Rihanna delivered a memorable performance.Credit…Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
N.F.L. fans are still buzzing about the Kansas City Chiefs’ down-to-the-wire Super Bowl LVII victory, and the questionable defensive holding call that extended the game-winning drive. From Rihanna to Elon Musk, there were plenty more headlines to emerge from the game.
The big drama started at halftime when Rihanna took the stage. Fans were hoping it would signal the start of a big commercial comeback for the multiplatinum-selling artist and fashion trailblazer. Instead, she made history in a completely unexpected way: She revealed she’s pregnant, and then proceeded to give one of the most memorable — if not most talked-about — Super Bowl performances ever.
“In essence, the event was her appearance,” wrote The Times’s Jon Caramanica. “There were no guests, despite the frequency and power of her collaborations. No costume changes, despite her standing as a fashion innovator.”
Disney bought Super Bowl ad time to commemorate its 100-year anniversary — and got panned. The ad celebrated the “passionate pursuit of excellence” of the company’s founder Walt Disney, said Bob Iger, its back-from-retirement C.E.O., and also touted upcoming movie releases. But critics slammed Disney for taking “a victory lap” — which didn’t come cheap with Super Bowl ad rates hitting a new record — on the heels of 7,000 layoffs.
Here’s what else generated chatter:
One of Tesla’s biggest critics sponsored a Super Bowl ad assailing the safety of the carmaker’s self-driving vehicles. Elon Musk may have missed the ad altogether as he was spotted at the game sitting next to Rupert Murdoch, the News Corp chair and C.E.O., an appearance that got plenty of attention on Twitter.
One thing missing from this year’s game: crypto ads. Last year was the so-called “Crypto Bowl.” This year: a crypto shutout.
The Servant Foundation ran two ads aiming to promote Jesus and Christianity, part of a $100 million marketing effort. The ads, which carry the message “He gets us,” portray Jesus as an immigrant and activist. The ads’ sponsors reportedly received funding from conservative donors who have opposed L.G.B.T.Q. rights.
Super Bowl week is also renowned for its party scene, a prime place for celebrities, athletes, marketers and dealmakers to connect and maybe do business. This year was no exception. Tim Cook was spotted at a party thrown by GQ and Gucci, while Serena Williams and Brian Cox headlined a bash thrown by Michelob Ultra and Netflix, The Times’s Joseph Bernstein reports.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
The U.S. downs a fourth unidentified flying object over Michigan. That makes three takedowns since Friday. Adding to the mystery, Pentagon officials have disclosed little about the origin of the crafts. Meanwhile,China says 10 U.S. balloons have floated over its territory in the past year.
Builders in Turkey face arrest as the earthquake death toll rises. As pressure mounts on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who’s up for re-election in May), Turkish authorities have begun detaining contractors with ties to collapsed buildings. In 2019, Erdogan campaigned on an amnesty that forgave construction violations.
Meta layoffs are reportedly causing internal slowdowns. C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to make the company leaner and more efficient in 2023, but some insiders told The Financial Times that “zero work” is getting done amid uncertainty about more cuts.
Gautam Adani’s conglomerate will reportedly halve its growth target and cut capital investments. The Bloomberg report weighed on shares in all 10 listed firms connected to the Indian tycoon, as investors worry about the group’s debt load and cash flow amid fraud accusations by a U.S. short seller.
Regulators direct Paxos, a Binance partner, to stop minting the BUSD stablecoin. The move, by the New York Department of Financial Services, comes as the S.E.C. plans to sue Paxos for violating investor protection rules, The Wall Street Journal reports. Cryptocurrency prices were lower on Monday.
Benioff’s ‘Ohana’ credo faces a test from activists
Mark Benioff has long believed Salesforce, the company he co-founded, could deliver big returns for shareholders and society at large. With the stock underperforming and activists swarming, Benioff’s model has never been more under threat, The Times’s David Streitfeld reports.
Mr. Benioff’s big test starts now. The nomination window opened on Sunday for activist investors to put forth nominees to the board, and it closes March 14. There are five activist investors in total, with Elliott Management the most active of the bunch. So far, it’s been working behind the scenes with Salesforce, DealBook has learned.
Headwinds at Salesforce are numerous. In November, the enterprise software giant announced the surprise departure of its co-C.E.O. Bret Taylor. It also lowered its guidance for the year as clients pulled back on technology spending. To fend off activist investors eager to see greater profits, Salesforce has appointed three new board members, including ValueAct’s Mason Morfit.
Mr. Benioff’s vision of workplace harmony is under scrutiny. Last month, Salesforce said it would lay off 10 percent of its staff, a decision that may improve the bottom line, but also seemed to contradict the company’s “Ohana” credo of one big happy family. “The reality is when you have a big company with 80,000 employees, there are going to be times you have to make a head count adjustment,” he said, adding that the layoff packages, which included nearly five months’ pay, were “some of the most generous ever.”
After the layoffs, Mr. Benioff went to French Polynesia for a 10-day digital detox.
He still believes he can be a force for good. “You’re not going to be happy if you’re not giving to others,” Mr. Benioff said. “A lot of my tech peers are extremely unhappy.” Mr. Benioff talked about his grandfather, Marvin E. Lewis, a San Francisco trial lawyer and politician who was a major force behind BART, the regional transit system. “He was in business as a lawyer but made the world a better place,” Benioff said.
But others aren’t buying his message. “Marc makes himself a target for criticism by positioning himself as much more than a rampant capitalist tech bro,” said Joshua Greenbaum, a software industry analyst with Enterprise Applications Consulting. “But if you don’t want your company to pay taxes” — Salesforce paid no tax, legally, on billions in corporate income — “what right do you have to lecture people on how to make the world better?”
Goldman’s Solomon rethinks jobs cuts
Goldman Sachs’s decision to lay off 3,200 employees last month, its biggest purge since the 2008 financial crisis, is still weighing on its chief executive, David Solomon.
Mr. Solomon has said he should have made the job cuts sooner and cut back on investments, as it became apparent to him that a wider economic slowdown was coming, The Financial Times reports.
“As the environment was growing more complicated in Q2 of last year, every bone in my body believed we should be more aggressive in slowing hiring and reducing head count,” Mr. Solomon told some 400 partners at the bank’s annual summit in Miami last week, according to a person with knowledge of the remarks.
There were times last year when Mr. Solomon expressed more pessimism than Goldman’s own economists about the U.S. economic outlook. The company reported a steep drop-off in profits in 2022 as the market for deals dried up, hitting its investment banking division particularly hard.
Solomon also said that repeated leaks to the media were doing damage to the bank, a point confirmed by a bank spokesperson, who told The F.T.: “I heard the same message from our partners all week.”
The week ahead
It will be a packed calendar for economic data and corporate results this week. Here’s what to follow:
Monday: The European Commission posted its winter forecast this morning, saying the eurozone economy will avert recession as the cost-of-living crisis eases. Palantir reports fourth-quarter results.
Tuesday: The Bureau of Labor Statistics is scheduled to publish the Consumer Price Index reading for January, which is expected to show that headline prices rose 6.2 percent on an annual basis. The next Bank of Japan governor could be named as soon as Tuesday. Kazuo Ueda, a monetary policy expert, is expected to get the job. On the earnings front: Airbnb, Coca-Cola and Adani Enterprises.
Wednesday: U.S. retail sales and British C.P.I. cap off a big day for economic data. Cisco, Glencore, Roblox and Zillow report.
Thursday: Nestlé, DoorDash, Airbus and Marathon Oil are among the big names to report.
Friday: Hermès, Deere and Allianz deliver results.
THE SPEED READ
The secretary general of OPEC urgedenergy giants to invest $500 billion annually to meet global needs. Meanwhile, flush with record profits, U.S. oil and gas companies are expected to embark on an M&A boom this year. (Bloomberg, FT)
Credit losses, a sliding share price, a customer exodus — six data points that reveal Credit Suisse’s business prospects for 2023. (FT)
“DeSantis Declares Victory as Disney Is Stripped of Some 56-Year-Old Perks” (NYT)
Mayor Adams’s planned remake of Fifth Avenue pits high-end retailers against transportation advocates. (Politico)
Top Republicans are mulling budget cuts to all but Medicare and Social Security. (Reuters)
Senator Bernie Sanders has the power to summon corporate leaders to testify before the Senate — and his wish list includes Jeff Bezos and Howard Schultz. (NYT)
Best of the rest
Companies like Colgate and Unilever operating in Russia face big challenges — including the cost of leaving. (Bloomberg)
“Amazon Changes at Zappos Slowly Dismantle Tony Hsieh’s Legacy” (WSJ)
A couple whose fortune was made selling vitamin supplements and anti-aging cream tried to turn their yacht into a tax break. It cost them plenty. (WSJ)
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