The Week in Business: WeWork Will Lay Off 1 in 5 Workers

The Week in Business: WeWork Will Lay Off 1 in 5 Workers

Here’s hoping you can avoid awkward political disagreements around the Thanksgiving table this week. (If that’s impossible, check out this guide to diffusing the tension.) Or you could pivot the conversation to the latest business and tech news! You’re welcome.

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

The ax finally fell at WeWork, which announced that it will lay off nearly 20 percent of its employees — about 2,400 people. The company is also expected to cut another 2,000 positions as it sheds divisions and farms out work to cheaper contractors. This grim restructuring is part of a five-year plan by SoftBank, a Japanese conglomerate that took over after WeWork’s catastrophic bid to go public exposed the shortcomings of its business plan and its bombastic executive, Adam Neumann. Following SoftBank’s bailout, Mr. Neumann stepped down with what could be a $1 billion severance package — certainly a much better deal than these other 4,000-plus workers will get.

The weird relationship between President Trump and big tech took an even stranger turn this week when he toured a facility that makes Apple products and then took credit for its existence. He tweeted, “Today I opened a major Apple Manufacturing plant in Texas that will bring high paying jobs back to America.” But the plant has been open since 2013, predating his presidency by three years. Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, didn’t correct the president — perhaps because he needs the White House to exempt Apple from tariffs on Chinese-made components it needs to make its products.

More fallout from the Jeffrey Epstein sex-trafficking scandal: Prince Andrew gave a disastrous interview about his friendship with Mr. Epstein, and later announced that he will “step back from public duties for the foreseeable future.” In related news, the prison guards on duty the night Mr. Epstein committed suicide have been accused of shopping online and sleeping instead of checking on him. And finally, Victoria’s Secret, which got sucked into the Epstein case when Lesley Wexner, the chief executive of its parent company, was revealed as one of Mr. Epstein’s biggest financial clients, has canceled its annual fashion show. The televised cleavage bonanza has been increasingly criticized for objectifying women.

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

Normally, political ads are tailored to people who might be swayed by their messaging. But this practice also enables advertisers to single out small groups with false or misleading information that the broader public never sees — or fact checks. To mitigate that problem, Facebook is in talks to increase the minimum number of people who can be targeted with political ads from 100 to a few thousand. And Google announced plans to restrict microtargeting based on individuals’ browsing histories, public voter records or political affiliations. The company’s decision will begin to affect Britain this week and the rest of the world in the coming months.

General Motors has accused its rival Fiat Chrysler of bribing officials at the United Auto Workers union to get the upper hand in contract negotiations, and will seek billions of dollars in damages as a result. Hours after G.M. filed the lawsuit on Wednesday, the union’s president resigned. Fiat Chrysler said it was “astonished” by G.M.’s charges and suggested that they were intended to disrupt a proposed merger with Peugeot SA, which would result in the world’s fourth-biggest carmaker (slightly ahead of G.M.). Whether or not the lawsuit was intended to scuttle the merger, it could drag on — and roil the auto industry — for years.

After more soft-shoeing around the possibility of a limited, “phase one” trade deal, China’s chief trade negotiator has reportedly invited his American counterparts back to Beijing for a fresh round of face-to-face talks. But tensions between the two countries aren’t exactly improving these days, especially after the Senate drew China’s ire by passing legislation in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. When Mr. Trump was asked about the potential for a deal this week, he told reporters, “I don’t think they’re stepping up to the level that I want.” The existing tariffs (as well as the next round of increases scheduled for December) are expected to put a significant damper on holiday shopping season.

Tesla’s pointy-looking pickup truck — er, excuse me, “cybertruck” — is now available for pre-order, although production won’t begin until late 2021. Thanksgiving turkey prices are at their lowest in nine years, down four percent from last year. And Coty bought a 51 percent stake in Kylie Jenner’s beauty brand for $600 million. The deal makes her the first billionaire in the Kardashian-Jenner family empire, by some estimates.

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