Uber ex-CEO Kalanick plans to sell 29 percent of stake: source

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc co-founder Travis Kalanick, who was ousted as chief executive in June, is selling nearly a third of his 10 percent stake in the ride-services company for about $1.4 billion, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Kalanick’s sale is part of a deal struck by a consortium led by SoftBank Group Corp which is taking a 17.5 percent stake in Uber, mostly by buying shares from early investors and employees. SoftBank last week secured agreements from shareholders who were willing to sell, and the deal will close early this year, Uber said.

The SoftBank deal values Uber at $48 billion, about a 30 percent discount from its most recent valuation of $68 billion. However, the investor consortium is also making a $1.25 billion investment of fresh funding at the older, higher valuation.

Kalanick had offered to sell half of his total shares, but because there was a limit on how much SoftBank will buy, he will sell just 29 percent, according to the source. Other investors also did not get to unload as many shares as they had hoped because of such widespread interest to sell.

The former CEO owns 10 percent of the company, which means his sale will unload 2.9 percent of Uber shares and earn him about $1.4 billion, the source added.

A spokesman for Kalanick declined to comment. SoftBank and Uber could not be reached immediately for comment.

The sale would make the Uber co-founder a billionaire for the first time, not just on paper. Kalanick has never before sold shares of the company he ran for almost a decade, the source said.

The SoftBank deal offers investors and employees what could be their last chance to sell shares in a company-approved transaction before Uber’s long awaited initial public offering, planned for 2019.

The transaction marks a victory for new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who helped broker the deal and who will benefit from a deep-pocketed investor like SoftBank.

Bloomberg first reported Kalanick’s plans to sell part of his stake.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker and Heather Somerville in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Philip George in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Uber ex-CEO Kalanick selling nearly a third of stake for $1.4 billion: source

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc co-founder Travis Kalanick, who was ousted as chief executive in June, is selling nearly a third of his 10 percent stake in the ride-services company for about $1.4 billion, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Kalanick’s sale is part of a deal struck by a consortium led by SoftBank Group Corp which is taking a 17.5 percent stake in Uber, mostly by buying shares from early investors and employees. SoftBank last week secured agreements from shareholders who were willing to sell, and the deal will close early this year, Uber said.

The SoftBank deal values Uber at $48 billion, about a 30 percent discount from its most recent valuation of $68 billion. However, the investor consortium is also making a $1.25 billion investment of fresh funding at the older, higher valuation.

Kalanick had offered to sell half of his total shares, but because there was a limit on how much SoftBank will buy, he will sell just 29 percent, according to the source. Other investors also did not get to unload as many shares as they had hoped because of such widespread interest to sell.

The former CEO owns 10 percent of the company, which means his sale will unload 2.9 percent of Uber shares and earn him about $1.4 billion, the source added.

A spokesman for Kalanick declined to comment. SoftBank and Uber could not be reached immediately for comment.

The sale would make the Uber co-founder a billionaire for the first time, not just on paper. Kalanick has never before sold shares of the company he ran for almost a decade, the source said.

The SoftBank deal offers investors and employees what could be their last chance to sell shares in a company-approved transaction before Uber’s long awaited initial public offering, planned for 2019.

The transaction marks a victory for new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who helped broker the deal and who will benefit from a deep-pocketed investor like SoftBank.

Bloomberg first reported Kalanick’s plans to sell part of his stake.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker and Heather Somerville in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Philip George in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Why the Bomb Cyclone Hitting the East Coast Is So Unusual

Now, the first thing you should know about a bomb cyclone is it’s just a name—and unlike a sharknado, it’s not a literal one. The very real scientific term describes a storm that suddenly intensifies following a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure. Bombing out, or “bombogenesis,” is when a cyclone’s central pressure drops 24 millibars or more in 24 hours, bringing furious winds that can quickly create blizzard conditions and coastal flooding.

It’s actually not that rare a phenomenon; meteorologists estimate these kinds of storms break out in the Northern Hemisphere about 10 times a year. They can go by other names, like Nor’easter and mid-latitude cyclone, which may explain why you’ve never heard of one before Winter Storm Grayson started dumping snow in Tallahassee on Wednesday morning. But Grayson isn’t your typical bombogenerator.

It’s what happens when everything comes together just right (or just wrong). Grayson is expected to explode up the East Coast between now and Friday, intensifying as it makes its way from Florida to Nova Scotia, blowing record snowfalls around at category 3 hurricane wind speeds. “This storm is a synoptic meteorologist’s dream,” says Paul Huttner, who watches the weather for Minnesota Public Radio. “It’s a perfect alignment of the three things we look for.”

The first is a warm conveyor belt of tropical moisture, which the Gulf Stream is shuttling out of the Caribbean and right up the Atlantic coast. That’s pretty normal for this time of year. What’s less normal is the huge subzero air mass that dipped down from the Arctic about 10 days ago, plunging the Great Lakes and Eastern US into a sustained deep freeze.

Every year, around this time, the sun stops shining above the Arctic circle. No radiation means no heat, which means all that air gets real cold real quick. Most of the time, jet streams—the easterly flowing air currents near the upper reaches of the atmosphere—keep that cold air bottled up in the Arctic. But sometimes, upper air waves shift, forcing a buckle in the jet stream and allowing all that air to spill southward.

“The coldest air on the planet just happened to slide over Northeast America,” says Huttner. “And with this incredible moisture feed we’ve now got a huge temperature contrast. By the time this thing gets up into New England we’re talking about a good 100 degrees of temperature contrast across the center of the storm. And generally speaking, the stronger the temperature contrast, the deeper the storm.”

Differences in temperature, you see, lead to differences in pressure. As the pressure drops, air rushes in. The faster it drops, the faster the air moves. And thus, a winter storm is born.

Unlike hurricanes, which slow down as they head north and get away from the moist heat of the ocean, bomb cyclones tend to reach their peak intensity when they hit New England. That’s where the maximum temperature contrast usually is. It’s also where the third thing meteorologists look for—a low pressure trough in the upper levels of the atmosphere—happens to be occurring right now.

NOAA scientists are estimating that Grayson will wind up dropping between 60 and 70 millibars over 48 hours, ending Thursday evening near Nova Scotia. Not only would this be one of the most rapid rates of bombogenesis associated with an East Coast storm, but with its central pressure expected to bottom out near 950 millibars, it puts Grayson among the strongest offshore storms in recent history. (For comparison, Nor’easters such as Nemo, Juno, and Stella didn’t dip below 970 mb.)

This is leading to faster and stronger winds than you’d typically see in a storm this time of year, says Gregg Galina, a meteorologist with NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center. He’s been monitoring Grayson from the agency’s outpost in College Park, Maryland, which was just starting to get some snow and light winds by 9pm Eastern time Wednesday. It’s the first winter storm to really test out NOAA’s new GOES-16—its most advanced weather satellite ever—which first locked into position over the US in December.

GOES-16 scans the Earth five times faster than previous sats, sending back images every 15 minutes. That, along with new ozone-measuring capability, helps Galina forecast the storm’s impact. The compound acts as a kind of tracer for low pressure pulling down on the stratosphere, and gives an idea about the vorticity—or the spin—of the atmosphere. “It’s kind of like an ice skater spinning with her arms out,” says Galina. “As she brings them closer to her body she spins faster. It’s the same in a cyclone; the increased spin tightens the wind field.”

Galina and others on his team will be feeding satellite data into their models over the next few days to predict what Grayson has in store. And they’ll also use data collected from inside the eye of the storm. On Wednesday afternoon, a military air crew loaded up a WC-130J Super Hercules with about 30 dropsondes—parachute-equipped weather sensors—and took off from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi headed straight into the storm’s path. Over the next 10 to 12 hours, they released the sensors into the frozen gale, and as they fell they sent back real-time readings on air pressure, temperature, humidity, wind direction, and speed.

All of this is necessary because there’s still a ton scientists don’t know about winter storms. In particular, how much of a power boost they draw from rapidly-warming oceans. “The global ocean is as warm now as it has ever been,” says Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “The main consequence of that is that winter storms can dump much bigger snowfalls if they combine with cold air, like the kind coming down on the Montreal Express right now.”

And at least according to some climate scientists, this pattern is likely to repeat itself even more in the future. Rutgers climatologist Jennifer Francis is one of a growing number of researchers who believe that the warming Arctic will leave less of a temperature difference between the equators and poles, weakening the jet stream. A weaker jet stream would allow cold air to push down, or warm air to wander north, more frequently, setting up more opportunities for a violent atmospheric showdown. “We expect these patterns to become more frequent, but they may align differently in different years,” says Francis.

Others are less sure. Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at MIT, notes that as you go higher up into the atmosphere, the opposite trend is true: The tropics are warming faster than the poles, 10 miles up. “Winter storms depend on both surface temperature and higher up in the atmosphere,” he says. “The models are all over the place about whether these are going to get more or less intense. Frankly, it’s an unsolved problem in the field.”

Researchers will have to wait until Grayson runs its course to know for sure whether it’s a record-breaking storm. And a little bit longer to find out if “record-breaking” is just the new normal.

Facebook Will Live-Stream This Year’s Golden Globes Pre-Show

The event billed as Hollywood’s biggest party will kick off early on Facebook this year. The 2018 Golden Globe Awards pre-show will live-stream exclusively on the social network this Sunday, Jan. 7.

On Tuesday, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) and Dick Clark Productions announced the new partnership with Facebook, which will live-stream the two-hour event (dubbed “The HFPA Presents: Globes Red Carpet Live”) including awards handicapping and A-list stars in red carpet interviews, between 6 and 8 p.m. ET on Sunday. The actual broadcast of the 75th annual Golden Globes will then air immediately afterward on NBC from 8 to 11 p.m. ET, with late-night comedian Seth Meyers hosting.

NBC will also air its own red carpet coverage ahead of the awards show, starting one hour before the main event. Meanwhile, once the main broadcast starts at 8 p.m. ET, Facebook will still offer online fans some behind-the-scenes footage on the Golden Globes Facebook page as well as on the @goldenglobes account on Facebook-owned Instagram.

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Sibyl Goldman, Facebook’s head of entertainment partnerships, noted in a statement that the tech giant has enjoyed “a long collaborative relationship” with Hollywood. “We always aim to create unique experiences which bring communities together, and partaking in the kickoff of award season in conjunction with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, is a demonstration of our commitment to bring fans together through entertainment they enjoy,” Goldman said.

Last year, HFPA and Dick Clark Productions partnered with Twitter on the Golden Globes pre-show live-stream, with AdWeek reporting that roughly 2.7 million Twitter users tuned in at some point to watch that streaming event. The Golden Globes page on Facebook currently has about 2.3 million followers. And, by switching allegiances from Twitter to Facebook, the Globes can benefit from being promoted on two popular social platforms (Facebook and Instagram) that have a combined 2.8 billion active monthly users.

Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund Goes Big on Bitcoin

Peter Thiel and his venture capital firm, Founders Fund, are big believers in Bitcoin.

The PayPal co-founder and other Founders Fund partners bought $15 million to $20 million worth of the cryptocurrency that’s now worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Tuesday that cites unnamed sources.

The report didn’t say exactly when Thiel or his VC firm first bought Bitcoin, whose value has fluctuated from record highs to dramatic declines in recent months. The volatility has alarmed some economists, who worry of a bubble.

Thiel and the Founders Fund, however, don’t appear to share those concerns, and are instead pitching Bitcoin to their investors as “a high-risk, high-reward wager similar to its other venture bets,” the report said.

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Shares of Bitcoin jumped over 13% on Tuesday from $13,412 to $15,216 after the report, according to Coindesk.

In October, Thiel reportedly said during an investment conference in Saudi Arabia that people are “underestimating” Bitcoin and he compared the cryptocurrency to gold.

“If bitcoin ends up being the cyber equivalent of gold it has a great potential left,” he said at the time. About other cryptocurrencies, however, Thiel said he was “skeptical of most of them.”

Other cryptocurrencies include Ripple, Ethereum, and Litecoin.

A Founders Fund spokesperson declined to comment on the report.

This 5-Star Hotel Just Ruined Its Online Reputation By Getting the Police to Help Kick Out a Guest (He's Famous)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

You’d think that five-star hotels would be used to catering to the famous.

You’d even think that they research their guests beforehand to make sure they can surprise them with personal touches.

But then there were the peculiarly personal touches offered by the Boca Raton Resort, a Waldorf Collection Hotel to one of its New Year guests.

Vitaly Zdorovetskiy is a very well-known YouTube star. He makes prank videos. People like them.

However, once the Boca Raton Resort discovered who he is, it decided it didn’t like him after all.

All we currently have is Zdorovetskiy’s explanation. 

Well, that and the video, in which hotel personnel arrive with two police officers to have him removed on New Year’s Eve. 

It seems, though, unclear what he’d done wrong, other than be who he is. 

He says he wasn’t going to film anything in the hotel. Indeed, he had his girlfriend with him, rather than his equipment.

Still, watch and listen to his story and see what you think. (Warning: His language isn’t pristine.)

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It seems that it all started with a phone call from the hotel to his room, which Zdorovetskiy didn’t want to take.

But can it be that the next step was for management knock on his door to check whether he intends to make prank videos in the hotel?

Now YouTube stars aren’t like you and me. Zdorovetskiy’s own admission is that he may have told the manager to go away in a rather rude-imentary manner because he wanted to sleep.

Within the hour, though, he says a manager broke into his room with a couple of police officers to have him removed.

He claims they ordered him and his girlfriend, who was naked at the time, to get dressed in front of them.

A man who appears to be a manager accuses him of posting a prank video the day before — but not one at the hotel.

The manager seems, indeed, to have no idea what the video was. 

Still, some might wonder whether the hotel thought through its strategy as thoroughly as it might have done. 

Naturally, being a YouTube star, Zdorovetskiy encouraged his 9 million followers to post poor reviews of the hotel. 

He encouraged them to go to Expedia, Hotels.com and Priceline. These weren’t affected.

He also encouraged them to go on Yelp.

At the time or writing, the Boca Raton Resort has sunk to a one-and-a-half star rating on Yelp.

Perhaps Yelp doesn’t matter — it certainly doesn’t to me — but a general flow of online ill-will toward a hotel is rarely a good thing.

And, in this case, surely it could have been avoided.

The senior manager explained to Zdorovetskiy that “due to the nature of your postings, we reserve the right as a private company to have you removed from the property and not do business with you.” 

Some might find this explanation odd, as the very same manager admitted he had no idea what Zdorovetskiy had posted.

Worse, he then told him that he’s being “trespassed” for one year. This means that if he returns in that time, he’ll be arrested. 

And all for, well, what?

I contacted the Waldorf Astoria to wonder what it thought of its staff’s behavior and will update, should a response be forthcoming.

Zdorovetskiy does have something of a reputation. 

He was arrested last year after climbing the HOLLYWOOD sign. 

He was also charged with criminal trespass after streaking during the World Series.

I can’t say I warm to his public charm at all.

But some famous people are very different in private.

It’s odd that the hotel didn’t seem to know who he was when it accepted his booking.

Moreover, if the manager had told him he’d done something — behaved rudely toward a member of staff, for example — it would have been entirely understandable that he’d be removed.

Yet to expressly look a guest in the face and say they’re being kicked out and banned for a year — just because of the videos they make — seems exactly like the haughty half-wittery many might expect from one or two snooty establishments.

But only one or two, surely. 

Some will say that the mere chance that the hotel might suffer damage of some sort justifies its stance.

To which I wonder: So how do rock stars ever get into a hotel?

Now, what are the chances that members of Zdorovetskiy’s team will pay a secret visit to the Boca Raton Resort and really have a good time?

High, I’d say.