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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"With global markets in a tailspin and the Dow Jones industrial average down more than 9 percent in the past month, jittery investors are wondering whether this is a second coming of the Great Recession and whether an increasingly insolvent United States and Europe's weak periphery will be able to weather the storm. Are we seeing the first slide into a double-dip recession? Is the euro doomed? And can China stay above the fray? Foreign Policy asked two of the world's most prescient market watchers, Nouriel Roubini and Ian Bremmer, for their views about what they see in the months and years ahead. Perhaps it's not surprising that Roubini, better known as Dr. Doom, sees the outlook as being 'more scary' than it was two or three years ago -- but it's less systemic failures that concern him than the total inability of buffoonish politicians and weak governments to do anything about it. They're 'out of policy bullets,' says Roubini. Bremmer is a bit more sanguine. 'I don't believe that we're heading for a second recession,' he says. 'But I think that it's going to feel like a recession for an awful lot of people.' What really worries him is China: While Europe and the United States try to muddle through the mess, "the Chinese are kicking a bigger can farther down the road than anyone else.'" (ForeignPolicy)

"I follow almost obsessively ZeroHedge.com. It’s fresh and lively. They often deliver breaking news first. I read about the shooting in Norway at least an hour before I could find it anywhere else on the web. There is also an intellectual competition aside from the sportsfan-like interest that many of the readers have in the editorial. Furthermore, it is dynamic, intelligent, mostly adult – although there is that demographic of male behavior that retains its blindly boisterous youth in the Comments. And there is the politco-religioso element that creeps into forums with accompanying belief systems. The information provided by its editors has the feel of the War News on the old WBAI-FM during the Viet Nam War. This was a very New York thing in those times. Their news was way ahead of all Mainstream Media. Way. It’s always been like that. Outside the establishment is where future enterprise has always developed and grown in America. If there is an endemic American quality, it is that. Yesterday was one of those days that was stirring up the media and the financial sports fans. ZeroHedge, my post-modern BAI, was so busy it would often not load. Now that is exciting." (NYSocialDiary)


"Within a few minutes of arriving at Scott’s, and before we glance at the menu, I’ve heard about Amanda Staveley’s wedding dress (made by Sarah Burton, who designed the Duchess of Cambridge’s dress), her latest dealmaking in Dubai, from where she has arrived this morning, and – most intriguingly – her big parallel pursuit of advising an opposition tribal leader in Yemen. Yes, Yemen. The occasional former model, one-time girlfriend of Prince Andrew and now financial fixer to sheikhs is embracing the Arab spring and hoping that her client, Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, a major businessman in Yemen, will emerge as a beneficiary of an eventual, and inevitable, political transition in the region’s poorest country. Staveley, known by everyone in Gulf circles as Amanda, is 38, very tall and slim, with short blonde hair and wearing a simple black dress; her background and style would not seem to fit with the conservatism of the Gulf, let alone clients such as Sheikh Hamid, known for his (moderate) Islamist political views ... How, they wonder, does this glamorous young British woman make inroads into the region’s royal families and bring them deals that elude the legions of bankers and investment managers who have flocked to the area in recent years? Though Staveley has been associated with a slew of transactions, from property to telecoms, her main claim to fame occurred in the autumn of 2008, when she helped rescue Barclays from a government bail-out by bringing Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi to the table with a £3.5bn cheque. She was said to have made $40m along the way – a figure some think is a wild exaggeration and others describe as an underestimate." (FT)
"He's pissed that I'm constantly bashing major labels. He wanted our conversation to be off the record, but I felt that would undermine the reason for him calling, which was to get his perspective on the record, so here it is ... Lyor Cohen is a force of nature. His style is a bit different from Steve Jobs's. Steve is all about the reality distortion field, charismatically taking you into his own universe and convincing you. Lyor is more in your face. But his will is just as strong. I told him I have no investment in the major label dying. That I had two goals, one of which has now been achieved. Yes, one goal was all the music to all the people at a low price. That's what Spotify delivers. The other is great music created by people who are fairly compensated. Lyor said he agreed with this. I didn't bring up the concept of creating it without interference, I spaced that, so I don't have his response thereto. If Warner Music can achieve this, more power to it. One does have to admit Warner is a leader in the new world. It derives more of its revenue from digital, it's the aforementioned leader in 360, it did not sign on to the money-losing Vevo... But will this be enough? Does Lyor see enough of the new world to transition from the old? Time will tell, although he's convinced me he's trying, that he's remade the company and is less concerned with the past than the future. As for his competitors...It's hard not to beat up Sony. Doug Morris is old school. Sure, a company is nothing without hits. But a hit ain't what it used to be. EMI is about to be sold and Universal is in upheaval, we've yet to see Lucian Grainge's complete philosophy, never mind the lean, mean team he uses to execute it. But Grainge comes from the hit-driven UK, whereas the US is depleted and depressed, there's not a dominant radio format, people don't follow music like the horse races as they do in the UK. Does Lucian truly understand America? Time will tell." (Bob Lefsetz)

"Twentieth Century Fox's prequel Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is leaping to an easy box office lead in 3,648 North American theaters. Hollywood initially thought the origins story with digital animals, Andy Serkis, and James Franco would follow the same trajectory as last weekend's Cowboys & Aliens which went on to a $36.4M Friday-Saturday-Sunday. But, remember, that pic got Smurf-ed. The far better reviewed Apes is faring stronger with a very healthy $19M Friday (including a low-key $1.254M midnights in only 1,124 locations) for a projected $50M weekend or even higher. Its CinemaScore was an 'A-' and exit polls showed males making up 54% of the audience which was 59% at or over age 25. Nice win for former News Corp No. 2-turned-showbiz producer Peter Chernin and his film lieutenant Dylan Clark. 'Phenomenal opening validating a sensational marketing effort led by Oren Aviv and Tony Sella,' a Fox exec gushed to me Friday night ... But this weekend's other major studio release, Universal's The Change-Up, is bottoming in 4th place with $4.8M Friday and just an estimated $13M for the weekend from 2,913 venues. This truly isn't Ryan Reynolds' summer of stardom after the collapse of Green Lantern here and abroad. It's a disastrous start considering that stars like Reynolds are supposed to open movies to at least $20M. 'It's disappointing. We're kind of confounded by it,' a Uni exec tells me about the raunchy comedy with a $50M budget from the director of Wedding Crashers and writers of The Hangover. 'This movie tested unbelievably well and played like the best R-rated comedies we have.' But reviews have hammered this lame body-switching premise. Full analysis and refined numbers coming. Overall moviegoing this weekend looks like $150M, which is up +12% from last year." (Deadline)

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