Good morning. Brace yourself for another big number when data on weekly U.S. unemployment claims is released this morning, adding to the 10 million people who lost their jobs in the previous two weeks. We hope you can join us for our next DealBook Debrief call today at 11 a.m. Eastern about how coronavirus is affecting media, entertainment, streaming and more. Our special guests are Ben Smith, The Times’s media columnist, and Edmund Lee, our media industry reporter. For details, visit the R.S.V.P. page. (Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here.)
Paul Singer foresaw coronavirus lockdowns
The billionaire warned employees of his Elliott Management hedge fund two months ago that they should prepare for a monthlong quarantine — well before New York mandated a lockdown, Bloomberg’s Katia Porzecanski reported.
Mr. Singer sent an internal memo on Feb. 1 that employees in the firm’s offices around the world should “try to make arrangements so that you do not have to leave your home for a month if that becomes necessary.” (The Elliott founder is known for being cautious about anything that could affect the markets, including solar storms.)
• He added that workers should make sure to have “access to sufficient food, water and medicines.”
• But Elliott didn’t start telling employees to start working from home until the local authorities told them to, Michael has learned.
The memo was focused on employee safety and didn’t address investment decisions, Michael learned. The firm had hedges that helped protect its investments against a downturn, and its return for the first quarter was about 2.2 percent — not quite Bill Ackman’s level, but easily outperforming the average hedge fund, which lost money over the same period.
Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin in Connecticut and Michael J. de la Merced and Jason Karaian in London.
The future of oil prices could be set today
All eyes are on today’s (videoconference) meeting of OPEC members and Russia over potential oil production cuts. At stake are global oil prices and the survival of debt-laden energy companies and their lenders. No biggie.
The meeting is the most recent effort to end the production war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that has battered prices recently. The glut of crude hitting the market exacerbated a 25 percent drop in demand because of the coronavirus-induced economic downturn.
• This is a good thing for the Saudis and Russians, but it has put the squeeze on other producers, particularly U.S. shale companies. It has also raised the ire of President Trump, who otherwise likes cheap gasoline. He has reportedly floated the idea of imposing tariffs on imported oil, though some American producers oppose such a move.
What’s on the table: Production cuts of about 10 million to 15 million barrels a day. That could push prices of West Texas Intermediate crude up to $35 a barrel, from around $25 today, Scott Sheffield, the C.E.O. of the Texas producer Pioneer Natural Resources, told the FT. If a deal doesn’t come together, he said, prices could sink to $10 a barrel.
The U.F.C. is picking a fight
Dana White, Ultimate Fighting Championship’s president, insists that a 12-fight mixed martial arts showcase take place as scheduled on April 18, without fans, at a casino on sovereign tribal land in Central California. The plan, which skirts social-distancing orders issued by states, could still be quashed, The Times’s Kevin Draper reports.
The pay-per-view event is being sold by ESPN’s streaming service, putting the broadcaster’s parent company, Disney, in a tricky spot.
The U.F.C.’s parent company, Endeavor, is also taking a risk if the event goes ahead. Some fighters have pulled out, and Endeavor’s other businesses — namely, its talent agencies — may suffer a reputational hit if part of the company is seen as flouting stay-at-home orders.
• Last year, Endeavor returned a $400 million investment to Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to protest the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It later scrapped a planned I.P.O. because of weak demand.
• The loss of sports programming because of pandemic lockdowns has hit Endeavor hard, with analysts fretting about the company paying down its debt load.
Podcast company founder is charged with bribery
Hollywood has been chattering for the past 48 hours about criminal charges filed against Hernan Lopez, the founder and C.E.O. of Wondery, a podcast production company with relationships with many of the biggest studios.
Mr. Lopez is accused of bribing soccer officials in South America in exchange for broadcasting rights when he was an executive at Fox Sports. He denies the charges.
The case raises questions about Wondery’s future. Ever since Spotify acquired Gimlet, a rival podcast production company, and Bill Simmons’s The Ringer, speculation has risen that Wondery was also a takeover target. Wondery’s programs include a podcast spinoff of Netflix’s breakout hit “Tiger King” and “Dirty John,” a podcast that was turned into a drama on Bravo. The company has produced podcasts with The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe and USA Today, among others.
Podcast listening is down, with stay-at-home orders cutting commuting time that many people use to listen to shows. Advertising is also expected to nose-dive, putting pressure on the sky-high valuations that podcast companies fetched just months ago. On top of this, Wondery now faces complications tied to Mr. Lopez’s legal troubles.
Work life after the outbreak
Yesterday, we asked readers about what they think will happen when workplaces reopen after coronavirus lockdowns. Will things return to the way they were, or has the grand work-from-home experiment forever altered office culture? Thanks to all of you who shared your thoughts. Here’s a selection, lightly edited for length:
• “This experiment may show that we value physical interaction a lot more than we thought before.” — Andrew Ahachinsky, Vancouver, British Columbia
• “A lot of us are very fortunate and privileged to have jobs that allow us to perform our jobs from anywhere, and I think the current environment proves that we don’t all need to be in a physical work space to get things done. This could potentially set off a huge change in how we think about where we live and why.” — Chris Voigt, San Jose, Calif.
• “I, for one, relish the ability to sleep in later and log on in my jammies. It’s healthier. All of us were working from home two days a week prior to coronavirus, so five days is a natural progression.” — Miritt Comforti, Salt Lake City
• “For anyone who lives in a big city, the thing that keeps us there is the underlying energy: the noise, the traffic, the feeling of celebrating a big deal with your co-workers, or even commiserating after a failure. Experiencing these things while working from home is like watching a world class orchestra on mute.” — Ryan Bennett, Bangalore, India [Mr. Bennett is the co-C.E.O. of WeWork India]
• “I have encountered people all across the work-from-home spectrum: those who view it as a viable alternative; those who accept it but maybe aren’t too enthused; and those who reject it outright. I believe that each group will have their own worldviews confirmed once this is all said and done.” — Daniel Samovici, Jersey City, N.J.
The speed read
• Some traders are working from home. Those who work for Citadel Securities are holed up at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach, Fla. (NYT)
• A new exchange-traded fund focused on companies serving remote workers is about to launch. Or, put more succinctly, WFH ETF ETA ASAP. (Bloomberg)
Politics and policy
• The Bank of England will directly finance the British government’s coronavirus rescue initiatives. (FT)
• The Fed temporarily lifted a lending cap on Wells Fargo to let the bank make more small-business loans. (NYT)
• Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, pledged to divest her holdings in individual stocks after being criticized for trades made before the pandemic roiled the markets. (NYT)
• Zoom is scrambling to improve its security practices, as a growing number of organizations ban use of the videoconferencing service. (NYT, 9to5Mac)
• The Disney Plus streaming service has racked up 50 million paying subscribers in five months. (NYT)
Best of the rest
• Inside Airbnb’s chaotic response to the coronavirus pandemic. (WSJ)
• Summer may not make the coronavirus pandemic go away. (NYT)
• It’s not just you: We’re all having intense coronavirus dreams. (LAT)
Thanks for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.
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