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People in the News: Relative Successes

Nelson Peltz’s daughter and Vladimir Putin’s putative nephew take action; Japanese billionaire Son declares war in America; and more.

Masayoshi Son, Son of a Gun

It’s not every day that a foreigner goes on U.S. television to espouse the virtues of war, but that’s just what happened on March 11 — in a manner of speaking, anyway. On PBS’s Charlie Rose, SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son appealed to fans of free-market capitalism when fielding questions from his host on a possible merger between the Tokyo-based telecommunications giant–owned Sprint, which SoftBank bought last year for some $21 billion, and T-Mobile US. Son, 56, pledged to use the combined forces of the two to wage a “massive price war” with Verizon and AT&T. Though no deal is imminent, the Berkeley-educated billionaire didn’t pull any punches about his plan to undercut the two wireless leaders with faster, cheaper service, even if it means delaying profits. That same day, Son took his message to Washington, addressing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the mobile Internet’s expanding influence and the importance of speed and price in its reaching all Americans. — Ben Baris

Nicola Peltz and Her Sugar Daddy

Nicola Peltz is growing up fast. In June, Peltz, just 19 and already a regular on the A&E series Bates Motel, will star opposite Mark Wahlberg in Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth installment of the director’s popular action series. Her father, billionaire activist investor Nelson Peltz, will be playing a behind-the-scenes role. Last July, Peltz Sr. launched a campaign aimed at dividing PepsiCo’s snack and beverage businesses, a move he thinks will transform the conglomerate by streamlining operations and boosting sales. The Transformers series has done product placement and cross-promotion with PepsiCo staples, including a Doritos ad contest linked to the new film. Though PepsiCo has rejected Peltz’s proposals, the founder and CEO of New York–based Trian Fund Management, whose 12.4 million shares in the company are worth more than $1 billion, has asked other major shareholders to back his plan. — Georgina Hurst

Peter Wuffli: Howdy, Partners Group

It’s been a lonely few years for Peter Wuffli, the former UBS CEO who was fired in July 2007 as losses from the bank’s dealings in the U.S. subprime market, which eventually topped $37 billion, began to emerge. He’s since held spots on the boards of the IMD business school in Lausanne and the Zurich Opera House, but the financial community has given him a wide berth — until now. Swiss alternative-investment firm Partners Group, which manages more than €30 billion ($42 billion), just named Wuffli, 56, its inaugural independent chairman, citing his “leadership qualities” and “professional experience in the global financial industry for over three decades.” Wuffli’s four years at the helm of UBS were characterized by what a 2008 internal report described as faulty risk management and an excessive focus on revenue growth. The market seems unconcerned by his troubled history: Partners’ share price rose 2.5 percent, to Sf236.8 ($271.80), on the day of the announcement. — Aaron Timms

Money Manager Benjamin Lawsky

As the Empire State’s first superintendent of financial services, Benjamin Lawsky is sworn to protect New York residents from monetary misconduct. His New York State Department of Financial Services recently cracked down on payday lenders, winning greater regulatory authority. Now he and his team are taking on Bitcoin. Formerly New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s chief of staff, Lawsky, 43, first announced his interest in the Internet-based currency nine months ago. Earlier this month the NYSDFS declared that it would accept proposals from firms to operate Bitcoin exchanges in New York so it can keep them under its watchful eye. In a statement citing the March bankruptcy filing of Tokyo-based Mt. Gox after hackers allegedly relieved the exchange of several hundred million dollars’ worth of Bitcoin, Lawsky contended that stronger oversight of such operations is urgently needed, “including robust standards for consumer protection, cyber security and anti-money laundering compliance.” His office aims to release a regulatory framework by midyear. — B.B.

Jean-Claude Juncker: From Mr. Euro to Mr. Europe?

As head of the Eurogroup of Finance ministers from 2005 through 2012, Jean-Claude Juncker was dubbed Mr. Euro for his behind-the-scenes managing of the single currency. Now Juncker, 59, a former Luxembourg prime minister, wants to become Mr. Europe. Last month the European People’s Party, the center-right bloc that unites Europe’s Christian Democratic parties, nominated Juncker for president of the European Commission. The move followed the Socialist bloc’s nomination of Martin Schulz, the German president of the European Parliament, and the Liberals’ tapping of Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister. This unprecedented campaign represents an attempt to address the European Union’s democratic deficit and juice up voter interest in May’s elections for the European Parliament — the idea being that the party that emerges with the most seats should claim the Commission presidency. But, ultimately, EU leaders will choose the successor to current President José Manuel Barroso, and Brussels insiders believe their June selection is unlikely to be any of the three public candidates. Juncker and Verhofstadt are spent forces on their respective domestic political scenes, and Schulz has never held a German government post. The presidency campaign is “well intentioned,” but it “would be a disaster” if any of the three got the job, says Daniel Gros, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. — Tom Buerkle

Roman Putin’s Uncle Vlad

Want to invest in Russia? Roman Putin is here to help. Believed to be the nephew of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he’s the founder of Moscow-based Putin Consulting, which seeks to advise foreign investors on doing business in his country — and potentially give them much-needed protection. Putin, 36, served as an officer in Russia’s Federal Security Service, successor to the KGB, and did a stint in public service before becoming “the investment advisor to governors in a number of key regions of Russia,” his bio states. That experience “allowed Roman to form his professional specialization as a business-consultant — providing economic security, i.e. forming effective business cooperation with supervisors, power structures and credit institutions.” Now that Russia’s involvement with Crimea has put relations with the West at their lowest ebb since the Cold War, he’s got his work cut out for him. Yet the younger Putin — who has piloted gyroplanes, light aircraft ideal for accessing remote areas of the country, he notes (Siberia, anyone?) — remains optimistic. In his words, “It’s time to do business in Russia!” — Imogen Rose-Smith

Joe Dear Passes the Torch

Joe Dear, CIO of $282 billion CalPERS, the biggest U.S. pension fund, died in late February of prostate cancer at age 62. Dear joined CalPERS in March 2009 and turned it around in the wake of the financial crisis, boosting assets by nearly $100 billion and earning positive returns for the next four fiscal years. He also introduced new risk controls and restructured the fund’s allocations to alternative investments, including private equity and real estate. Ted Eliopoulos has served as acting CIO since May 2013, when Dear stepped down for health reasons. Before joining the fund in 2007 as senior investment officer for real estate, attorney Eliopoulos, 50, was chief deputy treasurer for the State of California and president of Sacramento-based real estate services firm Actium Development Corp. As of late March, CalPERS hadn’t found an official replacement for Dear, who leaves behind his wife, Anne Sheehan, director of corporate governance at CalSTRS. — Anne Szustek

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