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May 22, 2012
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The business of ice hockey has never been so good

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By Rob Cox
This column appeared in the May 21 edition of Newsweek magazine. The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

It must be killing Gary Bettman to keep so much good news on ice. The National Hockey League is Bettman’s business, and business is the best it has been since he became its commissioner nearly 20 years ago. Thanks to ferocious competition inside the rink and the biggest broadcasting commitment in league history, more Americans are debating the finer points of penalty kills and two-line passes than ever.

May 21, 2012
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JPMorgan loss kicks succession race into high gear

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By Rob Cox
This column appeared in the May 21 edition of Newsweek magazine. The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

A time-honored tradition for handling executive succession on Wall Street is the practice of putting two ferrets in a sack, figuratively speaking. That’s when a bank takes two promising managers and makes them co-heads of the same business. The expectation is that, like two feral mammals clawing each other in the darkness, one will emerge victorious. He will become CEO. The other is named deputy vice chairman of Bolivian equities. JPMorgan has yet to officially haul out the burlap sack, but the $2 billion trading loss it disclosed two weeks ago has accelerated the contest to succeed Jamie Dimon at the top of America’s biggest financial institution.

Not that Dimon is leaving anytime soon. His hair may be silver, but he’s only 56 and has every intention of running the place into his 60s. Moreover, the losses from bets on funky derivatives incurred by the chief investment office in London look manageable for a bank that minted a $5.4 billion profit in the first quarter and boasts nearly $200 billion in capital. But as Dimon readily admits, the trades were dumb. They certainly undermined many of his public arguments for resisting additional regulation of the banking industry. As a consequence, the question of who will one day fill Dimon’s wingtips has become a money-industry parlor game.

May 11, 2012
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Dimonfreude is irresistible, but may be dangerous

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By Rob Cox

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

It’s easy to sympathize with the collective glee that greeted JPMorgan’s shock revelation of some $2 billion of trading losses. The bank and its chief executive Jamie Dimon have received their long-awaited comeuppance. But this emotion – Dimonfreude, if you will – is dangerous. If one of the few big banks that managed to sidestep most of the credit crisis is proven fallible, confidence in the system itself will be shaken.

May 7, 2012
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When shareholder democracy trumps the real thing

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By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. This column appears in the May 14 issue of Newsweek.

It’s worrying to think that shareholder democracy is needed to rectify shortcomings of the real thing. Yet this week two of the nation’s biggest corporations will give their investors precisely that opportunity. Motions on the ballots at the annual meetings of Bank of America and 3M will effectively act as referendums on the U.S. Supreme Court’s flawed decision in the Citizens United case to effectively hand companies the same freedoms of speech accorded to people. Happily, supporting proposals to restrict the use of corporate money in politics isn’t just good for democracy, it is good business.

May 2, 2012
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Even Predators’ Ball saves a dance for 99 pct

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By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

It’s easy to spot vestiges of the old Predators’ Ball at this year’s Milken Institute Global Conference. The Ferraris and Bentleys jamming the Beverly Hilton driveway, for example, are evocative of the annual shindigs that Michael Milken put on for his Drexel Burnham Lambert clients in the go-go 1980s. Yet there’s a consensus emerging even among this elite demimonde that the rising disparity between the rich and the rest is a problem in need of attention. They disagree, however, on the solutions.

Apr 23, 2012
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Facebook infected by Google’s antitrust limbo

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By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Facebook hasn’t even gone public yet. But it looks as though the social network is already being viewed with concern by acquisition targets. Instagram, the revenue-challenged, lightly staffed startup Facebook just agreed to acquire for $1 billion, has snagged a whopping 20 percent break fee if the sale isn’t consummated by December. That’s a wise safety measure given the life cycle of mobile apps. It could also be a comment on Facebook’s lurking antitrust risks.

Apr 23, 2012
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Wal-Mart scandal demands spirit of Sam Walton

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By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

S. Robson Walton, Wal-Mart’s multi-billionaire chairman, is about to prove money can’t buy happiness. He’ll need to channel his father’s spirit of integrity and initiate an independent probe into how top executives, possibly the chief and another director, participated in an alleged cover-up of widespread bribery and corruption at the company’s successful Mexican subsidiary. It won’t be fun for the son of Wal-Mart’s founder. But the $213 billion company can recover by doing the right thing.

Apr 11, 2012
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Kraftwerk bangs home note on tech obsolescence

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By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

There was no more coveted piece of New York City real estate on Tuesday night than standing room in the Museum of Modern Art’s Marron Atrium. And so it shall be for seven more evenings as Kraftwerk, the German electronic outfit from the 1970s, plays to a scant crowd of about 450 lucky souls. That this quartet, which includes just one of its original members, can command a showcase like the MOMA – and sell out in a drumbeat – provides a useful lesson in technology’s risk of obsolescence.

Apr 11, 2012
via MediaFile

Everything we know about tech we learned from Kraftwerk

At 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday there was no more coveted piece of New York City real estate than standing room in the Museum of Modern Art’s Marron Atrium. And so it shall be for the next seven nights as Kraftwerk, the German electronic outfit from the 1970s, plays to a scant crowd of about 450 lucky souls. That this quartet, which includes just one of its original members, can command a showcase like MoMA – and sell out in a drumbeat – provides a useful lesson into technology’s risk of obsolescence.

It would be easy to dismiss Kraftwerk as a relic from the dawn of the digital age and its ardent fans a weird cult in turtleneck sweaters and 3D glasses. But MoMA’s eight-night retrospective of the band helmed by Ralf Hutter provides surprising insight into why some innovations fade and others flourish. Ultimately, success in technology – as in art – is derived from the expression of big ideas, not simply a mastering of its circuitry. It is an example that businesses, too, can learn from.

Apr 9, 2012
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World Bank wackiness explains odd U.S. choice

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By Rob Cox

This column appears in the April 9 issue of Newsweek. The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

If the competition to become the World Bank’s next president were a normal process, Jim Yong Kim wouldn’t stand a chance. The Dartmouth College president lacks two of the traditional qualifications for running an international lending body: financial savvy and diplomatic experience. But the race to lead the World Bank is everything but ordinary – particularly this time.

    • About Rob

      "Rob Cox helped establish Breakingviews in 2000 in London. From 2004 he spearheaded the firm's expansion in the United States and edited its American edition, including the daily Breakingviews columns in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Rob has worked as a financial journalist in London, Milan, New York, Washington, Chicago and Tokyo. Rob graduated from Columbia University’s Journalism School and the University of Vermont. Follow Rob on Twitter @rob1cox"
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