This content is from: Portfolio

People in the News: Family Business

Russell Brand revolts; Abigail Johnson fills her dad’s shoes at Fidelity; princeling Levin Zhu exits China International Capital Corp.; and more.

Marc Andreessen Is Starting Over

After early investments in Facebook and Twitter, has web entrepreneur Marc Andreessenpicked another winner?On the same day that Andreessen stepped down from eBay’s board of directors last month, news broke that his venture capital firm had teamed up with Waltham, Massachusetts–based North Bridge Venture Partners to invest $8 million in data start-up Cazena. The eBay move signaled the end of a long battle with rival Carl Icahn over the e-commerce giant’s ownership of PayPal. Icahn, whose 2.3 percent stake in eBay is worth some $1.5 billion, had been pushing for the spin-off of the online-payment business; Andreessen, 43, cited that recently announced split as his reason for bowing out. Menlo Park, California–based Andreessen Horowitz’s support of Cazena will help with product development as the company prepares to launch early next year, according to CEO Prat Moghe, who hails from data warehousing outfit Netezza, which IBM snapped up in 2010 for $1.7 billion. Waltham-based Cazena aims to make accessing big data — vast troves of information that require complex analysis — faster and cheaper. — Kaitlin Ugolik

Levin Zhu: His Father’s Son

In a move that rocked Beijing financial circles, Levin Zhu has stepped down as CEO of investment bank China International Capital Corp. The son of ex-premier Zhu Rongji used his princeling status to make CICC, which he helped found in 1995, one of China’s most influential offshore brokerages. But profits have fallen since the 2008–’09 financial crisis, and the Beijing-based firm has faced stiff competition from domestic rivals such as CITIC Securities and Haitong Securities, both of which have expanded much faster after successful IPOs and major offshore acquisitions. “Levin is a great banker, and without his leadership CICC wouldn’t be a player at all,” says a senior Haitong banker. “But the competition has been so intense,” he adds, noting that Zhu, 57, was in an awkwardly high-profile position, especially with CICC planning a Hong Kong listing. The banker, who’s heard that Zhu will probably go into private equity, also links the resignation to Chinese government pressure on top leaders’ offspring to cut ties with vested interests amid President Xi Jinping’s antigraft campaign. Ding Xuedong will take over CICC as chairman. Ding, chair of sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp., is known to be close to top high-ranking aides of President Xi. — Allen T. Cheng

Brand Russell

Russell Brand has changed hats several times in his performing career: stand-up comedian, actor, radio host and, most recently, economic and political pundit. The British star of movies Get Him to the Greek and Despicable Me 2 has been making the TV rounds to plug his latest book, Revolution, a 320-page treatise in which he shares his oft-colorful perspective on the post-2008 situation — specifically, that the world needs to rise up and revolt against income inequality. “Aside from a few people carrying plants out of their offices in cardboard boxes, I don’t remember there being many consequences at all,” Brand, 39, writes of the demise of Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions. “Just some people with plants looking confused by a revolving door.” Judging from his October 14 comments on MSNBC, he has his views on any Fed tapering too: “There’s incredible socialism in the financial industry! Quantitative easing! They’ll pump billions of dollars!” — Anne Szustek

All in the Family for Fidelity’s Abigail Johnson

Ending years of speculation about her father’s plans for Fidelity Investments, Abigail Johnson is succeeding him as CEO of the still privately held fund titan. Having served as president of $2 trillion Fidelity, she’ll face a more uncertain future than Edward (Ned) Johnson III, who’s been chief executive since 1977. He led the Boston-based firm when every asset manager was winning. Individuals were starting to save for retirement through IRAs and new defined contribution plans. Meanwhile, the markets went on a tear from 1982 onward; even bonds delivered incredible returns once interest rates began their long decline at around the same time. Now Fidelity, the poster child for the active manager, is confronting investors still cautious after 2008 and competition from indexed exchange-traded funds. Anybody who aspired to manage money once saw the firm as a stepping-stone to success. The younger Johnson, 52, must find a way to put the glitz back on her family’s jewel. — Julie Segal

Patrick Pouyanné: Rapid Succession

Patrick Pouyanné has claimed the top spot at French oil giant Total after a tragic accident killed Christophe de Margerie, the company’s previous chairman and CEO. De Margerie died on October 20, when his plane collided with a snowplow on a Moscow airstrip. Total’s stock dropped 2 percent, and the board responded by deciding that Pouyanné, who had led the petrochemical division since 2011, would take over as CEO immediately. The new boss joined Total in 2001 when it merged with his former employer, Elf Aquitaine. Pouyanné, 51, faces the unenviable task of picking up where his predecessor left off by trying to navigate Russia’s political and economic landscape. De Margerie played a major role in cultivating oil relations between France and Russia, where he put a high value on Total taking risks; its shale oil exploration joint venture with Moscow-based Lukoil and a liquefied-natural-gas deal with Novatek are both on hold thanks to Western sanctions. — K.U.

Arvind Subramanian’s Home Truths

As a Washington think-tanker, Arvind Subramanian didn’t pull his punches about the young government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his native India. He criticized New Delhi’s decision to block a global trade facilitation agreement over agriculture subsidies and panned its inaugural budget, in July, as one of “stale continuity” rather than bold reform. Now Subramanian doesn’t have to carp from the sidelines. On October 16 he was appointed chief economic adviser to Finance minister Arun Jaitley. A trade specialist and fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, Subramanian promises to be a strong voice for removing bureaucratic obstacles to growth and promoting investment in infrastructure. He’s also expected to push for financial sector liberalization alongside Raghuram Rajan, governor of the Reserve Bank of India, who was his boss when the two worked as economists at the International Monetary Fund in the mid-2000s. — Tom Buerkle

High Aspirations for Andrei Cherny

He had a 100 percent conviction rate as a corporate fraud prosecutor in Arizona, founded a public policy journal that helped inspire the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010 and became the youngest-ever White House speechwriter when president Bill Clinton hired him at age 21. No wonder Andrei Cherny is aiming high with his latest venture: an egalitarian investment firm. Los Angeles–based Aspiration Partners, which launches this month, will put the insights that CEO Cherny, 39, has gained from enforcing the law and influencing regulation toward the goal of income equality. An Aspiration promotional video criticizes big banks for “hoarding the best investments for a fortunate few.” The firm, whose slogan is “Do Well. Do Good.,” says it plans to tackle that problem by bringing opportunities otherwise reserved for the elite directly to the average investor. As part of its effort to prove that capitalists can have a conscience, Aspiration also has a philanthropic bent. — K.U.

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