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Delayed by Abuse Claim, Apple’s ‘The Banker’ Gets New Release Date



After its original rollout plan was scrapped late last year, “The Banker,” a civil rights drama starring Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie, has a new life.

Apple announced on Thursday that the film would be made available to Apple TV Plus subscribers on March 20, with a theatrical release scheduled for March 6.

One of the first feature films to be distributed by Apple, “The Banker” is based on the true story of Bernard Garrett and Joe Morris, a pair of black entrepreneurs who recruited a white man to pose as the face of their business in an effort to work against the racist banking practices of midcentury America.

Apple withdrew the film from the American Film Institute’s annual festival and canceled its Dec. 6 theatrical premiere after Bernard Garrett Jr., a son of one of the film’s protagonists, was accused of sexual misconduct. The younger Mr. Garrett was a co-producer of the film. His name has been removed from the film, and Apple said he would not profit from its release.

The company decided to withdraw “The Banker” after Cynthia Garrett, a daughter of Bernard Garrett, accused the younger Mr. Garrett, her half brother, of sexually abusing her and her younger sister when they were children. Bernard Garrett Jr. has denied the accusations.

“We wanted to take the time to understand the situation at hand,” Apple said in a statement on Thursday. “After reviewing the information available to us, including documentation of the filmmakers’ research, we’ve decided to make this important and enlightening film available to viewers.”

“The Banker” began filming in September 2018 and wrapped two months later. Apple, a newcomer to the entertainment business, bought the worldwide distribution rights for $20 million in June 2019 after executives watched an eight-minute sizzle reel. Before the accusation against Mr. Garrett became public, he was set to help promote the film.

The delay came at a bad time for Apple TV Plus, whose flagship series, the star-studded “The Morning Show,” debuted to mixed reviews in November. “The Banker,” featuring two stars of the blockbuster “Avengers” series, seemed like a way for Apple to prove itself in Hollywood.

Nicole Sperling contributed reporting.


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Everybody Goes to Burger Heaven




“New York is a lonely, lonely, lonely city,” Yossy Morales said one recent Saturday, a morning so frigid that a bicycle deliveryman outside Burger Heaven on Lexington Avenue at 62nd Street was forced to pour scalding water over his Kryptonite lock to key it open.

For the past decade Ms. Morales, 42 and a native of Honduras, has been on an informal mission to thaw the chill of daily life in a city of eight and a half million. During that time, she has waited tables and served at the counter of Burger Heaven, a family-owned East Side institution, slinging breakfast specials and dispensing human warmth along with a steady stream of endearments to a loyal clientele.

“Everybody has problems, and it’s fun to talk to them about their life,” Ms. Morales said. “It’s not just customer and waitress. It’s friend and friend.”

When a couple walked through the door at 7:45 a.m., Ms. Morales had put in their order before they had shed their overcoats: green salad and two eggs over easy; scrambled egg whites with seven grain bread. “Here’s your decaf, here’s your skim,” she called out.

It was an ordinary exchange on an average February day, and yet it was one tinged with melancholy because, after 77 years in continuous operation, the last of what had once been eight separate Burger Heaven outposts in Manhattan will close on Feb. 28.

The reasons are mostly unsurprising, and yet, unlike at many other small businesses in the city, landlord greed is not one. The family that runs Burger Heaven also owns its building, as it had those in several other now shuttered locations.

Years ago, Evans Cyprus, the chain’s farseeing 94-year-old patriarch and founder, bought a variety of lunch counter outposts, where he installed the vinyl upholstered booths, chrome-edged Formica counters, swivel stools and clustered ranks of condiments that amount to an archetypal diner style.

Mr. Cyprus did his best to adapt with the times, adding healthier options to the Burger Heaven menus, turning a location near Saks Fifth Avenue into a diner cum bar. What he could not have anticipated — who could? — were the cultural shifts that would eventually supplant diners with food trucks or delivery services.

Dietary changes, too, hastened the demise: the contemporary consumer who is far more likely to thumb-tap an order for a Tingly Sweet Potato Kelp Bowl from Sweetgreen than to pull up to a Burger Heaven counter for the caloric depth charge that is a cheeseburger deluxe.

“Young people want grab-and-go,” said Dimitri Dellis, 61, and one of three family members responsible for a business that encompasses four generations. They no longer require a third place, that fixed geographical point in the triangle of daily destinations, after home and one’s job. For a generation raised on smartphones and laptops, the third place is anywhere you plop down.

Thus it has become an alien concept, the lunch counter as a regular social destination, a place where, as Astrid Dadourian, an editor and writer, said one recent morning at Burger Heaven, “you set your day, do some people watching, have some camaraderie, notice the guy who always sits at the counter and wears a hat.”

A scene like that, with its Edward Hopper associations, has come to seem as anachronistic as folding a print newspaper, something you saw once in a diorama or in a YouTube video.

Never mind that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis regularly dined at the counter of Burger Heaven on East 53rd Street with her son, John F. Kennedy Jr., who played soldiers with the ranks of ketchup bottles, saltshakers and sugar canisters. Forget about socialites eating cheek by jowl with secretaries, bank heads alongside barbers.

This is where Barbara Walters consumed her regular rare burger, no bun, with a knife and fork. It is also where Holly Golightly regularly met Mr. O’Shaughnessy, the mobster Sally Tomato’s lawyer and bagman for her payoffs in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

(There is debate over whether the joint in question was Burger Heaven or Hamburger Heaven, a competitor that opened in 1938 across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, was later renamed Prime Burger and closed in 2012.)

What is the consequence of losing access to such places in a city where retail establishments are closing all the time and where many can cite lineages of beloved coffee shops long gone?

“New York can be cold, and a place like this makes you feel like you live in a village,” Kari Lichtenstein, a family lawyer, said last week, as she sat with her mother, Emilie Palef, a Toronto native first drawn here by the quirky stores and homey restaurants.

“We were on our way to another spot, and I said to my daughter, ‘I need tomato soup,’” Ms. Palef said, of how they had ended up at Burger Heaven that day.

With it she also got one of the hugs Ms. Morales serves up liberally to her customers, whose faces and orders and, frequently, troubles she seems to know by heart.

“A coffee shop is that place where they know what you like and if you don’t show up, they’re worried,” said Sarah Schulman, a New York-bred novelist raised above Romanoff, a venerable joint near Washington Square, educated in the ways of greasy spoons as a waitress at Leroy’s in TriBeCa and so strong a believer in link between these humble establishments and the engines of urbanism that coffee shops feature in two of her novels.

“When you homogenize a city, you destroy its feeling of urbanity,” Ms. Schulman said, referring to the banks and drugstores and chains retailers steadily wallpapering over the city’s indispensable quiddities. “When we lose businesses that are not chains, we lose specificity and difference.”

And heterogeneity is all but on the menu at Burger Heaven, where both the customers and the staff mirror the city’s diversity of race, ethnicity and class. “We have people working here who are from Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, Panama, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Ecuador, Bolivia and Poland, but they’re all Americans,” said the diner’s longtime manager, Sammy Hamido, who is of Egyptian origin.

More than the famous tuna salad sandwiches, made with pricey high-grade canned fish and none of the extenders a lot of places use to improve the bottom line, or the A-grade beef ground fresh on site or the Idaho potatoes peeled and cut fresh daily for Burger Heaven’s classic French fries, it is the democracy of the lunch counter that will be missed. New York, as E.B. White wrote in his most celebrated essay, does bestow upon its citizens the “gift of loneliness,” if you can call it that.

But it also offsets the fearful isolation of big cities with a measure of companionable privacy in public spaces, and a sense when you sit at Burger Heaven’s counter that your existence does not go unremarked.

In exchange for the noise and expense, the smells and the nuisance, the rats and the rest, we exchange this small pleasure: being both anonymous and known.

In all the years I’ve gone there I never learned Ms. Morales’s last name until being told Burger Heaven was closing. Nor did she know mine. To me, she was Yossy with the thousand-watt smile. To her, I was: “Hello, my love, what are you having? The usual?”


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Post-Brexit, Britain Is Going Its Own Way. That Way Looks Expensive.




ROWLEY REGIS, England — Except for protracted uncertainty over Britain’s future relationship with Europe, these are promising days at Cube Precision, a factory in the Black Country of England.

The company manufactures tools used to make parts for airplanes and cars. Some of those parts eventually wind up in jets made by Airbus, a company now overwhelmed with orders as a safety scandal engulfs its primary competitor, Boeing. Another catastrophe is also increasing its sales: Companies that had been hiring Chinese factories to make their tools are shifting orders to Cube Precision to avoid the chaos of the coronavirus epidemic.

But Brexit threatens revenue-destroying disruption.

Like most of British industry, Cube Precision is intimately intertwined with Europe, selling its wares to companies that send exports there. Last month, Britain officially left the ranks of the European Union. In the next few weeks, negotiators plan to begin hashing out a deal governing future trade across the English Channel. The positions staked out by the British government pose perils for businesses that depend on Europe for sales and parts.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party owe their commanding parliamentary majority to nationalist sloganeering that promises to “Get Brexit Done” and “Take Back Control.” As the government prepares for trade talks, it is asserting the right to diverge from European rules governing a host of commercial concerns — from fishing access and financial regulations to product safety, labor and environmental standards.

Britain might diverge, or might not, officials keep saying — a careful dance designed to limit the damage for British exporters while delivering on the political imperative to declare that Brexit has been achieved.

The negotiations amount to an extraordinary historical anomaly: After decades of trade liberalization around the world, the governments of two major economies are sitting down to determine the extent of barriers they will place in the way of existing commerce.

If Britain is serious about writing its own rules, its factories could lose orders from European companies that now pay them to make parts and tools. Those companies might shift orders to suppliers on the Continent to ensure that their finished goods comply with European rules.

“We need to make sure that the trade deals are still in place so that we can supply our European customers, so that they can build their aircraft and build their cars,” says Cube Precision’s managing director, Neil Clifton. “In the worst-case scenario, there could be a lot of trouble.”

Studiously optimistic, he expresses confidence that, after the inevitable political brinkmanship, the politicians will strike a deal allowing business to carry on.

“I like to believe that the deals that we will get will be roughly broadly in line with what we have at the moment,” Mr. Clifton says. “Both sides have far too much to lose.”

But if three-plus years of tangled debate over Brexit has produced any clarity, it is this: What makes sense for business and what actually happens are frequently two different things.

While Britain has been part of the European Union, its companies have been able to do business with counterparts from Greece to Ireland as if this vast territory of 500 million people were a single nation, free of borders, tariffs and hindrances like customs checks.

Even by the standards of the typical trade deal, negotiations will be fraught, filling conference rooms in Brussels and London with armies of lawyers, accountants, bureaucrats and experts in the arcana of fishing, pharmaceuticals, farming, banking and manufacturing for months, and probably years.

British law reflects the country’s decades of inclusion in the European trading bloc. Disentangling itself while determining new rules is a process that has been likened to unscrambling an omelet.

Mr. Johnson and his senior officials have oozed confidence that they can break from European rules and still maintain largely uninterrupted access to the European marketplace. His counterparts in Brussels have consistently said this is nonsense.

“The truly difficult choices still lie ahead,” says Phil Hogan, the European commissioner for trade. “The further the U.K. chooses to diverge from the European standards and rules and regulations, the less it can benefit from the protections and economic strengths of the E.U. single market.”

European officials are adamant that Britain respect rules governing a so-called level playing field, including labor, tax and environmental standards, along with prohibitions on subsidizing industry.

Mr. Johnson aims for a deal that avoids tariffs and quotas on products, similar to the arrangement that Europe forged with Canada in 2016. That deal took seven years to negotiate. Mr. Johnson insists Britain will complete a deal with Europe by the end of this year — a stance that experts assume will give way to a euphemism for an extension.

If talks break down, Mr. Johnson says, Britain can trade under the terms laid down at the World Trade Organization. That would entail tariffs on British exports to the Continent averaging a modest 3 percent.

But trade experts say that position is either a bluff or foolhardy. If Britain crashes out of the European bloc without a deal, that invites expensive disruption at ports.

And tariffs are not the primary concern. A departure from European regulations could prompt global companies to put new operations in Europe while avoiding Britain.

Between the middle of 2016 — when Britain voted to leave the European Union — and the end of last year, business investment increased only 1 percent, according to government data. Over the three previous years, business investment expanded by a total of 16 percent. If Britain diverges from European regulations, the slowdown could worsen.

“The real cost is lack of investment,” says Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, a research institution in London. “Food, manufacturing, cars, aerospace, chemicals will all have big problems.”

Part of Mr. Johnson’s motivation to diverge from European rules is his eagerness to negotiate a trade deal with the United States, affirming his oft-repeated claim that Brexit is an opportunity for Britain to look beyond Europe.

The Trump administration is likely to demand that Britain break from European food safety standards, allowing American companies to export chlorinated chicken and genetically modified crops.

Accepting such products would provoke public anger in Britain. Whatever the gains from a trade deal with the United States, they would not compensate for the likely loss of sales to Europe.

“The E.U. is a big market, it’s very close, and we are completely integrated with it,” says Andrew Goodwin, chief United Kingdom economist for Oxford Economics in London.

Britain’s auto industry generates annual revenue of 82 billion pounds (about $107 billion) and employs about 800,000 people, according to Deloitte, the global accounting firm. Those jobs are highly dependent on unimpeded trade across the English Channel.

Some 60 percent of car parts and accessories made in British factories are exported to Europe, while plants on the Continent are the source of 80 percent of imported car parts in Britain. Eight out of every 10 cars made in Britain are exported, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, a trade group.

Inside a factory in Shrewsbury, a town famed for its medieval streets, SDE Technology operates towering presses that pound metal into desired shapes, deriving 70 percent of its revenue from making auto parts.

As the company’s chief commercial officer, Christopher Greenough, walks the concrete floors of the plant, he stops at a crate full of curved pieces of stainless steel, part of a car exhaust pipe. The factory sells this product to a company in Germany that supplies BMW.

That part alone generates annual revenue of about £500,000 (about $651,000), or 4 percent of SDE’s sales. “If there are tariffs, that would affect this product,” Mr. Greenough says.

Still, he and the company’s chief executive officer, Richard Homden, echo the traditional justification for Brexit.

“Going forward, we should have our own destiny,” Mr. Homden says. “We shouldn’t have to look to Europe to set the standards.”

When pressed to provide an example of a European rule that impedes their business, both men come up empty.

“I can’t think of any,” Mr. Greenough says.

They express confidence that Mr. Johnson will extract a favorable deal. Still, they acknowledge risks, prompting them to distinguish their business with new products.

The company is investing some £6 million (about $7.8 million) for new technology that can produce especially light car bodies — a promising feature as the industry shifts toward higher fuel efficiency standards and electric vehicles.

One major source of uncertainty is now gone, factory managers say. After three-plus years of agonizing political debate over whether Brexit would actually happen, Mr. Johnson has resolved that question.

In the town of Telford in the English Midlands, Advanced Chemical Etching makes metal components for cars, jets, drones, satellites and medical devices, with many of these wares destined for Europe.

January was the company’s best month ever, the chief executive, Chris Ball, says. Sales grew more than 40 percent from a year earlier.

He hopes the politicians will not derail those gains.

“Similar trading terms as it is now,” he says. “That would be the ideal thing.”

Geneva Abdul contributed reporting.


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Is Technology Subsuming Marketing?




Executive Summary

Data suggests that the importance of marketing in organizational hierarchies has declined, especially compared to functions like engineering, technology, and innovation. The authors previously found that U.S. companies’ advertising expenditures decreased from 1% of total expenditures in 1975 to 0.8% in 2017. In new research, they looked at the top leadership of S&P 1500 firms, and found a dramatic decline in the number of chief marketing officers (CMOs) in the group of top five compensated officers of a firm from 1999 to 2017. Meanwhile, the number of officers representing information or technology in the top five highest-paid category increased.

HBR Staff/boonchai wedmakawand/Getty Images

Last year, we published an analysis showing that U.S. companies’ advertising expenditures decreased from 1% of total expenditures in 1975 to 0.8% in 2017. We concluded that the importance of marketing must have been reduced in the organizational hierarchy, especially compared to, say, engineering, technology, and innovation. (R&D expenditures increased from 1% to 8% in the same time frame.)

Many scholars and practitioners wrote to us arguing that marketing is much more than advertising spend. It was a fair point. Unfortunately, marketing expenses, as opposed to advertising outlays, are not typically disclosed by firms, making it hard to examine the importance of marketing over time based on reported expenditures.

So we turned to another data set: the top leadership of S&P 1500 firms. When we looked at the top five compensated officers of a firm between 1999 and 2017, we found a dramatic decline in the number of chief marketing officers (CMOs) in this top rung — about 35%. Meanwhile, the number of officers representing information or technology in the top five, highest-paid category increased, and now far exceeds the number of CMOs. Because compensation typically reflects an executive’s seniority in an organization, our data suggests that the importance of CMO in the organizational hierarchy has declined, which supports our earlier assessment that marketing as a function is less valued today than it once was.

We found several potential explanations for these trends. One is that the number of tech firms has increased over time, while the number of firms in other industries, such as retail and manufacturing, has declined. Both retail and manufacturing sell physical products and rely heavily on the traditional 4P marketing principles (product, price, promotion, and place).

Another explanation is that marketing itself has changed. Customers now spend an increasing percentage of their income on software-based services that are created, priced, and distributed over the internet. They also get more information about products and services from online sources — bloggers, online reviews, influencers — than from watching advertisements. Advertisements themselves are now instantaneously placed in browsers based on customer data.  So the application of the 4Ps today requires more constant experimentation and dynamic decisions (not to mention algorithms, data scientists, econometricians, and big data experts), instead of the well-thought-out and stable policies that are recommended by extensive market research. As a result, IT must play an increasingly important role in marketing, and the importance of the person who looks at marketing from the technology lens must have increased over time. On the flip side, a marketing person who doesn’t understand technology must find it difficult to keep his or her job. One could even argue that marketing is getting merged into the IT function or outsourced to companies such as Google Marketing Platform.

Another explanation is that the technology-oriented founders do not fully appreciate the importance of marketing and underinvest in the function. Many of the leading brands today, such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, were created by technology prowess. Compare this strategy to the advertising-based brand creation strategy of past successful brands such as Coca-Cola and Nike. It is noteworthy that among Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, the top five most valuable brands identified by Forbes magazine, only Microsoft had a CMO that appears in the list of top five paid executives in 2017.

Yet another possibility is that firms increasingly acquire brands instead of developing them organically. This is evident from the increasing pace of mergers and acquisition transactions. Recall Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn, Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, and Google’s acquisition of YouTube, in multi-billion-dollar deals. This trend might explain the growing importance in the organizational hierarchy of the CFO, who negotiates the acquisition and the integration strategy of the target and arranges financing.

Whatever the definitive explanation, our findings indicate that the importance of CMOs in the organizational hierarchy has declined while that of CTOs has risen dramatically. Our findings should interest board of directors, CEOs, and IT, marketing, and human resources departments, as they consider their future staffing, compensation, and promotion policies. Perhaps it’s time to stop considering marketing and technology as two isolated departments and encourage closer collaborations between them.


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