Theresa May, the ‘Tulip’ tower and Taylor Swift’s landmark record deal
Planet Business: Also this week, Apple’s slide and an Australian media mega-merger
Theresa May searches for a question she can answer at the Confederation of British Industry conference in London on Monday. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP
Image of the week: Brexit horizon
Seen here searching for an end to the mess, Theresa May appeared to be on a relative high at a London business conference on Monday, having survived a weekend of lame political machinations by the “cakeist” wing of her party. She went on to incense a lot of people by crowing about how her 585-page draft Brexit withdrawal agreement would stop migrants from the EU “jumping the queue” ahead of “engineers from Sydney or software developers from Delhi”, a line that assumes that the latter two will still want to come to the UK and also conveniently omits how British people have, until now, benefitted from the same reciprocal agreement. The light at the end of the Brexit tunnel would be the light from the oncoming train, only sadly the Eurotunnel is likely to be held up by increased customs checks at Calais.
In numbers: Bears and bubbles
Apple’s record closing share price, which it reached on the heady days of October 3rd. Since then, there have been signs that demand for iPhones is slowing down.
Percentage decline in Apple’s share price between October 3rd and this Tuesday, taking the tech stock into official “bear market” territory (meaning it has plunged more than 20 per cent since its peak).
Proportion of analysts covering Apple who recommend buying its shares, according to Bloomberg data. This compares to 91 per cent “buy” ratings for Google-parent Alphabet, 81 per cent for Facebook and 94 per cent for chief Black Friday proponents Amazon.
The lexicon: The Tulip
Add “the Tulip” to a list that includes the Shard, the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater and the Walkie Talkie – all nicknames for London skyscrapers. But unlike those City buildings, there will be no office space in the 305m (1,000 ft) Tulip viewing tower. The planned neighbour for the Gherkin will serve purely as a fancy attraction with sky bridges, internal glass slides and transparent “gondola” pods that glide along the facade of the building for visitors to get the best possible sense of their own mortality. The Tulip will “offer a new state-of-the-art cultural and educational resource for Londoners and tourists”, according to architects Foster + Partners. “Stop the fantasy, this is not the UAE!” is just some of less enamoured feedback, courtesy of one YouTube commenter. The project will be completed by 2025, by which time the Tulip will reign over a glorious post-Brexit city or loom like a giant cotton bud over a wasteland of lost business.
Getting to know: Hugh Marks
Hugh Marks is the chief executive of Australia’s Nine Entertainment, the company behind the television network Nine and now, following a multibillion dollar merger with Fairfax Media, the man in charge of the Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne’s The Age and the Australian Financial Review. Marks says this redrawing of Australia’s media landscape is about trying “to create a media company of the future and not one of the past”, the theory being that the larger the company, the more able it will be to compete with Google and Facebook for advertising revenues. (One member of the Fairfax family, perhaps unsurprisingly, lamented the decision to lose the Fairfax name.) Marks, according to an interview in the Herald, is “level-headed” (unlike some more “colourful” Australian media executives), “a methodical operator” and “such a strong golfer” that others refuse to play against him.
The list: Historic record deals
Taylor Swift has exited her original country label Big Machine for a deal with music major Universal that gives her the rights to her future recordings. She also used her star power to persuade Universal to agree to distribute the proceeds of any sale of their shares in Spotify to all of their artists. It’s a landmark deal, just like this lot were in their time.
1. Madonna and Live Nation: Her massive 2007 signing with Live Nation was dubbed a “360 deal” as it included the rights to promote her world tours. (Live Nation went on to sign a similar deal with Jay-Z a year later, renewing it for big money in 2017.)
2. Prince and Warner Bros: Prince renewed his relationship with Warner in 1992, allegedly for $100 million, but a year later he was drawing the word “slave” on his face and announcing that he was changing his name to a symbol.
3. George Michael and Sony: The superstar singer regretted his deal with Sony, unsuccessfully suing the label in 1992 amid claims of “professional slavery”. He later came to regret the court case too.
4. The Beatles and EMI: The band did not look back fondly on the financial terms of the deal negotiated by manager Brian Epstein with EMI in 1962. It paid them a pre-decimal penny between them for every single sold and two shillings for every album.
5. U2 and Island/PolyGram: The ego-boosting 1993 deal was said at the time to be worth $200 million, which, if true, would mean it remains one of the highest in music history (the biggest likely to be Michael Jackson’s 2010 deal with Sony). Some days are better than others, as Bono sang on, er, Some Days Are Better Than Others.