A women-only island, abandoned takeovers and special training at Starbucks

Planet Business: Martin Sorrell’s golden goodbye and Bill Gates’s hopeful outlook


Image of the week: Banquet Bill

Apart from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s ongoing efforts to combat a resurgence in malaria, there weren’t any major headlines concerning Bill Gates this week, but this is just a nice picture of the Microsoft founder, looking simultaneously hopeful and sad as he arrives in his tux for a Commonwealth Business Forum Banquet in London.

Gates used the event at the fancy-pants Guildhall venue on Tuesday to advocate for greater investment and innovation in techniques to track mosquitoes by satellite, as real-time surveillance will help tackle geographical spikes in the disease.

The world’s second-richest man also told the BBC that greater regulation of the tech sector, though bound to happen, should be done “in a thoughtful way” with co-operation and alignment between countries. It might be a little too optimistic to expect Britain to manage “alignment between countries” at the moment, but it’s good to have goals.

In numbers: Sorrell’s golden goodbye


Years that Martin Sorrell had been at the helm of advertising giant WPP, one-time maker of wire baskets, before he stepped down at the weekend amid an investigation into somewhat mysterious “personal misconduct”. He was the longest-serving chief executive of a FTSE 100 company.

€23 million

Value in euro of the payouts that Sorrell is expected to collect over the next five years under a deal he has struck to leave the company – a move that is predicted to lead to its break-up.

£200 million

Sum that Sorrell has collected via WPP in often controversial pay and lucrative reward schemes over the past five years. He denies the alleged financial improprieties that triggered his exit.

The lexicon: SuperShe Island

Welcome to SuperShe Island, a forested, 8.4 acre island in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Finland that boasts four newly renovated cabins that can accommodate up to 10 women. Yes, that’s right, it’s a literal no man’s land, set up by entrepreneur Kristina Roth, a computer scientist who was so fed up with a certain “hey, blondie” tech-bro culture, she set up a female-only resort equipped with saunas and spa facilities for women who “just want a break”.

Open to public bookings from June, it’s not a cheap getaway, by any means, and yoga may feature a little too prominently for some tastes, but otherwise it sounds like a very peaceful form of high-level female networking and definitely not the opening 15 minutes of a horror movie.

Roth has declared that she wants to “unite badass women from around the world”, and if they want to hang out on an otherwise deserted island to “recalibrate without distractions”, so much the better. Warning: may contain “daily wellness activities”.

Getting to know: Kevin Johnson

Kevin Johnson has marked the anniversary of his first year as chief executive of Starbucks by ordering the closure of 8,000 US cafes for one afternoon next May for some unconscious-bias training – specifically, how not to succumb to unconscious (or indeed conscious) bias.

Last weekend saw protesters congregate outside a Philadelphia branch to chant “a whole lot of racism / a whole lot of crap / Starbucks coffee is anti-black”, after two black men were arrested for the crime of sitting at a table without having ordered.

While the manager who called the police has now parted company with the coffee chain, Johnson has been busy trying to get ahead of the PR crisis, personally apologising to the men (who were waiting for a friend), acknowledging that the event was “reprehensible” and stressing his accountability: “This is not who we are, and it’s not who we’re going to be.”

The list: Abandoned takeovers

Shopping centre owner Hammerson has pulled back from its massive £3.4 billion (€3.9 billion) takeover of another shopping centre company, Intu, in a deal that would have created the biggest property group in the UK. The flirtation joins the list of proposed mergers that never quite made it across the finishing line.

1. 21st Century Fox and Time Warner: In 2014, Murdoch’s company made an offer for Time Warner in a deal that would have brought Sky and HBO together, but it was rebuffed.

2. Microsoft and Yahoo: The Windows company almost got hitched to Yahoo in 2008 for almost $50 billion, but Yahoo said that was too low. Verizon last year bought Yahoo for, um, less than $5 billion.

3. Pfizer and AstraZeneca: It what was possibly the largest drug deal to ever turn sour, pharma giant Pfizer walked away from its proposed takeover of AstraZeneca after its approach was rejected.

4. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton: The mining mega-merger was scrapped in 2008 in the midst of global financial market turmoil and a collapse in commodity prices.

5. Broadcom and Qualcomm: None other than Donald Trump put the kibosh on this mooted union of chipmakers, with an order citing “credible evidence” that Singapore-based Broadcom’s control of US-based Qualcomm might threaten the US’s national security - and that’s his job.