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DealBook Briefing: How a Tweet Put the N.B.A. in Hot Water in China

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A tweet by the general manager of the Houston Rockets in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong set off a firestorm in China, Sopan Deb and Marc Stein of the NYT report. Daryl Morey on Friday tweeted an image with a message to “stand with Hong Kong,” before quickly deleting it.

Mr. Morey walked back his comments on Twitter, saying that his views were not representative of the Rockets or the N.B.A. But in doing so he stirred up another dispute domestically, “since the apology runs counter to the N.B.A.’s reputation as a sports league that encourages free speech and commentary on politics and other social issues,” Mr. Deb and Mr. Stein write.

An N.B.A. spokesman said it was “regrettable” that the tweet had “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China,” but he defended Mr. Morey’s right to express his views.

But the league changed its stance in a statement posted in Chinese on Weibo, saying it was “extremely disappointed in the inappropriate comment.”

And the owner of the Brooklyn Nets, Joe Tsai, also criticized Mr. Morey. Mr. Tsai, the executive vice chairman of Alibaba, wrote a lengthy Facebook post that the Rockets executive had defended a “separatist movement” and that Chinese citizens were united over China’s “territorial integrity.”

The Rockets faced backlash in China, too. Several Chinese companies said they would pause partnerships with the team. And it was rebuked by the Chinese Basketball Association, whose president is the Hall of Fame center (and former Rocket) Yao Ming.

The big point: The tweet “put the N.B.A. at odds with its largest and highest-priority international market,” Mr. Deb and Mr. Stein write. “Basketball has long been China’s most popular sport and the N.B.A. has made great efforts to cultivate the audience there, with a market that features hundreds of millions of fans.”


Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Michael J. de la Merced, Lindsey Underwood and Stephen Grocer.


U.S. stock futures are down this morning, suggesting that investors aren’t hopeful that a new round of discussions between U.S. and Chinese officials this week will do much to hasten an end to the trade war.

Chinese officials have reportedly narrowed the list of topics that they’re willing to negotiate, Bloomberg reports, citing unnamed sources. Vice Premier Liu He is said to have told U.S. visitors that he won’t offer to overhaul Chinese industrial policy or government subsidies.

That would rule out the sort of broad trade deal that President Trump has long wanted. And while the U.S. trade representative, Bob Lighthizer, has expressed a willingness to accept incremental change in Chinese policy, other officials want a more sweeping overhaul.

A lack of movement on issues like industrial subsidies could cost Mr. Trump politically. Those were “the whole reason this case started in the first place,” Rufus Yerxa, a former American trade official, told Bloomberg.

That explains why markets have fallen today, with indexes in Asia and Europe declining and U.S. markets looking down. Oil prices have fallen as well. “Nothing is yet in the bag, and optimism on trade has proved time and again to be misplaced,” economists at ING wrote in a note today, according to the FT.

Tim Cook may have plenty of personal disagreements with President Trump. But to protect Apple, he has forged a close personal relationship with the president and his family — an approach that has helped the tech giant’s business interests, Trippe Mickle of the WSJ reports.

Mr. Cook is in some ways the kind of executive Mr. Trump dislikes, since he supported Hillary Clinton and created Apple’s outsourcing strategy. But the two have found common ground on trade and tax reform, even as they disagree over immigration and climate change, Mr. Mickle writes.

The Apple chief has plenty of face time with Mr. Trump, serving on the White House’s work force policy board and dining with the president at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. He also speaks often with Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economic adviser.

Before speaking out publicly, Mr. Cook asks himself whether Apple has any standing on an issue. Mr. Mickle notes that the Apple C.E.O. limits his public comments to education, privacy, human rights, immigration and the environment. (He or someone else from Apple also reportedly alerts the White House before he offers his views.)

“Mr. Cook’s personal diplomacy stands out among tech giants,” Mr. Mickle writes. “Others have sharply increased their outlays on lobbying in recent years but haven’t forged close ties to the administration. Apple’s $18 million in lobbying since 2017 is half of what either Amazon.com Inc. or Google’s Alphabet Inc. have spent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”

The net result: Apple has won praise from Mr. Trump and been largely spared public broadsides from the president. But it is one of several Big Tech companies under potential investigation by government regulators.

Tens of thousands of California wildfire victims might miss out on compensation from Pacific Gas & Electric, whose equipment was blamed for several major fires, the NYT reports.

The filing deadline for claims is less than three weeks away. More than 30,000 people have filed claims, but as many as 70,000 victims who are eligible for compensation have not.

PG&E set a target of $8.4 billion for payouts to wildfire victims, and the utility — which filed for bankruptcy protection in January — has pledged that all court-approved claims will be honored.

But some lawyers say PG&E has used bankruptcy to prevent claims. They say there are misconceptions about who is eligible for compensation, and have “argued in court and in legal filings that victims often believe there is a lack of money to pay them because of PG&E’s bankruptcy,” the NYT adds.

Talks between General Motors and striking U.A.W. workers hit an impasse yesterday, Neal Boudette of the NYT reports.

The union has pushed G.M. to resume production in the U.S. of certain sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks from Mexico, Mr. Boudette writes, citing unnamed sources. A U.A.W. vice president said that the organization had sent a new proposal to G.M., but that the automaker’s response did not address key issues.

The two sides had made progress over the last week. “By Saturday, the union and the company appeared to have reached agreements on most major issues, including wage increases and a path for temporary workers to become permanent employees,” Mr. Boudette writes, citing unnamed sources. But talks broke down over the Mexican plants.

Tensions are high. G.M. has said it is committed to reaching an agreement. But Terry Dittes, the union’s lead negotiator with G.M., wrote in a letter to the automaker: “We, in this union, could not be more disappointed with General Motors. These negotiations have taken a turn for the worse.”

As the Japanese automaker investigated compensation issues involving its former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, that inquiry was marred by improper conduct on the part of other executives at the company, Ben Dooley and Liz Alderman of the NYT write.

A report by an outside law firm that insiders had acted inappropriately, including by seeking to influence the inquiry, wasn’t disclosed fully to Nissan’s board, the NYT reports. Since then, the company sidelined two senior in-house lawyers who had handled issues of misconduct.

Nissan said the law firm’s findings had been “reflected” in a broader report shared with the board after the meeting. But that report named only directors, not executives, who received improper compensation, according to people aware of its contents.

The events “paint a picture of a major global automaker hobbled by distrust and deep conflicts of interest among top executives,” the NYT adds.

The findings from the outside law firm, which the NYT reviewed, could also raise questions about the credibility of crucial witnesses against Mr. Ghosn and another former senior Nissan executive, Greg Kelly. (Both men say they’re innocent.)

HSBC reportedly plans to cut up to 10,000 jobs, on top of the 4,700 layoffs it has already announced.

Martin Gilbert will step down as vice chairman of Standard Life Aberdeen next year.

Helena Morrisey plans to depart as the head of personal investing at Legal & General.


• Shares of newly public companies are trading just 5 percent above their I.P.O. prices this year, down significantly from previous years. (WSJ)

• The owner of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is under pressure to raise its takeover bid for the London Stock Exchange ahead of a regulatory deadline on Wednesday. (FT)

• As venture capitalists urge start-ups to eschew I.P.O.s in favor of direct listings, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are trying to explain how they can still play a role in those deals. (Bloomberg)

• The coal mogul Robert Murray is at risk of seeing his business empire file for bankruptcy protection, despite courting President Trump and winning regulatory victories. (WSJ)

• The president of Lime, the scooter company, said he didn’t see much value in consolidation within his increasingly crowded industry. (FT)

Trump impeachment inquiry

• A second whistle-blower has emerged with information about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. (NYT)

• Republican lawmakers are said to be paralyzed over how to respond to the latest scandal — and how much to defend Mr. Trump. (WaPo)

• The president has reportedly cast some blame for his actions involving Ukraine on Rick Perry, the outgoing energy secretary. (Axios)

Politics and policy

• The Supreme Court’s new term, which begins today, will tackle polarizing issues like gay rights, the young immigrants known as Dreamers and gun control. (NYT)

• Attorney General Bill Barr has taken an unusually active and sweeping role in a Justice Department inquiry into the investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 election. (NYT)

• Doctors were once reliably Republican. That’s not the case anymore. (WSJ)

• For the first time ever, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower tax rate than any other income group. (NYT Opinion)


• Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged the E.U. to compromise on his proposal for Britain’s departure from the bloc. (FT)

• The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, may be convincing wary business executives that his brand of fiery socialism is preferable to a no-deal Brexit. (NYT)


• Google may buy Firework, a rival to the social network TikTok. (WSJ)

• PayPal dropped out of Libra, Facebook’s cryptocurrency project. And the European Commission is questioning the social network about the project’s financial risks. (NYT, FT)

• Why Ninja left Twitch. (Verge)

• Margrethe Vestager, the E.U.’s antitrust chief, is imposing an interim order to stop Broadcom practices that the bloc says are anticompetitive. (FT)

• Nir Eyal, who taught tech companies how to hook users, wants to undo his work. (NYT)

Best of the rest

• How Boeing’s feud with Airbus turned into a fight between the U.S. and the E.U. (NYT)

• Black-market vaping products are complicating efforts to combat a surge in teenage vaping and rising vaping-related illnesses. (WSJ)

• A woman who said she was sexually assaulted by Jeffrey Epstein accused Leslie Wexner, the retail magnate and a former client of the financier, of being complicit. (WaPo)

• The Sackler family received up to $13 billion in profits from Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, according to the drugmaker’s bankruptcy filings. (WSJ)

• Russian oligarchs have become influential patrons of the arts in the U.S. (NYT)

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you tomorrow.

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