Planet Business: A world of pure reimagination

Singles joy, Disney pain and the politicians who turned company directors

Image of the week: Alibaba Day

Alibaba's annual Singles Day sales extravaganza/mass-scale marketing wheeze remains one of the more intriguing ecommerce stories, and this year's event, held on November 11th, hit a record 268.4 billion yuan (€34.72 billion) in sales – a figure shown being celebrated here at Alibaba Holdings' headquarters in Hangzhou, China. This comfortably exceeds the online sales recorded in the US on Black Friday (which we regret to inform you is coming soon). Alibaba began its work popularising the 1990s-born concept of Singles Day (Guanggun Jie) a decade ago, marketing it as the day when the self-partnered should take pride in their status and most importantly buy a little something for themselves. Now, like Black Friday, it's more of a discount-driven free-for-all. This year, Taylor Swift kicked off proceedings, her numbers including the appropriately titled Me!

In numbers: Disney glitches

$2.6 billion

Sum that the Walt Disney Company invested in the technology to launch its streaming service Disney+.


Number of users who were watching nothing more than error messages in the first few hours of the service after it launched on Tuesday in the US, Canada and the Netherlands, according to outage monitors "The consumer demand for Disney+ has exceeded our expectations," said Disney.


Original new series Disney is promising to add to the platform in its first year. It launches here on March 31st, 2020, technical hiccups permitting.

Getting to know: Roula Khalaf

After a quiet recruitment period of at least half a year, Roula Khalaf, the deputy editor of the Financial Times since 2016, will succeed Lionel Barber in the top job in 2020, becoming the first woman to lead the news publisher. Born in Lebanon, Khalaf was a staff writer for Forbes magazine in New York before joining the "pink paper" in 1995 as its North Africa correspondent, later becoming Middle East editor and foreign editor, among other titles. Khalaf, who briefly appeared as a character in Martin Scorsese's film The Wolf of Wall Street, describes herself on her Twitter bio as a "fan of impossible Middle East drama, mother of two fabulous boys". In her official statement, she thanked Barber ("amateur cyclist" and "Tottenham Hotspur fan") for his mentorship. The Nikkei Inc-owned title inherited by Khalaf is these days not so much about paper (which has never been pink), deriving three-quarters of its paying readership from digital subscriptions.

The list: Politicians turned company directors

Philip Hammond, who in an era of UK politics for which some people are already nostalgic was chancellor of the exchequer, was announced this week as a new non-executive director of Irish packaging giant Ardagh. But which other high-profile politicians have joined the boards of Irish companies?

1. Charlie McCreevy. The former Irish finance minister's post-politics career included a spell on the boards of Ryanair and Sports Direct International.

2. Brian Mulroney. At one time he was prime minister of Canada. Then he was chairman/board member of Independent News & Media. Unrelated fact: His daughter-in-law, Jessica Mulroney, is a close friend of Meghan Markle.

3. Mary Harney. "Having retired from politics in 2011, former tánaiste Mary Harney completely reimagined her career." That's according to, which lists her Irish and international directorships.

4. Dick Spring. The former Labour Party leader is also a serial director, with his stints including six years on the board of AIB.

5. Brian Cowen. The ex-taoiseach was in 2014 appointed to the board of Topaz (now Circle K), which was owned by billionaire Denis O'Brien at the time. He left it two years later.