One of Asia’s biggest companies just got steamrolled by the Chinese government
Last week, China’s insurance regulator announced it will “take control” of Anbang Insurance Group and prosecute its chairman, Wu Xiaohui, for fraud and “economic crimes.”
Over the course of 14 years, Wu leveraged his political connections to grow Anbang into a massive conglomerate with $300B in assets, many of which were overseas. But, in his drive for global expansion, he racked up serious debt — and attracted the attention of government officials.
From insurance company to global powerhouse
Anbang began its life in 2004 as a tiny car-insurance company. For many years, it just sold insurance policies. But its founder, Wu, developed greater ambitions.
The company began peddling “wealth management products” (or short-term investments with fixed-rate returns), a largely unregulated way for Chinese companies to raise capital, which, according to the NYT, led Anbang’s assets to multiply 2,876-fold in a 6-year period.
With that massive momentum, Anbang snatched up properties across the globe — including dropping $2B on New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, and $6.5B on a multi-city hotel deal with Blackstone.
Where’d things go wrong?
The Chinese government had 2 major problems with the way Anbang was going about its business.
First, they took issue with the company’s wealth management products, which they saw as “high-yielding, short-term investment products in the guise of insurance” that posed a huge risk to mom and pop investors.
Second, they didn’t like Anbang’s massive expenditures overseas. Last year, China’s president, Xi Jinping, called companies like Anbang “financial crocodiles,” blaming them for hemorrhaging money outside of China’s borders and destabilizing the country’s economy.
China’s insurance regulator claims it will assume control of Anbang for the next year, during which it plans to stabilize business operations and bring new investors on board.
The future is a little less certain for the company’s leader, Wu — but economic crimes aren’t treated lightly in China.
Crying crocodile tears
General Mills is coughing up big dough for the natural pet food company Blue Buffalo
At the behest of consumers, food companies have worked desperately to acquire healthier confectionery brands recently, and now General Mills wants to do the same for your pets.
The maker of sugary treats like Häagen-Dazs ice cream and Trix looks to buy Blue Buffalo Pet Products for close to $8B in cashola, which would make it the second-largest pet food deal ever.
‘Healthy’ and ‘holistic’ — Blue Buffalo’s motto
With $20B spent on pet care in 2017, the move by General Mills comes at a time when the business of pet care is a boomin’.
Mars bought up some of the big dawgs like Iams, Pedigree, and Whiskas brands, while J.M. Smucker purchased Big Heart Pet Brands (ya’ll know Meow Mix) for $6B in 2015.
To set themselves apart, General Mills is focusing on a company that prides themselves on purveying natural, low-carb, high-protein pet food.
Take it easy, General Measy
Blue Buffalo’s grain-heavy pet food-shaming ads have worked over the past three years, as the company’s sales have grown around 36%, but it’s still possible that General Mills is overpaying.
According to the Wall Street Journal, at $8B, General Mills will pay 6.3 times Blue Buffalo’s 2017 sales, and a whopping 25 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.
That said, General Mills has deemed some of their “over-aggressive” acquisitions successful in the past, so maybe they’re onto something. They plan to have the Blue Buffalo deal done by the end of the year.
Real-life sports stars invest $38m to build esports empire
New esports team Vision Esports LP (VELP for short?) just closed a $38m round from investors led by VC firms Creative Artists Agency and Evolution Media — plus some huge names in real-life sports, who can no long deny that this esports thing is, well… a thing.
Professional gaming leagues are gaining viewers faster than you can say “first-person shooter”: 296m people watched esports around the world last year — up 40% from 2015. For context, in spring 2017, 63.2m million people had watched an NBA game in the last 12 months.
The company itself is led by both tech and sports insiders, including Stratton Sclavos, former CEO at Verisign, and Rick Fox, retired NBA player-turned-actor, who apparently saw the writing on the wall after attending an esports game at Madison Square Garden.
Esports teams are small potatoes — leagues are where the money is
According to Sclavos, “leagues make 27 times the revenue” of teams.
But, where esports leagues like gamemaker Blizzard’s Overwatch have avoided outside brand partnerships, VELP has taken a majority stake in a few others, like Vision Entertainment, which produces livestreams for esports events.
So, if all goes according to plan, VELP’s conglomerate will own the players and the content generated around it.
Wannabe “Vantablack” art installation created in Pyeongchang for the Olympics
British designer Asif Khan created a temporary structure in the middle of Pyeongchang called the Hyundai Pavilion, using the darkest paint on Earth: Vantablack or… VBx2.
Created by Surrey Nanosystems back in 2014, Vantablack is a chemical substance made of tiny nanostructures that trap light inside and turn them to heat, creating a deep, dark, illusion-like void. And it’s tripppy…
But Khan’s isn’t THE Vantablack
While both paints work the same way, original Vantablack absorbs 99.96% of the light that hits it, while Khan’s Vanta-fake absorbs only 99.0%.
See, famed artist Anish Kapoor (who created that chrome bean in Chicago) exclusively copyrighted the original Vantablack in 2016.
Aside from various military and scientific uses, Kapoor and those at his studio are the only ones trained to use the specialized substance for aesthetic purposes — a move that sparked outrage among the art community.
“This black is like dynamite in the art world… It isn’t right that it belongs to one man,” said one disgruntled artist.
The art of owning colors
While corporations like Target, UPS, and many others have been trademarking colors for decades, owning a specific color outright in the art world is rare.
Though, the move by Kapoor wasn’t the first: in 1960, the French artist Yves Klein patented International Klein Blue, a deep, matt shade of blue that a little-known performance art collective called the Blue Man Group has since paid to use on their faces.
Last week we kicked off our nationwide tour with our first 2X event of the year in San Francisco, and 1,000 of you showed up.
That’s right, onethousand people, and guys… we’re impressed. 8 amazing women shared stories of success, failure, and courage in the face of uncertainty, even when the chips were stacked against them — it gave me goosebumps.
But, if you missed out, I have good news for your sad, goosebump-less bods…