TOKYO — Nissan on Wednesday cleared the senior executive in charge of its legal department of “inappropriate involvement” in the investigations surrounding Carlos Ghosn, the company’s former chairman, after a series of reports about possible conflicts of interest.
In a statement, Nissan said Hari Nada — who is expected to be a key witness against Mr. Ghosn in his trial over financial wrongdoing — would remain a senior vice president and continue to report to its acting chief executive, Yasuhiro Yamauchi.
Mr. Nada’s supervision of the company’s legal department and security office, as well as other roles, was transferred to Hitoshi Kawaguchi, an executive vice president, the statement said. Mr. Nada was given an added title as senior adviser overseeing special projects.
Nissan said it had “found no evidence of inappropriate involvement by Nada in the internal investigation into executive misconduct led by former chairman Carlos Ghosn and others.” The statement added that “the change is aimed to avoid undue suspicion and to enable him to focus on important tasks for the company, such as forthcoming legal action.”
A spokeswoman for Nissan declined to elaborate on that legal action.
Mr. Nada has agreed to an immunity deal with Japanese prosecutors in return for providing evidence against Mr. Ghosn, who was detained by the authorities in Tokyo in November and later charged with financial wrongdoing. Mr. Ghosn, who awaits trial on bail, has said he is innocent of all charges.
After Mr. Ghosn’s arrest, Mr. Nada continued to oversee matters related to allegations of misconduct at the company, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The New York Times.
Mr. Nada’s involvement was discussed at length during a board meeting on Tuesday, with some members seeing his new responsibilities as an attempt to sideline him, according to people familiar with the discussion. The company was unlikely to take strong action against him because of his status as a whistle-blower and his cooperation with prosecutors, one of the people said.
On Tuesday, Nissan’s directors decided to overhaul the company’s top management, appointing a new chief executive, operating officer and vice chief operating officer in hopes of giving the company a fresh start after a tumultuous year. Beyond the Ghosn arrest, Nissan has experienced plunging profits, diminished sales and the exit of its chief executive, Hiroto Saikawa, over a separate overpayment issue.
Concerns about Mr. Nada’s role at the company have increased in recent weeks after several media accounts about pay irregularities at Nissan. The Times has reported that Mr. Nada received around $280,000 in improper payments from stock-based compensation in 2017.
The findings were detailed in a report by a law firm hired to investigate pay-related problems at Nissan. Nissan recently said Mr. Nada had received less money than the law firm found in its review, but the company declined to elaborate. Nissan also said some of the employees who received the wrongful payments were “unaware that improper methods were used.”
In April, Mr. Nada recused himself from all matters related to the investigations into misconduct at the company, according to people familiar with the situation. Two senior lawyers repeatedly raised concerns that Mr. Nada still wielded influence over those matters. One has since left the company, and another was removed from handling any legal work related to misconduct allegations.
Fiksu DSP now offers even more efficient ad campaign optimization and complete transparency through their self-serve platform
Fiksu, a demand-side platform for digital advertising, has announced the launch of its self-serve DSP. The platform has been built to empower marketers with scalable advertising tools and ensure full control over their ad campaigns. With the help of Fiksu self-serve DSP, advertisers can access inventory from premium supply-side platforms in various environments.
Now marketers can deliver their ads not only on mobile, but also in the most promising digital environment: Connected TV. This provides brands with excellent opportunities. Firstly, direct-to-consumer (DTC) shoppers spend more time streaming than on social media. Secondly, 90% of viewers confirm that CTV advertising is more relevant than traditional TV ads. And lastly, in most cases, connected TV ads will be seen by several people in a household, which significantly increases the reach.
Aside from quality inventory, users of Fiksu self-serve DSP enjoy exceptionally detailed reporting and efficient campaign optimization tools. The key metrics that advertisers can view include total viewability time, video completion rate (VCR), and view-through rate (VTR). And those who want to dig deeper into data can study customized reports on impressions and total spend.
Fiksu DSP reconfirms its commitment to fraud prevention and brand safety. The platform has teamed-up with Pixalate to ward off fraudulent ad impressions. This market-leading solution analyzes the myriad of devices to identify suspicious activity before any of the ad budget is spent. Thus, marketers are guaranteed that their money will not be wasted by ill-intentioned vendors.
“Our experience in business along with knowledge gained from current industry researches and user feedback allows us to identify market demand and implement practical tools that meet it. We foresee more and more advertisers seeking ultimate control over their campaigns, so we launched the Fiksu self-serve DSP to provide them with a high level of autonomy and transparency.” — Anna Kuzmenko, COO at Fiksu.
Kobe Bryant’s Death Cuts Short a Budding Business Career
U.S. stock futures are down sharply this morning on fears about the coronavirus outbreak. More below. (Want this in your inbox each morning? Sign up here.)
An early end to Kobe Bryant’s new path
The death of Kobe Bryant, the retired L.A. Lakers star, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash yesterday has stirred up grief across the sports world. It also had corporate leaders lamenting the loss of an up-and-coming business mogul.
Mr. Bryant was one of the greatest N.B.A. players, with five championship rings and 18 All-Star selections in 20 seasons.
But he was building a business empire, too:
• He started the investment firm Bryant Stibel in 2013 with the Web.com founder Jeff Stibel. Bryant Stibel has invested in companies like Dell, Alibaba and Epic Games, the maker of Fortnight.
• And he founded Granity Studios, a media company.
“I got tired of telling people I loved business as much as I did basketball because people would look at me like I had three heads,” Mr. Bryant told ESPN in 2017. “But I do.”
The crash raises questions about the increasing use of helicopters for business travel. Aaron Mak of Slate notes that the number of civilian helicopters has grown 30 percent since 2006, and that choppers tend to crash more frequently than other aircraft.
What the business world said about Mr. Bryant:
• The venture capitalist Chris Sacca: “Not sure I will ever know anyone else with his work ethic.”
• The Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian: “He still believed he had work to do.”
Investors fear the growing coronavirus crisis
U.S. stock futures are down sharply this morning, as the death toll of the coronavirus outbreak continues to rise and pressure grows on China’s political leaders and its economy.
Here’s the latest:
• The S&P 500 looks set to open 56 points lower, while the Dow may open down 474 points.
• The number of deaths currently stands at 80, and infections have been reported worldwide.
• It’s still unclear how the outbreak began, since some patients never visited the seafood market in Wuhan where it is thought to have originated.
Questions have arisen over Beijing’s strategy of quarantining more cities in central China. Public health experts have asked whether the travel restrictions are limiting medical care.
President Xi Jinping has sought public shows of decisive action, including convening an extraordinary session of the Communist Party’s top political body. But “many Chinese remain unconvinced the government is being completely forthcoming about the toll of the disease,” Steven Lee Myers and Chris Buckley of the NYT write.
And Chinese consumer spending continues to drop, according to James Areddy of the WSJ, with potentially negative consequences for China’s economy. If the outbreak continues past March, economic growth might fall past a psychologically important level of 6 percent for the first quarter, according to analysts at Société Générale.
Will the Saudis enter the soccer arms race?
An investor group led by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is said to be in talks to buy the British soccer club Newcastle United for about $445 million, according to the WSJ and the FT. It could mean another team with well-heeled owners willing to spend millions to chase success.
The current state of play:
• Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is working with the financier Amanda Staveley and the billionaires David and Simon Reuben.
• The Saudis would own 80 percent of Newcastle in any such deal. Ms. Staveley and the Reubens would split the remainder.
Why Newcastle? It’s one of the better-known English Premier League soccer teams, with stellar attendance at matches. And its current owner, Mike Ashley, has been criticized for not spending enough on players.
The Saudis have been investing in businesses outside the Middle East to diversify their country’s economy away from oil. The sovereign fund, known as P.I.F., has taken stakes in companies like Uber and Tesla.
The question is how much the Saudis are prepared to spend on Newcastle. Abu Dhabi propelled Manchester City to the heights of the Premier League by spending heavily on the team, while Qatar has done something similar with Paris Saint-Germain.
U.S. and U.K. are headed for a clash over Huawei
Britain is reportedly expected to give Huawei a limited role in its 5G network this week, George Parker and Nic Fildes of the FT report. That could set up a fight with the Trump administration, which views the Chinese tech giant as a security threat.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is likely to approve the use of Huawei products in “noncore” parts of the next-generation wireless network, after British intelligence officials said that they could “contain” any risks of using its technology. And Mr. Johnson’s government is considering imposing a cap on Huawei’s potential market share.
Trump administration officials have repeatedly warned foreign governments that Huawei poses a security threat. The U.S. has sought to impose ever-tighter restrictions on the Chinese company, and has argued that it’s impossible to stop the Chinese from infiltrating a network that uses Huawei equipment.
But British officials reportedly feel they have little choice, given Huawei’s technological prowess and a lack of alternatives.
Remembering Clayton Christensen, innovation guru
Professor Christensen, whose 1997 book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” became a touchstone text for the business world, died on Thursday. He was 67.
His thesis was that “the factors that helped the best companies succeed — listening responsively to customers, investing aggressively in technology products that satisfied customers’ next-generation needs — were the exact same reasons some of these companies failed,” writes Glenn Rifkin of the NYT.
Successful entrepreneurs could miss out on the next big thing by focusing on their current customers and remaining married to their once-disruptive products. Professor Christensen published and spoke extensively about his findings, including at DealBook’s Playing for the Long Term conference in 2016.
Business leaders embraced his work. Andy Grove, a former C.E.O. of Intel, said soon after “The Innovator’s Dilemma” published that it was the most important book he had read in a decade.
Adam Grant, a Wharton professor and fellow sage for the business world, offered this assessment: “His most disruptive innovation was reminding us not to overinvest in careers and underinvest in people.”
More: How direct-to-consumer companies like Dollar Shave Club shook up the world of retail.
Greta Thunberg has an unlikely ally
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stirred up controversy last week when he said that the climate change activist Greta Thunberg should take a college economics class. But Ms. Thunberg found a supporter in Mr. Mnuchin’s wife, Louise Linton.
“I stand with Greta on this issue. (I don’t have a degree in economics either),” Ms. Linton, a Hollywood actor and producer who is a public supporter of animal rescue organizations, wrote in an Instagram post on Saturday.
Ms. Linton later deleted the post, and then posted to her Instagram Story defending herself, writes William Cummings of USA Today. “I am not my husband,” she wrote to one critic. “I happen to love Greta. Whatever he says has nothing to do with my views or opinions.”
The speed read
• Reporters at The Chicago Tribune really want someone to buy out their newspaper’s current owner. (NYT)
• California regulators are becoming a big hurdle for T-Mobile in its quest to buy Sprint. (WSJ)
• Big investment banks are walking away from Chinese companies seeking to go public on Wall Street. (FT)
Politics and policy
• In an unpublished draft of his coming book, the former national security adviser John Bolton directly linked President Trump’s withholding of aid to Ukraine to his desire for investigations into Democrats. (NYT)
• Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross warned E.U. officials not to move forward with a proposed carbon tax. (FT)
• Amazon employees openly criticized the company’s environmental practices, defying a company policy against unauthorized public criticism about its businesses. (WaPo)
• The London police said they plan to start using facial-recognition technology, overriding privacy concerns. (NYT)
• Content moderators at a Facebook facility in Europe have reportedly been asked to sign a form acknowledging that the job may cause PTSD. (FT)
Best of the rest
• “How Under Armour Lost Its Edge” (NYT)
• Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia reportedly courted Jeff Bezos on business matters before an alleged hack of the Amazon chief’s phone. (WSJ)
• German prosecutors are said to be investigating payments by Deutsche Bank to win the business of a Saudi royal. (FT)
• Where Prince Charles of Britain’s personal fortune comes from. (NYT)
We’d love your feedback. Please email thoughts and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A $100 Million Bet That Vacationland Can Be a Tech Hub, Too
PORTLAND, Maine — There is nothing obviously wrong with Maine’s biggest city. Its shops buzz in the summer with well-heeled tourists. Zillow rates the real estate market “very hot.” David Geffen’s yacht docks at port from time to time. The food scene is great. In November, the unemployment rate was barely 2.2 percent.
Something is troubling Portland, however. Productivity growth is low. Business formation is anemic. And there is a sense that in an era of technology-driven economic winners, Portland’s 66,000 residents are being left behind.
“It looks like we’re doing fine,” said Jon Jennings, Portland’s city manager. “But just underneath the real estate development, there is that insecurity as to what will actually drive the economy in the future.” Lobstering and tourism will not suffice.
Hoping to draw itself into the high-tech orbit, Portland is about to become a test case. On Monday, officials including Gov. Janet Mills and Mayor Kate Snyder will gather on Portland’s waterfront for the unveiling of a research institute meant to propel the local economy.
If the effort succeeds, it could provide a template for the many American cities struggling to share in the nation’s prosperity.
Its patron is David Roux, who grew up in nearby Lewiston and graduated from Harvard before building a fortune as a Silicon Valley investor. Mr. Roux, a co-founder of the private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners 20 years ago, is giving $100 million to Northeastern University to establish a graduate school and research center in Portland.
The center, to be known as the Roux Institute, will award certificates, master’s degrees and Ph.D.s in artificial intelligence and machine learning — geared in particular toward the life sciences.
“What is it that could be most catalytic to transform and support an economy that doesn’t fully participate in the modern, tech-led innovation economy?” Mr. Roux asked. His answer is “to bring cutting-edge technology capabilities here to Maine and northern New England.”
The goal is to tap into the forces that have funneled knowledge-based affluence into a small number of megacities. Ten cities that are home to less than a quarter of the population generate nearly half of the nation’s patents and a third of its economic output, according to recent research.
It is the most advanced and complex industries — like biotechnology and semiconductors — that are most concentrated. And the geography of invention is getting narrower every year. One report found that Boston, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco and Silicon Valley captured nine out of 10 jobs created from 2005 to 2017 in the nation’s most research-intensive industries.
Innovators, apparently, do best when they are around other innovators. They and the firms that hope to employ them flock to the same handful of places. So Mr. Roux’s initiative is rowing against a powerful tide.
And yet it makes sense. Producing highly trained technologists may not be enough to create an innovation ecosystem, but an educated work force is surely an indispensable ingredient.
“I don’t think it’s a crazy idea,” said Timothy J. Bartik, senior economist at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
Universities have been found to encourage growth through a variety of levers: They add demand to local communities, but they also add innovators. Professors may generate patents, consult for local companies or start firms. Companies might team up with university labs on research projects. The existence of a tech-oriented graduate center might induce more undergraduates to choose tech-related fields. Graduates will improve the labor pool for local businesses and perhaps draw technology businesses to town.
A study encompassing universities in 78 countries between 1950 and 2010 found a direct link with economic growth, driven in part by their impact on education and their contribution to innovation. Another concluded that increasing funding for public universities led more businesses to establish a presence near campus.
Yet another looked at colleges established in the United States from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. Counties where colleges arose generated 32 percent more patents than places that missed out. This effect was mainly driven by migration: College towns drew innovative people.
But research shows that the impact depends both on the quality of the school and on the attributes of the place. “In general, I think the bigger impact for a smaller city is likely to be if there is already some pre-existing activity to build on, and if there is some reason to think that the area might be attractive otherwise,” Mr. Bartik said.
Consider San Diego. One of the nation’s leading innovation centers, it built much of its prosperity on the University of California, San Diego. In 2011, the university produced 80 master’s and Ph.D. degrees in fields related to wireless technology, up fivefold from 1991. Between 1985 and 2001, its alumni were founders of 16 telecom firms in the area, including Franklin Antonio, a co-founder of Qualcomm, the city’s most valuable company and the world’s leading maker of smartphone chips.
By contrast, Mr. Bartik said, “sticking a high-tech institute in the middle of rural Idaho might not have multiplier effects if there is nothing to build on.” Mr. Roux bet that Portland offers the right sort of setting, with a few tech companies already established and with Boston, a technology-rich megacity, just two hours away.
Universities don’t just spring forth, though. Somewhat over two years ago, Mr. Roux and a small team of advisers set out on a hunt from Massachusetts to California to Georgia to New York, looking for a research university that might prove a good fit.
In December, they reached an agreement with Northeastern, a private university whose main campus is in Boston. It will add Portland to a network that includes campuses in Seattle; Silicon Valley; Charlotte, N.C.,; Toronto; and London.
The Roux Institute will open in May — in temporary quarters — offering a smattering of nonaccredited courses to whet the appetite of local employers and their workers. The first cohort of some 100 degree-seeking students will start in the fall. The student body is expected to grow to some 2,600 within 10 years.
“In other places, there was already an ecosystem for tech and for digital and for life sciences,” Joseph E. Aoun, Northeastern’s president, said about its expansion efforts. In Portland, “our opportunity is to launch this ecosystem and shape it,” he said. “That’s why it’s going to be transformational.”
It is also a heavier lift. The challenge is not just to staff up. The university and Mr. Roux’s team are recruiting other philanthropists from around the state as donors. (There will be operating revenue from tuition and anticipated federal research grants.) The organizers are also asking businesses — locally and from other parts of the country — to pledge to enroll their employees in the new school and pay their tuition, to provide internships and other opportunities for on-the-job learning, and to join with the center in research projects.
There are other universities in Maine, including prestigious liberal arts colleges like Colby and Bowdoin. But few offer graduate programs in the sciences, and none have Northeastern’s track record in digital sciences and technologies, or the experience of working in concert with business and opening new campuses.
“It’s not enough to start a university, because you need to have the players at the table,” Mr. Aoun said. The players, he said, are companies that can specify the kind of talent they are seeking and the problems they need to solve.
So far, 10 have been enlisted. They include local employers like Tilson, which builds fiber and cellular networks, and Idexx, a veterinary diagnostic company, as well as the Boston-based industrial automation company PTC.
“I want employees who want the graduate school experience to be able to do it here,” said Joshua Broder, Tilson’s chief executive. “A lot of people leave to go to grad school, and there’s a good chance people will end up working in the place they go to grad school.”
Mr. Jennings, the city manager, thinks the Roux Institute is “potentially the greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century for Portland and Maine” — a chance to fill the hole left by the declining role of forestry and fishing, which provided middle-class jobs decades ago.
Mr. Roux described the project as “an opportunity machine disguised as an educational institution and research center.” It will have succeeded, he said, if it makes existing local companies better, attracts companies from elsewhere and provides the seed corn for dynamic new businesses.
“If that works, then what I’m sure is going to happen is what happens in every other market around the world,” he added, “which is somebody looks over from Central Florida and says, ‘I would like one of those.’”
That, and perhaps a few more benefactors like Mr. Roux, might help solve America’s regional disparities.
“If you had 30 to 40 billionaires that decided to do this in 30 to 40 places that had some tech activity,” Mr. Bartik said, “there would be sufficient successes that you could justify it even if only half were successful.”
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