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The Daily Ten – UK economy running out of steam, Waymo’s robo-taxi opens to public, Square buys $50 million bitcoin, Shaquille O’Neal launches a SPAC…

October 9, 2020by Steve NsonNews

The Daily Ten – UK economy running out of steam, Waymo’s robo-taxi opens to public, Square buys $50 million bitcoin, Shaquille O’Neal launches a SPAC…

October 9, 2020 by Steve Nson
Friday, October 9th, 2020

The Daily Ten

1. How Citadel CEO Ken Griffin Built a $1 Billion Private Property Portfolio | WSJ

The billionaire hedge-funder has paid more than $1 billion on a cache of ultraluxury homes from London to New York. What’s behind the ‘unprecedented’ spending?

In the early 1900s, the country’s wealthiest businessmen including William Randolph Hearst and John D. Rockefeller built sprawling, gilded estates. Living at that kind of boundless scale fell out of favor with subsequent generations, however, and these kinds of estates were either subdivided or turned over to the state or to preservationists.

Now, hedge-fund multibillionaire Ken Griffin appears to be mounting a single-handed campaign to bring that level of extravagance back into vogue. Over the past five years or so, Mr. Griffin,…

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2. The UK economic recovery is running out of steam – GDP grew just 2.1% in August despite government support | Business Insider

The UK economy grew by just 2.1% in August, its fourth month of expansion, but the pace of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic was far slower than expected, despite a raft of government measures to help prop up activity, according to data on Friday.

The Office for National Statistics said monthly growth in August was now 21.7% higher than April’s lows, but said the economy was still 9.2% smaller than it was before the pandemic first struck in February this year. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a monthly expansion of 4.6%.

This follows a 6.6% expansion in July.

“Although August 2020 saw the fourth consecutive month of growth it was the slowest rate of expansion since April 2020 and production industries growth was relatively subdued,” the ONS said.

By August, the strict lockdown restrictions that had been in place in the spring had been loosened for two months. Consumers took advantage of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which gave diners 50% off meals, which in part drove the overall expansion in economic activity in August, the ONS said, adding that 65% of the increase had come from accommodation and food and beverage service activities.

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3. Roosevelt Island real estate is booming thanks to COVID-19 | New York Post

“Forget everything you think you know about Roosevelt Island,” said Kaja Meade, who moved her family from Manhattan to the spit of land in the East River in 2012.

The slender, two-mile long expanse tucked between the Upper East Side and Astoria, Queens, is a somewhat obscure neighborhood whose appeal — and sheer existence — leaves some New Yorkers baffled.

“It’s a perplexing notion,” said Meade, a 44-year-old Corcoran broker, of the reactions she gets when she tells people she lives on Roosevelt Island. “There’s always disbelief or abject curiosity. Some people have been here once or never at all.”

Technically a part of Manhattan but also isolated from it thanks to geography, it’s where prisons, hospitals and a lunatic asylum were relegated during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Roosevelt Island only developed into a residential community in the 1970s after Mayor John Lindsay sought to revitalize the area with housing.

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4. Seattle mayor signs minimum wage law for Uber and Lyft drivers in first-ever virtual bill signing | GeekWire

Seattle officially established a minimum wage standard for Uber and Lyft drivers on Thursday as Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the new legislation into law.

The bill, passed unanimously by the City Council last month, is designed to ensure Uber and Lyft drivers earn the city’s $16.39 per hour minimum wage.

The new law requires transportation network companies (TNCs) to pay drivers at least $0.56 per minute when there is a passenger in the vehicle as well as a per-mile rate to cover expenses. The city says that standard will ensure drivers earn at least Seattle’s minimum wage, assuming they spend about 50% of their time waiting for rides or driving to pick up passengers. The minimum compensation standard takes effect on Jan. 1.

The legislation is part of Durkan’s “Fare Share” program introduced in September, which increased a tax on each Uber and Lyft ride this past November. It is the latest in a series of city ordinances targeting the gig economy.

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5. Waymo’s robo-taxi service opens to the public in Phoenix | Venture Beat

(Reuters) — Waymo on Thursday will relaunch and expand its fully automated, robo-taxi ridehailing service in Phoenix, rebooting its effort to transform years of autonomous vehicle research into a revenue-producing business.

Waymo, the self-driving vehicle technology unit of Google parent Alphabet, said it will start offering rides in minivans with no human attendant on board to current members of its Waymo One service in Phoenix. Within a few weeks, Waymo plans to open access to anyone who downloads its smartphone app and wants a ride within a 50-square mile area of Phoenix.

Waymo chief John Krafcik said during a conference call that the company for now will offer only rides in driverless cars. Within a few weeks, Waymo will relaunch service for a larger, 100 square mile swath of the Phoenix area, using Pacifica minivans made by partner Fiat Chrysler.

Some of the Waymo vans in Phoenix will still have attendants on board.

Waymo has not said where or when it will expand its robo-taxi business beyond Phoenix. “You can imagine we’d love the opportunity to bring the Waymo One driver to our home state of California,” Krafcik said.

Before the coronavirus pandemic forced Waymo to suspend operations this spring, Waymo was using vehicles with no human attendant on board to provide five to ten percent out of a total of 1,000 to 2,000 rides per week in its Phoenix service zone, Krafcik said. Rides in fully autonomous vehicles were limited to a small, selected group of Waymo customers.

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6. Amid a boom in SPACs, few women investors | TechCrunch

If you’ve been following the SPAC boom, you may have noticed something about these blank-check vehicles that are springing up left and right in order to take public privately held companies. They are being organized mostly by men.

It’s not surprising, given the relative dearth of women in senior financial positions in banking and the venture industry. But it also begs the question of whether women, already hustling to overcome a wealth gap, could be left behind if the trend gains momentum.

Consider that studies have shown women investors are are twice as likely to invest in startups with at least one female founder, and more than three times as likely to invest in startups with female CEOs. It’s not a huge leap to imagine that women-led SPACs might also be more inclined to identify women-led companies with which to merge and take public.

More, the SPAC sponsors themselves are reaping financial rewards. In return for sponsoring a SPAC in its pre-IPO stage, sponsors typically receive 25% of the SPACs founder shares, which can mean a lot of money in a short amount of time, given that SPACs typically aim to merge with a target company in two years or less. In fact, even if the SPAC performs terribly — say the company with which it merges is later accused of fraud — those sponsors get paid.

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7. Former Disney Execs Tom Staggs, Kevin Mayer Teaming With Shaquille O’Neal on Media/Entertainment SPAC | The Hollywood Reporter

On Thursday, a new Special Purpose Acquisition Company called Forest Road Acquisition Corp. filed an S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission seeking to raise $250 million from investors to acquire or merge with a company in the technology, media or telecommunications sectors.

The most notable news for Hollywood, however, is who is behind the SPAC: Former Walt Disney Co. COO Tom Staggs, Disney’s former direct-to-consumer chief Kevin Mayer, and former Disney executive vp Salil Mehta. They are joined by NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, film and TV producer Mark Burg (Saw, Two and a Half Men), former Focus Features CEO Peter Schlessel, Martin Luther King III and executives Teresa Miles Walsh and Sheila Stamps.

Finance executive Keith Horn will be CEO of the SPAC with Zachary Tarica serving as chief investment adviser and Idan Shani serving as COO.

Staggs will be a director and chair of the company’s strategic advisory committee, Mehta will be CFO, while Mayer, O’Neal and Burg will be strategic advisers. Stamps, Miles Walsh, Schlessel and King will serve on the SPAC’s board of directors.

Forest Road Acquisition is one of many new SPACs targeting the media, entertainment and technology space. As investors pour billions of dollars into these blank check firms, the question remains as to whether there are enough attractive private companies to take public through the SPAC process.

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8. JPMorgan Pledges Billions in Spending to Fix Racial Wealth Gap | Bloomberg

JPMorgan Chase & Co. committed billions of dollars to help advance racial equity, including a pledge to underwrite home loans for Black and Latinx borrowers and changes to how its own executives’ progress on diversity is evaluated.

Among the plans announced Thursday, the bank said it would spend $8 billion to originate 40,000 mortgages for Black and Latinx households over the next five years. It originated $4.2 billion of such loans last year, according to U.S. government data. The $8 billion is on top of its normal lending, a spokeswoman said.

“We can do more and do better to break down systems that have propagated racism and widespread economic inequality, especially for Black and Latinx people,” CEO Jamie Dimon said in the statement. “It’s long past time that society addresses racial inequities in a more tangible, meaningful way.”

The changes are the culmination of months of discussions about how to address racial inequity sparked by this summer’s nationwide protests in the U.S. after the police killing of George Floyd. JPMorgan and other big U.S. banks have been pressured to help remedy race-based economic gaps the industry helped create. Firms including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. have promised to improve diversity among their own ranks.

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9. Renders of Google’s gigantic San Jose campus show how it could feel more like a neighborhood | The Verge

The approximately 79-acre campus will have office space, housing, parks, and more

Google is planning to build a gigantic new “Downtown West” campus in San Jose, and the company has shared renderings that give an idea of what that space could look like (via CNBC). Google intends to make the approximately 79-acre area feel less like a traditional corporate campus by creating a mixed-use development with office space, housing, parks, retail space, and more.

One render is the image we’ve included at the top of this post, which represents something Google is calling the “Gateway.” The proposed space would have a plaza for pop-up events as well as an amphitheater that could be used by both Google and the broader community.

Below is a render for a peaceful-looking area called the Creekside Walk, a walkway near a the VTA light rail corridor which would be “inspired and framed by Los Gatos Creek.” It looks like it could be quite nice to stroll through:

And the “Meander” is something that Google is referring to as an “urban promenade,” an area that would be closed to cars and have a lawn for hosting events, screenings, and other performances.

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10. Square buys $50 million in bitcoin, says cryptocurrency ‘aligns with company’s purpose’ | CNBC

Payment company Square is buying a large block of bitcoin, an unusual use of corporate cash.

Square said Thursday it bought 4,709 bitcoins, worth approximately $50 million. This represents about 1% of Square’s total assets as of the end of the second quarter of 2020.

“Square believes that cryptocurrency is an instrument of economic empowerment and provides a way for the world to participate in a global monetary system, which aligns with the company’s purpose,” the company said in a release.

The price of the digital currency has risen to around $10,724 from $7,100 in January, according to industry site CoinDesk, in a year roiled with the coronavirus pandemic. The digital currency did drop below $5,000 during the recession in March.

“We believe that bitcoin has the potential to be a more ubiquitous currency in the future,” said Square’s Chief Financial Officer, Amrita Ahuja, in a release. “As it grows in adoption, we intend to learn and participate in a disciplined way. For a company that is building products based on a more inclusive future, this investment is a step on that journey.”

Square founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey, is a advocate of the digital currency, saying in 2018 the cryptocurrency will eventually become the world’s “single currency.” However the founder of Twitter said it could take a long as a decade.

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