Bill Simmons offers a ‘bonkers Silicon Valley court battle’
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Bill Simmons is proving there's life after an acrimonious exit from ESPN and Grantland, the sports site he created. He's got an HBO show and a new site, The Ringer, whose current offerings include a tech divorce that makes his own ESPN leave-taking look downright harmonious. (The Ringer) It's heavy metal Lamb of God versus his Adele. You think your workplace is nuts?
As reporter Kate Knibbs details, it involves Hyperloop One, a transit startup linked to Elon Musk's hopes for supersonic tubes and mass long-distance travel. It just raised $80 million but then was embarrassed by an "initial public test that was essentially a sled rapidly crashing into a mound of sand." Co-founder Brogan BamBrogan (yes, that's his name) quit and is suing four other top executives via a "nasty complaint that reads like the legal version of a sled rapidly crashing into a mound of sand."
There's "corporate ne’er-do-well-ism, nepotism, pay-to-play scams, harassment, a potentially criminal noose, and an aesthetically criminal mustache." It claims one official dated the company's PR vendor, jacked her salary to $40,000-a-month from $15,000, then ditched the deal when their engagement blew up. The same guy allegedly pressured investors to back his own fund, while his brother (the chief legal officer) "strolled through Hyperloop One’s office and placed a hangman’s noose on BamBrogan’s chair" (caught by security cameras, as the story shows).
Knibbs decides this must wind up a movie and offers casting suggestions. Matthew McConaughey is BamBrogan. "Twitchy, steampunk, elaborately mustachioed Matthew McConaughey, wowing audiences with a rambling-yet-poetic monologue about why he changed his name from 'Kevin Brogan' to 'Brogan BamBrogran,' which is something the real Brogan BamBrogan did."
The former vice president of business development, Dr. Knut Sauer, is Owen Wilson. Ethan Chiel, a reporter for Fusion, had tweeted, “The plaintiffs in the Hyperloop lawsuit read like a list of characters in a Wes Anderson movie." Knibbs says Chiel nailed it. "I’m pretty sure Owen Wilson approaches every single role as though his character is named 'Knut Sauer,' so this shouldn’t be a stretch."
And she decides there's need for an added character, though one not mentioned in the actual lawsuit (the company says the plaintiff is "delusional"). It's BamBrogan’s wife, Bambi Liu BamBrogan. Knibbs figures that in a movie version "she will be the secret mastermind manipulating the not-so-angelic investors into discord — an aspiring actress who convinces the poor schmucks at Hyperloop One to fight within ranks in an effort to get her husband to spend more time helping her launch her reality television program Bambi’s World." She'd be played by Lucy Liu.
If Simmons can offers a regular diet of such saga, he'll be in good shape.
Media goes overboard on Trump V.P. search
As George Edwards III, a presidential expert at Texas A&M, reminded me yesterday, “despite the attention the media devotes to the selection of a vice presidential running mate, the selectee rarely affects the outcome of the election.” You'd never know it:
"Donald Trump's vice presidential search turned into a head-spinning melodrama Wednesday as candidates vying for the spot hopped on planes and phones to perform frenzied, last-minute try-outs." (CNN) Then we had, "Looks like Trump might pick Newt Gingrich to be his vice-presidential candidate," "As Donald Trump watches, Mike Pence auditions," "Trump Advisers Split on VP Pick," "Kids are pushing Pence, Trump's gut says Christie. Trump & Christie to talk today," and many more besides.
Oh, then there was news of Gingrich being flown to Indianapolis to talk to Trump on a plane provided by Sean Hannity, the Fox host who has served as unabashed pro bono publicist for both Trump and Gingrich. (CNN) Consider it his contribution to civic journalism. Fittingly, Gingrich appeared on Hannity's show last night and offered a deliciously indiscreet account of his final two-and-a-half interview with Trump in Indianapolis. In his mind, it's between him and Pence. He made the case for both and even wondered whether it's really a good idea to have "two pirates," as he deems both Trump and himself.
A town hall on race
CNN offered a post-mortem this morning on its town hall on race in America last night hosted by Don Lemon. It was a well-intentioned solid effort with a diversity of views articulated with great passion. But, as these things can go, it wandered at times and probably suffered from just having a few too many participants and too many tricky issues flicked at for brief periods. As "New Day's" Chris Cuomo suggested this morning, there was also some pushback on a few of the forum's implicit assumptions, such as the prevalence of negative police interactions. Media may be at fault for exaggerating the situation, he suggested. And, he said, there seems to be the need for "cultural shift" on both sides of a fractious relationship — police and community. For sure. (U.S. News & World Report)
Trump's latest lawsuit
"Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seeking $10 million in damages from former senior campaign consultant Sam Nunberg, alleging that Nunberg leaked confidential information to reporters in violation of a nondisclosure agreement. In a court filing obtained by The Associated Press, Nunberg accused Trump of trying to silence him 'in a misguided attempt to cover up media coverage of an apparent affair' between two senior campaign staffers." (Associated Press) Those two would appear to be former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and spokesman Hope Hicks, according to this legals saga.
Never-before seen photos
The late photographer Diane Arbus said with some truth, "“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them." Her fabled images "centered on people on the fringes of postwar society, with direct gazes that often challenge the viewer, and their perceptions of beauty, head-on." (Vogue) Never before-seen shots from her early years, while living in New York City in the 1950s and early 1960s, are now on exhibition. And if you want a guide from the show's curator, it's right here. (The New York Times)
Did you invest in these guys?
Startup Twilio, which produces cloud communications tools for software developers and is used by Uber and Airbnb to assist customer calls and texts, went public last month at an initial $15 per share. It closed at $42.25 yesterday. So much for the market being cool to tech stocks of late. And if you're CEO Jeff Lawson, you're about $235 million richer, at least on paper. (Business Insider)
In search of millennial women
Refinery29, a digital publisher that's going after millennial women, "has raised a new round of funding led by Time Warner’s Turner unit." (Recode) A year ago it raised $50 million "in a deal that valued the company around $300 million." It's said to have been looking for another $50 million and a $500 million valuation.
Time's new content boss
Alan Murray, a good fellow and longtime Wall Street Journal reporter-editor stalwart, will move from editing Time Inc.'s Fortune and succeed Norman Pearlstine as content boss at the company. (Poynter) There were other big changes, all supposedly meant to help Time "unlock and scale innovation while unifying processes and advertising opportunities critical to our future," according to some corporate gobbledygook from its CEO. (CNN Money)
PolitiFact adds a state
Reboot Illinois, a site focused on the mess that is Illinois government, is partnering with PolitiFact, the fact-checking initiative started by Poynter's Tampa Bay Times. This will be like shooting fish in a barrel, as its joint announcement-inaugural effort showed. Was Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, a private equity moneybags, correct in declaring, “We have lower family incomes in Illinois today than we had 17 years ago?" It's a stretch. "We rate the statement Half True." (Reboot Illinois)
Images of a concert
"It is 45 years since Pink Floyd recorded their seminal live film at the desolate Pompeii amphitheater for a live performance of their album Meddle. David Gilmour returned to perform a one-off concert to a select crowd of about 3,000 people, at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. In fact, he did two shows and photographer Sarah Lee had exclusive access and some alluring images as a result. (The Guardian)
Powerful men and affairs
The latest analysis of a long-ago syndicated radio gig of Donald Trump unearths his praising Hillary Clinton, deriding anti-vaxxers and declaring that "most powerful men have affairs." (The Daily Beast) Three years before Clinton's failed 2008 run, he said, "It’ll be interesting to see how the process ends up...and also to see Bill Clinton as the first husband.”
Pokemon Go update
How many are playing in the U.S.? "For now, our best estimate is about 9.5 million daily active users. Let us explain how we got there." (Recode) That's presumably a rather big cohort for the hot app. But the tsunami of coverage is unceasing, with The Wall Street Journal admonishing us, "‘Pokémon Go’: Why You Should Play. It’s much more than a game — it’s the future of how we’re going to interact with computers." (The Wall Street Journal)