The 101 Biggest Business Moves of the Pandemic
From the admirable to the audacious, the highs and lows that have defined the last eight months
Extreme times tend to bring out the best and worst in humanity — and the same can be said for business. Over the past eight months, the pandemic has taken companies, brands, CEOs, workers, and the economy on a wild ride we never asked for. Some companies have made prescient pivots and brilliant decisions; others have been crude opportunists or have gone to exceptionally creative lengths to stay afloat. Marker captures this improbable moment with our compilation of the 101 moves we’ll remember, we’ll learn from, or we’ll desperately try to forget — from the admirably heroic to the jaw-droppingly audacious. —Marker Editors
1. Facebook drops out of South by Southwest, crushing Austin’s economic spigot
On Monday, March 2, well before concerns about the coronavirus in the U.S. jump from mild anxiety to full-blown panic attack, Facebook deals a blow to the tech scene’s favorite annual gathering when it announces it will no longer be participating in SXSW, Austin’s iconic 34-year-old tech-music-film festival. Within two days, Twitter, Amazon, Apple, and TikTok have also dropped out, with more than 40,000 people signing a petition to cancel Austin’s single most profitable event. Mounting pressure and widespread concern lead Austin Mayor Steve Adler to finally pull the plug on Friday, just one week out from the conference, costing the city an estimated $360 million in loss of potential revenue, but possibly sparing it from becoming the first epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak.
2. The NBA marks the official start of the pandemic by pulling the plug on the rest of its season
The March 11 matchup between Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder is seconds from tip-off when the game is delayed by 30 minutes after an NBA player tests positive for Covid-19. Within a half-hour, NBA commissioner Adam Silver calls off not only the game, but the entire season, becoming the first major U.S. sports league to pause games because of the pandemic. The league would eventually return on July 30 with an ambitious plan: sequester players, coaches, and staff in a coronavirus “bubble” at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando for fan-free playoffs.
3. Whole Foods offers workers their own paid time off
Amazon-owned Whole Foods continues losing more of its sheen when CEO John Mackey, who coined the term “conscious capitalism,” recommends the grocery chain’s essential workers — the emerging heroes of the pandemic — “donate” their paid time off to co-workers caring for sick family members. Later in the month, the grocery employees stage a “sick-out,” demanding additional hazard pay and other concessions. The company caves, offering $2-an-hour pay raises — but eventually takes them away in June.
4. Adidas’s CEO insists stores must stay open — until realizing that “courage” can’t actually combat a virus
On March 16, even as San Francisco is issuing stay-at-home orders in the face of a fast-growing pandemic, Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted reportedly tells employees in a leaked internal memo that its stores will remain open, an act he says, that requires “courage, persistence, and focus.” The next day, he seemingly realizes that sheer bravery isn’t enough to combat the virus — and temporarily shutters all Adidas retail stores in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
5. Shopify saves Main Street from the retail apocalypse
As lockdowns kneecap boutiques, cafés, and virtually every other brick-and-mortar business, there’s a frantic rush to pivot and sell anything possible online. For thousands of these small businesses, the Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify emerges as their unlikely savior — helping retailers go digital at the flip of a switch. Throughout the year, Shopify’s sales continue to skyrocket, nearly doubling revenue in the third quarter of 2020 and roughly tripling its mid-March stock price.
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6. Dig Inn lays off employees via text message
Breaking up with anyone over text is never a classy act — all the more reason not to do it when you’re an employer. With lockdowns halting business corridors everywhere, trendy fast-casual restaurant chain Dig Inn — with locations in Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia — dashes off a text to 40% of its 100-person corporate workforce to let them know they are no longer employed. Just to make sure they got the message, the company follows up with a phone call 15 minutes later.
7. Zoom becomes a verb
Within a couple weeks of lockdowns closing offices, schools, and virtually any business, niche videoconferencing startup Zoom suddenly becomes the world’s new center of gravity. In March, some 200 million people are using Zoom daily for meetings, 90,000 schools across 20 countries turn to it for distance learning, and “zoom” becomes the verb du jour. At the start of 2020, Zoom had predicted it would reach under $1 billion in annual sales; by September, it raises that number to at least $2.37 billion, with its market cap growing to a whopping $129 billion.
8. Instacart cements itself as an essential business and goes on an epic hiring spree
As millions of panicked Americans attempt to hoard food while avoiding supermarkets, the grocery-delivery unicorn scales up to meet the unprecedented demand surge — recruiting 300,000 workers in a month, with plans to hire another 250,000. Business does so well that by May, CEO Apoorva Mehta reveals to Bloomberg that, within a matter of weeks, the company has already hit pace with its sales goals for 2022. By October, the grocery delivery app has more than doubled its early 2020 valuation from $7.9 billion to $17.7 billion — though it remains embroiled in the ongoing battle over gig worker rights.
9. Cheesecake Factory skips out on rent
After the shock of mass shutdowns rippled across retail and the restaurant industry, everyone’s favorite purveyor of supersized salads and cheesecake becomes the first corporate chain to announce it will simply stop paying rent at its nearly 300 restaurants. Several other large chains soon follow in stiffing their landlords, including Staples, Petco, Equinox, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Gap, which remains locked in a lawsuit with Simon Property Group, the biggest U.S. mall operator, over $107 million in overdue rent payments.
10. King Arthur does backflips to supply Americans’ newfound baking obsession
With baking emerging as one of the few activities to keep people sane in lockdown, unprecedented interest in making homemade sourdough and focaccia leads to unprecedented demand for flour, which leads to flour shortages. Cult-favorite King Arthur Baking Company — an employee-owned Vermont company founded in 1790 — experiences a 600% increase in grocery-store sales and quickly ups its output to meet new demand. It repurposes facilities usually reserved for commercial bakeries, adds worker shifts, and finds new partners to help mill and bag product. All told, it nearly triples its typical monthly output of flour — freeing us to focus on the toilet paper shortage.
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11. Yelp creates GoFundMe pages for restaurants without their permission
A number of restaurant owners across the nation click on their Yelp profiles and are shocked and furious to find a $2,500 GoFundMe campaign started on their behalf. Turns out Yelp and GoFundMe have created the pages to help businesses facing closures during the outbreak, intending to match $1 million in donations. But without getting the restaurants’ permission first, the act of charity backfires — particularly because it automatically suggests that donors provide a 15% tip to GofundMe for the service. Yelp eventually pauses the automatic rollout and changes participation to opt-in.
12. Everlane undermines its own image
The San Francisco basic clothing brand with a radical transparency pitch — promising consumers ethically produced apparel — becomes the target of then-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator accuses the mission-driven company of “using this health and economic crisis to union bust” after it lays off much of its customer service team, which had been trying to unionize. By July, employee complaints about “anti-Black behavior” spill into a New York Times investigation — but that doesn’t stop the company from raising $85 million in private equity by September.
13. Amazon fires its whistleblower — and becomes unstoppable
With stores shut down, everyone turns to Amazon for essentials. The surge in demand leads to a surge in work for Amazon workers, and by late March at least 19 Amazon warehouses and delivery facilities report Covid-19 cases, leading some New York City employees to walk out in protest. The online retail giant swiftly fires employee Chris Smalls, who organized the group, and others who criticize the company. One of Amazon’s VPs resigns in protest over the firings, and in May, nine U.S. senators question the company’s motives. By October, Amazon announces it has put in place more than 150 “process changes” to protect workers, and that nearly 20,000 of its 1.37 million employees have contracted the virus, with an infection rate 42% below that of the general population. But federal or public concerns over workers’ health don’t seem to put a dent in Amazon’s ability to grow even bigger: By November, its shares are up 74% for the year, and its year-over-year sales growth in Q3 reaches 34%.
14. Hobby Lobby argues it’s an “essential business”
The conservative crafting chain reopens its stores despite local shutdown orders. Its argument? Selling supplies that could hypothetically be used for making masks, for education, and by small businesses qualifies it as an essential business. The argument is soon embraced by competitors Joann Fabrics and Michaels and becomes a clever workaround for any brand or retailer suddenly pivoting into the mask business. Not everyone falls for it, though — within days, law enforcement in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Colorado forces Hobby Lobby to shut down.
15. N95 mask-maker 3M finds itself cast as a pandemic villain
As U.S. hospitals scramble to secure protective equipment, President Trump throws 3M, the country’s largest N95 mask manufacturer, under the bus — going so far as to invoke a Korean War-era law in order to redirect its exports back to the U.S. The 118-year-old Midwestern manufacturing company best known for Scotch tape and Post-it notes, argues that if it stops shipping masks and respirators abroad, other countries could retaliate by holding back essential supplies from the U.S. Still, 3M ramps up additional production — on track to produce 2 billion masks this year — and becomes a case study on how creating a potentially lifesaving product can become a liability in a crisis.
How 3M Blew Its Reputation on the N95 Mask
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16. Nike pivots to digital in China, creating the first pandemic retail playbook
As the pandemic spreads across the United States, Nike reports its earnings. They are down, but new CEO John Donahoe has a bold statement: “We are seeing the other side of the crisis in China. We now have a playbook we can use elsewhere.” That playbook involves a hard pivot to digital sales, bolstering its fitness app, carefully orchestrating the reopening of physical stores, and adjusting when some of the demand stays digital. Six months later, its plan appears to pay off: Nike announces a $10.2 billion quarter that nearly matches last year’s (pre-Covid) numbers, with digital sales up a whopping 82%.
17. Ousted WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann sues Softbank
Seven months after WeWork’s IPO plans spectacularly flame out under the management of ousted founder Adam Neumann — requiring an $8 billion bailout from its largest investor, Softbank — Neumann sues the VC fund. At issue: Softbank reneging on its agreement to pay Neumann $1 billion for his shares as part of the bailout deal. Meanwhile, WeWork’s business is hit so hard during Covid-19 that it advertises in the New York Times that it has $3 billion in liquidity and is “here to stay.” It later begins repositioning itself as an option for remote workers tired of being cooped up at home.
18. DreamWorks releases “Trolls World Tour” straight to digital
DreamWorks ticks off AMC Theaters when it decides to bypass movie theaters, instead releasing its animated Trolls World Tour on Amazon and iTunes. The result: It scoops up $100 million in rental fees and nets the studio about the same amount as the previous Trolls picture. In return, AMC declares it will ban all films made by Universal Pictures, DreamWorks’ parent. The partners-turned-rivals eventually make up, signing a deal that lets Universal release new movies on-demand within three weeks of their theatrical debut.
19. Shake Shack snatches up — then quickly returns — PPP money
When the federal Paycheck Protection Program launches to bail out small businesses, a bunch of sizable companies jump in line for handouts, too, including Danny Meyer’s $3 billion publicly traded burger chain. Shake Shack is one of the first large players to face public backlash for its $10 million loan after the program quickly runs out of funding, but quickly morphs into a hero for also being the first to voluntarily give the cash back. CEO and co-founder Meyer pleads ignorance, explaining in a LinkedIn post that “PPP came with no user manual and it was extremely confusing.”
20. Netflix gets a pandemic bump
After the streaming giant drops the bizarre docuseries Tiger King and even more bizarre reality TV show Love Is Blind right as everyone is sheltering in place, Netflix announces in April that its peculiar bets have paid off — adding nearly 16 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2020. It goes on to add more subscribers in the first nine months of 2020 than it did through all of 2019.
21. DraftKings goes public, despite there being no actual sports to bet on
Sports are completely shut down, but that doesn’t stop the fantasy sports betting operator from going full-throttle. The Boston-based startup goes public on the Nasdaq to the tune of $2.7 billion using a SPAC, or a special purpose acquisition company. While waiting for the return of MLB and NBA, DraftKings manages to boost its revenue and its stock price by letting users bet on everything from weather forecasts and esports to reality shows like Shark Tank and Top Chef.
22. Desperate to catch up to Zoom, Google unshackles Meet videoconferencing
Google had struggled for years to get its videoconferencing tools to take off, starting with Gmail video chats in 2008 and Google Hangouts in 2017. So you can imagine Google execs watched with envy as Zoom’s popularity soars right out of the pandemic gate. By late April, the company decides to make its Google Meet video conference tool — previously locked behind a G-suite paywall — free to anyone. (It also adds Google Meet to Gmail faster than you can spell “antitrust.”) By May, Meet announces it is already hosting 3 billion minutes of video meetings and adding roughly 3 million new users a day. Several months later, it swipes another popular feature from Zoom: goofy custom backgrounds.
23. Boeing rejects bailout money to avoid coughing up an equity stake
Given the choice between accepting a $17 billion coronavirus bailout package (with conditional strings attached) or fending for itself, the aerospace manufacturing giant chooses the latter option and opts to bypass federal relief to avoid the U.S. Treasury having an ownership stake in the company. Instead, Boeing raises $25 billion in a massive bond sale that places the size of its debt in the ballpark of New Zealand’s, according to an analysis by the Bank of America. Boeing’s independent streak isn’t without costs: The company announces it will lay off 10% of its global workforce, or around 14,000 jobs. By late October, the outlook is much more grim, with CEO David Calhoun saying Boeing will eliminate nearly 30,000 jobs, in total, by the end of 2021.
24. Airbnb begins its whiplash adventure — first laying off employees, then prepping for an IPO
Things begin looking pretty dire for Airbnb, when the company lays off 1,900 of its 7,500 employees, even after raising $1 billion from private equity firms. Its long-anticipated IPO plans are delayed, and, in a very unpopular move, the company even goes so far as to suggest customers give donations to help its hosts. A few months later comes the plot twist: The rise of the social-distancing staycation. Needing a change of scenery after months of being cooped up at home, people suddenly start booking Airbnbs. By August, the IPO plans are back on, and the company is looking to raise $3 billion on the Nasdaq before the end of the year. Good thing Airbnb gave laid-off employees an extra year to exercise those stock options.
25. Robinhood turns bored, quarantined millennials into day traders
Despite a disastrous outage the day after the S&P 500 falls for five straight days, the too-easy-to-use, no-fee stock trading app Robinhood becomes the pandemic entertainment engine for a new generation of day traders. At the time, newbie users rack up brutal losses — but they keep on trading, spurring a market-wide “Robinhood effect.” In May, the startup raises $280 million from its venture investors, followed by another $660 million in September, pumping its valuation from $8.3 billion to about $11.7 billion in less than a year.
How Robinhood Convinced Millennials to Trade Their Way Through a Pandemic
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26. Elon Musk goes rogue, reopening Tesla plant despite lockdowns
“The coronavirus panic is dumb,” Elon Musk had tweeted in early March. On an earnings call, the Tesla founder had also called stay-at-home orders “fascist.” So he doesn’t particularly like it when the state allows some manufacturing to reopen — but his own county does not. After filing a lawsuit and threatening to move Tesla’s factory out of California, Musk takes matters into his own hands, announcing Tesla will restart production anyway. He orders everyone back to work, tweeting: “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.” The stunt works: After a police inspection, the county gives him the green light a few days later.
27. Twitter lets employees go remote forever
Twitter, one of the first big tech companies to pivot to remote work back in early March, turns heads again when it makes the first high-profile move to shift to perma-work-from-home. Employees are allowed to work remotely “forever” — even after its offices eventually reopen.
28. Spotify goes on a prescient podcast shopping spree
Before the pandemic hit, the music streaming behemoth had spent more than half a billion dollars acquiring podcast companies Gimlet, Anchor, and The Ringer. In May, it continues its buying spree, reportedly shelling out more than $100 million for an exclusive deal with Joe Rogan — later adding Michelle Obama to the mix. After an early pandemic slump, by October, Spotify reaches an all-time high of 144 million paid subscribers worldwide.
29. Facebook declares perma-WFH, then scoops up prime office space
Facebook, which for years cultivated an office-centric culture, announces it will chart a new work-from-home culture, with half of its employees eventually working remotely (also with a pay cut, depending on where they move). Fast forward a few months, and the cash-flush tech giant announces in September that it will buy REI’s shiny new 400,000-square-foot headquarters in Bellevue, Washington, along with the massive Farley Building in New York City — all 730,000 square feet of it. Facebook fronting that the office is dead turns out to look like a clever real estate play.
30. Domino’s proves more pandemic-friendly than Starbucks — or Sweetgreen
With an explosive increase in demand for take-out and delivery food, few are as well-positioned as Domino’s, with no dining rooms, locations based on delivery routes, and bargain prices. On the other hand, Starbucks’ famous “third places” — and $15 salad behemoths like Sweetgreen — largely colonizing urban corridors flush with office workers suddenly lose their foot traffic. The coffee chain tries to stem the damage by investing in more drive-thrus.
31. Ben & Jerry’s Black Lives Matter manifesto sets the bar
Plenty of companies come out in support of Black Lives Matter, but the ice cream maker schools all of them, avoiding safe platitudes and issuing a bold manifesto, “We Must Dismantle White Supremacy.” The Unilever-owned company expresses outrage over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and suggests “White America” should collectively acknowledge its privilege. Leaving nothing to ambiguity, the brand also demands President Trump and Congress take concrete action, including creating a national task force that could devise legislation to end racial violence and reversing Trump's civil rights policies at the Department of Justice.
32. Nascar bans the Confederate flag
As anti-Black racism protests erupt around the country, Nascar finally bans the Confederate flag. Nascar, which has been struggling to diversify its shrinking fan base, had previously asked fans not to bring them to races (a suggestion not everyone accepted). The ban comes just two days after Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in Nascar’s top racing series, speaks out in an interview about the flags. “Get them out of there,” he says.
33. CrossFit’s CEO steps down after racial remarks
After CrossFit members pressure founder and CEO Greg Glassman to issue anti-racist statements in support of Black Lives Matter, Glassman does the opposite, calling one gym owner “delusional.” He later admits he made a “mistake,” but not a racist one. The backlash is swift: 1,000 gyms pledge to stop using CrossFit’s name, while Reebok and Rogue Fitness sever ties, costing the company millions. In late June, Glassman “retires” and sells the company to tech entrepreneur Eric Roza, owner of a CrossFit gym in Boulder.
34. The Wing unceremoniously unravels
After embodying virtually every entrepreneurial trend du jour — essentially a co-working space for girlbosses — women’s private club The Wing faces its own reckoning. As Covid-19 forces the VC-backed business to shut down its locations, long-simmering tensions around the leadership’s mishandling of racial issues and its treatment of Black and Brown employees come to the fore. More internal missteps after the George Floyd protests is the final straw for many employees, who call out the startup’s hypocrisy and demand changes in leadership. Shortly thereafter, co-founder Audrey Gelman steps down as CEO, and the company reemerges as a digital shell of its former self.
35. Hertz tries selling off its worthless stock
Hertz may be bankrupt, but that doesn’t stop the car rental company from trying to sell up to $1 billion in new stock in June. Typically, when companies enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, they don’t sell a stock, because it is creditors — not shareholders — who have a higher claim on assets. Hertz even states in its disclosure that the stock will be “worthless.” The company’s chutzpah shocks many, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, which flags issues with the proposed stock sale before Hertz ultimately decides that it is “in the best interests of the company” to terminate the offering.
36. Celebrity D-list startup Cameo becomes the only dopamine hit of the pandemic
The Chicago-based videogram startup — where people can pay for video shoutouts from D-list actors, athletes, YouTubers, and other marginally famous figures — had already been taking off before Covid-19 hit. But after sporting events and movie sets shut down, celebrities are stuck at home with nothing to do but crank out Cameos — and evidently, Zoom calls. In June, the company introduces the celebrity Zoom call — $275 gets you a 15-minute Zoom chat with singer Mark McGrath, while a 30-minute video call with Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary goes for $24,000.
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37. Hey and Epic go head-to-head with Apple’s App Store
Shortly after Basecamp founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson launch their new email service Hey, Apple threatens to boot the app from its App Store. The problem, as Apple sees it, is that Hey is a paid service, but its users purchase it outside of the app — which means that Apple doesn’t get its usual 30% cut of fees. After some grudging app updates by the Hey team, Apple finally approves the app. But in October, an even bigger developer decides to challenge the App Store tax: Epic Games, the company behind the wildly popular game Fortnite, implements its own in-app payment system to bypass Apple’s (and Google’s) 30% cut. Apple boots Fortnite, and Epic promptly responds with an antitrust lawsuit and a video parodying Apple’s famous anti-authoritarian 1984 ad. A federal judge later rules that Apple does not have to reinstate Fortnite to its App Store while they prepare for a trial in 2021.
38. Gap hangs its hat on masks — and Kanye
The Gap — once America’s most iconic retailer — was on life support at the start of the pandemic, and starts selling face masks, first to consumers, and then in massive batches to businesses. The mask pivot pays off: The company sells $130 million in masks in Q2, leading to a 13% sales increase for the quarter. By late September, masks are Gap’s bestselling item. To hedge its bets, in June, the retailer also signs a 10-year licensing deal with Kanye West’s Yeezy — although there are no signs of Kanye-designed masks yet.
39. Mirror sells itself to a yoga pants behemoth
Of all the possible outcomes imagined for the interactive fitness startup Mirror — maker of a $1,495 interactive full-length mirror with aspirations to become “the next iPhone” — selling to Lululemon wasn’t high on that list. But with the Peloton-effect in full swing, founder Brynn Putnam sells her four-year-old startup to the athleisure company for $500 million in June — the first ever-acquisition for the 22-year-old company best known for yoga pants.
40. Uber loses out on GrubHub, then snaps up the second-best thing
With no one taking cabs anywhere — and food takeout booming — the ride-sharing company doubles down on delivery. After Uber’s proposed deal with GrubHub falls apart, reportedly over antitrust concerns, the company courts Postmates. The $2.65 billion deal gives Uber Eats a 30% share of the food delivery market — one that is still wildly unprofitable.
41. Microsoft takes a very Microsofty swing at simulating office life
About four months into WFH mode, Microsoft employees seem to be missing life at the office — so much so that the company announces a new Microsoft Teams feature called “Together Mode,” which allows teams to simulate gathering in a virtual auditorium. Not exactly the part of IRL work people are craving.
42. Goya’s CEO wades into a political firestorm
In the early days of the pandemic, canned goods had been flying off the shelf as a stockpile staple. One company to cash in on the pantry rush was Goya Foods, which had seen a 400% spike in sales of beans and other canned items in March. But the goodwill is short-lived for some customers: In July, Goya CEO Robert Unanue attends a Rose Garden event for the “Hispanic Prosperity Initiative” in which he praises President Trump, resulting in many customers calling for a “Goycott” of the New Jersey company’s products.
43. Redskins (finally) agree to change team name
Nearly a century after football arrives in Washington D.C., the Redskins at long last decide to change their team name to something that isn’t racist — with money as the ultimate motivator. In July, 87 investment firms and shareholders push Nike, FedEx, and PepsiCo to terminate their sponsorships of the team unless it changes the name. Team owner Dan Synder — who once said he’d “never” change the name — is now saddled with the “Washington Football Team” until something better lands. Meanwhile, some enterprising individuals begin trademarking potential new names like Washington Monuments, hoping to sell them to the team.
44. Disney World reopens as the pandemic rages in Florida
You wouldn’t expect a massive amusement park that attracts 2.9 million global visitors each month to reopen in the middle of a pandemic, but that’s exactly what Disney does in Florida as the state hits a record daily infection rate of 15,000 cases. The worst, however, doesn’t materialize despite widespread fears, likely because attendance is so low. Despite the pandemic success of streaming service Disney+ — which debuts Hamilton on Broadway over the Fourth of July weekend and racks up more than 73 million subscribers in 2020 — the parks continue bleeding money. In September, Disney announces it’s laying off 28,000 of the 100,000 workers in its parks and resorts division.
45. Facebook, Google, Intel, and Qualcomm invest billions into a little heard of Indian telecom
After receiving an investment of $5.7 billion from Facebook in April, Jio Platforms, an Indian telecom company established barely four years prior, gets $4.5 billion from Google in July. Along with other investments from private equity firms, Jio raises a total of roughly $20 billion from outside investors over just four months in 2020. Why the excitement? Jio has been able to build out a massive 4G infrastructure largely through debt financing, bringing millions of Indians online for incredibly low rates. What’s Jio doing with that $20 billion investment? Probably paying off all that debt.
46. Trader Joe’s decides not to change its offensive branding
In July, amid anti-Black racism protests throughout the U.S., a 17-year-old high school student starts a petition asking Trader Joe’s to drop stereotypical versions of the brand’s name on items such as Trader Ming’s dim sum and Trader José’s salsa. The grocery chain responds with a statement, saying that all its products will be repackaged under the Trader Joe’s label “very soon” — a move it claims to have already been working on prior to the petition’s creation. Then, less than a month later, Trader Joe’s announces it won’t be changing these names, after all, backtracking with a statement grounded in — principle? “We do not make decisions based on petitions,” says the company.
47. Cruise stocks don’t sink after all
The great pandemic debate of whether the stock market is divorced from the economy can be summed up with one industry: cruise lines. One might assume that the vessels of contagion — literally linked to the spread of Covid-19 — would sink in the eyes of investors this year. While shares in Carnival and other cruise lines plunge when the pandemic effectively shuts down their businesses, they eventually level off with a surprising resilience in demand, as cruise fans eagerly sign up to get back on board whenever the lines are allowed to sail again (currently slated before the end of the year).
48. Walmart requires masks in all stores — but doesn’t actually enforce it
When the world’s largest retailer announces it will require customers to wear masks in its more than 5,000 U.S. stores — and not just the 65% of them covered by state government mask mandates — it sets off a chain reaction: Target, Home Depot, Whole Foods, and Walgreens quickly follow suit. Later, Walmart reveals that it’s not actually enforcing the policy.
49. Bill Ackman out-SPACs the SPACs
Bill Ackman — the billionaire activist investor and CEO of Pershing Square Capital — raises eyebrows in late July when he launches the largest SPAC IPO to date, raising $4 billion. It’s just one of many in 2020’s red-hot market for SPACs, or blank-check companies. By early October, 46% of the $103 billion raised in U.S.-listed IPOs this year has gone to SPACs.
50. Kodak’s comeback flops with a government loan scandal
The struggling photo giant tries to yet again reinvent itself in July by pivoting to Covid-19 drug manufacturing, as President Trump announces the company has won a first-of-its-kind $765 million government contract under the Defense Production Act. But suspicious timing surrounding loan disclosures — and stock option grants made available to executives just before the White House announcement — leads to a formal SEC investigation. Kodak CEO Jim Continenza says the company will move forward with the pivot to pharma, regardless of whether the government deal pans out, but it’s definitely not the Kodak moment they had been hoping for.
51. BP declares the end of the fossil fuel era
The oil giant turns heads in early August when it says it will be shedding 40% of its oil production, lowering carbon emissions by a third, and increasing spending on low-carbon energy by tenfold to over $5 billion — all by 2030. With Covid-19 upending the fossil fuel industry, the 111-year-old London-based behemoth makes a strategic bet to not be the “last man standing” in the transition to clean energy.
52. Le Tote swallows Lord & Taylor — and regrets it
Venture-backed clothing rental startup Le Tote, founded in 2012, made headlines last year when it acquired household-name department store chain Lord & Taylor, founded in 1826, for about $100 million. The deal seemed like a symbolic changing of the guard, a nimble digital upstart laying claim to a venerable icon of retail. Unfortunately, the timing turns out to be terrible: After pandemic lockdowns absolutely hammer the department store sector, owning a prominent physical retail space becomes an albatross rather than a prize. The company files for bankruptcy in August — specifying Le Tote and Lord & Taylor would entertain separate bids, and part ways.
53. Wayfair earns a profit for the first time in six years
In February, the 18-year-old online furniture retailer had been asking its investors for patience: It would cut costs and cross the line into profitability by 2021. But the pandemic changes everything. Between a shift to e-commerce and a home-improvement boom, the company suddenly earns a profit of $274 million in Q2 — its first since it went public in 2014. At the time, most observers predict it will be a one-time blip. But as the pandemic drags on, so does Wayfair’s success: In Q3, it posts a profit of $173 million.
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54. Etsy turns mask mania into its golden egg
After public health officials begin recommending mass mask-wearing to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, consumers rush to the new mask one-stop shop, online crafts marketplace Etsy. In Q2, new sellers to the site increase by 100%, supplying nearly a quarter of the 29 million face masks sold there. Etsy’s mask rush helps out its non-mask vendors, too: The site sees a 93% year-over-year increase in sales of other products.
55. TJ Maxx shrugs off e-commerce
During stay-at-home orders, many retailers scramble to make a pivot to digital. But not all retailers. Off-price chain TJX Corp (owner of TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods) had long resisted any meaningful embrace of e-commerce partly because it believed its customers wanted the in-person “treasure hunt” experience. The company sticks with this theory — and sees foot traffic surge back to prior-year levels when lockdowns lift. The reason? Bargain shoppers may be making fewer trips, one analyst tells Marker, but with more purpose: “If you go to a store, you probably want to come home with something.”
56. Bill Gates and the Serum Institute promise vaccines for just $3 a dose
The India-based Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, announces it will charge India and other low- and middle-income countries a maximum of just $3 per dose for its Covid-19 vaccine, thanks to a $150 million interest-free, forgivable loan from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
57. AMC gets desperate, offering 15-cent movie tickets
After more than five months without movies — and losses of $2.2 billion in a single quarter — AMC just can’t hold out any longer. It reopens 100 of its over 600 U.S. theaters in August, with a one-day promo of 15-cent tickets to watch older movies like Back to the Future (and ongoing $5 fares for older flicks). But the discounts and a meager handful of new releases aren’t enough to coax moviegoers back to the cinema: In September, Christopher Nolan’s much-anticipated thriller Tenet draws only $9.5 million on its U.S. opening weekend. In November, AMC announces it’s selling more stock to raise $50 million to try to stave off bankruptcy, while competitor Regal closes down its theaters again in October, suggesting it’s actually more profitable to simply stay shut.
58. KFC suspends its “Finger Lickin' Good” slogan… for an obvious reason
Along with the brand managers over at Corona Beer, the marketing shepherds at KFC are faced with an unfortunate brand messaging dilemma — whether or not to pull the plug on its iconic slogan. They decide, at least for now, to halt “Finger Lickin’ Good,” the fast food giant’s time-tested slogan in use since the ’50s. For decades, KFC’s mantra had stood alone as a rare weird and goofy one-liner — over the safe, vague, and more sanitized “I’m lovin’ it” or “Taste the feeling.” But — for now, at least — sanitization, along with public health guidelines against face-touching, is in vogue.
59. Salesforce’s CEO encourages a “no layoff” pledge, has a monster quarter, and then announces layoffs
In March, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff had pledged that his company would not conduct “significant” layoffs for 90 days in the face of a foreboding economic and public health crisis. Fast-forward to August: The 90 days have come and gone, Salesforce’s stock is up over 60% for the year, it’s passing $5 billion in quarterly revenue for the first time, preparing to be added to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and… it informs its staff that around 1,000 of them should prepare to lose their jobs.
60. 100 days into the job, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer resigns
Perhaps stung at being passed over for the CEO spot at Disney, Disney’s former head of streaming Kevin Mayer had announced to great fanfare in May that he would be taking the CEO spot at Tiktok, the video-sharing app owned by Chinese tech firm Bytedance. Then, in August, after President Trump signs an executive order requiring Bytedance to sell its U.S. operations (negotiation is still ongoing, with TikTok getting a temporary reprieve from the Commerce Department), Mayer turns in his resignation, apparently opting to look for a less fraught work environment, like an investment firm.
61. Levi Strauss, Patagonia, and PayPal launch a movement for paid time off to vote
While the country struggles through perhaps the most divisive political season in recent memory, Levi Strauss, Patagonia, and PayPal launch a campaign to make it easier for workers to participate in the electoral process. More than 700 companies — from Walmart to Starbucks to Coca-Cola — pledge to give workers paid time off to vote. Others, including Microsoft, Target, and Old Navy, also encourage employees and customers to serve as poll workers.
62. Penzey’s Spices “loots” its own store during Kenosha protests
Bill Penzey, the famously outspoken anti-Trump CEO of Wisconsin-based independent spice company Penzey’s, publicly supports protests against racial injustice that break out across the country over the summer. When the epicenter of the protests hit near home following the killing of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Penzey puts a new spin on his message: In an email to customers, he responds to the accusation that he would be “singing a different tune” if his own business had been looted, he explains that Penzey’s would be “looting” its own Kenosha store by donating all of its inventory to food pantries and “organizations trying to raise money to fund change.”
63. Nine pharma CEOs decide to play nice
A group of CEOs from nine pharmaceutical companies set aside competing corporate interests, issuing a public pledge that they will not cave into political pressures on the date of a vaccine release and will develop and test potential Covid-19 vaccines “in accordance with high ethical standards and sound scientific principles.” In addition to being a sound public health strategy, it’s also viewed as a rebuke of President Trump, who had urged an expedited release of a vaccine and pushed the FDA to provide emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine.
64. Peloton drops prices so that no one ever returns to the gym again
As companies from Gold’s Gym to 24 Hour Fitness file for bankruptcy, Peloton — which has seen 172% sales growth over the summer — tries to lock in an even bigger slice of the rapidly growing home fitness market. The exercise and fitness startup drops the prices of its signature stationary bike (from $2,245 down to $1,895) and its treadmill ($4,295 down to $2,495) starting in early 2021 — hoping it can hook enough people beyond its bougie base. Its only misstep: pissing off those in its Peloton army who purchased a bike just before the price reduction.
65. GM makes an embarrassing deal with Nikola Motors — but saves face with its Hummer debut
In September, General Motors announces a $2 billion all-stock deal to own 11% of Nikola, the electric and hydrogen-powered truck startup, which at the time, boasts a $19 billion valuation — and virtually no revenue. The deal comes off as an embarrassing show of insecurity and a reflection of GM’s failure to bet on its own electric vehicles (particularly as Nikola is promptly investigated by the DOJ and SEC over claims it misled investors). But in late October, GM redeems itself with an ultra-splashy reveal of its fully loaded, all-electric Hummer. Within 10 minutes, its first-year production of the $112,000 vehicle has maxed out reservations.
66. Licensing maestro and mall baron scoop up bankrupt brands
In what could be described as the ultimate vulture move, Simon Property Group (the biggest U.S. mall owner) and Authentic Brands Group (a brand management company) reveal a joint venture perfectly poised to absorb the most famous clothing brands pummeled by the pandemic. After Brooks Brothers and Lucky Jeans are driven into bankruptcy this spring, SPARC — as the partnership is called — purchases both in the fall, adding to its growing portfolio which includes Forever 21, which went bankrupt before the pandemic. The plan is to leverage the brands, often through licensing deals, with a leaner cost structure that can resurrect them profitably. The other MO: to save the dying mall, which both Simon and Authentic have a very vested interest in keeping alive.
67. The Long-Term Stock Exchange launches to challenge Wall Street at its own game
The LTSE — Silicon Valley’s homegrown alternative to the Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange, backed by a who’s who of VCs — makes its debut in early September. Its mission: To untether companies from the stock market’s fixation on short-term results and focus on long-term value creation, while retaining tighter control over their future. But its long-awaited launch barely makes a blip amid a frothy IPO market and ongoing SPAC mania.
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68. JPMorgan orders its staff back to the office — and then sends them right back home
In September, JPMorgan tells employees on sales and trading teams to return to its Manhattan headquarters. Within weeks, the bank has to send several employees home after co-workers test positive for Covid-19. For an industry that runs on computers and calls, it’s a reminder that investment bankers are a far shot from essential workers.
69. Oscar de la Renta caves to Amazon as the e-commerce giant debuts its “Luxury Stores”
For years Amazon had tried to woo high-end luxury brands to its platform, and for years they had spurned its advances, but in September, with designers reeling from several months of people only buying sweatpants, they finally give in. Amazon launches “Luxury Stores,” giving its 112 million Prime subscribers the ability to buy Oscar de la Renta, Roland Mouret, La Perla, and other iconic designer brands along with their groceries.
70. Stripe gives remote employees who relocate a $20,000 bonus — and a salary cut
With tech employees untethered and fleeing overpriced cities like New York and San Francisco to cheaper locales with more space, fintech giant Stripe offers its workforce a similar perma-WFH perk. The kicker: Relocating staff gets a generous bonus, but in exchange for a pay cut of up to 10% depending on where they move.
71. Apple pivots to digital fitness
With gyms in free fall and Peloton getting all the attention, Apple goes for a piece of the action. In September, it announces Apple Fitness+: a $9.99-a-month virtual fitness subscription coming late 2020 that will offer digital workouts powered by the Apple Watch.
72. Snowflake makes history in three ways with one IPO
The data warehousing company goes public in September, making history by being the most valuable tech company to IPO. It then makes history again by being the largest company to double in value on its opening day. In its third history-making move, the IPO nets Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway a cool $800 million, despite Buffett’s historic aversion to investing in both IPOs and tech stocks.
73. Krispy Kreme opens in Times Square, because… it has to?
Determined not to be outdone by its chief rival Dunkin’ — a pandemic-era success story — Krispy Kreme unveils a new flagship store in New York City’s Times Square, a location that had been in the works since before the pandemic hit. At the store’s grand opening, customers wait in a 25-minute line to watch doughnuts ride a conveyor belt through a glaze waterfall.
74. Qantas airline’s flight to nowhere sells out in 10 minutes
As U.S. airlines hit their lowest passenger numbers since the 1950s, Australian airline Qantas taps the people-who-will-do-anything-to-travel-again market. After seeing some Asian airlines have success with sightseeing flights, it announces a seven-hour-long flight to nowhere that sells out in 10 minutes, with tickets going for between about $600 to $2,700. A month later, it takes 134 passengers on a low-flying journey past Australia’s scenic highlights before landing in Sydney, the same place where it took off.
75. Walmart, Best Buy, and Target all raise wages mid-pandemic
In an unexpected move from mega-box America, major retail chains Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and Hobby Lobby all raise wages. While many other retailers go out of business due to a collapse of demand, these larger chains rake in profits and step in to fill the void as the federal minimum wage remains unchanged for the past 11 years.
76. Microsoft drops $7.5 billion on Bethesda after failing to buy TikTok
A week after Microsoft loses its bid to buy TikTok — one of the most talked-about deals of the year (and one it probably should have walked away from, anyway) — the company forks over $7.5 billion for ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda, the video game giant behind hit series like Fallout, Doom, and Skyrim. Microsoft ends up paying almost as much as Disney spent buying Star Wars and Marvel, two of the most valuable cultural franchises in history, just to bulk out the thin list of heavyweight original IPs under its Xbox video game brand.
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77. Walmart’s e-commerce explosion puts it toe-to-toe with Amazon
After a few false starts and a much-belated response to Amazon Prime, the big-box giant launches Walmart+ in September, a $98-per-year membership program offering free delivery and discounts on gas. Walmart then agrees to take a stake in viral-video platform TikTok for reasons that presumably involve a doubling down on digital commerce. For a company once considered to be woefully behind its digitally savvy rivals, Walmart proves otherwise: It sees online sales grow 97% in Q2, compared to the same period last year.
78. Echelon fitness launches a Peloton competitor with Amazon — that Amazon had nothing to do with
Tennessee-based startup Echelon Fitness creates so much buzz when it announces it will launch a $500 “Prime Bike” in collaboration with Amazon, that it causes shares of Peloton to fall by 6%. Within hours, Amazon has its own announcement: It has nothing to do with the new bike, and Echelon must change the name. Echelon takes down its press release but states that the product was built to sell exclusively on Amazon, even though it bears a striking resemblance to the $500 bike the company had been selling on Walmart.com since March.
79. As it hits bottom, Brookfield declares the ”time is now” to sell its malls
After disclosing it has collected only 35% of its expected rental revenue, real-estate giant Brookfield Property Group announces in September that “the time is now” to sell an undisclosed number of its mall properties.
80. Fred Perry gets caught in the crosshairs of the Proud Boys
Menswear designer Fred Perry’s signature black-and-yellow polo shirt gets co-opted by the far-right Proud Boys, designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The brand — which was founded by a Wimbledon-winning son of a socialist — announces it will stop selling the shirt in the United States and Canada until the association with the Proud Boys has ended.
81. Ring builds an even more invasive home surveillance drone
Amazon-owned Ring announces plans to sell a $250 security camera built into an autonomous drone that can fly around inside your home. Ring has previously come under fire for its partnerships with law enforcement agencies and for a series of security breaches of its other smart-home devices — including a hacker taunting an eight-year-old girl via a camera in her bedroom. The company says that customers may want to use its new device to check if the stove is on or a window is open, but it may be hard to stop potential buyers from imagining another hypothetical scenario: What if the device gets hacked?
82. Ocean Spray manages to not ruin its accidental viral TikTok moment
After TikToker Nathan Apodaca goes viral for skateboarding to work while chugging a bottle of Ocean Spray and lip-syncing to Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 hit “Dreams,” it shoots the song to the top of the iTunes charts. To thank Apodaca for the millions of dollars worth of free advertising and zeitgeisty viral moment, Ocean Spray’s CEO then records his own homage to the original video, and gifts Apodaca with a cranberry-red pickup truck loaded with Ocean Spray.
83. Playboy hops on the SPAC train
In a banner year for SPACs, even Playboy (yes, that Playboy) jumps on the bandwagon. The adult magazine brand announces it plans to go public for the second time, after being taken private by Hugh Hefner and a private equity firm in 2011—only this time via a blank-check company instead of a boring old IPO.
84. McDonald’s hitches itself to hip-hop
After rapper Travis Scott draws more than 12 million gamers to his virtual concert inside Fortnite, McDonald’s partners with the rapper for a Travis Scott-branded meal. It’s the chain’s first celebrity-branded menu item since it launched the McJordan with Michael Jordan in 1991. Up next: a meal collab with Colombian hip-hop and reggaeton artist, J Balvin.
85. Slack x Cole Haan team up to make merch
Slack seems not to have benefited from the shift to remote work as much as Zoom, but at least it’s giving the people what they really want: $120 limited edition Slack-themed sneakers, in collaboration with Cole Haan. The October release has heads scratching since it’s unclear who the target market is for Slack shoes. But perhaps all the puzzlement is part of Slack and Cole Haan’s plan to build some buzz for their brands.
86. Dollar General attempts a ritzier chain for the suburbs
The discount chain announces it’s branching past its bread-and-butter $1 deals and reduced-priced aspirin to attract suburban women from households that earn as much as $125,000 a year. The chain says it plans to open 30 new stores by the end of 2021 under its new Popshelf brand selling everything from home accessories to beauty products, 95% of which will be priced under $5.
87. IKEA makes a contrarian gamble on cities
Amid doubts that people are giving up on the urban dream, the Swedish-based furniture chain declares it’s betting on cities, with plans to launch around 50 new city stores — 60% more than the 30 or so it opened last year.
88. Michelin-starred restaurants won’t do takeout, but they’ll let you cook a meal yourself
Blue Apron and its subscription meal-kit brethren had been on their way out, until everyone stopped going to restaurants. In a pivot for survival, instead of offering takeout, in October Michelin-starred Manhattan’s Eleven Madison Park and Chicago’s Alinea start offering branded make-at-home meal kits for as much as $895 for Alinea’s Thanksgiving box.
89. Competitors Lyft and Uber team up to spend more than $200 million fighting California labor laws
In October, a California court orders Uber and Lyft to reclassify their drivers from independent contractors to employees, in accordance with a new state labor law. Instead, the competitors join forces, along with other gig companies, and launch a ballot measure proposing a different plan: Create an exception for their workers, who would remain freelancers with no minimum wage, sick leave, or other labor protections — but have a handful of new benefits like a pay floor. A coalition of gig companies raises more than $200 million to fund a constant stream of television ads, mailers, and emails in support of the measure. Their union-led opposition raises around $20 million. Unsurprisingly, the companies prevail — and their share prices soar.
90. The Nugget becomes the hot quarantine craze for kids
With many schools and playgrounds still closed, parents become desperate for the Nugget, a line of children’s furniture that is part-couch, part-fort. Demand for the deconstructed sofa gets so out of control — with a Facebook group of more than 60,000 members devoted to the kids furniture — that the Hillsborough, North Carolina-based startup creates a weekly lottery to ration out its limited 2020 inventory, a process BuzzFeed refers to as “Supreme drops for moms.” In the first week, nearly 100,000 people reportedly enter for the chance to buy 5,000 Nuggets.
91. Travis Kalanick makes a $130 million bet on ghost kitchens
As traditional restaurants continue to flounder under lockdowns and Covid-19 restrictions, “ghost kitchens” — delivery-only food businesses that avoid the overhead of a sprawling dine-in space and premium real estate — have been picking up steam. That includes the stealthy startup CloudKitchens, started by ousted Uber founder Travis Kalanick. In October, the Wall Street Journal reports that Kalanick — who had reportedly landed $400 million from Saudia Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund in January — has quietly been scooping up $130 million of empty space from restaurants, auto-body shops, and warehouses in two dozen cities and outfitting them with everything a chef would need, including sinks, Wi-Fi, and electricity.
92. After launching in a pandemic, Quibi blames its flop on the pandemic
If streaming became a pandemic boon for Netflix and Disney, it was the nail in the coffin for Quibi, the short-form streaming platform led by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman buoyed by a staggering $2 billion from Hollywood investors. Little more than a month after the April launch of the new smartphone-centric service, no one is tuning in, and the former DreamWorks co-founder is already pointing the finger. “I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus,” Katzenberg tells the New York Times. After burning through most of its funding in just six months, the company shuts down in October.
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93. Expensify tells every one of its customers’ employees to vote Biden
Weeks before the election, expense-management software company Expensify’s CEO sends out a very lengthy email endorsing Joe Biden for president. The plea doesn’t just land in the inboxes of its corporate clients, but rather all of its clients’ employees — reportedly about 10 million people. Not surprisingly, plenty of customers are not thrilled that a third-party vendor is engaging in an end run to lecture their employees on politics.
94. The Tupperware party makes an unexpected comeback
For years, Tupperware had struggled to remain culturally relevant as the brand failed to connect with younger customers, but a spike in home cooking creates a surge in demand for durable, airtight containers to store all the leftovers. The result? As reported in Modern Retail, Tupperware sales soar 72% in the third quarter of 2020 — the highest growth the company has seen in 20 years thanks to direct sales via virtual parties on Zoom, Facebook, and TikTok.
95. Dunkin’ Brands goes private — again
After a rocky pandemic start, followed by a solid rebound boosted by drive-thrus and online ordering, Dunkin’ Brands announces it will once again go private when it agrees to a $11.3 billion deal with Inspire Brands, a private equity firm. This is Dunkin’s second spin on the private equity carousel, which perhaps is more about benefiting dealmakers than it is donut eaters.
96. Walmart discovers that humans are just as cost-effective as six-foot-tall automatons
In 2019, the retail giant had planned to increase the number of robots it deployed to help clean floors and keep track of inventory in around 4,600 store locations in an effort to reduce labor costs. Then in November, Walmart decides to pull back on its plans to rely on mechanical workers who can’t catch an airborne virus. The reason doesn’t have to do with ethical concerns around replacing people’s jobs, but rather with the simple fact that Walmart finds human beings to be just as good, and as cost-effective, at mopping and scanning shelves.
97. Ant Group’s biggest IPO in the world hits a roadblock: the Chinese government
When Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s fintech giant Ant Group filed for its IPO in August, it was looking to raise a world record-breaking $30 billion. But in November, Ma and two Ant Group executives are abruptly called in to meet with Chinese financial regulators, and by the next day, the IPO is suspended. The issue? A speech made by Ma at the end of October, in which he had criticized international financial regulations, saying among other things that, “there’s no systemic financial risks in China because there’s no financial system in China.” The speech reportedly ticks off China’s president Xi Jinping, who personally puts the kibosh on the deal.
98. Sharpie gets entangled in a web of election conspiracy theories
#Sharpiegate becomes one of the many absurd twists in an already conspiracy-riddled election season. As rumors swirl on social media that Sharpie markers were used to invalidate Trump voters’ ballots in Arizona, many angry voters tweet their anger at the Sharpie Twitter account. They even lead to a lawsuit joined by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee against Maricopa County election officials, prompting the Department of Homeland Security’s head of cybersecurity to publicly urge people to stop spreading baseless rumors against the marker brand.
99. PredictIt outperforms some presidential election polls, again
As pundits and political junkies on both sides tear election forecasters and pollsters apart in the wake of the November election, one predictor emerges looking a little sharper than the rest: PredictIt, the self-described “stock market for politics,” where amateur traders bet on election results. Just as in 2016, when PredictIt traders gave Trump higher odds than many professional prognosticators and political commentators, this year’s markets peg Biden as a narrow favorite rather than a landslide win.
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100. Deutsche Bank proposes a work-from-home tax
Deutsche Bank ensures it will not be winning any popularity contests anytime soon by proposing that employees should pay an additional 5% income tax for the privilege of working from home. The argument? Remote workers don’t contribute as much to the economy and save on costs like commuting and lunch. As if being stuck at home for the past nine months wasn’t taxing enough.
101. Pfizer announces that its vaccine works — and sends the stock market into a frenzy
Ever since it became clear that a vaccine would be our only real way out of the pandemic, we’ve all been waiting impatiently for the good news. Last week, we finally get some: Pfizer and BioNTech release preliminary data from their vaccine trials, showing that it is more than 90% effective. News about the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel reverberates across the stock market: stocks of airlines, cruise lines, commercial real estate firms, restaurant chains, and other pandemic-battered industries see their share prices soar. Meanwhile, some of the biggest pandemic winners, like Zoom and Etsy watch their shares tumble by double-digit percentages. We might finally have evidence that the stock market isn’t divorced from reality after all.
Additional reporting by Jennifer Alsever
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