On Toppling Those Up Top
- The King is Dead. Well, he’s not dead exactly. But he’s been deposed. Bill Gross – the long-reigning “Bond King” – was forced to resign in acrimony from Pimco, the company he had helped to found over four decades ago. Though in retrospect perhaps predictable, Gross’s departure was nevertheless experienced as sudden, a precipitous fall from grace by a legendary investor whose performance in recent years, both personal and professional was, shall we say, other than legendary. Gross’s abrupt exit was a big deal. It was such a big deal it actually rattled global debt markets, notably U. S. treasury prices which, after the announcement of his departure, fell.
- Woman Under Seige. Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer joined the ranks of corporate leaders inhibited from leading because activist investors are breathing down their necks. Since Mayer took over Yahoo’s performance has been less than stellar. So she is being pushed to, among other things, cut costs, spell out plans for Asian assets, and decide on how exactly the company will deploy the large chunk of change it received from selling shares of Alibaba. No question about it: Mayer is being challenged, which is precisely why she has no choice but somehow to respond to this significant threat to her authority.
On Eastern Ukraine, Scotland, Catalonia – and Hong Kong
- The Rain in Spain. Let me put it this way: The likelihood is strong that you had a better week than did Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy. Because of widespread public protests and clear public preferences, Rajoy was obliged to scuttle proposed changes in the abortion law, which would have made Spain about the most difficult country in Europe in which to terminate a pregnancy. It’s not clear why the law was proposed in the first place, given public opinion which was always strongly against. Still, it was a humiliating setback for Spain’s putative leader – though not quite as humiliating, or threatening, as being forced to face a show down with the president of Catalonia, who has now formally scheduled an independence referendum for November 9.
- Chaos in Hong Kong. This weekend tens of thousands of ordinary citizens joined pro-democracy students protesting China’s political interventions in Hong Kong’s affairs. Tensions between the protesters on the one hand, now threatening a “new era” of civil disobedience, and the authorities on the other, now resorting to tear gas to tamp down the demonstrations, were high as the battle lines between autocracy and autonomy hardened. This is a drama that has yet to be played out, for it is increasingly clear that China will not get its way with Hong Kong without the use of force. How much force will have to be expended in order to quell the unrest remains to be seen. The stakes in any case are huge.