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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Ex-Juul CEO Kevin Burns is in advanced talks to join SoftBank-backed digital pharmacy Alto, Axios has learned from multiple sources.

Why it matters: He'd be going from a company that was the scourge of public health officials to one that seeks to become an integral part of America's health care delivery system.

Résumé: Burns was a private equity executive with TPG Capital until leaving in 2014 to become president and COO of Greek yogurt company Chobani. He took over e-cigarette maker Juul in late 2017, before stepping down last September.

  • During his time at Juul, the company faced increased regulatory scrutiny and product bans. He also oversaw its sale of a 35% stake for $12.8 billion to Altria, which since has turned into an albatross around Altria's balance sheet.

Alto Pharmacy was founded in 2015 by Matt Gamache-Asselin, and operates as a digital drug distribution platform whose rivals include Amazon's PillPack.

  • It has raised around $350 million in venture capital, from firms like SoftBank Vision Fund, Jackson Square Ventures, Greenoaks Capital Partners, Olive Tree Capital, and Zola Global. The SoftBank investment was tranched-out, with the second piece coming within the past few weeks.
  • Gamache-Asselin and Burns first began talking as part of a COO search, but one of the job titles now being discussed is co-CEO. A formal board vote is likely within days.

The bottom line: Alto is betting that Burns' operational value will outweigh any blowback the decision prompts from customers, partners and employees.

Go deeper: Altria lost $8.6 billion on its Juul investment in just 14 months

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
24 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Higher education expands its climate push

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New or expanded climate initiatives are popping up at several universities, a sign of the topic's rising prominence and recognition of the threats and opportunities it creates.

Why it matters: Climate and clean energy initiatives at colleges and universities are nothing new, but it shows expanded an campus focus as the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, and the world is nowhere near the steep emissions cuts that scientists say are needed to hold future warming in check.

Ina Fried, author of Login
51 mins ago - Economy & Business

The pandemic isn't slowing tech

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Thursday's deluge of Big Tech earnings reports showed one thing pretty clearly: COVID-19 may be bad in all sorts of ways, but it's not slowing down the largest tech companies. If anything, it's helping some companies, like Amazon and Apple.

Yes, but: With the pandemic once again worsening in the U.S. and Europe, it's not clear how long the tech industry's winning streak can last.

Texas early voting surpasses 2016's total turnout

Early voting in Austin earlier this month. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Texas' early and mail-in voting totals for the 2020 election have surpassed the state's total voter turnout in 2016, with 9,009,850 ballots already cast compared to 8,969,226 in the last presidential cycle.

Why it matters: The state's 38 Electoral College votes are in play — and could deliver a knockout blow for Joe Biden over President Trump — despite the fact that it hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976.