Greetings from the U.K., where I've been reasonably successful at both getting my hiking boots muddy and not talking about Brexit.
In this week's 1,465-word newsletter (a 5.5-minute read): What happens to a company when the CEO is fired; the stocks of the decade; the shale oil boom; getaway jets; Iraqi debt; and more.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
When a CEO is forced out of a company, a lot of people hope and expect big changes. Much like Inigo Montoya in "The Princess Bride," those people are going to have to get used to disappointment.
Why it matters: It's big news when names like Dennis Muilenburg of Boeing and Travis Kalanick of Uber are forced out of their jobs. But that doesn't mean the company is going to change. The reality is that corporate cultures change slowly if at all.
The mystery of how and why Muilenburg held on to his job for as long as he did can be explained in large part by seeing him less as the cause of the problems at Boeing, and more as a symptom of a bottom-line-oriented corporate culture that dates back to the early 2000s.
Travis Kalanick has now fully severed his ties with Uber, selling all his stock in the company and stepping down from its board — but his influence in the company remains incredibly strong.
Adam Neumann hired almost everybody at WeWork on the basis that it was an exciting and fast-growing technology company rather than a fundamentally stodgy real-estate company. If it is now trying to concentrate on boring things like cash flows, it has a comically ill-suited employee base.
Roger Ailes, the founding CEO of Fox News, was fired in 2016 and died in 2017. Since then, the network has moved even further to the right, and plays a more important role than ever in Republican politics. The Ailes legacy, far from being repudiated, has been strengthened.
The bottom line: Most of the time, executive defenestrations are theatrical events designed to avoid true corporate accountability.
Tech companies dominated the 2010s, with the FANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) helping the S&P 500 return more than 350% over the course of the decade. The index would have done even better had it included Domino's Pizza, which is also a tech company.
Why it matters: These companies don't look like the tech firms of earlier decades. They don't manufacture computer hardware; neither do they sell software. They don't even make high-tech planes, like Boeing, or high-tech cars, like Tesla.
The bottom line: The 2010s were the decade when the concept of "the tech stack" entered popular culture. Every company plays somewhere in that tech stack, which makes every company a technology company. In the 2020s, it's safe to assume, either the "tech company" designation will become refocused, or else it will lose all meaning.
Shale dominated the 2010s, even more than the iPhone or cloud computing. That's the claim made by blogger and investment adviser Josh Brown, who sees the U.S. shale boom causing a collapse in energy prices that had enormous economic and geopolitical consequences.
By the numbers: The U.S. currently produces roughly 12.7 million barrels of oil per day. That's an all-time high, and is more than double the 6.1 million expected 1o years ago.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
"A long-range Bombardier business jet left Kansai International Airport near Osaka — about a six-hour drive west from Tokyo — on Sunday at 11:10 p.m. Traversing Russian airspace, the plane arrived Monday morning at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, according to flight-tracking data. A smaller jet operated by the same company, Turkey-based MNG Jet Havacilik AS, left the airport for Beirut just over half an hour later."— The Wall Street Journal on Carlos Ghosn's escape from Japan
Carlos Ghosn, the indicted former chief of Nissan and Renault, has escaped from a highly-restrictive house arrest in Japan and is now back home in Lebanon. No one knows exactly how the exfiltration happened, but it almost certainly involved two different private jets — one flying from Japan to Turkey, and another flying from Istanbul to Beirut.
My thought bubble: Ghosn's year-end escapade ratifies the status of private jets as signifiers of stateless impunity.
When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, it was taking control of the most indebted nation in the world. Iraq's debt at the time was an astonishing $130 billion, and the eradication of that debt was a rare example of international unity and cooperation in the interests of a debtor country.
The big picture: Iraq had very few debts before the Iran-Iraq war of 1980–1988. Western countries armed Iraq during that war, and accepted IOUs for their weapons despite knowing that Iraq was already insolvent.
After the war, the UN took the extraordinary step of immunizing all of Iraq's assets from attachment by creditors. That put Iraq in an extremely strong negotiating position, and ultimately the country managed to persuade creditors to accept a reduction of 80% in the value of their debts.
Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images
French government officials will begin talks with labor unions on Tuesday to end the country's longest transport stoppage since the mid-1980s, Axios' Courtenay Brown writes.
Why it matters: It's been 29 days since transportation workers in France starting striking in protest of President Macron's proposal to overhaul the pension system.
Ralph Johnson's 100 North Riverside Plaza is a 1990 skyscraper on the Chicago River, built to house the headquarters of Morton Salt.
Boeing bought the building in 2005 for about $200 million, after pocketing some $63 million in public incentives to relocate its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago.
Of note: Boeing's decision to relocate to Chicago was made in 2001, and announced with a peculiar PR stunt — a Boeing plane took off from Seattle, and whichever city it landed in (Dallas, Denver or Chicago) would be the company's new HQ.