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Shari & Sumner
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to me
Viacom’s royal family is pulling an audible on investors…
The Hustle Tues, Dec 13

Viacom says, “thanks, but we’re good”

Viacom maverick Shari Redstone has thrown shareholders for a loop, announcing that the company will be pulling out of their merger with CBS.

Problem is, while CBS ranks as one of the highest-valued media stocks, Viacom is, um, how do we say this… the lowest. It’s basically like Screech turning down a date with Kelly Kapowski.

Why the newfound confidence?

The letter from Shari and her father, 93-year-old media mogul Sumner Redstone, says that they feel confident in Viacom CEO Bob Bakish’s new strategy.

But, optimism aside, Viacom revenues were down 15% last quarter and shares continue to tank after being briefly stabilized by the promise of a CBS acquisition.

And, this isn’t the first time the Redstones have gone rogue…

Classic Shari

Since Sumner unofficially handed the reigns to his previously estranged daughter, “Stone Cold” Shari Redstone has caused controversy by making a series of sweeping changes to Viacom’s inner circle.

In May, she fired two long-time insiders, ex-CEO Philippe Dauman and board member George Abrams, both of whom have since accused Shari of manipulating the aging Sumner to push her own agenda.

All in the Redstone family values

Regardless of her other motives, there’s no question that, like her father, Shari wants to protect her family’s majority stake in both Viacom and CBS, which could be part of the reason for backing out of the merger.

Rumor has it that CBS’ CEO Les Moonves would’ve only agreed to take on Viacom if he gained ownership of the Redstone’s 80% voting rights. Looks like Shari isn’t ready to go down that easy.

 

JetSmarter wants to be the “Uber of private jets”

But, Uber also wants to be the “them” of private jets. Awkward.

Cliche comparisons aside, JetSmarter just raised $105M from high profile investors Jay-Z and the Saudi royal family. So, they’re not exactly keeping a low profile.

How’s it work?

JetSmarter’s app lets members book individual seats on private planes using their JetShuttle service (think Uber Pool), or entire planes (Uber XXXL?) for a small first-year fee of $15k.

The fee includes a range of “free” single seats to places like New York, London, Paris, and Dubai. Second seat’s gonna set you back though (then again, if you have $15k to drop, what’s another couple G’s?).

Subscription jet-setting is the new hotness

The air is getting more crowded in the subscription flying space. Competitors like SurfAir promise monthly “all-you-can-fly” subscriptions, while Wheels Up offers pay-as-you go and up-front pricing structures.

Problem is, all of these companies rely on economies of user scale to be sustainable, so the fragmented market could be its own undoing. In other words, multiple competitors trying to win over an already niche demographic might mean that they all lose out.

Wait, what was that about Uber again?

Apparently they’re trying to build planes, too. Specifically, VTOLs (vertical take-off and landing aircrafts), which would reduce street congestion and give users “as many options as possible to move around,” according to Jeff Holden, Uber’s head of products.

Hey, if it gets us to work on time, we don’t care how it happens. As long as it’s closer to $15 than $15k…

 

BREAKING NEWS:

Snapchat adds group chat

A couple hours ago, Snapchat introduced a group chat feature, which will allow you to chat with up to 16 friends. Freakin’ finally!

In typical yellow ghost fashion, all chats and snaps sent to the group will go poof after 24 hours… so your inebriated conversations over the holidays with high school acquaintances won’t haunt you.

Plus, since you can access Groups after you create a snap (and don’t have to already be in that window to send something), it would appear that the “I send Snapchats to the same 6 friends every single time, why do I have to keep selecting them all individually?” problem has been solved.

Rejoice!

Dorsey’s interviewing Snowden

Twitter’s CEO is interviewing the CIA whistleblower as we speak (started at 9:05am PT), and you can watch the whole conversation for free on Periscope.

Simplest way to do so: Visit the @PardonSnowden Twitter account and click the link to the broadcast. This will allow you to watch directly from your Twitter feed.

But, if you want to interact with the video (make comments, send flying hearts to Ed), you’ll need to download Periscope on the App Store or Google Play.

It’s unclear exactly what they’ll cover in the interview, or why Dorsey is conducting the thing in the first place. However, considering he’s offered his public support to have Snowden pardoned and that Twitter has always claimed to support free speech at all costs… sounds like it could be pretty engaging.

 

We’re hosting a webinar on Thursday at 10:30am PT. Come.

On Thursday, we’re launching our new “Get Better At” webinar series, which is designed to help you improve one specific business-related skill (So, you’re gonna have to learn how to play the harmonica on your own time).

And, we’re thrilled to have Russ Perry, the founder of Design Pickle, host our debut episode: “Get Better At… Making Decisions.”

What’s he going to be talking about?

As the title suggests, Russ’ 20-minute presentation will focus on how to make better business decisions, tips for maintaining focus, and avoiding the dreaded “Shiny Object Business Syndrome” (S.O.B.S.).

He’ll be sharing the exact decision-making tactics he used to build a remarkably successful business from scratch, so you should probably attend. It’s free, after all.

How do I sign up?

Just click right here, mate. Or click this slightly bigger hyperlink if you’ve got fat thumbs. See you on Thursday at 10:30am PT!

 
 
a few good reads
 

7,500 Faceless Coders Paid in Bitcoin Built a Hedge Fund’s Brain (Wired)

“Richard Craib is a 29-year-old South African who runs a hedge fund in San Francisco. Or rather, he doesn’t run it. He leaves that to an artificially intelligent system built by several thousand data scientists whose names he doesn’t know…”

The Elves Leave Middle Earth — Sodas Are No Longer Free (Steve Blank’s blog)

Steve Blank’s advice on why companies should always preserve and manage an “Innovation Culture.” Also, why financial decisions that seem rational (aka. no more free drinks) can often end up ruining everything.

Locked On The Psych Ward (BuzzFeed News)

This BuzzFeed News investigative report explores how America’s largest psychiatric chain — Universal Health Services or UHS — turns patients into profits. Pretty harrowing stuff.

The Inside Story Behind Pebble’s Demise (Backchannel)

Pebble’s CEO Eric Migicovsky explains what went wrong, how Fitbit ended up buying them, and why he has no regrets about how it all unfolded.

Just How Much Do the Top Private Equity Earners Make? (The New York Times)

The NYT and Equilar, a board and executive data provider, teamed up to determine the annual pay for top-ranking execs at the 6 PE firms that are publicly traded. The results are pretty remarkable.

Dat Beard Doe (The Hustle)

A completely subjective, overly opinionated look at the best beards in tech courtesy of our friend, Ramit Sethi.

 
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