Ron DeSantis
Ron DeSantis

Does Ron DeSantis really think that his brand is bigger than Walt Disney Co.? Can he be that presumptuous?

There are more than 50M reasons why Florida's governor should walk away from his high-profile snit with Mickey Mouse, before things get out of hand.

That’s the number of visitors who visit Disney’s Orlando theme parks each year and underpin the Sunshine State’s tourism economy.

Disney also employs 75K of DeSantis’ constituents and the company plans to add another 13K Floridians to the payroll over the next decade.

But if DeSantis is still mouthing off, Disney may think twice about sticking to its $17B expansion plan in the state.

In Disney’s April 26 lawsuit filed against DeSantis, the company claims it faces a “targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.”

The complaint says DeSantis’ campaign “now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”

Why would Disney expand in such a place?

Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who may run against DeSantis for the Republican presidential nomination, said the Palmetto State would roll out the red carpet for Disney.

Disney, of course, cannot just walk away from the billions in infrastructure that it has in Florida. But it could decide to wait DeSantis out and roll back its expansion plan.

DeSantis’ war on wokeness, which has gone on for more than a year, is getting a little long in the tooth.

It may be more than just a coincidence that DeSantis’ poll numbers vis-a-vis Donald Trump dropped as he escalated the war on Disney.

After a shaky book tour and being mauled by Disney on the PR front, potential donors to a DeSantis presidential campaign are having second thoughts

Trump called DeSantis’ battle with Disney “an unnecessary political stunt.” And he’s a guy who knows all about stunts.

Who is driving Tesla? Tesla CEO Elon Musk is busy these days trying to salvage his investment in Twitter as Chief Twit. Musk is also paving the road to make humanity multi-planetary by colonizing Mars at SpaceX. God knows what Musk is doing at The Boring Company, which he founded to build fast-to-dig underground transportation tunnels to alleviate traffic congestion.

A group of institutional investors in Tesla wants to see more of Elon at the electric carmaker. It wants to meet with the board of directors to discuss its “meager oversight of CEO Elon Musk.”

In their April 21 letter, the investors say the board “has allowed the CEO to be overcommitted at a time when the company faces critical challenges, including increased competition, regulatory scrutiny and a stock slide.”

Though Tesla’s Q1 revenues surged 24.3 percent to $23.3B, its net income tumbled 24.2 percent to $2.5B. Tesla shares trade at $159.65, off from their $318.50 52-week high.

The investors want the board to ensure Tesla has a CEO that dedicates adequate time and attention to the company—either a policy that limits the CEO’s outside commitments or a CEO succession plan.

The NYC Comptroller’s Office, Amalgamated Bank, Socially Responsible Investment Coalition and Sisters of the Good Shepherd are among the groups that want to meet with Tesla’s board by May 25.

The Bed, Bath & Beyond Chapter 11 filing generated a lot of grist for politicos and activists who want to reel in stock buybacks.

The company shelled out $11.8B since 2004 to buy its own stock. CNN notes that a cash-starved company like BB&B, which is closing all of its stores, could have put the money spent for stock buybacks to better use.

The retailer traditionally carried little debt. That changed in 2014. Faced with pressure to boost its stock price, BB&B took on $2B in debt to finance a buyback. The most recent SEC filing shows $5.2B in debt.

BB&B was buying its own stock up until February 2022, when it spent $230M in an accelerated stock purchase program

Sarah Wyeth, a credit analyst for consumer and retail companies at S&P, understands that BB&B has equity shareholders to serve.

“Generally, we would prefer to use their cash flow to invest back in business,” she told CNN. “Even M&A would be less risky than a straight share repurchase.”

Corporate America spent $936B for stock buybacks in 2022. That’s money spent to reduce the number of outstanding shares to boost stock prices, rather than investing in the future.

President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act put a one percent excise tax on stock buybacks.

The president wants to quadruple the tax. Stock buybacks at basket case companies like BB&B make the president’s case.

Take a bow, Larry… BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, a favorite whipping boy of the anti-ESG crowd, enjoys the No. 1 personal brand among the top 150 asset managers, according to the inaugural branding report compiled by Peregrine Communications.

The ranking measures metrics including personal brand awareness, share of voice, media sentiment and social media presence.

Rounding out the Top Five are Nicolas Moreau (HSBC Global Asset Management), Robert Smith (Vista Equity Partners), Mary Callahan Erdoes (JPMorgan Asset Management) and Luke Sarsfeld (Goldman Sachs Asset Management-International).

Though many financial services executives shy away from the media spotlight, leadership changes at big firms such as Bridgewater, Carlyle and New York Life Investment Management generated a lot of coverage.

Peregrine noted that asset management CEOs received more media attention from the CEOs of well-known companies like Starbucks and ExxonMobil.

Max Hilton, co-CEO at Peregrine, said a strong, cohesive personal brand that helps tell a wider authentic story is invaluable in today’s challenging macro environment and conflicting demands of shareholders.

“As the market witnesses a secular shift from ‘business as usual’ communication, it is important for leaders to drive communications through a strategic, data-driven, and multi-channel lens,” he said.

Peregrine advises asset managers on their brands, positioning, and strategic communications.