Former hedge fund star says this is what will trigger the next bear market.

Much of Wall Street expects easing inflation, but an overshoot could dash hopes of a May rate cut, curtailing the S&P 500’s
SPX
waltz with 5,000, warn some.

Read: Arm’s frenzied stock rally continues as AI chase trumps valuation.

What might take this market down eventually? Our call of the day from former hedge-fund manager Russell Clark points to Japan, an island nation whose central bank is one of the last holdouts of loose monetary policy.

Note, Clark bailed on his perma bear RC Global Fund back in 2021 after wrongly betting against stocks for much of a decade. But he’s got a whole theory on why Japan matters so much.

In his substack post, Clark argues that the real bear-market trigger will come when the Bank of Japan ends quantitative easing. For starters, he argues we’re in a “pro-labor world” where a few things should be playing out: higher wages and lower jobless levels and interest rates higher than expected. Lining up with his expectations, real assets started to surge in late 2023 when the Fed started to go dovish, and the yield curve began to steepen.

From that point, not everything has been matching up so easily. He thought higher short-term rates would siphon off money from speculative assets, but then money flowed into cryptos like Tether and the Nasdaq recovered completely from a 2022 rout.

“I have been toying with the idea that semiconductors are a the new oil – and hence have become a strategic asset. This explains the surge in the Nasdaq and the Nikkei to a degree, but does not really explain tether or bitcoin very well,” he said.

So back to Japan and his not so popular explanation for why financial/speculative assets continue to trade so well.

“The Fed had high interest rates all through the 1990s, and dot-com bubble developed anyway. But during that time, the Bank of Japan only finally raised interest rates in 1999 and then the bubble burst,” he said.

He notes that when Japan began to tighten rates in late 2006, “everything started to unwind,” adding that the BOJ’s brief attempts [to] raise rates in 1996 could be blamed for the Asian Financial Crisis.

In Clark’s view, markets seem to have moved more with the Japan’s bank balance sheet than the Fed’s. The BOJ “invented” quantitative easing in the early 2000s, and the subprime crisis started not long after it removed that liquidity from the market in 2006, he notes.

“For really old investors, loose Japanese monetary policy also explained the bubble economy of the 1980s. BOJ Balance Sheet and S&P 500 have decent correlation in my book,” he said, offering the below chart:


Capital Flows and Asset Markets, Russell Clark.

Clark says that also helps explains why higher bond yields haven’t really hurt assets. “As JGB 10 yields have risen, the BOJ has committed to unlimited purchases to keep it below 1%,” he notes.

The two big takeaways here? “BOJ is the only central bank that matters…and that we need to get bearish the U.S. when the BOJ raises interest rates. Given the moves in bond markets and food inflation, this is a matter of time,” said Clark who says in light of his plans for a new fund, “a bear market would be extremely useful for me.” He’s watching the BOJ closely.

The markets

Pre-data, stock futures
ES00,
-0.41%

NQ00,
-0.80%

are down, while Treasury yields
BX:TMUBMUSD10Y

BX:TMUBMUSD02Y
hold steady. Oil
CL.1,
+0.79%

and gold
GC00,
+0.46%

are both higher. The Nikkei 225 index
JP:NIK
tapped 38,000 for the first time since 1990.

Key asset performance

Last

5d

1m

YTD

1y

S&P 500

5,021.84

1.60%

4.98%

5.28%

21.38%

Nasdaq Composite

15,942.55

2.21%

6.48%

6.20%

34.06%

10 year Treasury

4.181

7.83

11.45

30.03

42.81

Gold

2,038.10

-0.17%

-0.75%

-1.63%

9.33%

Oil

77.14

5.96%

6.02%

8.15%

-2.55%

Data: MarketWatch. Treasury yields change expressed in basis points

The buzz

Due at 8:30 a.m., January headline consumer prices are expected to dip to 2.9% for January, down from 3.4% in December and the lowest since March 2021. Monthly inflation is seen at 0.3%.

Biogen
BIIB,
+1.56%

stock is down on disappointing results and a slow launch for its Alzheimer’s treatment. A miss is also hitting Krispy Kreme
DNUT,
+1.99%
,
Coca-Cola
KO,
+0.24%

is up on a revenue rise, with Hasbro
HAS,
+1.38%
,
Molson Coors
TAP,
+3.12%

and Marriott
MAR,
+0.74%

still to come, followed by Airbnb
ABNB,
+4.20%
,
Akamai
AKAM,
-0.13%

and MGM Resorts
MGM,
+0.60%

after the close. Hasbro stock is plunging on an earnings miss.

JetBlue
JBLU,
+2.19%

is surging after billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn disclosed a near 10% stake and said his firm is discussing possible board representation.

Tripadvisor stock
TRIP,
+3.04%

is up 10% after the travel-services platform said it was considering a possible sale.

In a first, Russia put Estonia’s prime minister on a “wanted” list. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate approved aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Best of the web

Why chocolate lovers will pay more this Valentine’s Day than they have in years

A startup wants to harvest lithium from America’s biggest saltwater lake.

Online gambling transactions hit nearly 15,000 per second during the Super Bowl.

The chart

Deutsche Bank has taken a deep dive into the might of the Magnificent Seven, and why they will continue to matter for investors. One reason? Nearly 40% of the world still doesn’t have internet access as the bank’s chart shows:

Top tickers

These were the top-searched tickers on MarketWatch as of 6 a.m.

Ticker

Security name

TSLA,
-2.81%
Tesla

NVDA,
+0.16%
Nvidia

ARM,
+29.30%
Arm Holdings

PLTR,
+2.75%
Palantir Technologies

NIO,
+2.53%
Nio

AMC,
+4.11%
AMC Entertainment

AAPL,
-0.90%
Apple

AMZN,
-1.21%
Amazon.com

MARA,
+14.19%
Marathon Digital

TSM,
-1.99%
NIO

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Need to Know starts early and is updated until the opening bell, but sign up here to get it delivered once to your email box. The emailed version will be sent out at about 7:30 a.m. Eastern.

Check out On Watch by MarketWatch, a weekly podcast about the financial news we’re all watching – and how that’s affecting the economy and your wallet.

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In Memoriam 2023: The arts and entertainment stars we lost this year

From beloved “Friends” star Matthew Perry to style icon Jane Birkin, Euronews Culture remembers the arts and entertainment stars who died this year.

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Join us as we pay homage to some of the most notable figures in the realms of art and entertainment who bid us farewell over the past twelve months. 

It’s impossible to do justice to all the people who left an indelible mark on our lives either through their achievements, performances or strength of character but we wanted to celebrate the joy they spread and, the fun, fear, sadness or excitement they made us feel. 

For more on the stars from the world of music who passed this year, from Shane MacGowan to Tina Turner, check out our tribute page

The following names are listed chronologically by the dates of their deaths.

Lisa Loring (1958 – 2023)

Lisa Loring, who was the first actress to play Wednesday, the youngest member of the creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky and ooky Addams Family, died aged 64.

Loring played the princess of all things morbid from 1964 to 1966 in The Addams Family, the first adaptation of Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons. 

She was just five years old when she was cast.

Paco Rabanne (1934 – 2023)

Renowned designer Paco Rabanne, one of the most seminal fashion figures of the 20th century, died aged 88. 

Over decades the Franco-Spanish couturier created memorable designs and developed several enticing scents that brought him success both on the catwalk and on the high streets, making him a household name. 

Raquel Welch (1940 – 2023)

Hollywood star Raquel Welch, whose emergence from the sea in a skimpy, furry bikini in the film ‘One Million Years B.C.’ made her an international sex symbol throughout the 1960s and ’70s, died aged 82.

Her curves and beauty also captured pop culture’s attention, with Playboy crowning her the “most desired woman” of the ’70s, despite never being completely naked in the magazine.

In addition to acting, Welch was a singer and dancer. 

And she surprised many critics and attracted positive reviews when she starred in the 1981 musical ‘Woman of the Year’ on Broadway, replacing Lauren Bacall. 

Lance Reddick (1962 – 2023)

Lance Reddick, the charismatic and prolific actor who appeared in major TV series like ‘The Wire’, ‘Fringe’ and ‘Bosch’, as well as in the John Wick franchise, died of natural causes at the age of 60.

The actor had been in the middle of a press tour for the fourth instalment of the John Wick movies, John Wick: Chapter 4

He played a recurring character named Charon, the concierge at the Continental Hotel who works alongside Keanu Reeves’ infamous hitman. 

Reddick was also slated to appear in the upcoming Ballerina spinoff, starring Ana de Armas.

Michael Lerner (1941 – 2023)

Academy Award-nominated American actor Michael Lerner died at the age of 81.

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The late actor was best known for his role as the film producer, Jack Lipnick, in Barton Fink (1991) which earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards.

He has also starred and appeared in other films and series: The Warden in No Escape (1994), Mel Horowitz on the television series Clueless (1996-97), Jerry Miller in The Beautician and the Beast(1997), Mayor Ebert in Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998), Mr. Greenway in Elf (2003), and Senator Brickman in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). 

Barry Humphries (1934 – 2023)

Barry Humphries, best known for his comic creation Dame Edna Everage, died at the age of 89.

The Australian entertainer, who was particularly popular in the UK, appeared in West End shows including Maggie May and Oliver!.

His star rose further when the character of Dame Edna, a parody of suburban housewives, became a hit in the 1970s, even landing her own TV chat show, the Dame Edna Everage Experience, in the late 1980s.

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Known for her flamboyant glasses, wittily condescending attitude, lilac-rinsed hair and catchphrase “Hello possums!”, Humphries even wrote an autobiography called My Gorgeous Life, as the character.

Jerry Springer (1944 – 2023)

Jerry Springer, the onetime mayor of Cincinnati and news anchor turned legendary TV host, died at the age of 79. 

The American presenter was famous for his raucous talk show, The Jerry Springer Show, which featured a three-ring circus of dysfunctional families willing to bare all on weekday afternoons including brawls, obscenities, bleep-filled arguments and blurred images of nudity. 

At its peak, it was a ratings powerhouse and a US cultural pariah, synonymous with lurid drama.

Well in advance of Donald Trump’s political rise from reality TV stardom, Springer mulled a Senate run in 2003 that he surmised could draw on “non-traditional voters,” people “who believe most politics are bull.”

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Martin Amis (1949 – 2023)

Celebrated British author Martin Amis, known for his seminal novels, Money and London Fields, died at 73. 

Amis’ works were rebellious, witty and daring and made him one of the most prominent writers of his generation.

Money: A Suicide Note, a satire published in 1984, is considered one of his finest early works. It was included as one of the 100 best novels written in English by the Guardian which described it as a “zeitgeist book that remains one of the dominant novels of the 1980s.”

A film adaptation of Amis’s novel The Zone of Interest directed by Jonathan Glazer premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. 

Glenda Jackson (1936 – 2023)

Glenda Jackson, the Oscar-winning actress and former MP, died at the age of 87.

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The British trailblazer, who won two Academy Awards for Women In Love and A Touch of Class, as well as two more nominations, was an international star in the 1970s.

At the height of her career, she gave it all up for politics, acting as a Labour MP in north London from 1992 until 2015.

Alan Arkin (1934 – 2023)

Oscar-winning actor Alan Arkin, who had a decades-long career and won the Academy Award for best-supporting actor for his role in 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine, died at the age of 89. 

In the movie about a dysfunctional family on their way to a beauty pageant, he played a frail, foul-mouthed grandfather who was suffering from years of drug abuse.

Throughout his long career, Arkin was very prolific, appearing in more than 100 films and TV shows, nominated for four Oscars in total, including for his roles The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming and Argo,and was also a renowned director and author.

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Jane Birkin (1946 – 2023)

Jane Birkin, the Franco-British actress, singer and style icon died at the age of 76. 

She first came to public attention in Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow Up, where her nudity caused a scandal.

Birkin achieved international fame through her enduring musical and romantic collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg spanning a decade. 

In addition to her musical success, she enjoyed a prolific acting career, predominantly in French cinema, working with some of the world’s finest film-makers, including Jacques Rivette and Agnès Varda. 

Angus Cloud (1998 – 2023)

Angus Cloud, the actor who starred as the drug dealer Fezco “Fez” O’Neill on the HBO series “Euphoria” alongside Zendaya, died at the age of 25.

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To some, Cloud seemed so natural as Fez that they suspected he was identical to the character – a notion that Cloud pushed back against.

The part made Cloud the breakout star of one the buzziest shows on television. He was also cast to co-star in Scream 6 before his death. 

Mark Margolis (1939 – 2023)

Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul actor Mark Margolis, renowned for his portrayal of Hector Salamanca, passed away at the age of 83. 

Margolis, a versatile actor with a career spanning over five decades and more than 60 films, achieved widespread recognition for his role as the resentful former drug lord Salamanca. 

The role earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2012. 

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Margolis also had notable roles in Scarface, Ace Ventura, and The Wrestler.

William Friedkin (1935 – 2023)

Oscar-winning director William Friedkin, who shot to global stardom with the release of the 1973 film, The Exorcist, died at the age of 87.

The Exorcist was a Hollywood blockbuster based on William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel about a 12-year-old girl possessed by the devil.

The harrowing scenes of the girl’s possession and a splendid cast, including Linda Blair as the girl, Ellen Burstyn as her mother and Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller as the priests who try to exorcise the devil, helped make the film a box-office sensation. 

The film received 10 Oscar nominations, including one for Friedkin as director, and won two, for Blatty’s script and for sound.

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But it was two years prior that he won his first Oscar for ‘The French Connection’.

Friedkin continued working until his death. His latest film, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, starring Kiefer Sutherland premiered at this year’s Venice Film Festival. 

David McCallum (1933 – 2023)

Renowned actor David McCallum, celebrated for his role as a teenage heartthrob in the iconic 1960s series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and later as the eccentric medical examiner in the immensely popular NCIS four decades later, died at the age of 90.

In NCIS, McCallum played Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, a bookish pathologist for the Naval Criminal Investigation Service. 

Throughout his illustrious career, McCallum also made guest appearances on various TV shows, such as Murder, She Wrote and Sex and the City.

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Geneviève de Fontenay (1932 – 2023)

Geneviève de Fontenay, a historic and iconic figure in the Miss France pageant, died aged 90.

She took over sole management of the Miss France Committee in 1981, after the death of Louis de Fontenay.

Known for her strong character, and signature black and white outfits, she boycotted the centenary of beauty pageants in France organised by French channel TF1 at the end of 2020. 

Defending a conservative image of femininity, she was gradually ostracised.

Michael Gambon (1940 – 2023)

Veteran actor Sir Michael Gambon, best known for playing Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in six of the eight Harry Potter films, died aged 82. 

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He was cast as the much-loved character after the death of his predecessor, Richard Harris, in 2002.

Although the Potter role raised Gambon’s international profile and introduced him to a new generation of fans, he had long been recognised as one of Britain’s leading actors.

His work spanned TV, theatre and radio, and he starred in dozens of films from The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, The Insider, Gosford Park to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou , Hail, Caesar!, The King’s Speech, and the animated family movie Paddington.

Terence Davies (1945 – 2023)

British screenwriter and director Terence Davies, hailed by critics as one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation, died at the age of 77.

After making several experimental short films in the 70s and 80s, known as the Terence Davies’ trilogy, Davies made his feature debut with 1988’s Distant Voices, Still Lives, a semi-autobiographical film that remains to this day one of his most celebrated works.

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The lyrical film, which favoured imagery over dialogue, won the Cannes International Critics Prize in 1988, and in 2002 was voted the ninth-best film of the past 25 years by British film critics.

His final two feature films were centred around influential literary figures, Emily Dickinson in A Quiet Passion and Siegfried Sassoon in Benediction.

Burt Young (1940 – 2023)

Oscar-nominated actor, Burt Young, who played Paulie, the mumbling-and-grumbling best friend, corner man and brother-in-law of Sylvester Stallone in six Rocky films, died aged 83. 

Rocky was nominated for ten Oscars, including best supporting actor for Young. It won three, including best picture.

Young also had roles in acclaimed films and television shows including Chinatown, Once Upon a Time in America and The Sopranos, and guest-starring in MASH and Miami Vice.

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Richard Roundtree (1942 – 2023)

Richard Roundtree, the trailblazing actor who starred as the ultra-smooth private detective in several Shaft films beginning in the early 1970s, died at the age of 81.

He was considered as the first Black action hero and became one of the leading actors in the Blaxploitation genre through his New York street smart John Shaft character in the Gordon Parks-directed film in 1971.  

Roundtree’s character was part of a change in how Black movies were viewed in Hollywood, which failed to consider Black actors – especially for leading roles – in projects at the time. 

The Blaxploitation films were primarily aimed at the African American audiences, and later influenced directors such as Quentin Tarantino.

Through his 50-plus year career, Roundtree appeared in a number other notable films including Earthquake, City Heat, Roots, Maniac Cop, Se7en and What Men Want

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Matthew Perry (1969 – 2023)

Friends star Matthew Perry, the Emmy-nominated actor whose sarcastic, but lovable Chandler Bing was among television’s most famous and most quotable characters, died at 54.

Perry’s 10 seasons on Friends made him one of Hollywood’s most recognisable actors, starring opposite Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer as a friend group in New York.

As Chandler, he played the quick-witted, insecure and neurotic roommate of LeBlanc’s Joey and a close friend of Schwimmer’s Ross. 

The series was one of television’s biggest hits and has taken on a new life – and found surprising popularity with younger fans – in recent years on streaming services.

Perry also had several notable film roles, starring opposite Salma Hayek in the rom-com Fools Rush In and Bruce Willis in the crime comedy The Whole Nine Yards.

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Benjamin Zephaniah (1958 – 2023)

Birmingham-born writer and poet Benjamin Zephaniah, known for his poetry, music, acting roles, died aged 65.

Zephaniah moved to London in his 20s, where he published his first poetry collection ‘Pen Rhythm’ in 1980. 

Over his life, he went on to publish 14 poetry collections, five novels, a non-fiction biography of Mona Baptiste, five children’s books, seven plays, among many other works.

Alongside his writing work, Zephaniah has recorded extensive music, including seven studio albums. He also acted, most notably as recurring character Jeremiah Jesus in the BBC series Peaky Blinders.

Ryan O’Neal (1941 – 2023)

Hollywood actor Ryan O’Neal, who worked across genres with many of the era’s most celebrated directors, including Peter Bogdanovich on Paper Moon and _What’s Up, Doc?_and Stanley Kubrick on Barry Lyndon, died aged 82.

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The heartthrob actor went from a TV soap opera to an Oscar-nominated role in Love Story and delivered a wry performance opposite his charismatic nine-year-old daughter Tatum in Paper Moon.

Ryan O’Neal was nominated for best actor for 1970 tear-jerker drama Love Story, co-starring Ali MacGraw, about a young couple who fall in love, marry and discover she is dying of cancer. 

The romantic melodrama was the highest-grossing film of 1970, became one of Paramount Pictures’ biggest hits and collected seven Oscar nominations, including one for best picture. It won for best music.

Andre Braugher (1962 – 2023)

Andre Braugher, the Emmy-winning actor known for his role in the US comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the gritty cop drama Homicide, Life on the Streets, died at the age of 61.

Known for his instantly recognisable deep voice, Braugher’s career spanned gritty drama and modern comedy, earning him critical acclaim and accolades, including two Emmys. 

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He won his first career Emmy for his role as Detective Frank Pembleton in Homicide: Life on the Street, a dark police drama based on a book by David Simon. 

He went on to play a very different kind of cop on a very different kind of show, shifting to comedy as Capt. Ray Holt on the beloved Andy Samberg-starring Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

It would run for eight seasons from 2013 to 2021 on Fox and NBC.

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Universal banks on ‘Migration’ to expand its animation lead over Disney

Universal and Illuminations latest animated film centers on a family of ducks who decides to leave the safety of a New England pond for an adventurous trip to Jamaica. However, their well-laid plans quickly go awry when they get lost and wind up in New York City.

Universal

Disney dropped the animation crown. Universal has picked it up.

And, with “Migration” opening Friday, the studio is looking to strengthen its grip.

“Migration,” a comic tale about a family of New England ducks that leave their pond for Jamaica, but end up in New York City, is expected to tally $25 million during its domestic debut. Universal has more conservative expectations, forecasting between $10 million and $15 million in ticket sales for the film’s opening.

While that pales in comparison to the $100 million-plus debuts of Illumination/Universal’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and the latest “Minions” film, it’s comparable to the studio and DreamWorks Animation’s “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” which ran in theaters for several months, securing nearly $500 million globally.

“‘Migration,’ with solid word-of-mouth and strong reviews, will have to be judged more on its long-term results than the opening weekend splash,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

Disney’s most recent animated film “Wish” failed to connect with audiences. After generating $31.6 million domestically over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday, the film has grossed a total of $55.2 million in the U.S. and Canada. Globally, the film has reached $127.1 million. The film had a budget of $200 million, not including marketing costs.

For comparison, “Trolls Band Together,” which was released the week before Thanksgiving, secured $30 million for its three-day debut and nearly $180 million worldwide. The film had a budget of $95 million, not including marketing costs.

Representatives from Disney did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

How Disney lost the crown

Ariana DeBose stars as Asha in Disney’s new animated film “Wish.”

Disney

Disney established its animated feature empire in the early 20th century with 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and continued to dominate, more or less, into the 1980s and 1990s with “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Later, it acquired Pixar, which together with Walt Disney Animation, generated billions in box-office receipts for the company.

“The world of feature animation has been dominated for decades by Disney and for good reason,” said Dergarabedian. “They set the gold standard.”

Then came the Covid pandemic. While theaters closed, Disney sought to pad its fledgling streaming service Disney+ with content, stretching its creative teams thin, and sending theatrical movies during the pandemic straight to digital.

The decision trained parents to seek out new Disney titles on streaming, not theaters, even when Disney opted to return its films to the big screen. Compounding Disney’s woes was a general sense from audiences that the company’s content had grown overly existential and too concerned with social issues beyond the reach of children.

As a result, no Disney animated feature from Pixar or Walt Disney Animation has generated more than $480 million at the global box office since 2019.

“I think what’s changed is that Disney doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt,” said Josh Brown, CEO at Ritholtz Wealth Management and a CNBC contributor. “And people will not go to a movie just because it’s the latest Disney movie in the way that previous generations did.”

Universal appeal

But as moviegoers have returned to cinemas in the wake of the pandemic, more are gravitating toward Universal’s fare.

“Simply put, Illumination Animation’s only agenda is entertainment,” said Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “Their animated films are sweet and simple and family audiences appreciate that. Disney sometimes attempts to pack too much into their animated features, and lately have been losing sight of the simplicity of the genre.”

Not to mention, Universal has been revisiting tried and true fan-favorite stories and characters. In fact, Illumination hasn’t released a nonfranchise film since 2016, and only three of the last 10 DreamWorks features have been original stories.

For comparison, of the last eight films released by a Disney animation studio, seven have been original films with just 2022’s “Lightyear,” a “Toy Story” spinoff, tied to an existing franchise. Previously, Disney has thrived bringing new animated material to audiences, but in the post-pandemic world, it has struggled.

It is the exact opposite strategy of Disney’s live-action theatrical releases, which have relied heavily on established franchises. Think “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” “The Little Mermaid,” Marvel franchise films and “Haunted Mansion.”

Iger has said that Disney will continue to make sequels, without apology, but admitted that the company needs to be more selective in which franchises it revisits.

“I think there has to be a reason to make them, you have to have a good story,” Iger said during The New York Times’ DealBook Summit in late November.

“Minions: The Rise of Gru” is the sequel to the 2015 film, “Minions,” and spin-off/prequel to the main “Despicable Me” film series.

Universal

In animation, returning to popular characters and worlds is an easy way to capture the attention of parents and kids.

“Because they have seen these characters and related stories before, they have high confidence that they will be high quality, entertaining and ‘brand safe’ for their kids,” said Peter Csathy, founder and chair of advisory firm Creative Media. “And they may even anticipate franchise animated films as much as their kids.”

In developing consistent franchise content like Minions and Trolls, Universal is now able to introduce a new film like “Migration” with a sense of clout. Parents who see that the film is from the same studio that brought other fan favorites to the big screen are then more likely to come out to see it.

It’s what Pixar was able to do so well for nearly three decades.

“With ‘Minions,’ ‘Secret Life of Pets’ and ‘Sing,’ I think Illumination is a brand people are aware of by now,” said Bock. “And that awareness will boost ‘Migration’s’ flight pattern, likely extending its box-office run. That’s key. The long play.”

So far, “Migration” has generally favorable reviews from critics. If audiences respond well, and spread the word, the film could see a solid run, adding to the prestige of Universal’s animation brand.

“The kids animation market opportunity will never grow old, so those playing at the top of the game – as is Illumination – hold the promise and possibility of becoming the next go-to brand for quality animation after Pixar,” said Csathy.

Next year, Disney and Pixar are set to release “Inside Out 2” in June, while Universal and Illumination’s “Despicable Me 4” is scheduled to hit theaters weeks later in July.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Universal Pictures and CNBC.

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Hasbro laying off 1,100 workers as weak toy sales persist into holiday season

Hasbro is laying off about 1,100 employees as the toy maker struggles with soft sales that have carried into the holiday shopping season, according to a company memo obtained by CNBC.

Hasbro had about 6,300 employees as of earlier this year, according to a company fact sheet.

Shares of the company fell more than 2% Tuesday. Rival Mattel’s stock also slipped.

“We anticipated the first three quarters to be challenging, particularly in Toys, where the market is coming off historic, pandemic-driven highs,” CEO Chris Cocks said in the memo. “While we have made some important progress across our organization, the headwinds we saw through the first nine months of the year have continued into Holiday and are likely to persist into 2024.

Hasbro, which already laid off hundreds of employees earlier this year, had warned in October that trouble was on the horizon. In the company’s most recent quarterly earnings report, Hasbro slashed its already-soft full-year outlook, projecting a 13% to 15% revenue decline for the year.

Popular toy brand sales had dropped significantly, Hasbro also said in the October quarterly report. Popular brands like My Little Pony, Nerf and Transformer had fallen 18% at the time, due to “softer category trends.”

Hasbro’s stock was down nearly 20% through Monday’s close.

Hasbro competitor Mattel had also warned of soft sales. Yet Mattel’s stock is up about 6% through Monday, powered a great deal by the box office success of the film “Barbie.” That’s still behind the 17% gain posted by the S&P 500 so far this year, though.

Retailers overall could be in for a tepid holiday season, and toys saw lower discounts for consumers when compared to discounts a year ago.

Read the full memo from CEO Chris Cocks:

Team,   

A year ago, we laid out our strategy to focus on building fewer, bigger, better brands and began the process of transforming Hasbro. Since then, we’ve had some important wins, like retooling our supply chain, improving our inventory position, lowering costs, and reinvesting over $200M back into the business while growing share across many of our categories. But the market headwinds we anticipated have proven to be stronger and more persistent than planned. While we’re confident in the future of Hasbro, the current environment demands that we do more, even if these choices are some of the hardest we have to make.   

Today we’re announcing additional headcount reductions as part of our previously communicated strategic transformation, affecting approximately 1,100 colleagues globally in addition to the roughly 800 reductions already taken.  

Our leadership team came to this difficult decision after much deliberation. We recognize this is heavy news that affects the livelihoods of our friends and colleagues. Our focus is communicating with each of you transparently and supporting you through this period of change. I want to start by addressing why we are doing this now, and what’s next. 

Why now? 

We entered 2023 expecting a year of change including significant updates to our leadership team, structure, and scope of operations. We anticipated the first three quarters to be challenging, particularly in Toys, where the market is coming off historic, pandemic-driven highs. While we have made some important progress across our organization, the headwinds we saw through the first nine months of the year have continued into Holiday and are likely to persist into 2024.  

To position Hasbro for growth, we must first make sure our foundation is solid and profitable. To do that, we need to modernize our organization and get even leaner. While we see workforce reductions as a last resort, given the state of our business, it’s a lever we must pull to keep Hasbro healthy. 

What happens next? 

While we’re making changes across the entire organization, some functional areas will be affected more than others. Many of those whose roles are affected have been or will be informed in the next 24 hours, although the timings will vary by country, in line with local rules and subject to employee consultations where required. This includes team members who have raised their hands to step down from their roles at the end of the year as part of our Voluntary Early Retirement Program (VRP) in the U.S. We’re immensely grateful to these colleagues for their many years of dedication, and we wish them all the best.   

The majority of the notifications will happen over the next six months, with the balance occurring over the next year as we tackle the remaining work on our organizational model. This includes standardizing processes within Finance, HR, IT and Consumer Care as part of our Global Business Enablement project, but it also means doing more work across the entire business to minimize management layers and create a nimbler organization. 

What else are we doing? 

I know this news is especially difficult during the holiday season. We value each of our team members – they aren’t just employees, they’re friends and colleagues. We decided to communicate now so people have time to plan and process the changes. For those employees affected we are offering comprehensive packages including job placement support to assist in their transition.  

We’ve also done what we can to minimize the scale of impact, like launching the VRP and exploring options to reduce our global real estate footprint. On that note, our Providence, Rhode Island office is currently not being used to its full capacity and we’ve decided to exit the space at the end of the lease term in January 2025. Over the next year, we’ll welcome teams from our Providence office to our headquarters down the road in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It’s an opportunity to reshape how we work and ensure our workspace is vibrant and productive, while reflecting our more flexible in-person cadence since the pandemic.   

Looking ahead 

As Gina often says, cost-cutting is not a strategy. We know this, and that’s why we’ll continue to grow and invest in several areas in 2024.  

As we uncover more cost savings, we’ll invest in new systems, insights and analytics, product development and digital – all while strengthening our leading franchises and ensuring our brands have the essential marketing they need to thrive well into the future.  

We’ll also tap into unlocked potential across our business, like our new supply chain efficiency, our direct-to-consumer capabilities, and key partnerships to maximize licensing opportunities, scale entertainment, and free up our own content dollars to drive new brand development. 

I know there is no sugar-coating how hard this is, particularly for the employees directly affected. We’re grateful to them for their contributions, and we wish them all the best. In the coming weeks, let’s support each other, and lean in to drive through these necessary changes, so we can return our business to growth and carry out Hasbro’s mission.  

Thanks,    

Chris  

–CNBC’s Claudia Johnson contributed to this report.

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The ultimate work perk? This company provides a free place to stay in Spain

Some workers go to great lengths to hide hush trips from their bosses.

But employees of the Polish company PhotoAid needn’t bother.

The company, which helps travelers take their own passport photos at home, allows its employees to stay at an apartment in Spain for free — provided they work while they’re there.

The apartment is in Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, an archipelago west of Morocco. Employees can stay up to three weeks at a time and can visit as many times in year as they like, depending on demand from other employees.

The company reimburses half of employees’ airfare too, up to 1,000 Polish zlotys ($246), once a year. Flights from Warsaw to Tenerife can start at around $150 for a six-hour direct flight.

Employees can stay up to three weeks at a time at the Tenerife apartment and can visit as many times as they like.

Source: PhotoAid

The company started renting the apartment in Tenerife’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the summer of 2022 as a way to create relationships and build morale among its employees, all of whom work remotely, said co-founder Rafal Mlodzki.

Plus, Mlodzki said he and the other co-founders, Marcin and Tomasz Mlodzki — who are also his brothers — wanted to offer a company perk that would stand out.  

How the ‘workcations’ work

PhotoAid is a small company with a young workforce, so most employees don’t have children, said Mlodzki. But those who do tend to group together and use the benefit in the summer months when schools are closed.

Employees can request to bring their partners too, which the company reviews on a case-by-case basis, he said.  

Employees must abide by several rules, he said, such as the check-in and check-out protocol. Employees must upload a photo of the apartment on arrival, then do the same on departure to show the next group of employees how they left it.

Workcation time spent in Tenerife doesn’t count as employee vacation time, which is up to 26 days a year, said PhotoAid co-founder Rafal Mlodzki.

Source: PhotoAid

On arrival, employees are assigned a cleaning task too, but the company hires a professional cleaner for deep cleans, he said. While drinking wine on the balcony and chatting into the night are regular occurrences, employees are not allowed to drink during work hours, he said.   

Mlodzki told CNBC Travel that employees like to visit Tenerife with coworkers with shared interests. For example, a recent group played sports in their free time, while another group went to music concerts.

‘The best onboarding in the world’

Around 50 of PhotoAid’s 143 employees have now stayed at the Tenerife apartment, many meeting their teammates in person for the first time during their stays. Around 10 were onboarded as new starters there too, said Mlodzki.

“One of the reasons we decided to open this office was the possibility of offering the best onboarding in the world for senior team members. Those onboarded are not only thrilled but also deeply understand the company and their role in it,” said Mlodzki.

Coworkers with shared interests — such as sports and music — travel to Tenerife together.

Source: PhotoAid

“Often, spontaneous moments occur. For example, after a series of 45-minute sets with 10-minute breaks, we might go on a mini mountain trip and continue onboarding informally. It might even transition into an evening on the terrace.

“We just onboarded our new chief operating officer during a workation in Tenerife, and he was deeply impressed. He had never experienced an onboarding like this before.”

Two senior leaders have scheduled a strategic planning and brainstorming session at the apartment this winter, where average temperatures in January are 68 degrees Fahrenheit, higher than 34 F in the Polish capital of Warsaw.

The apartment

The 3,200-square-foot apartment overlooks the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It has three bedrooms, a spacious lounge with board games, two balconies and a small gym. There are also eight workspaces with high-speed internet, computer monitors and ergonomic chairs.

The apartment has eight workspaces with high-speed internet, computer monitors and ergonomic chairs.

Source: PhotoAid

There’s a bakery next door for fresh bread, with restaurants, bars, wineries, and vermuterias (bars specializing in Spanish vermouth) nearby.

Workation as a ‘wow’ factor

When she was interviewing, Aleksandra Staromiejska said the Tenerife benefit made PhotoAid stand out. Now a company digital public relations specialist, she stayed in the apartment for two weeks in May, along with a colleague from her team. 

Aleksandra Staromiejska started her work days early to maximize her time at the beach, she said.

Source: Aleksandra Staromiejska

She started and finished her work early, she said, to spend as much time as possible at the beach, a 20-minute bus ride away. Over the weekend, she and her colleague went hiking in Macizo de Anaga (Anaga mountains).

“I noticed my productivity levels were higher,” said Staromiejska. “I really wanted to do my job quickly so I could finish my work day and have time to go to the beach.”

Vacations to Spain’s Canary Islands are popular with employees of PhotoAid, a company based in the much colder city of Warsaw, Poland.

Source: PhotoAid

“It was actually a very relaxing trip. Just being in nature is something else. My batteries were just charged up,” she said.

The Spanish apartment is often mentioned in employee satisfaction surveys, said Mlodzki.

“When we recruit, it’s an attractive benefit that candidates always react positively to.”

A vacay with the boss?

Enamored by the culture and scenery, Mlodzki said he spends half his time in Warsaw and half his time in Tenerife, staying in the master bedroom at PhotoAid’s apartment. 

Mlodzki acknowledged that some people might feel nervous about spending so much time with their boss. (Indeed, Staromiejska admitted she did before her workation.) But he said it’s great for rapport.

“It’s super interesting for me to get to know more people. To give and get feedback is very enriching for me,” he said.

Rafal Mlodzki, Aleksandra Staromiejska and Michel Jonca. “It’s super interesting for me to get to know more people,” said co-founder Mlodzki.

Source: PhotoAid

From leasing the apartment to paying for employees’ flights, Mlodzki said the investment has been worth it.

 “We think about the Tenerife office as the ‘company charger’ with the goal of reenergizing employees and boosting team spirits that can get depleted by remote work.”

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Activist investor ValueAct has been building a stake in Disney

Disney CEO Bob Iger speaking with CNBC’s David Faber at the Allen&Co. Annual Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.

David A. Grogan | CNBC

ValueAct Capital has taken a significant stake in Disney (DIS) and has been in dialogue with Disney’s management, the Activist Spotlight has learned. This is a new stake not previously disclosed in filings or media reports.

Here’s a breakdown of the situation:

Company: Walt Disney Co.

Business: Disney is one of the most iconic entertainment companies globally. It operates through two segments, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution; and Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. Disney engages in film and TV content production and distribution activities, as well as operates television broadcast networks and studios.

Stock Market Value: $167 Billion ($91.07 a share)

Activist: ValueAct Capital

Percentage Ownership: n/a

Average Cost: low $80s per share

Activist Commentary: ValueAct has been a premier corporate governance investor for over 20 years. ValueAct principals are generally on the boards of half of ValueAct’s core portfolio positions and have had 56 public company board seats over 23 years. ValueAct has filed 89 13D’s in their history and has had an average return of 57.57% versus 17.52% for the S&P 500 over the same period.

Behind the scenes:

ValueAct knows technology very well as seen by their active investments at Salesforce, Microsoft, and Adobe where they had board seats. They also know media well as active investors at the New York Times, Spotify and 21st Century Fox.

ValueAct began buying Disney this summer during the WGA and SAG strikes and it is one of the firm’s largest positions. The activist investor has been in dialogue with Disney’s management and are still growing their position today.

ValueAct believes that Disney’s theme parks and consumer products businesses and their $10 billion in EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) are alone worth low $80s per share, ValueAct’s approximate cost basis in the stock.

The theme parks unit has a high return on capital, allowing Disney to further monetize its intellectual property. Amongst its peers like Warner Bros, Paramount and Netflix, Disney is the only one who has this advantage. Moreover, this is a business that is not threatened by technology, but enhanced by it.

For example, Disney’s Genie app, which allows park visitors to be guided through the parks in a way that minimizes their wait time, greatly enhances the visitor experience. Moreover, Disney has recently announced that it will be investing $60 billion into theme parks, which will be money well spent.

Stock Chart IconStock chart icon

Disney YTD

This theme park valuation implies an almost zero valuation for the rest of Disney’s business that includes ESPN, theatrical movie releases, Disney+, Hulu and its television networks. Like digital news and music, video streaming was greatly disrupted by the internet and the low cost of capital from 2016 to 2021 afforded streaming companies, almost unlimited capital to acquire customers at any cost. Then with rising interest rates and inflation, that bubble burst in 2022 and there was a massive re-rating of assets globally.

Many of the high-growth companies that had easy access to capital now find themselves the most capital constrained they had been in a long time. This gives a huge advantage to companies like Disney, which has a market leading brand and an incumbent business model with strong customer relations.

Now, these streaming wars are in the process of resolving and companies are focused more on profitability than acquiring customers at any cost. This means cutting costs and creating growing and sustainable revenue.

ValueAct has experience in both of these areas. At Salesforce, where ValueAct CIO Mason Morfit is on the board, margins have gone from 18% to 32% while the stock has gone from $130 to $220 in 10 months. Disney has already announced an aggressive cost cutting plan, but it is the revenue opportunity that is more interesting here.

At portfolio companies like Adobe, Microsoft, Salesforce, Spotify and the New York Times, ValueAct has advocated for and assisted in creating bundles, pricing tiers and advertising stacks that have led to less churn, more pricing power, higher average revenue per user and even better advertising technology.

Both the New York Times and Spotify increased their bundles (NYT with Wordle, the Athletic, etc.; Spotify with podcasting and audiobooks) and both increased subscription pricing. The New York Times’ stock went from $30 per share to $45 per share and Spotify went from approximately $80 per share to $175 per share. Disney has numerous opportunities for bundling, price tiers, etc. and there are many ways this can work out through its present assets, M&A, alliances and licensing, but intelligently bundling its products will lead to more stable and valuable revenue. Based on similar situations that ValueAct has been involved in, this could lead to up to $15 billion of EBIT for the media assets and a Disney stock price as high as $190 per share.

ValueAct has a history of creating value through board seats, including at Salesforce and Microsoft, but has also added value as active shareholders in situations like Spotify and the New York Times.

I would expect that they would want a board seat here and as someone who has a reputation of working amicably and constructively with boards, the Disney board should welcome them with open arms. Aside from their extensive experience at technology companies and media companies and their innovative and relevant history of growing sustainable revenue at similar companies, there is one other reason shareholders should welcome them to the board.

Bob Iger returned to Disney in 2022 with an initial two-year contract with the explicit goal of righting the ship. The board formed a succession planning committee at that time. Iger subsequently extended his employment agreement through 2026 but longer-term succession remains one of the board’s most important priorities. Having a shareholder representative on the board is very helpful in that area particularly one like ValueAct, whose CIO participated in one of the most audacious and successful CEO successions ever when Satya Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer as CEO of Microsoft. Someone with that experience and perspective would be invaluable in navigating CEO succession at Disney.

Finally, we cannot ignore the fact that Disney is presently the target of a proxy fight by Nelson Peltz and Trian Partners that is turning somewhat confrontational. This certainly gives the Disney board an alternative they were not expecting.

Ken Squire is the founder and president of 13D Monitor, an institutional research service on shareholder activism, and the founder and portfolio manager of the 13D Activist Fund, a mutual fund that invests in a portfolio of activist 13D investments.

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What’s Warner Bros. Discovery’s next move? David Zaslav and John Malone offer clues

David Zaslav, CEO and president of Warner Bros. Discovery (L), and John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media, Liberty Global, and Qurate Retail Group.

CNBC | Reuters

Warner Bros. Discovery‘s next step to gain scale may be looking at distressed assets.

Chief Executive David Zaslav and board member John Malone both made comments this week suggesting the company is paying down debt and building up free cash flow to set up acquisitions in the next two years of media businesses suffering from diminished valuations.

The targets could be companies flirting with or filing for bankruptcy, Malone said in an exclusive interview with CNBC on Thursday. While U.S. regulators may frown at large media companies coming together because of overlaps with studio, cable or broadcasting assets, they’ll be much more forgiving if the companies are struggling to survive, Malone told David Faber.

“I think we’re going to see very serious distress in our industry,” Malone said. “There is an exemption to the antitrust laws on a failing business. At some point of distress, right, then some of the restrictions, they look the other way.”

Media company valuations have been plummeting amid streaming video losses, traditional TV subscriber defections, and a down advertising market. This has affected Warner Bros. Discovery as much as its peers. The company’s market valuation recently fell below $23 billion, its lowest point since WarnerMedia and Discovery merged last year. The company ended the third quarter with about $43 billion in net debt.

Warner Bros. Discovery is trying to position itself to be an acquirer, rather than a distressed asset, itself, by paying down debt and increasing cash flow, Zaslav said during his company’s earnings conference call this week. Warner Bros. Discovery has paid down $12 billion and expects to generate at least $5 billion in free cash flow this year, the company said.

“We’re surrounded by a lot of companies that are – don’t have the geographic diversity that we have, aren’t generating real free cash flow, have debt that are presenting issues,” Zaslav said Thursday. “We’re de-levering at a time when our peers are levering up, at a time when our peers are unstable, and there is a lot of excess competitive – excess players in the market. So, this will give us a chance not only to fight to grow in the next year, but to have the kind of balance sheet and the kind of stability … that we could be really opportunistic over the next 12 to 24 months.”

Still, Warner Bros. Discovery also acknowledged it will miss its own year-end leverage target of 2.5 to 3 times adjusted earnings as the TV ad market struggles and linear TV subscription revenue declines.

Buying from distress

Malone has some experience with profiting from times of distress.

His Liberty Media acquired a 40% stake in Sirius XM over several years more than a decade ago, saving it from bankruptcy. Since then, the equity value of the satellite radio company has bounced back from nearly zero to about $5 per share. Sirius XM currently has a market capitalization of about $18 billion.

“It made us a lot of money with Sirius,” Malone told Faber.

While Malone didn’t name a specific company as a target for Warner Bros. Discovery, he discussed Paramount Global as an example of a company whose prospects seem shaky. Paramount Global’s market valuation has slumped below $8 billion while carrying about $16 billion in debt.

Malone noted that Paramount’s debt was recently downgraded. “I think that they’re running probably negative free cash flow,” he said.

Paramount Global’s third-quarter cash flow was $377 million, and the company has forecast a return to positive free cash flow in 2024.

While Paramount Global shares have fallen precipitously since Viacom and CBS merged in 2019, there are signs the company is shoring up its balance sheet. CEO Bob Bakish said earlier this month Paramount Global’s streaming losses will be lower in 2023 than 2022, and the company expects further improvement to losses in 2024. The company closed a sale for book publisher Simon & Schuster for $1.6 billion and will use the proceeds to pay down debt.

Paramount Global’s fate

Shari Redstone, chair of Paramount Global, attends the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, on Tuesday, July 11, 2023.

David A. Grogan | CNBC

Paramount Global is one of the few assets that logically fits Malone’s vision of a media asset that would have regulatory issues as an acquisition with potential distress concerns. Comcast‘s NBCUniversal, another potential merger partner, will lose more than $2 billion this year on its streaming service, Peacock, but the media giant is shielded by its parent company, the largest U.S. broadband provider.

“Warner Bros. [Discovery] now is making money. Not a lot, but they’re making money,” Malone said. “Peacock is losing a lot of money. Paramount is losing a ton of money that they can’t afford. At least [Comcast CEO] Brian [Roberts] can afford to lose the money.”

Paramount Global’s controlling shareholder Shari Redstone is open to a transformative transaction, CNBC reported last month. Puck’s Dylan Byers recently reported that industry insiders have speculated Warner Bros. Discovery might pursue an acquisition of Paramount Global after the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

A combination of NBCUniversal and Paramount Global also has strategic logic, but the combination of two national broadcast networks — Comcast’s NBC and Paramount Global’s CBS — would present a significant regulatory hurdle. Warner Bros. Discovery doesn’t own a broadcast network, making an acquisition of CBS easier.

Spokespeople for Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery declined to comment.

While Malone said all legacy media companies should be talking to each other about merger synergies, he acknowledged valuations may have to fall farther to get regulators on board with further consolidation. Malone predicted that could happen in the same timeline Zaslav gave — within the next two years.

“Eventually maybe there’ll be regulatory relief,” Malone said. “Out of distress usually comes the reduction in competition, increased pricing power, and the opportunity to buy assets at a deep discount.”

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.

Tune in: CNBC’s full interview with John Malone will air 8 p.m. ET Thursday.

Liberty Media's John Malone on interest rates, media outlook and the streaming landscape

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Take a look inside the new Raffles hotel in London

History seeps from the walls of the Old War Office in Whitehall, London, Winston Churchill’s former workplace.

Once the beating heart of Britain’s military empire, the headquarters from which some of the most consequential decisions in modern U.K. history were made, the building is now forging a new future as one of the capital’s leading luxury hotels: Raffles London.

A painstaking eight-year renovation has seen the Grade II* listed Edwardian Baroque building — located on the site of the Palace of Whitehall and a stone’s throw from Downing Street — shake state secrets for mystique of another kind, as the first European location of the iconic Singaporean brand.

It’s the magic combination: the building, the location and the name, Raffles.

Fiona Harris

Communications director, Raffles London

“It’s the magic combination: the building, the location and the name, Raffles,” Fiona Harris, Raffles London’s communications director, told CNBC Travel.

The hotel’s opening last month marks a full circle moment for the Raffles brand, whose name and original location pay homage to Sir Stamford Raffles, the British diplomat who founded modern Singapore.

The building’s new owner, the Hinduja Group, which purchased a 250-year lease from the Ministry of Defense in 2016, started as a trading company in colonial India in 1914 and is now a global conglomerate.

CNBC Travel took a tour of the £1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) redevelopment — here’s a look at its 100-year transition from control center of the British empire to luxury stable for international visitors to the U.K.

An emblem of British history

Originally built for the British Army between 1899 and 1906, the vast OWO building served as an embodiment of imperial influence at its height.

At the time, more than 2,500 British army men and women worked within the building’s 1,100 rooms and two-and-a-half miles of corridors.

The Grade II listed Old War Office was built for the British Army in 1906 and is based on the site of the original Palace of Whitehall, home to several former British monarchs, including Henry VIII.

Raffles London

That grandeur remains today under an extensive renovation by EPR Architects, through which much of the building’s original features have been restored.

Inside the grand lobby, an Italian marble imperial staircase and double-tier chandelier do justice to a building that served as the birthplace of the British Secret Service and the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.

A new Italian chandelier, whose design is said to symbolize international trade, was delicately installed by a company that typically handles nuclear equipment.

CNBC

Above it, the first floor features the balcony from which Churchill would address his staff, giving way to the former offices of various political and military heavyweights, including David Lloyd George and Lord Kitchener.

“This building would have been full of state secrets,” Harris said.

The Old War Office was occupied by various political and military leaders, including wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill. A replica of his desk and a bust is displayed in the Churchill Suite.

CNBC

Churchill’s own office — dubbed by Harris as “the room where all the big decisions were made,” including the move to join World War II and the decision behind the D-Day landings — is no less grand in its new life as a suite, with a replica desk and bust of the former prime minister.

Pivot to the future

The Churchill suite is just one of the rooms reimaged in tribute to the building’s history by the late Thierry Despont, whose architectural accolades include the restoration of New York’s Statue of Liberty and the interior redesign of Manhattan’s residential skyscraper 220 Central Park South.

All in, the hotel houses 120 suites and rooms, including five heritage suites in the former offices of political and military leaders, and eight corner suites named after notable women and female spies.

Raffles London is home to 120 rooms and suites, including eight corner suites named after notable women and female spies.

Raffles London

Meanwhile, deep underground, a three-floor excavation expands the building’s area by more than a third to 800,000 square feet, making way for a ballroom, a 65-foot swimming pool, and a Guerlain spa.

The addition of nine new restaurants run by multi-Michelin star chefs, including three by Argentina’s Mauro Colagreco, aim to burnish the hotel’s credentials as a culinary epicenter for the city, while three new bars seek to showcase the building’s unique history and location.

A 65-foot subterranean swimming pool at the heart of Raffles London’s four-story spa, which includes nine Guerlain treatment rooms and a gym.

Raffles London

Guests at the Guards Bar and Lounge, for example, can enjoy a prime position from which to watch the famous changing of the guard ceremony while sipping a London Sling ($29), a gin and cherry cocktail inspired by its Singapore namesake.

Those seeking more discretion can opt for the subterranean spy bar, located in an old interrogation room, from where they can pay homage to the various spies whose secrets were held within its walls.

Saison, run by Argentine Michelin star chef Mauro Colagreco, is one of nine restaurants and three bars at Raffles London. It is housed in the former library where James Bond author Ian Fleming used to write.

Raffles London

And for non-paying guests, there is an opportunity to visit and tour the building on one of 11 annual open days — a part of the Ministry of Defense’s lease agreement.

“We’re flipping it on its head,” Harris said of the building that once required security clearance for admittance. “It doesn’t matter if you’re super rich or you just want to come for coffee with a friend. It’s open to everyone,” she said.

London’s new luxury wave

A stay at Raffles London is not without a significant price tag. A night in one of the hotel’s classic rooms costs around £1,100 ($1,340), while a stay in one of its five most exclusive suites will set guests back between £18,000 and £25,000 per night.

Those who prefer to stay forever can also do so, budgeting upward of £8 million for one of 85 Raffles branded OWO residences. At the time of writing, around half of those units have already sold — to buyers from the U.S., China and the Middle East — though a five-bedroom penthouse priced at £100 million remains there for the taking.

A roll top bath takes center stage in the opulent bathroom of the Granville Suite, named after British spy Christine Granville.

CNBC

The hefty sums come as Britain’s economy and much of its population remain under financial pressure amid high inflation. And yet Raffles is not alone in betting big on London’s luxury market.

In September, another £1 billion hotel, The Peninsula, opened on the corner of Hyde Park, and in the coming months, a Mandarin Oriental, a Rosewood and a new sister hotel to Claridge’s, The Emory, are all set to launch in exclusive pockets of the capital.

An art installation of suspended, fragmented poppies pays homage to the Royal British Legion, a charity for members and veterans of the British Armed Forces.

CNBC

OWO’s owner, Hinduja Group Chairman Gopichand Hinduja — who, incidentally, purchased the property in 2016 ahead of a Brexit-based downturn — said the investment showcased Britain’s long-term appeal as a luxury travel market.

“We don’t go on short-term,” Hinduja told CNBC in July. “The U.K. is an important country, and everyone loves to come to London whether it is for holiday or it is for business.”

“We have converted that place into peace and solace,” Hinduja added of The OWO building. “It is a unique, singular property. It is a place of destination.”

The Granville Suite is one of five heritage suites at Raffles London, each occupying rooms which previously served as offices for some of Britain’s leading politicians and military leaders.

CNBC

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From Kennedy To Ved, A Look At MAMI Mumbai Film Festival Lineup For This Year

Image shared on X. (Courtesy: EplanetKi)

Mumbai (Maharashtra):

The Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival on Monday announced its line-up for the year 2023, with over 250 films spread over 10 days.

The festival will be held at the Jio World Centre, a convention, theatre and concert hall complex in the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) in Mumbai. It will run from October 27 to November 5.

The curation boasts over 40 World Premieres, 45 Asia Premieres, and 70 South Asia Premieres, with a record-breaking number of 1000 submissions for the South Asia programme.

The festival promises to spotlight contemporary films and new cinematic voices from South Asia. The main competition at the festival this year is the South Asia Competition. It aligns with the festival’s new vision to become a hub for South Asian and South Asian Diaspora cinema and talent. This competitive section aims to showcase breakthrough contemporary South Asian films.

The press conference, hosted at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) in Mumbai, witnessed the festival’s illustrious board members. Anupama Chopra, Farhan Akhtar, Rana Daggubati, Siddharth Roy Kapur, Vikramaditya Motwane, Zoya Akhtar, Rohan Sippy, and Ajay Bijli unveil the meticulously curated line-up of the best in global and South Asian cinema.

Artistic Director, Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, Deepti DCunha said, “We are very proud that we have managed to achieve such a diverse curation in our South Asia section within the first year of us expanding our vision to be a festival that is focused on building an ecosystem for new cinematic voices from South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora. This commitment extends beyond film screenings, aiming to facilitate the exchange of ideas, collaborations, and business opportunities while bringing the best of world cinema to Mumbai.”

Anupama Chopra, Festival Director, Jio MAMI, said, “with every new edition of the festival, we hope to create a larger impact for all our stakeholders, from filmmakers to audiences. Our commitment to cinema and filmmakers remains at the heart of all that we stand for at the festival, and we hope to emerge as a melting pot of talent from across the world while spotlighting and creating more opportunities for South Asian films and filmmakers.”

The festival announced the following key categories (competition & non-competition):

1. South Asia Competition: Through this competitive section, the festival showcases 14 breakthrough contemporary South Asian films in diverse languages.

Highlights: Mithya by Sumant Bhat, Barir Naam Shahana (A House Named Shahana) by Leesa Gazi, The Red Suitcase by Fidel Devkota

2. Focus South Asia (Non- Non-Competition): This section features films from the South Asian Diaspora that highlight and celebrate the diversity of the region. Featuring a potpourri of lengths, languages, storytelling methods, and forms, the films in this section spotlight talent from South Asia and the South Asian diaspora and underline the wealth of narratives that make up the South Asian experience. It includes 46 films across lengths

Highlights: All India Rank by Varun Grover, Pushtaini by Vinod Rawat, Stolen by Karan Tejpal, Mai by Milin Dhamade

3. Icons South Asia: This section features iconic films by prominent South Asian talent.

Highlights: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam by Anand Patwardhan, Indi(r)a’s Emergency by Vikramaditya Motwane, Paradise by Prasanna Vithanage, Something Like an Autobiography by Mostofa Sarwar Farooki

4. Gala Premier South Asia: This section features a selection of the most ambitious Indian films of the year. It showcases established talent and distinct directorial voices from across the country.

Highlights: Kennedy by Anurag Kashyap, Sharmajee ki Beti by Tahira Kashyap, Everybody Loves Sohrab Handa by Rajat Kapoor

5. Marathi Talkies: Launched in 2016, the section showcases the best of contemporary Marathi cinema. Marathi Talkies is a platform for Jio MAMI to showcase a larger selection of contemporary voices from its home region (Maharashtra). This year the section is curated by Sachin Chate.

Highlights: Aatmapamphlet (Auto-bio Pamphlet) by Ashish Bende, Ved by Riteish Deshmukh, Dhekun (Bedbug) by Kshitij Joshi, Vaalvi by Paresh Mokashi

6. Dimensions Mumbai: Dimensions Mumbai was first introduced to Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival in 2009 by Ms Jaya Bachchan, and has been one of the most sought-after sections at the festival. Many winning filmmakers at Dimensions Mumbai have gone on to direct feature films and web series.

Highlights: Should I Kill Myself, Or Have A Cup Of Coffee? By Vidar Joshi, Halfway by Kumar Chheda, City of Mirage by Anjani Chadha, Nivedita Rani

7. World Cinema: This iconic section features critically acclaimed cinema from around the world created within the calendar year of the festival.

Highlights: Anatomy of a Fall by Justine Triet, The Daughters of Fire by Pedro Costa, Monster by Hirokazu Kore-eda, In Our Day by Hong Sang-soo, Strange Way of Life by Pedro Almodovar, The Old Oak by Ken Loach, Fallen Leaves by Aki Kaurismaki, La Chimera by Alice Rohrwacher, The Beast by Bertrand Bonello, Maestro by Bradley Cooper.

8. After Dark: Curated by BIFAN’s Jongsuk Thomas Nam, the section showcases the most thrilling features from across the world.

Highlights: Oldboy (Restored) by Park Chan-wook, Late Night with the Devil by Cameron Cairnes, Colin Cairnes, Dream Scenario by Kristoffer Borgli, Night of the Bride by Virat Pal

9. Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films: Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films acknowledges the growing importance of the short film format. It aims to celebrate original short films and help aspiring young filmmakers get an opportunity to showcase their work on the large screen. The Perfect Ten competition, which is a part of the Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films, is open to films under 10 minutes made by Indian filmmakers.

Highlights: Badminton by Dibakar Banerjee, Next, Please by Rishav Kapoor, Themb (The Drop) by Shrirang Phatak

10. Restored Classics: The festival is deeply committed to honouring and preserving cinematic legacy. This section showcases digitally restored classic films from India and around the world.

Highlights: Bugis Street by Yonfan, Chocolat by Claire Denis, Millennium Mambo by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

11. MAMI Tribute: This section pays homage to individuals who have contributed deeply to cinema by lending their expertise to the advancement of the art form.

12. Retrospective: Jio MAMI pays homage to great film personalities for their lifetime achievements through the Retrospective section. It brings works from international film history back to the big screen.

13. Recap: The section revisits our selection from 2020 and 2022

Highlights: The Rapist by Aparna Sen, Dostojee by Prasun Chatterjee, A Night of Knowing Nothing by Payal Kapadia

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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The first tour inside Manhattan’s newest private club, with $100,000 membership fees

A battle between elite membership clubs is about to reach a whole new level, as Core Club’s new 60,000-square-foot megaclub prepares to open in Manhattan next month.

The new Core space, spread over four floors above Midtown, is the latest in a wave of elite membership clubs that have opened in major cities since the pandemic. From Casa Cipriani and Zero Bond in New York, to the Aster and Heimat in Los Angeles and ZZ’s Club in Miami, the clubs have redefined the old-world membership clubs and created safe spaces for today’s privacy-minded, highly mobile wealthy.

More than a dozen new clubs have opened or announced plans to open in Manhattan since 2020. Some, like Aman, are offshoots of hotel brands. Others, like ZZ’s and Casa Cipriani, leverage the cult-like fan base of their restaurants. Many are geographic expansions of existing hotspots, like LA’s famed San Vicente Bungalows opening in New York.

A rendering of a bar area at the Core Club, a private membership club in Midtown Manhattan.

Courtesy: Core Club

The club boom has created an arms race of amenities, with clubs vying to outdo each other with dining spaces, celebrity chefs, wellness spas, gyms, bars, pools, nightclubs, plush hotel suites and high-tech board rooms. ZZ’s Club, owned by Major Food Group and scheduled to open in Hudson Yards this fall, will boast multiple restaurants and a “culinary concierge” — a team of chefs able to whip up any dish that it’s members request.

“No one’s ever done this before,” said Jeff Zalaznick, managing partner for Major Food Group. “We’ve got so much talent in this kitchen. If you want your mother’s meatloaf in two days, we can make it. You want fried chicken, we can make it and probably make a great version.”

The price for access is soaring: the Aman Club in Manhattan, part of Aman New York’s new 83-suite hotel, charges $200,000 for membership along with $15,000 a year in annual dues. Core’s memberships range from $15,000 for an individual membership to $100,000 for a family membership, along with annual dues of $15,000 to $18,000 a year.

With more clubs scheduled to open in the fourth quarter and beginning of next year, some members worry that New York and other big cities are becoming over-saturated with club offerings, especially if the economy plunges into recession.

Club owners and managers say they see no slowdown in demand, as the wealthy seek communities and private spaces where they can work, play, stay and network in a secure and exclusive space.

Industry watchers say the U.S. may be moving toward the London model of social clubs, where storied institutions like Annabel’s, 5 Hertford Street and White’s play a central role in the social and professional lives of the upper crust. Soho House, founded in London in 1995 by restauranteur Nick Jones, has expanded to become the global goliath of the private club world, with dozens of locations around the world and a publicly traded stock.

Casa Cipriani private membership club in New York.

CNBC

Core Club’s founder and CEO, Jennie Enterprise, said that after the pandemic, the wealthy value privacy and a sense of community more than ever.

“I think the proliferation of private clubs is a reflection of an exceptional business model,” she said. “The annuity subscription-based business model in any industry is attractive. The activity in the space certainly reflects a desire for curated communities and experiences. And probably with a dynamic of social media, and a lack of privacy, I think that discretion and private communities are probably something that is more aligned with the culture of the moment.”

A rendering of a terrace at the Core Club, a private membership club in Midtown Manhattan.

Courtesy: Core Club

Club owners say members often join multiple clubs, since each has its own focus and atmosphere. Zero Bond, founded by nightclub impresario Scott Sartiano, has more of a nightclub vibe and has hosted Kim Kardashian, Pete Davidson and Gigi Hadid. Aman has the hushed (some say eerily quiet) feel of a zen resort, while Casa Cipriani features the flashy, people-watching theater of Cipriani’s storied New York eateries.

Zalaznick said his affluent clientele is “spending more than ever” at ZZ’s Club in Miami and the company’s high-end restaurants, which bodes well for the forthcoming ZZ’s Club New York.

“The things that bring people back are great food, great service, great experiences, great connections and the staff’s ability to cater to people’s needs or desires,” he said. “That’s our focus, and that’s what will give us longevity in the club space.”

Core gave CNBC an exclusive first tour of its new club at 711 Fifth Avenue, scheduled to open in mid-October. The group opened its first space in 2005 at a nearby location on 55th street and became the most successful of the new breed of modern, business-oriented membership clubs. In need of more space and a fresh look, Core leased four floors on the top of the former Coca-Cola building and spent two years and tens of millions of dollars building the ideal layout.

Spanning the 15th through 18th floors, Core has over 6,000 square feet of outdoor terrace space with views of Central Park and the glass towers of Midtown.

The 15th floor houses 11 luxury hotel suites, which are between 500 and 750 square feet apiece. Priced at around $1,500 per night, the rooms will be available for guests or their family members. The same floor also houses a spa with treatment rooms and a salon.

A rendering of the Core Club, a private membership club in Midtown Manhattan.

CNBC

The 16th floor is home to the gym, juice bar and the Dangene Institute, which features the latest in anti-aging skincare technology.

On the 17th floor, members will find a speakeasy-style lounge, which includes a stylish bar, blue velvet couches and a glass wine and champagne vault, called the wine library. Another set of glass doors leads to the culinary lab, a U-shaped table where celebrity chefs from around the world will serve up special dishes for members.

A rendering of the Core Club, a private membership club in Midtown Manhattan.

Courtesy: Core Club

The 18th floor houses the more formal dining area, which will serve mostly Mediterranean fare during the day and a more seasonal, varied menu at night. Core’s culinary program is headed by Chef Michele Brogioni, the celebrated former executive chef at Giorgio Armani. The club’s bread and pastries (including what is arguably New York’s best lemon cake) is overseen by head pastry chef Mauro Pompili.

The 18th floor also houses state-of-the art conference and board rooms, a screening room and a flexible events space and gallery that can be used for exhibits, parties and big gatherings.

Along with the Manhattan club, Core has new locations in Milan and San Francisco and has plans for several others in the coming years, Enterprise said.

A rendering of a dining area at the Core Club, a private membership club in Midtown Manhattan.

Courtesy: Core Club

Yet Core’s main draw, she said, isn’t the spaces or the amenities, but the community and well-spring of ideas. Core produces between 150 and 200 cultural events a year, from performances, exhibits and talks, to tastings, interviews and showcases.

“We’re ideas-led, not amenities-led,” Enterprise said. “Clearly we have beautiful, world-class amenities. But what defines us is the quality of our ideas. We curate a community of relentlessly curious and unlike-minded people from across the spectrum. So people can intersect with other people from media sports, fashion, finance, science, technology, design and beyond. Our commitment to cultural programming reflects a desire for our members to endlessly cultivate themselves.”

While Core never discloses the names of any of its members, some cited in past media reports include Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, fashion designer Tory Burch, Vornado CEO Steven Roth and Estee Lauder Executive Chairman William Lauder.

Since the new location is nearly twice the size as its prior outpost and can accommodate more members, Core is accepting and starting to review new applications.

“We are getting a lot of applications,” Enterprise said. “There is no single requirement. We look for interesting, curious people who will add to the community.”

A rendering of the Core Club, a private membership club in Midtown Manhattan.

CNBC

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