Blue Rings Bell on Fink’s ESG Agenda  

Strive Management’s ideas seem to have spawned another no-name activist taking on titans and adroitly spinning the press. This time it’s Bluebell Capital—known so far for knocking off the CEO of Danone but otherwise not known on this side of the Atlantic, calling for the resignation of BlackRock CEO Larry Fink. While Axios’ Mike Flaherty believes it’s a longshot, Bluebell, with its 0.01% stake, sent Fink a letter in November that just became public. The letter criticizes the firm’s “ESG hypocrisy” according to reporting from FT’s Brooke Masters -- arguing BlackRock claims it has ESG-focused investment principles. But DealBook noted that Blackrock maintains investments in fossil fuel companies and has refused to participate in ESG initiatives led by Bluebell itself.


While it is unlikely the campaign will work, this activist campaign adds to pressure against BlackRock. The firm is being targeted by legislators in protest of ESG principles that lawmakers say push a liberal agenda. A handful of Republican state treasurers have already pulled billions of dollars in state investments from BlackRock. With Republicans set to take control of the House of Representatives, it’s likely more fuel will be poured on the ESG debate fire, with BlackRock, as well as State Street and Vanguard, caught in the middle as Semafor’s Gina Chon notes. 


Meantime, over at the Business Roundtable, CEOs are feeling more glum than glad this holiday season. That’s according to the latest BRT CEO Economic Outlook Index, in which nearly 150 CEOs surveyed in Q4 indicated a weakening view of the economy. The overall Index itself dropped 11 points from last quarter the largest decline since the beginning of Covid.


Despite the doom and gloom, there were bullish signs within the data. The specific indexes the BRT’s Outlook measures all tallied overall declines across the board. However, on employment, 39% of CEOs still expect their company’s hiring to increase in the next six months. Similarly, 40% of CEOs expect their company’s capex to increase in the next six months and 62% expect company sales to increase. Soft landing maybe. 


Have a great weekend,

GPP Team 

Happy Holidays from Gladstone Place Partners! Pictured above at our annual team holiday party.

FEATURED ARTICLES

Axios: Larry Fink's Job is Safe, but BlackRock's Image is Not

Following news of Bluebell Capital’s ESG criticisms of BlackRock and its call for CEO Larry Fink to step down, Axios’ Mike Flaherty unpacks the situation, its impact on BlackRock and why Fink’s job isn’t at risk. Read More

DealBook: An Activist Investor Takes on BlackRock Over E.S.G.

In a double-pronged approach, activist investor Bluebell Capital has attacked BlackRock’s ESG investment practices as hypocritical and overreaching and called for the resignation of CEO Larry Fink. Read More

Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index Declines Further in Q4 

This quarter’s CEO Economic Outlook Index saw an 11-point drop from last quarter and decreases across plans for hiring, plans for capital investment and expectations for sales. The latest data serves as a strong call-to-action from the Chair Mary Barra who called on policymakers to “position America for the strongest economic recovery possible.” Read More

Semafor: Washington Republicans Will Target BlackRock's Climate Push

The Senate Banking Committee released a report attacking BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard for allegedly pushing “liberal social goals” through their investments as tensions rise between Washington and institutions engaged in ESG investing. Read More

ADDITIONAL READINGS & LISTENINGS 

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Regulator Sues Microsoft to Block Activision Acquisition

In a blow to big tech M&A, the FTC has sued Microsoft in an effort to prevent its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard to move forward. Read More

Bloomberg: Activision’s Risk-Reward Tradeoff Defies Microsoft Deal Doubt

Despite increasing speculation that the deal may not be approved, analysts maintain a positive outlook on Activision’s future stock performance should the company remain independent. Read More

Insider: Ticketmaster's Botching of Taylor Swift Ticket Sales 'Converted More Gen Z'ers Into Antimonopolists Overnight than Anything I Could Have Done,' FTC Chair Says

FTC Chair Lina Khan comments that, “Swifties”, a colloquial term for Taylor Swift fans, have brought to light another round of antitrust scrutiny against Ticketmaster, the nation’s largest ticket selling platform. Read More

Axios: GE Buys Out Entire NYT Print Paper in Historic First

The NYT and GE have launched a new branding partnership, culminating in the first ever total buyout of all of the paper’s print advertising space, as well as the majority of the platform’s digital slots, writes Sara Fischer. Read More

Businessweek: The Viral List That Turned a Yale Professor Into an Enemy of the Russia State

Robb Mandelbaum reports on Jeffrey Sonnenfeld—a Yale School of Management professor whose work surrounding business operations in Russia offers only description and not commentary. Mandelbaum argues that this has resulted in a form of “subtle” advocacy. Read More

New York Times: The 'SPAC King' Is Over It

Maureen Farrell profiles Chamath Palihapitiya, one of the biggest champions of SPACs, who blames his companies’ languishing stock prices largely on the fed and strict regulatory measures rather than on the risky nature of the take-public vehicles themselves. Read More

CLS Blue Sky Blog: The Monitoring Role of Social Media

A new study by Harvard Business School Professors Jonas Heese and Joseph Pacelli indicates that the availability and prevalence of social media has played a significant role in decreasing corporate misconduct levels. Read More

Bloomberg: Tesla SEC Deal Ruled Off-Limits in Musk Tweet-Fraud Trial

A judge ruled this week that the settlement Musk paid to the SEC in 2018 over a potential harmful tweet cannot be used against him in an upcoming trial regarding the same post which suitors allege defrauded them. Read More

ESG NEWS

Bloomberg: JPMorgan Reveals Worst Greenwash Risk for Firms: ESG Regulations

As guidelines surrounding ESG disclosures tighten, companies who publish misleading information or do not stand up to the stricter rules will undergo the highest level of scrutiny, reports Lisa Pham. Read More

CEO Daily: Pro-ESG and Anti-ESG Activist Investors Have More in Common Than You Might Imagine

While pro and anti-ESG investors may seem diametric opposites, Peter Vanham and David Meyer argue they have one critical similarity—both want to keep their respective investments away from political debate. Read More

Lex: US Rail Industry: ESG Investors on Track with Better Worker Deal

Although the US government facilitated an agreement last week to avoid a national rail crisis, the fundamental issues which spurred the potential strike remain unresolved. Read More  

FROM OUR DESK TO YOURS


This week, GPPers gathered together for an end-of-year celebration at our CEO Steve’s house—gifts were exchanged, eggnog was sipped and an eventful 2022 was toasted.


If you have some spare time in the coming weeks, check out this year’s winner of the Financial Times’ Business Book of the Year Award, Chip War, by Chris Miller. An in-depth analysis of the global semi-conductor shortage that continues to disrupt international markets, Miller’s account details how the crisis came to fruition, citing factors such as COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical uncertainty.


If semiconductors don’t pique your interest, the award’s runner-up, The Power Law, by Sebastian Mallaby, takes readers inside the rich and nuanced history of the venture capital industry.

PEOPLE MOVES


  • Pinterest announced that Marc Steinberg, Senior Portfolio Manager at Elliot Investment Management, is set to join the company’s board later this month. Read More


  • Stewart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder of Slack Technologies, is exiting the company. Read More


  • Vodafone’s Chief Executive, Nick Read, is set to leave the telecommunications company prior to yearend. Read More



  • Brooke Masters is set to become the leader of US financial services coverage for the Financial Times. Read More
UPCOMING EVENTS

December 13, 2022: Bloomberg Activism Forum

December 13-14, 2022: Yale CEO Summit 

December 14, 2022: Axios Communicators: NYC

January 10-13, 2022: 40th Annual J.P. Morgan Health Care Conference

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