DealBook Briefing: Google’s Mea Culpa and Future Murdoch Deals

DealBook Briefing: Google’s Mea Culpa and Future Murdoch Deals

Good Friday morning. We held our annual DealBook “Playing for the Long Term” conference yesterday, which featured some of the biggest newsmakers in business and policy. Here’s what stood out, along with our regular Speed Read news roundup at the bottom. (Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here.)

Google’s C.E.O., Sundar Pichai, issued an apology of sorts as his employees held walkouts around the world to protest how the company had handled accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

“It’s been a difficult time,” he said yesterday. “There’s been anger and frustration within the company. We all feel it. I feel it too. At Google, we set a very high bar, and we clearly didn’t live up to our expectations.”

The company gave male executives accused of sexual misconduct millions of dollars in exit packages, according to an article in the NYT last week. Yesterday, Mr. Pichai said that the company had “drawn a very hard line” on inappropriate behavior in recent years, and that Google is now “a different place.”

But, he added, “moments like this show we didn’t always do it right.” He promised that “there are concrete steps coming up,” but hesitated to say that Google had a toxic culture. “Sexual harassment is a societal problem and Google is a large company,” he said. “We are definitely doing our best.”


Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin in New York, and Michael J. de la Merced and Jamie Condliffe in London.


“I never thought we’d sell the TV studio, the film studio, so who knows?” Mr. Murdoch responded. In the next breath, he said of his father: “He loves journalism. He loves The Wall Street Journal and what it represents.”

He also defended Fox News against criticism that it’s a red-state media organization. “We program to everyone,” he said. “It’s to the coasts, but also everywhere in between.”

Padma Lakshmi believes in redemption for men brought down in the #MeToo era.

But that redemption should come from genuine remorse over the impact of one’s actions, Ms. Lakshmi, the host and an executive producer of “Top Chef,” said yesterday — and shouldn’t be driven by a man’s being good at a job. “Their talent is not somehow a pass,” she said at the conference. “It does not exempt them from really having to be disgraced, because what they did was disgraceful.”

Ms. Lakshmi, who wrote an NYT Op-Ed in September revealing that she had been raped at the age of 16, also said that “we need to stop equating aggression and masculinity because I think that’s a big part of it.”

“I would say that we’re pretty compliant,” Lloyd Blankfein, who stepped down as C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs last month (but is now senior chairman), said yesterday.

He was responding to a question about federal criminal charges filed hours earlier against two former Goldman investment bankers over their role in a Malaysian government fund from which about $4 billion went missing. The bank has also been criticized for a workplace culture that could have put deals ahead of proper compliance.

“In this case, at the very least, and this part I know, one of our people lied to us and evaded our systems and our controls,” Mr. Blankfein said. “It’s not good.”

For someone who speaks often and loudly about taking a stand and doing good, Larry Fink of BlackRock spends a lot of time thinking about gray areas.

Mr. Fink, the founder, chairman and C.E.O. of the world’s largest asset manager, said that dropping out of Saudi Arabia’s big investment conference last month was a “hard decision.” So was the choice earlier this year to offer investment options stripped of stocks in gun manufacturers and retailers.

“These things are not black or white,” he said yesterday at the conference. But he emphasized that his attention to social responsibility was not a passing fad. “I certainly never did this to be in vogue,” he said. “We’re doing this because we’re being asked.”

Mary Barra, the C.E.O. of General Motors, said at the conference that the company planned to roll out a ride-sharing service that would rely on autonomous vehicles next year, a development that would advance the already-heated race to bring self-driving cars to market.

“We’re on track, with our rate of learning, to be able to do that next year,” Ms. Barra said. The vehicles can currently run safely at speeds of up to about 30 miles per hour, and the service will be limited to a small geographical area, she added.

Ms. Barra did not say where the service would operate, but noted that the company had been testing in San Francisco.

How often does a tweet, a policy action or a statement by President Trump leave Peter Thiel in disbelief? “It doesn’t happen very often,” he said yesterday.

By many measures, Mr. Thiel has impeccable Silicon Valley credentials. But his frequent defense of Mr. Trump has set him apart from much of the tech industry.

At the conference yesterday, he acknowledged that the current political environment was “not healthy,” but said that the country had been “polarized since the late ’60s” and that Mr. Trump was “not the main cause.”

Mark Frissora will step down as C.E.O. of Caesars Entertainment next year.

Barclays named Nigel Higgins of Rothschild as the successor to its chairman, John McFarlane.

John Hammergren will retire as McKesson’s C.E.O. next year.

Bill McNabb will step down as Vanguard’s chairman at the end of the year. He’ll be replaced by the investment firm’s C.E.O., Tim Buckley.


• Carl Icahn sued Dell over its plan to buy out investors in its tracking stock. (WSJ)

• Pfizer is reportedly considering selling its women’s health portfolio of treatments. (Bloomberg)

• Abu Dhabi is said to be planning a series of bank mergers to create two big lenders. (Bloomberg)

• SoftBank’s Vision Fund invested $375 million in Zume, a start-up that uses robots to make pizza. (WSJ)

Politics and policy

• The Justice Department charged the Chinese semiconductor company Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit with stealing secrets from an American rival, Micron Technology. (NYT)

• Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s top economic adviser, said that lifting the federal minimum wage was “a terrible idea.” (WaPo)

• President Trump is expected to name Heather Nauert, the State Department’s top spokeswoman, as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. (CNN)

• Will Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany be remembered for stoic leadership or — as many economists think — disastrous economic policies? (NYT)

• British authorities opened a criminal investigation into a vocal supporter of Brexit, Arron Banks, over his activities in the 2016 referendum on leaving the E.U. (Guardian)


• President Trump reportedly asked administration officials to draft potential terms for a trade deal with China. (Bloomberg)

• The Trump tariffs may be to blame for a slowdown in factory activity. (WSJ)

• America risks losing its global financial influence if it tries to disconnect Iranian lenders from the Swift bank messaging service. (NYT Op-Ed)

• Chasing intellectual property theft might be a better way for the U.S. to fight China than tariffs. (WSJ editorial)


• Silicon Valley start-ups are beginning to wonder if they’re making money for Saudi Arabia. (NYT)

• A cryptocurrency millionaire wants to build a technological utopia on 67,000 acres in the Nevada desert. (NYT)

• Despite announcing record revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter yesterday, its shares fell in after-hours trading, as the company forecast weak holiday sales and said it would stop releasing iPhone sales numbers. Critics say that last point is a big problem.

• Amazon workers in the U.S. have gotten a pay raise — except for contract workers who deliver many of its packages. (Bloomberg)

• Recode, the tech and media news site, is being folded into Vox.com. (WSJ)

Best of the rest

• The editor of a British food magazine resigned after sending an email to a freelance writer about “killing vegans.” (NYT)

• Martin Sorrell, the founder of the advertising giant WPP who retired this year, says he’s out for “revenge” against the company. (Bloomberg)

• WeWork is cutting back on bottomless beer kegs, limiting tenants to just four 12-ounce glasses a day. (WSJ)

• Stuck on hold? You might be able to blame this secret customer score. (WSJ)

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you next week.

You can find live updates throughout the day at nytimes.com/dealbook.

We’d love your feedback. Please email thoughts and suggestions to bizday@nytimes.com.

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