March 2, 2017

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Bloomberg has made room for Sulaiman Al Rajhi but, alas, still not Michael Bloomberg.

The financial news goliath is expanding its Bloomberg Billionaires Index — consider it inescapably engrossing and detailed financial porn — from a daily, fluid listing of the world’s 200 richest individuals to the 500 richest.

That means that, at least on Wednesday, you still had the usual suspects at the top — Bill Gates with a $85.2 billion net worth, Warren Buffett at $77.2 billion and Jeff Bezos at $73.1 billion. But you could also scroll to the bottom of the new and improved list to No. 500, Al Rajhi ($3.61 billion), co-founder of Al Rajhi Bank, the world’s biggest Islamic finance company.

But whether you had a magnifying glass or a team of forensic accountants, you won’t find the company’s founder and patriarch, who would be high-up in the top 10 were he to allow his inclusion. Forbes puts his net worth at $47 billion. But, old list or new, he’s not there in a vivid omission by a journalistically fastidious empire.

Bloomberg’s new and (with that exception) very improved index surfaces with an analysis of those who might be deemed winners and losers since Donald Trump’s election. The research by Brendan Coffey and Jack Witzig concludes that the moguls of China should be smiling, those in Mexico should not.

Indeed, “The 36 Chinese billionaires on the Index have increased their wealth by 13.2 percent — a $39.2 billion increase that’s pushed their combined net worth to $336 billion. Since Nov. 8, the fortunes of the eight billionaires on the list in Mexico have fallen 5.1 percent.”

But it’s all relative. Mexico’s Carlos Slim, who sits at No. 6 on the list with a $50.7 billion net worth, may have lost $4.2 billion since Trump upended Hillary Clinton. But that’s 17 times more than the $3 billion said to be Trump’s worth (he doesn’t make even the new, larger compendium).

Among those on the expanded list are Travis Kalanick of Uber Technologies at No. 215 ($6.6 billion); filmmaker George Lucas at No. 229 ($6.3 billion); Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, who oversees the world’s largest cotton and rice dealer, at No. 233 ($6.3 billion) and whose extended family includes actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus; and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft at No. 416 ($4.16 billion).

Other media members of the previous or expanded list include brothers Si and Donald Newhouse of Advance Publications, best known for the Condé Nast magazines and at No. 80 ($12.9 billion) and No. 95 ($11.9 billion), respectively, and ailing and embattled Sumner Redstone, until recently chairman of CBS and Viacom, who’s at No. 463. ($3.7 billion).

Then you’ve got Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (No. 34), Charlie Ergen of Dish Network (No. 42), Rupert Murdoch (No. 85), Google’s Eric Schmidt (No. 106), Weekly Standard owner and entertainment kingpin Phil Anschutz (No. 119), Jim Kennedy (Cox Enterprises, No. 139), Blair Parry-Okeden (inherited Cox Enterprises wealth, No. 140), Liberty Global Chairman John Malone (No. 150), David Geffen (No. 175), former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (No. 190), Steven Spielberg (No. 287) and Haim Saban (No. 403).

Rob LaFranco oversees a global and headed the expansion, with help from Bloomberg’s digital and data visualization units. Yesterday, there were 171 U.S. billionaires with a total of $1.9 trillion and 329 billionaires from elsewhere with $2.7 trillion.

As for folks whom you might not know, a “biggest movers” feature finds that the top three performing fortunes this year belong to Wang Wei, Yu Hui Jiao and Nie Tengyun, three billionaires in the Chinese parcel delivery industry. Yes, parcel delivery in China.

Little-known Americans? Try Lukas Walton, the 30-ish grandson of the founder Sam Walton and the true owner of the Wal-Mart fortune long attributed to his mother, Christy.

And what, I wondered, about kleptocrats, or those world “leaders” stealing their treasuries blind? By coincidence, during a fine CNN town hall last night with Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the South Carolinian, noted how Vladimir Putin “is estimated to be worth between $40 billion and $60 billion. Either he’s the best money manager in the world or he’s a crook. I think he’s a crook.”

A Bloomberg spokesman says, “Should there be a leader or politician who has built a personal fortune moving cash or other assets out of state control and into their own accounts and we could prove it with credibility, we would count it. Control of state machinery that gives access to the use of wealth doesn’t get counted.”

Ultimately, it’s unfortunate that the name of one very famous, honest and visionary businessman is missing, namely Bloomberg’s founder and boss. But, all in all, it’s a very impressive effort.

Snap’s IPO

The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, first broke word that Snap Inc. would set its initial price offering at $17 a share. That would mean an initial market ap of $19.7 billion, “making it the largest IPO to list in the United States since Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd.” (Morningstar)

It officially announced the price last night and starts trading this morning on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol SNAP.

The biggest Oscars loser

Variety snared photos of PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant Brian Cullinan, the man at the center of the screw-up with envelopes, not only showing him “engaged on his phone shortly before the ‘La La Land’ miscommunication, he’s also photographed mixing two red envelopes backstage alongside (Warren) Beatty and best actor winner Casey Affleck, who had just exited the stage.”

That “would dispute PWC’s official explanation that Cullinan grabbed the wrong envelope from a ‘backup pile,’ and shows he was likely always in possession of both the best actress envelope (which was given to presenter Warren Beatty) and the best picture envelope, the night’s two final awards.”

Yahoo tumult (part 48)

“Yahoo’s top lawyer has resigned and CEO Marissa Mayer was docked of her 2016 bonus following an internal investigation into the company’s handling of massive hacks it experienced in 2014.” (Business Insider)

The hacking news was originally broken by Recode. Those hacks impacted hundreds of millions of individuals and left open lots of personal information “But, said an independent committee, Mayer did mean to run such a loose security ship, noting, it ‘did not conclude that there was an intentional suppression of relevant information.'” (Recode)

Trump speech post-mortems

“It’s as if you bought a ticket to a Sam Kinison show and Garrison Keillor showed up instead. Trump ran and has been governing as Dr. Jekyll and this speech was delivered by Mr. Hyde,” says Kelly Leonard, former longtime artistic director of the Second City comedy troupe. (U.S. News & World Report)

Harry Shearer, the jack-of-many-trades comic/artist/music/writer/producer/voice meister, tells me, “Good first reading. Needs to have about five more rehearsals to nail it.”

Damning revelation or media hyperactivity?

The Washington Post reported last night, “Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.”

Is Sessions meeting with the Russian Ambassador a “communication with the Russians” in context of a question asked about contacts by the Trump campaign? Did he flat-out lie when he said he had no such communications? There was tons of tweeting, including by journalists last night, but, at first blush, it does not appear to be a prosecutable offense.

Trite lead of the day

“Tomahawk in hand, reporters have been hunting Sebastian Gorka, a national security advisor to President Trump, for more than a week. They are scalping themselves instead.”

There have been critical takes on Gorka, a favorite pundit of Fox News, in The Washington Post, The New York Times and, yes, that socialist rag, The Wall Street Journal. But writing in Forbes, Richard Miniter, puts forth the notion that Media attacks on Gorka are “wide-ranging and, seemingly, coordinated.”

You can imagine the Post’s Marty Baron on the phone with the Times’ editor Dean Baquet and the Journal’s editor, Gerard Baker: “Dean, you have 800 words Friday, we’ll go with 1,000 Saturday and include the anti-Semitism stuff ad, Gerry, you have all you want Monday and we’ll email that really ugly photo of the guy.”

Newmark gives $1 million to ProPublica

Craig Newmark, the Craigslist founder, “who donated $1 million to Poynter in December to create a faculty position promoting journalism ethics and trustworthy news, recently made public his intent to give away an additional $3.5 million to journalism causes he believes in.” Now ProPublica is a beneficiary. (Poynter)

Food journalism at its finest

“A true burrito has fries in it — residents of San Diego will tell you that it’s not a burrito if it doesn’t have french fries in it. Could they be…right?” (The Ringer)

They could. But maybe not.

The joys of wedding photography

Writes Liam Smith in PetaPixel, “I’m a wedding photographer, and I love it. I don’t shoot anything else and I really don’t want to either. In all my career as a freelancer I have shot everything from boxing matches to restaurant interiors. Nothing has ever been as challenging as photographing a wedding.”

“There does seem to be a general consensus among the public that weddings are where photographers start on their journey to becoming the next Annie Leibovitz. However, I’m proud to be a part of a generation that is very slowly starting to change that misconception.”

How youth consume news

Study du jour: Focus groups with 52 teens and 20-somethings underscores a broad, social media-driven definition of news. (NiemanLab)

“'[I was] not purposefully looking for it. Like Facebook, you get a notification for Facebook or something and you click on it and you start scrolling,’ a 16-year-old White female told the researchers. ‘You’re going to find a bunch of news articles that you didn’t necessarily go there to see, but you’re going to see them and you’re going to click on them…I wouldn’t know a lot of the news if I didn’t go on Facebook and just look through it. Like the Orlando shootings — that’s how I found out about it, through Facebook.”

McCain and Graham

The GOP twosome — sort of a political version of Don Quixote and sidekick Sancho Panza — was inescapably interesting on CNN last night. The evening included host Dana Bash quoting from breaking Washington Post and New York Times stories and trying to elicit reactions.

McCain demurred, including about the Times story that disclosed, “In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government.”

McCain said it was hard to respond on the fly to a story he hadn’t seen. Quipped Sancho Panza, ah, Graham, “Communist sources, by the way, too.” But it obviously is a huge story, with some questions, too, about whether Obama should have been more public about what his administration knew.

Condom bulletin

“Condom ads have been on TV a long time, and Trojan has spent more than $15 million over the past year on such cable programming as the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, according to But now a condom ad is about to be allowed on a broadcast network for the first time, said Church & Dwight Co. CEO Matthew Farrell in a speech to the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Boca Raton, Fla.” (Ad Age)

“He showed a relatively tame-for-condoms ad, which a spokeswoman for the brand from Edelman later said isn’t set to air until April.”

The press falls for Trump’s cynicism

“That was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics, period,” CNN’s Van Jones said about Trump’s riff on the fallen Navy SEAL in the botched raid in Yemen as his tearful widow looked on from the House balcony Tuesday evening. He was not alone.

“The problem isn’t that Trump honored Carryn Owens at a moment of terrible grief, or that he spoke movingly of her husband’s death. All that was altogether appropriate,” writes Paul Waldman in The Washington Post. “Rather, the problem is that he did this after trying to evade any responsibility for what happened, and after the White House cast any criticism of his handling of it as an insult to Ryan’s legacy.” (The Washington Post)

The morning babble

The morning shows were dominated by the Washington Post and New York Times stories. Where would they be if those guys suddenly took a day off?!

CNN’s “New Day” highlighted Democratic calls for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign and replayed a Sen. Lindsey Graham comment from their town hall last night: “There may be nothing there, but if there is something there the FBI believes is criminal in nature, for sure you need a special prosecutor.” Columnist Tom Friedman said, “Something stinks” and argues that the entire Republican position on Russian campaign interference “is one of the most shameful national security cases I have ever seen in Washington, D.C.”

MSNBC “Morning Joe” dove into into the relevant questions and responses in Sessions’ Senate confirmation hearing, including his volunteering that he was never a “surrogate” for the Trump campaign. Michael Schmidt, an author of The Times story, underscored ambiguities in determining identities of Trump related people who may have dealt with Russians, as well as lack of clarity as to the actual role of the Russians with whom they spoke (Schmidt did so on the second anniversary of his breaking the once-hot story of Hillary Clinton’s email and secret server).

Over at “Fox & Friends,” there was the concession by co-host Brian Kilmeade that if Sessions actually met with the Russian ambassador, he should have told the Judiciary Committee. But there was far less passion exhibited on that matter than in a fractious Obamacare debate.

There one had Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of the Chicago mayor and an Obama health adviser, fencing at a high-decibel level with co-host Steve Doocy and Fox health pundit Mark Siegel. Zilch was accomplished. Emanuel argues the law has done pretty well and needs some repair but not any radical transformation.

Fact-checking Trump’s speech

He said that the murder rate in Chicago “is not acceptable in our society.”

PolitiFact said that was “false.” Why? “Decades of concerted efforts to beat back even minimal gun restrictions have made it clear that this is perfectly acceptable in our society.”

Oh, it wasn’t PolitiFact. It was The Onion.

But, come to think of it, it might as well have been PolitiFact.

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New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S.…
James Warren

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