Twilight of the Pizza Barons

On the divergent legacies of the Domino’s and Little Caesars founders— two Detroit titans with different visions of what their companies mean to the city.

Source: Businessweek
Published: Jul 3, 2014
Length: 10 minutes (2,730 words)

The Truth About Tinder and Women Is Even Worse Than You Think

Reporter Nick Summers on what he discovered when he first covered Tinder—a company now embroiled in a sexual harassment and discrimination case involving one of its co-founders. “What gives these allegations even greater sting is Wolfe’s contention that she was not just any employee but a Tinder co-founder—and was stripped of the designation as a result of the treatment she endured.”

Source: Businessweek
Published: Jul 2, 2014
Length: 7 minutes (1,813 words)

The Trouble with IBM

A legendary American tech company faces new challenges, and new competition, in areas where it once dominated:

It would have been better to walk away. As the Government Accountability Office reviewed the award, documents showed the CIA’s opinion of IBM was tepid at best. The agency had “grave” concerns about the ability of IBM technology to scale up and down in response to usage spikes, and it rated the company’s technical demo as “marginal.” Overall, the CIA concluded, IBM was a high-risk choice. In a court filing, Amazon blasted the elder company as a “late entrant to the cloud computing market” with an “uncompetitive, materially deficient proposal.” A federal judge agreed, ruling in October that with the “overall inferiority of its proposal,” IBM “lacked any chance of winning” the contract. The corporate cliché of the 1970s and ’80s, that no one ever got fired for buying IBM, had never seemed less true. IBM withdrew its challenge.

Source: Businessweek
Published: May 23, 2014
Length: 13 minutes (3,251 words)

Stairway to Heaven

Did Led Zeppelin write the greatest song opening in rock history—or steal it?

For live audiences, Stairway’s power starts with its introductory notes. “Can you think of another song, any song, for which, when its first chord is played, an entire audience of 20,000 rise spontaneously to their feet, not just to cheer or clap hands, but in acknowledgment of an event that is crucial for all of them?” Observer critic Tony Palmer wrote in a 1975 profile. Dave Lewis writes in Led Zeppelin: The Complete Guide to Their Music that “Stairway has a pastoral opening cadence that is classical in feel and which has ensured its immortality.”

But what if those opening notes weren’t actually written by Jimmy Page or any member of Led Zeppelin? What if the foundation of the band’s immortality had been lifted from another song by a relatively forgotten California band?

Source: Businessweek
Published: May 15, 2014
Length: 16 minutes (4,150 words)

Font Wars

Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones were the boy wonders of the design world when they joined forces to form the type foundry Hoefler&Frere-Jones. For fifteen years their partnership seemed charmed, until it dissolved, with $20 million at stake.

Among those who draw letters for a living, Gotham is most notable for being the crowning achievement of two of the leaders of their tribe, Frere-Jones and Jonathan Hoefler. The two men seemed to be on parallel paths since the summer of 1970, when they were both born in New York. Hoefler and Frere-Jones were already prominent designers when they began operating as Hoefler&Frere-Jones in 1999, having decided to join forces instead of continuing their race to be type design’s top boy wonder. Each would serve as an editor for the other, and they would combine their efforts to promote the work they did together.

Colleagues still struggle to explain what a big deal this was at the time. Debbie Millman, president emeritus of AIGA, the major trade organization for graphic designers, begins by comparing them to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, then stops. “They were famous before they got together, so that’s how they’re not like the Beatles. It’s more like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young,” she says, before pausing again. “You know what—I’ll tell you what they were like. They were like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.”

Source: Businessweek
Published: Apr 8, 2014
Length: 15 minutes (3,758 words)

E-Cigarettes: A $1.5 Billion Industry Braces for FDA Regulation

Are e-cigarettes a revolutionary way to make smoking safer—or are they a huge step backward on our path toward a tobacco-less society?

Among the FDA’s most difficult decisions will be determining whether e-cigarettes will be a gateway product, encouraging young smokers to develop a nicotine habit that might lead to tobacco use. After all, many of the things that make e-cigarettes attractive to smokers make them even more attractive to minors. It’s actually pretty unpleasant to start smoking—it causes dizziness, it causes coughing, and it usually takes kids a while to learn to inhale—but anyone can inhale e-cigarette vapor on the first puff. And since e-cigarettes don’t have much odor, they’re harder for parents to detect. During the debate over New York’s policy, a September report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing e-cigarette use on the rise among teenagers was prominently discussed. Spokesmen for Altria Group (MO), Reynolds American (RAI), and Lorillard—the Big Three of tobacco—are in agreement that children should be prevented from buying e-cigarettes, just as they are prevented from buying the regular kind.

Source: Businessweek
Published: Feb 6, 2014
Length: 12 minutes (3,236 words)

Meet the 103,000 People Who Could Become the First Climate-Change Refugees

A visit to the island nation of Kiribati, which could be the first country to be lost from rising tides due to global warming:

Kiribati is a flyspeck of a United Nations member state, a collection of 33 islands necklaced across the central Pacific. Thirty-two of the islands are low-lying atolls; the 33rd, called Banaba, is a raised coral island that long ago was strip-mined for its seabird-guano-derived phosphates. If scientists are correct, the ocean will swallow most of Kiribati before the end of the century, and perhaps much sooner than that. Water expands as it warms, and the oceans have lately received colossal quantities of melted ice. A recent study found that the oceans are absorbing heat 15 times faster than they have at any point during the past 10,000 years. Before the rising Pacific drowns these atolls, though, it will infiltrate, and irreversibly poison, their already inadequate supply of fresh water. The apocalypse could come even sooner for Kiribati if violent storms, of the sort that recently destroyed parts of the Philippines, strike its islands.

Source: Businessweek
Published: Nov 22, 2013
Length: 28 minutes (7,040 words)

Mega Death: Meet the Company That’s Taking Over the Funeral Industry

SCI has 1,800 funeral homes and cemeteries in the U.S. and Canada, 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of $4 billion. Should a company this large have this much control over how we care for the dead?

“‘We are going to be poised to benefit from the aging of America, the baby boomers,’ Foley said. Deaths in the U.S. are forecast to increase at an average annual rate of 1.1 percent over the next five years. At SCI, earnings per share rose 26 percent in the first half of 2013. ‘This growth,’ Foley said, ’was driven in large part due to the strong flu season’—i.e., a lot of old people got sick and died last winter.”

Source: Businessweek
Published: Oct 25, 2013
Length: 14 minutes (3,673 words)

The Secrets of Jeff Bezos

In an excerpt from his new book The Everything Store, Brad Stone explores how Jeff Bezos turned Amazon into an online retailing giant—and tracks down Bezos’s biological father:

“I found Ted Jorgensen, Jeff Bezos’s biological father, behind the counter of his bike shop in late 2012. I’d considered a number of ways he might react to my unannounced appearance but gave a very low probability to the likelihood of what actually happened: He had no idea what I was talking about. Jorgensen said he didn’t know who Jeff Bezos was and was baffled by my suggestion that he was the father of this famous CEO.

“I mentioned Jacklyn Gise and Jeffrey, the son they had during their brief teenage marriage. The old man’s face flushed with recognition. ‘Is he still alive?’ he asked, not yet fully comprehending.

“‘Your son is one of the most successful men on the planet,’ I told him. I showed him some Internet photographs on my smartphone, and for the first time in 45 years, Jorgensen saw his biological son. His eyes filled with sorrow and disbelief.”

Author: Brad Stone
Source: Businessweek
Published: Oct 10, 2013
Length: 29 minutes (7,280 words)

Ramona Pierson Spent 18 Months in a Coma and Woke Up Blind. She’s Now a CEO in Silicon Valley

Pierson, nearly killed by a drunk driver, has recovered to become the head of a new tech company called Declara:

“Over time, and more than 100 surgeries, Pierson’s body improved. She had procedures to fix her eye socket, nose, and teeth. ‘One of my doctors did Wilt Chamberlain’s nose,’ Pierson says. ‘My face seemed to come together well. Part of my butt is in my face.’ Her skills improved, too, and she realized it was time to try and leave the home. ‘I just kept moving forward,’ she says.

“We’ve all met people who seem to make more of their years than the rest of us. They become experts at whatever they try and collect friends wherever they go. Driven, in part, by a maniacal fear that she had fallen behind the world, Pierson became one of those people.”

Source: Businessweek
Published: Sep 26, 2013
Length: 14 minutes (3,576 words)