Planet Business: Christmas is all around. Alas, so is Brexit

Wallace, Gromit, the new Premier League boss and the ‘Amazon Babies’

Protests on the streets of London. At the time of writing, no one knows what’s going on regarding Brexit, a statement that is, to be fair, quite likely to still apply at the time of reading too. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Protests on the streets of London. At the time of writing, no one knows what’s going on regarding Brexit, a statement that is, to be fair, quite likely to still apply at the time of reading too. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

 

In numbers: More shares, Gromit?

140

Employees of animation studio Aardman, makers of Wallace & Gromit, who will share in a 75 per cent stake in the business under a delightful new employee ownership scheme.

25%

Share that founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton will retain in the business as part of an arrangement to help protect the independence of the Bristol-based bringers-of-joy.

£2.5 million

Aardman’s expected profits this year, helped by selling various rights to new theme park star Shaun the Sheep.

Image of the week: Brexit teetering

Just another day in Whitehall, London, as anti-Brexit protesters blocked the gates of Downing Street on Wednesday. Some were removed by police. On Downing Street itself, Theresa May was busy briefing the cabinet on her Brexit plans, some 874 days after Britain voted to leave the EU. At the time of writing, no one knows what’s going on, a statement that is, to be fair, quite likely to still apply at the time of reading too. Brexit-watchers may remember that UK former Brexit negotiator David Davis said last year that he was “running a set of projects that make the Nasa moonshot look quite simple”, only for a German academic specialising in risk assessment to analyse the claim and conclude that Brexit was actually “incomparably more complex” than the first moon landing, with the key difference that the US was “aware of the complexity of its undertaking”.

The lexicon: Amazon Threat Basket

The “Amazon Threat Basket” is an investment fund populated by stocks assumed to be vulnerable to disruption, if not obliteration, from all-powerful Amazon. The fund manager behind it thinks there has been a “shoot first ask questions later” over-reaction to some retailers and distributors which perhaps aren’t quaking in Amazon’s shadow as much as had been expected – at least, not yet. “It’s like a portfolio of misfit toys,” Abhay Despande, chief investment officer of Centerstone Investors, told Bloomberg, which published a report on a newfound vogue for “underdogs” that trade quite cheaply because they aren’t part of the trendier FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet) gang. Another fund manager, for example, is keen on buying shares in the “Amazon Babies”, or “the babies getting thrown out with the bathwater”.

Getting to know: Susanna Dinnage

In a sign that today’s sports governing bodies are increasingly synonymous with their status as the owners of mega-lucrative media rights, the new boss of the English Premier League is someone whose executive experience has been gained in the cut-and-thrust of the commercial media world. Susanna Dinnage, who will succeed Richard Scudamore to become the league’s third chief executive, is currently global president of Animal Planet, part of the Discovery group of TV channels. She will swap baby elephants and big cats for the thrill of packed stadiums, manager mind games and the next round of TV rights negotiations. In a previous role as head of Discovery in the UK, the Fulham season ticket holder last year clashed with football rightsholder Sky as the two companies faced off over how much Sky would pay for Discovery’s channels, including Eurosport. Discovery said afterwards that it came away with a “materially better” deal.

The list: Festive marketing weapons

It’s beginning to look a lot like the season for big Christmas-themed TV advertisements in which no amount of sentiment is too much sentiment, and cute animals and awestruck children have their moment in the snow. But what are this year’s favoured selling tools?

1. Iceland’s orangutan: The supermarket hit headlines by sticking its name on an animated Greenpeace video about deforestation. The ad was controversially banned on political grounds, so now it’s unleashing a life-size animatronic orangutan on the streets to make its point.

2. Elton John: This year’s John Lewis star is expected to be the Rocket Man singer, though everyone knows the real hero is the completely unconnected holder of the @JohnLewis Twitter account.

3. The Coca-Cola truck: The soft drinks company is on another pre-Christmas marketing tour with its giant red “holidays are coming” truck, prompting some pushback from anti-obesity campaigners and promises to mostly give away zero-sugar drinks.

4. Kevin the Carrot: Three years in, Aldi is still trying to make Kevin the Carrot happen.

5. Bair bears: Heathrow airport has a couple of seasonal mascots called Edward and Doris Bair who live in Florida most of the time, but fancy coming home for Christmas. To catch up on Brexit, possibly.

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