Johnson’s retreat, WeWork woes and Mark Carney’s successor

Planet Business: When all else fails to impress ... why not hire a clown?

Invisible man: Boris Johnson fails to join Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel for a joint press conference. Bettel gestures to an empty podium. Photograph: Joshua Sammer/Getty

Invisible man: Boris Johnson fails to join Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel for a joint press conference. Bettel gestures to an empty podium. Photograph: Joshua Sammer/Getty

 

Image of the week: Empty podium

It wasn’t the best of trips to Luxembourg this week for Boris Johnson, who failed to show up at a press conference on Monday on the grounds it might attract boos from nearby protesters.

Unluckily for Johnson, aka the self-styled Incredible Hulk, Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel went ahead with it, pointedly gesturing to the empty podium where his UK counterpart should have stood. Reports out of Luxembourg suggest this was not the most embarrassing fumble made by Johnson during his visit, which included talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker over a working lunch of snails, salmon and cheese and a reminder that it’s up to the UK to come up with proposals to replace the backstop. “Before they were in with a lot of opt-outs, now they are out and want a lot of opt-ins,” says Bettel of the UK’s Brexit journey.

In numbers: We Don’t Work

$47 billion: Private valuation given to The We Company, the parent of office sharing venture WeWork, in January.

$20 billion: After investors gave its planned initial public offering (IPO) a cool response, the valuation was slashed by more than half, with some reports putting it as low as $10 billion. The IPO has now been delayed.

$2: Sum that WeWork loses for every $1 it makes. Not, as they say, ideal.

Getting to know: Josh Thompson

Aspiring Australian comedian Josh Thompson was about to have his job at an advertising agency in Auckland, New Zealand, restructured out of existence. So he did what any aspiring comedian would do when faced with the dreaded meeting with his soon-to-be ex-employers: he brought a clown as his legally permitted support person.

In a story first reported by the New Zealand Herald, Joe the Clown blew up a squeaky series of balloon animals throughout the meeting and then mimed crying when the redundancy paperwork was handed over. The entrepreneurial Thompson has since said he planned to use this unorthodox approach to interactions with HR as material for a stand-up set, something that this story going viral surely shouldn’t prevent. He still got fired, but already has a new advertising job, having created one big advertisement for himself in the process. Good work all round.

The list: Threadneedle Street tenure

The Financial Times reports this week that the process to replace ever-patient Canadian Mark Carney as governor of the Bank of England is going very slowly indeed, with no self-respecting candidate wanting to be appointed with an election looming. Who is in the running?

1. Andrew Bailey: The chief executive of the UK’s financial conduct authority has previously served as a deputy governor of the bank. Google also thinks he wrote a book about watercolours, which might be news to the watercolourist Andrew Bailey.

2. Shriti Vadera: Chairwoman of Santander UK, Vadera is a Uganda-born baroness and one of two women said to be on a shortlist.

3. Minouche Shafik: This isn’t the first time that Dame Nemat Shafik, also known as Minouche, has been mentioned in connection with the Bank of England’s top job.

4. Ben Broadbent: One of the bank’s deputy governors, Broadbent (54) last year apologised for his “poor choice of language” after calling the British economy “menopausal”.

5. Jon Cunliffe: A former government adviser and current deputy governor of the Bank has primary and masters degrees in English literature and was once a lecturer in it, which you don’t see every day in the monetary policy arena.

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