It’s been a difficult week of news. So why not catch up quickly on the biggest stories in business and tech and then give yourself a few hours away from the headlines? Put down your phone, eat a lobster roll, read some Toni Morrison and enjoy these final weeks of summer as best you can.
What’s Up? (Aug. 4-10)
Epstein Dies in Jail
Jeffrey Epstein, the financier indicted on sex trafficking charges that involved girls as young as 14, was found dead by suicide in a Manhattan jail on Saturday morning. Mr. Epstein was known for his opulent lifestyle of private jets, lavish homes and access to elite circles even after he was convicted of sex crimes in 2008. (At the time, he managed to avoid federal criminal charges and serious prison time after prosecutors brokered a widely criticized plea deal.) Since the new charges were brought against him in May, the case has ensnared two banks that did business with him, Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase, as well as other powerful figures, including Leslie Wexner, the billionaire mogul behind Victoria’s Secret and Mr. Epstein’s most prominent financial client.
Actually, I’ll Just Walk, Thanks
Uber broke two undesirable records last quarter: It posted its largest loss ($5.2 billion) and slowest revenue growth rate. To be fair, a big chunk of that loss came from stock-based compensation that Uber paid its employees after going public (disappointingly) in May. Either way, the numbers don’t look good. Uber’s smaller rival, Lyft, also lost money this quarter, albeit less than predicted. What does this mean for the once-booming business of ride-hailing apps? Diversification may be the best way forward. Uber’s food delivery service, Uber Eats, is doing well. And the company has also been partnering with cities and transit agencies to supplement public transportation.
Barneys Goes Broke
Well, Barneys now knows the pain of wishing it could afford itself. The high-end department store, which once embodied a certain creative, eclectic urbanity but has recently suffered from falling sales, has filed for bankruptcy. It is seeking a buyer and will close 15 of its 22 locations. But its most famous store on Madison Avenue in Manhattan will stay open. And before you ask: No, there will not be a fire sale — at least not yet. “While difficult decisions had to be made, this process will allow us to reset our financial position and maintain our longstanding vendor relationships,” said Daniella Vitale, the store’s chief executive.
What’s Next? (Aug. 11-17)
China Strikes Back
In the trade war between the United States and China, tariffs aren’t the only weapon. Beijing retaliated against President Trump’s latest threats by devaluing its own currency, which helps Chinese factories offset the costs of American levies. And that’s not all: Chinese officials signaled that they are ready to weaken their currency further and stop exports of minerals that are vital for tech products. It’s also worth noting that China’s exports increased last month, despite greater tensions with Washington. Meanwhile, economists predict that the odds of a recession in the United States are rising.
FedEx Dumps Amazon
FedEx announced that it would terminate its ground delivery contract with Amazon at the end of August. This comes two months after FedEx dropped the e-commerce giant from its air cargo services. But this may not do much to hurt Amazon, which is poised to become a FedEx competitor. The company has been beefing up its own delivery capabilities by investing in planes, vans, big-rig trucks and a network of warehouses. And don’t forget: It’s still working on Prime Air, also known as delivery via drone.
A Sweaty Backlash
Some customers of the high-end gym Equinox and the indoor cycling studio SoulCycle were dismayed to learn last week that their pricey exercise habits may be indirectly benefiting Mr. Trump. How? Stephen Ross, a billionaire investor and stakeholder in Equinox and SoulCycle, raised millions of dollars by holding an event for the president’s re-election campaign. Both fitness companies faced boycotts and criticism on social media, where they each released statements distancing themselves from Mr. Ross and his politics. It remains to be seen whether the backlash will make a lasting financial dent, but it reflects growing public objections to the president’s backers, which may also affect their businesses heading into the 2020 election.
Still looking to fill the hole that “Game of Thrones” has left in your Sunday nights? Look to Netflix, which beat out Disney and Amazon to poach the creators of the HBO hit to develop shows and feature films. Google, Tesla, Amazon and other tech companies are continuing to hide quirky (and nerdy) software surprises — known as Easter eggs — in their products, just for laughs. Finally, the dating app Tinder is offering people a boost in their search for love, provided they are willing to pay for it (which, no surprise, they are).
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