant gun in quite some time. Not even last spring, when many thought it would become the bailout partner of first resort, much like the role it played in 2008.

ESPN's Kevin Merida named executive editor of Los Angeles Times

Photo by Julia Ewan/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Veteran ESPN news editor Kevin Merida was named executive editor of the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

Why it matters: Merida — who has long been rumored for the role — replaces Norm Pearlstine, who stepped down as executive editor late last year after leading the paper for two and half years.

Meredith sells local TV business to Gray for $2.7 billion

Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Meredith Corp. has agreed to sell its local media group for $2.7 billion in cash to Gray Television, opting to focus on its portfolio of national brands like People, Better Homes & Gardens, and Allrecipes.

Why it matters: Moving forward, Meredith will focus its business on two reporting segments: magazines and digital.

Robinhood fires back at Warren Buffett

Warren Buffet at a 2019 shareholders' meeting. Photo: Houston Cofield/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Robinhood on Monday said that recent criticisms of the no-fee trading app by Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger were insults against younger investors, blasting the billionaires as out-of-touch elites who are "acting like they are the only oracles of investing."

The big picture: Critics have said that Robinhood — which says its mission " is to democratize finance for all," and has sought to popularize retail investing — pushes users into making more trades and reckless investing with its mobile game-like design and addictive elements.

Verizon sells Yahoo and AOL to private equity firm for $5 billion

Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Verizon on Monday announced that it will sell its digital media unit, including Yahoo and AOL, to private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

Details: Apollo will pay $5 billion for a 90% stake in the business, with Verizon retaining a 10% stake. It's a slightly higher price than what was expected, but still far short of the $9 billion that Verizon paid to acquire the businesses.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
May 3, 2021 - Economy & Business

Investors are getting defensive about inflation

Data: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Dion Rabouin/Axios Visuals

The record 21.2% increase in Americans' personal income in March was notable not only for its rise but for its causes and outcomes.

Between the lines: The Bureau of Economic Analysis pointed out in its monthly report on income and outlays that the increase in personal income "largely reflected an increase in government social benefits."

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
May 3, 2021 - Economy & Business

Warren Buffett sees inflation, even if Jerome Powell doesn't

Data: St. Louis Fed; Chart: Dion Rabouin/Axios Visuals

Warren Buffett became the latest big name to weigh in on inflation, telling viewers of the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting this weekend that he and his team are "seeing substantial inflation."

Why it matters: Concern about inflation is growing louder and becoming more pronounced among investors and the general public, even as the Fed and many mainstream economists insist price hikes will be temporary and are not worrisome.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
May 3, 2021 - Economy & Business

The bullishness in stocks continues

Data: FactSet; Chart: Dion Rabouin/Axios Visuals

U.S. households increased their exposure to stocks to 41% of their total financial assets in April, the highest level on record, WSJ reported Sunday, citing JPMorgan and Federal Reserve data that dates back to 1952.

Why it matters: It's the latest evidence that investors are getting far more bullish on equities, increasing exposure to risk and reducing hedges.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
May 3, 2021 - Economy & Business

A jobs report for the ages

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Expectations are growing for Friday's nonfarm payrolls report to be a big one, with some economists expecting it could show the U.S. added jobs in April at a pace not seen since last year's record-setting hiring spree in May and June.

Why it matters: While it is not expected to match or exceed June's 4.8 million, some economists believe we could see more than 2 million jobs added, compounding the momentum from March when American employers added 916,000 jobs.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
May 3, 2021 - Health

CVS launches $100 million venture capital fund

Photo: Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

CVS Health launched a new $100 million venture fund called CVS Health Ventures with plans to invest in digital health startups.

Why it matters: With nearly 10,000 retail locations around the U.S. and its Aetna subsidiary serving more than 22 million members, any investment by CVS Health has some serious potential for scale.

Ina Fried, author of Login
May 3, 2021 - Technology

The trial that will decide the future of Apple's App Store

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A federal court in Oakland will on Monday begin hearing Epic Games' antitrust suit against Apple, a case that could radically reshape the way iPhone apps and services are sold.

Why it matters: Fortnite maker Epic Games is asking the court to invalidate the entire business model behind the iOS ecosystem, seeking to bar Apple from requiring developers to use its in-app purchases for digital goods and services.

The pandemic stunted America's youth

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

American jobs are starting to come back, but youth unemployment is still high. And many young people are postponing college.

Why it matters: Young people across the country are falling behind because of the pandemic, and they will feel the macroeconomic consequences of these months of pain long after the pandemic is over.

May 3, 2021 - World

Rome's Colosseum to get $22M makeover

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy, completed under Emperor Titus in 80 A.D. Photo: Cheng Tingting/Xinhua via Getty Images

Rome's ancient Colosseum will have a floor with a gladiator's view once again in a construction project costing 18.5 million euros ($22 million), per a statement from Italy's Culture Minister Dario Franceschini Sunday.

Details: Archaeologists removed the last floor in the 19th century to examine the "labyrinth of rooms and corridors" that lay beneath the arena, Al Jazeera notes. The new floor will be sustainable and can be removed if required, per Franceschini's statement.

May 3, 2021 - Health

Colorado extends mask mandate while easing restrictions for vaccinated

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. Photo: Chet Strange/Getty Images

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Sunday extended the state's face mask mandate for another 30 days but loosened restrictions for groups of people vaccinated against COVID-19.

Details: Under Colorado's new order, people gathering indoors in groups of 10 or more are no longer required to wear masks if at least 80% of them is vaccinated against the virus, per a statement from Polis.