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🖼️ How to restore a $160m painting

The Hustle

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but a recent case takes it a bit far. Athleta, Gap’s sportswear brand for women, is suing Danish athleisure brand Athlecia for trademark infringement, arguing its similar name and logo cause confusion for consumers.

In today’s email:

  • Art heist: How to restore a $160m painting.
  • Chart: Will Netflix buy Roku?
  • Crypto winter: Coinbase job applicants are feeling the chill.
  • Around the web: How to clean your phone, short-necked giraffes, a game of intrigue, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear Jacob and Juliet discuss an unusual art theft, a bit of Netflix history, and whether square dancing is more useful than financial ed for high schoolers.

The big idea
stealing art

The bizarre return of a stolen $160m painting

In November 1985, an unknown man and woman entered the University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA) in Tucson.

She distracted a security guard while he cut Willem de Kooning’s Woman-Ochre from its frame and tucked it under his clothes.

The oil painting disappeared for the next 32 years.

De Kooning’s work is valuable

Woman-Ochre, part of the Dutch-American expressionist’s Woman series, was worth $400k when donated to the museum in 1958. Today, it’s worth ~$160m.

In 2016, entertainment mogul David Geffen sold de Kooning’s Interchange to hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin for $300m, then the highest price ever paid for a painting.

But experts say famous art is hard to fence. And as James Ratcliffe — director of stolen art database Art Loss Register — told NBC News, “You can’t put it on your wall.”

Or can you?

In 2017, an antique store paid $2k for items from the estate of a deceased couple in Cliff, New Mexico. Among them was Woman-Ochre.

Clues point to Jerry and Rita Alter, two retired teachers, stealing the painting while visiting relatives, then hanging it on their bedroom wall until they died.

Why? No one knows, but Jerry Alter once wrote a story about a woman and her granddaughter who steal and hide an emerald where only they can see it.

The recovered painting needed help

The theft and cheap varnishes, likely applied by the thieves, had damaged it. So, Woman-Ochre went to Los Angeles’ Getty Conservation Institute.

There, an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) scan — a nondestructive test to determine an object’s chemistry — revealed which pigments and materials de Kooning used.

Conservators also:

  • Used a microscope to reattach areas where paint had lifted or flaked
  • Removed the varnishes
  • Filled in lost paint with reversible conservation pigments (which can be removed if needed)
  • Reunited the painting with its cut canvas

Woman-Ochre is currently on display at the Getty Museum, its first public exhibition since the heist, and will return to the UAMA this fall.

BTW: If this story fascinated you, the Alters are the subject of the 2022 documentary The Thief Collector.

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SNIPPETS

Housing halt: Demand for mortgages hit its lowest point in 22 years last week due to rising interest rates and declining home sales. For reference, mortgage applications and refinancing demand were down 21% and 75% YoY, respectively.

Going down: Crypto trading app BlockFi is raising a “down-round,” in which it will solicit new funds at a lower valuation of $1B. The company was valued at $5B+ last year.

New look: TikTok launched Avatars, a feature that lets users upload videos of animated versions of themselves, much like Bitmojis.

Voting power: Shopify’s board approved a 10-to-1 stock split, and passed a motion giving CEO Tobi Lutke 40%+ of voting rights under certain conditions. The move went against advice from two advisory firms.

Hold up: Sounds like the shared scooter resurgence is hitting a speed bump. According to an internal memo, Bird, a major player in the space, is planning to lay off 23% of its staff.

Sober bars are back: Trendster Chris Marshall is launching his second Sans Bar in Texas next year. Read the Trends article for details on the rebounding trend.

J.M. Smucker may lose $125m over the Jif peanut butter recall, triggered by salmonella infections linked to a Kentucky facility. #ecommerce-retail

Mazda pledged carbon-neutral factories by 2035, and a carbon-neutral supply chain by 2050. Yet, it will still sell combustion vehicles. #clean-energy

Nothing, which launched wireless earbuds in 2021, will announce its first smartphone next month. It’ll feature transparent design elements with light strips on the back. #emerging-tech

Salesforce announced NFT Cloud, a platform to help its clients mint, manage, buy, and sell crypto assets. #fintech-crypto

One charger to rule them all: A new EU law requires that all electronic devices support a standard USB-C charger. (Looking at you, Apple.) #big-tech

chart
Netflix vs Roku market cap

Singdhi Sokpo

Is Netflix about to buy a product it spun off in 2007?

Yesterday, rumors flew of an impending Netflix acquisition of Roku.

Roku’s ad business made $647m in Q1 revenue, and it’s looking cheap with the stock down 55% this year. Though unlikely, buying Roku would give Netflix immediate access to lucrative ad products it could integrate.

But what about Roku’s physical devices?

Oh, right. Roku also makes actual TVs and streaming boxes, meaning Netflix would potentially be entering the hardware game, a space it almost certainly finds unappealing.

But back in December 2007, Netflix nearly did just that.

The company was weeks away from launching its own Roku box — code-named “Griffin” — with Roku founder Anthony Woods leading the development.

  • Prices were decided, ads were shot, and an internal spoof video titled “The Griffin Initiative” was even filmed, depicting Netflix employees playing “Pong” to a narrator saying, “Product managers… used highly evolved scientific processes…”

Abruptly, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings yanked the device and spun off the company, convinced it would complicate relationships with other hardware makers.

Almost 15 years later, barring some recent volatility, it seems like that was a rather wise decision.

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Free Resource

10 glorious Google Sheets templates

Take our word for it — great Google Sheets help teams get sh*t done…

… and have gorgeous viewports into unsightly reams of data, which makes work a little less daunting. Tidy templates are just gratifying in that way.

Here are 10 of them. These ready-to-use spreadsheets are made to aid entrepreneurs, small-to-mid-sized businesses, and jack-of-all-trades marketing operators.

Templates for organization and planning:

  • Blog editorial calendar
  • Marketing budget template
  • Paid media template
  • Competitive analysis template
  • Email marketing planning template
  • On-page SEO template
  • Sales and customer service metric calculators

If this is your start to a new type of structure, we’re stoked for you.

10 spiffy business templates →
Bundle Up
crypto

Coinbase is feeling the chill of crypto winter

As crypto gained steam, tech giants have lamented workers leaving for the promise of Web3 riches.

But that trend might be short-lived.

Coinbase, one of the most prominent companies in crypto, recently announced an indefinite hiring freeze, pushing new workers to rethink crypto as a career, per Bloomberg.

In the last year…

… Coinbase has grown from 1.7k to ~5k employees. The company seemingly had no intention of slowing down, with a plan to triple its headcount in India to ~1k workers by year’s end.

Then crypto winter froze over hiring:

  • The company announced it will not be making any new hires for the foreseeable future
  • Over 330 accepted offers were rescinded

Despite Coinbase offering severance packages and other services, the rescinded offers have led to a variety of personal problems for candidates:

  • One candidate turned down offers at Amazon and PWC in favor of Coinbase
  • Another was relying on Coinbase for a work visa, and now has ~150 days to find another job that will support one

Perhaps more importantly…

… Coinbase is viewed as an on-ramp for crypto — both for users of its services, and new hires looking to start a career in the industry.

The hiring freeze and rescinded offers could ultimately scare candidates into roles in more stable industries — which may not be a bad thing for Big Tech.

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AROUND THE WEB

🏇 On this day: In 1973, Secretariat triumphed at the Belmont Stakes, becoming the first horse to win the Triple Crown since 1948.

🦒 That’s interesting: Nearly 17m years ago, giraffes apparently had short necks and would headbutt each other to see who was boss.

🕵️‍♀️ Cure boredom: Play “Fallen London,” a free, text-based browser game. Make choices to navigate a fantastical Victorian London full of intrigue and monsters.

📱 How to: The proper way to clean your dirty phone screen.

🐈‍⬛ Aww: And now, bookstore cats.

Meme
art theft meme

“I’m gonna steal the Declaration of Independence.” (Source: imgflip.com)

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How did you like today’s email?
Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst.
Editing by: Jennifer “Woman-Ochre” Wang.

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