Wednesday's economy & business stories

Fast food's celebrity strategy is working

Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Fast-food giants are tapping stars with huge social media followings to hype menu items that already exist.

Why it matters: There are signs that it's invigorating sales — and every hot celebrity could soon try to lock down these deals.

Hope King, author of Closer
Nov 24, 2021 - Economy & Business

Charted: The return of holiday travel

Expand chart
Data: TSA; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Air travel is closing in on pre-pandemic levels.

  • What to watch: The total number of people traveling for Thanksgiving this year — by car, bus, train or plane — could reach 53 million, according to AAA, or 95% of 2019 levels.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Nov 24, 2021 - Economy & Business

Scoop: Red Sox owner wants to buy an NBA team

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Fenway Sports Group wants to buy an NBA team once it's done acquiring the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: FSG is pioneering a new sort of corporate sports ownership, buying up marquee franchises in different geographic markets.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Nov 24, 2021 - Economy & Business

For Toshiba, breaking up may be hard to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

3D Investment Partners, the second-largest Toshiba shareholder with a 7% stake, is objecting to the Japanese conglomerate's plan to split into three companies, per a letter obtained by Reuters.

Why it matters: This could set up a takeover battle for all of Toshiba, which was the target of a failed $20 billion bid earlier this year from CVC Capital Partners.

JPMorgan CEO walks back joke about Chinese Communist Party

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon in Paris in June 2021. Photo: Michel Euler/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon walked back a recent critique of the Chinese Communist Party on Wednesday, saying he regrets joking that the bank will outlast the party in China.

Driving the news: Speaking at the Boston College Chief Executives Club Tuesday, Dimon noted that JPMorgan's Chinese operations and the CCP were both celebrating their 100th year anniversary in 2021 and said he would bet that the bank would outlive the party, according to Bloomberg.

Brazen shoplifting schemes sweep the U.S.

San Francisco's Union Square. Photo: Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images

As the holiday season gets underway, groups of thieves have undertaken brazen shoplifting exploits at stores across the U.S.

Why it matters: Organized retail crime costs retailers on average $700,000 per $1 billion in sales annually, per estimates from the National Retail Federation, and companies are blaming store closures and profit dips on the shoplifting scourge.

Weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level since 1969

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Approximately 199,000 Americans filed initial claims for unemployment insurance‌ last‌ week, a 71,000 decrease from the week before.

Why it matters: The Labor Department said Wednesday it was the lowest level of initial claims since Nov. 15, 1969, when claims reached 197,000.

Nov 24, 2021 - World

New Zealand to reopen to vaccinated foreign travelers from April

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a news conference at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, on Monday. Photo: Mark Mitchell - Pool/Getty Images

New Zealand will reopen to most international travelers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 next year, in a gradual lifting of border restrictions that have been in place since March 2020.

Why it matters: NZ imposed some of the world's toughest pandemic measures and largely contained the virus to managed hotel quarantine facilities for returning New Zealand residents. Its economy had rebounded before Delta arrived in August and domestic restrictions returned.

FAA: 8 unruly passengers face more than $160,000 in fines

Photo: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Eight airline passengers are facing fines totaling more than $160,000 for violations of alcohol and face mask rules aboard planes — including an individual penalty of over $40,000.

Why it matters: There have been more than 5,000 unruly passenger reports this year — including nearly 3,800 mask-related incidents, according to the latest figures from the Federal Aviation Administration, which proposed the latest fines.

Best Buy sees spike in shoplifting, pressuring profits

Best Buy is the latest retailer — joining Kroger and others — to say "organized crime" is weighing on its bottom line.

Why it matters: Companies say profits took a hit for all sorts of reasons. It's not every day that theft is a scapegoat.

Jury holds pharmacies responsible in groundbreaking opioids case

Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A federal jury said Tuesday that Walgreens, CVS and Walmart recklessly distributed pain pills in two Ohio counties and played a hand in the hundreds of overdose deaths that plagued the communities, AP reports.

Why it matters: It's the first verdict for pharmacy companies in a case involving the opioid crisis, per AP. The verdict — with a judge set to rule on damages this spring — could set a precedent for other local governments that seek to hold pharmacies accountable.

Most things at The Dollar Tree will now cost $1.25

A Dollar Tree store in Bowie, Maryland. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Dollar Tree will raise prices from $1 to $1.25 on most of its products by the end of April, the company announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: Dollar Tree, which has sold products at $1 for 35 years, was among the last of the major U.S. dollar store chains to retain its $1 price. The change is a reflection of the pressure on low-cost retailers amid rising inflation, CNN notes.

Chile's future government will fall on a political extreme

A voter casts her ballot during national elections on Nov. 21, 2021 in Arica, Chile. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Chile's centrist candidates were completely shut out in Sunday's first-round vote, which now heads to a runoff election between a far-right and a far-left candidate.

Why it matters: The outcome of the second round of voting on Dec. 19 will have repercussions for an increasingly polarized Chile and how the country's economy, which is supported by key natural resources such as copper, is handled.

Nov 23, 2021 - Economy & Business

The pandemic put STAT on the map

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

STAT had a banner year in 2020, and executives say they expect continued growth for the foreseeable future.

Why it matters: "I've never for a moment worried about a post-pandemic dip because the past two years catapulted us into a whole new league in terms of readership, reach and our brand identity," said STAT co-founder and executive editor Rick Berke. "There's no turning back from what we were pre-pandemic."

Notorious hedge fund sparks panic about death of local news

Reproduced from UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media; Chart: Axios Visuals

Lawmakers, local reporters and journalism advocates are sounding the alarm over a takeover attempt of local newspaper group Lee Enterprises by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund known for cutting journalists at local papers to maximize profits.

Why it matters: Roughly half of America’s daily newspapers are already controlled by investment groups. Alden's takeover would make it a clear majority.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Nov 23, 2021 - Economy & Business

Elliott wins the Athenahealth battle (again)

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Jonathan Bush sounded improbably chipper when we spoke, in the wake of Monday's news that Athenahealth would be sold for $17 billion by the activist hedge fund that had forced him out of the company he founded.

  • "I knew you'd be calling, so I picked an unnecessary argument with my wife to get it all out first," he said.

"Pokémon Go" maker Niantic now worth $9 billion

illustration a Pokémon Go logo. Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Niantic, an S.F.-based maker of augmented reality games like "Pokémon Go," raised $300 million from Coatue at a $9 billion valuation.

Why it matters: This is about the metaverse that Meta isn't interested in building.

Nov 23, 2021 - Technology

Washington Post taps its former CMO to lead tech division

Photo credit: Jackie Hicks, Photo courtesy of The Washington Post

The Washington Post has hired Miki King — the company's former chief marketing officer, who most recently served as the President of Genius Media Group — to run The Post's Arc XP software arm.

Why it matters: The hire underscores The Post's commitment to growing its software arm as a significant revenue stream to support its journalism.

Authentic Brands Group, after buying Reebok, raises $3.5 billion

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Brand management firm Authentic Brands Group on Monday announced that a group led by private equity firms CVC Capital Partners and HPS Investment Partners acquired a significant ownership stake at an enterprise value of $12.7 billion.

Why it matters: The lofty price tag and the deal's structure are a departure from the kind of traditional leveraged buyouts that have been prevalent in the retail sector.

Nov 23, 2021 - Health

Private equity firms buy Athenahealth, again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Private equity firms Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman acquired Athenahealth, an electronic health records vendor for physician practices, for $17 billion.

Why it matters: This is one of the largest leveraged buyouts of the year, and it means the previous private equity firms that took Athenahealth private in 2018 — Veritas Capital and Evergreen Coast Capital, a subsidiary of Elliott Management— tripled their investment.