Axios Closer

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February 09, 2022

🛰️ Happy Wednesday! One day, you're on top of the world. The next day, you're one of the 40-some brand-new SpaceX satellites that got zapped in a geomagnetic storm.

💿 Situational awareness: Snoop Dogg buys Death Row Records brand from Blackstone-controlled MNRK Music Group.

Today's newsletter, edited by Pete Gannon, is 672 words, a 2½-minute read.

🔔 The dashboard: The S&P 500 closed up 1.5%.

  • Biggest gainer? Omnicom (+14.2%), the ad agency group, on strong earnings.
  • Biggest decliner? CVS (-5.5%) on lowered cashflow guidance.

1 big thing: Heaps of it

Illustration of a pair of cupped hands holding a pile of money, with some falling through
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Everyone’s paying up for loyalty — some way more than others, Hope writes.

Why it matters: Anxious employers across all industries have been boosting salaries and benefits. But the size of the paystubs from the biggest banks speak to the way economic inequality has grown over the past two years.

Driving the news: Bonus season is underway on Wall Street, with $10 million to $25 million payouts being some of the largest in about a decade.

  • The biggest investment banks — Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citigroup — shelled out $18 billion more last year in compensation than in 2020.
  • Goldman Sachs specifically spent roughly $500 million in special stock bonuses for 400 top ranking executives, the WSJ reports, while the bonus pool for investment bankers at JPMorgan was about 33% higher than in 2020.

It got us thinking — who else has been bumping up bonuses?

  • While not Wall Street big, Big Tech has been catching up.
  • Apple is reportedly paying $180,000 in stock to keep top employees, while Amazon is more than doubling max base pay to $350,000. 

What they're saying: “These bonuses are idiosyncratic … whereas wage gains [in other areas of the labor market] are a little bit more sustainable and worth highlighting as very positive for workers in the lower end of the income spectrum,” Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, tells Axios. 

What to watch: When employer generosity might wane.

2. Charted: Beer bust

Data: U.S. Department of the Treasury; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Is the beer industry a triumph of consumer-friendly competition or a trustbuster's worst nightmare? It's both, Axios' Neil Irwin writes.

  • The industry has become highly concentrated, with two massive companies accounting for an estimated 65% market share.

The Treasury Department on Wednesday published a report urging vigorous antitrust enforcement — which could affect what Americans drink in the future.

Yes, but: The trade group representing major brewers rejects this, emphasizing instead the remarkable variety of choices.

Read the full story.

3. What's happening

📈 The SEC proposed a plan to reduce the time it takes to execute stock transactions after the meme stock revolution exposed cracks in the system. (Axios)

📺 The Justice Department today approved AT&T's plan to merge its WarnerMedia unit, including CNN and HBO, with Discovery. (Axios)

4. A little less ink

Several magazines are piled on top of each other
Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

Only certain magazines are fit to print.

  • Dotdash Meredith, the digital media company owned by Barry Diller's IAC, is ending the print editions of six Meredith magazines, including Entertainment Weekly, according to a staff memo obtained by Axios' Sara Fischer.

Why it matters: IAC acquired dozens of Meredith titles last year as a part of a $2.7 billion acquisition of Meredith's national media group. At the time, Dotdash execs said they aimed to digitize the magazines.

Details: About 200 jobs "primarily" supporting print operations "will be eliminated."

Yes, but: Dotdash Meredith CEO Neil Vogel pushed back on the move being interpreted as a “nail in print’s coffin," saying print remained core to Dotdash Meredith.

  • People, one of the most widely circulated magazines in America, will still be found on newsstands.

Nathan's thought bubble: As a longtime Entertainment Weekly subscriber, I'm bummed. But it's gotten thinner and thinner over the years as print advertising and subscriptions have dwindled.

5. Right-sized support

A model wearing one of Adidas' new sports bras.
A model wearing one of Adidas' new sports bras. Photo: Adidas

Adidas today says it has “re-engineered” its sports bras, Hope writes.

In addressing the need for an overhaul, Joanna Wakefield-Scurr, a professor at the University of Portsmouth attached to the new products, said in a statement: “A lack of support has the potential to cause irreversible damage.”

Details: Adidas is set to introduce 43 new styles and 72 sizes in stores and online on Monday (which happens to be Valentine’s Day).

Bonus point for discussion: Adidas made waves for the way it announced the news on Twitter today.

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6. What they're saying

"After serious consideration, I strongly believe I can help effectuate positive changes throughout the league."
— Media mogul Byron Allen on his plans to lead a bid to acquire the Denver Broncos. Allen would become the first Black majority owner of an NFL team as the league faces scrutiny for its paucity of Black coaches and executives.