tv Bloomberg Business Week Bloomberg January 24, 2016 7:00am-7:31am EST
carol: hello, and welcome to "bloomberg businessweek" on bloomberg television. i am carol massar. david: and i am david gura. carol: we will explore the unusual interests of robert mercer. david: and if you are looking for a butler, there is "hello albert." we will see if we can solve all of your domestic challenges. all of that and more as we have "bloomberg businessweek" on bloomberg television. ♪
carol: there were a lot of interesting stories this week, but one thing that stood out to me this week, david, had to do with 10,000 baby boomers who are retiring every week, a lot of individuals leaving companies, and companies are getting nervous with what they are thinking about and what they are doing. they take the older employees and help to teach the younger generations so they do not have a leadership gap. david: key companies, gm and others, looking at this proactively. and another great story about american express. for a long time american express was a sign that you had made it, and the company had tried to expand, give more people cards, people of lower incomes, and that does not seem like that has worked out well for them. carol: they have had a hard time. a cup of coffee? bacterial chemistry. this involves a furry, little animal.
tryinggot a start-up it's a greatthat. read. two coffee beans. i am not giving it away, but it is a great read. david: a great issue. carol: firms say they want to hire more african-americans, so why don't they? david: at howard university, more than eight out of 10 are black, and vauhini joins us from colorado, and you mentioned in your article, you looked at the percentage of african-americans in the whole population, you looked at the percentage in silicon valley, and you say no more than 1% of the biggest technical companies there are african-american. why is that?
what has been the biggest hurdle? vauhini: there have been a lot of issues. in the past, there was an issue on the part of companies, and only recently in the past five years or so, they have started to think about this issue and figure out how do i address it, but it has happened slowly and at the same time as the universities, who are educating a disproportionate amount of black students, have over the past years looked at how they could better train their students for silicon valley. carol: based on your reporting, where is the fault? or where does it lie? is the fault on the universities themselves or with a lack of recruiting? vauhini: when i went to do this piece, i thought there was a lot of binary thinking. people think that silicon valley companies are racist or are not trying hard enough, or they make the case that students from underrepresented backgrounds, there just are not enough of them for these qualified positions, and what i found is there is a little bit of truth to both of those arguments, and it is not binary. both of those things are true, and there are a couple of problems. one is that there are
unconscious biases in silicon valley where it is such a white and asian and male culture that companies are realizing that people may view candidates for jobs from underrepresented backgrounds differently without realizing it, so that is a problem. the other is that companies have not been going where there are a lot of black candidates, which is why i was interested in howard university. historically, the black universities graduate a lot of the computer sciences students, but companies were not recruiting there. they are not training them also for silicon valley as well as they could. david: in washington, d.c., google, in the face of some criticism, they started a program called "google in residence." what were they trying to do there?
vauhini: google recognized that while they wanted to hire people from underrepresented backgrounds, including black programmers, when they went to try to meet graduating seniors, these students just did not have the background and did not have the skills and experience that they needed to start full-time jobs at google and other companies. david: coding from five or six. vauhini: so they did an interesting thing. they imbedded someone at howard and helped to revamp the school curriculum and also started talking to students about how to
get through the google interview process, which made a big impact. carol: it made an impact, but did it make a difference when it came down to the companies hiring these individuals? vauhini: here is the thing. they have now expanded the program to other campuses, but you would be surprised by the small number of graduating seniors still who are getting positions at google and other companies. it is in the single digits. this year, the chair of the computer company said -- there was one at google and one at pandora, so the numbers are still really small. david: you know, i'm thinking about that and how you build this infrastructure. what you write about so compellingly is what it is like
for the students to go to silicon valley and mingle with the students that have gone to stanford and m.i.t., and there is the silicon valley lifestyle, where is like ping-pong tables and free food, and it is not matching in this kind of cultural sense. you write also about recruiters coming to howard and talking at length about this, and that is off-putting to those eager to get jobs in silicon valley. vauhini: it is so complicated. companies want to do the right thing, especially because there has been this blowback. when it comes to diversity, and when we talk about culture, one student i met, she talked about how she never felt like she fit in on her own, like when she was driving up and when she went to college, and when she got to silicon valley, she loved the weird, offbeat culture. she felt she fit right in. others thought that they would talk about the playground that they have on campus and talk about the volleyball courts that they have.
one student said to me that these kinds of things are just not compelling to me, and my friends just do not care about this stuff, and another who interned at google said she knew that google was trying. she could tell that google was trying to be welcoming to people of color because they were making an effort to be more diverse, but she would go out to lunch with her colleagues and would not know what they were talking about. they would talk about certain books and certain movies, and these are not the books she reads or the movies she watches. david: ok, thank you. you can read more in "bloomberg businessweek" in stores and online at bloomberg.com. carol: robert mercer, a man you probably have never heard of, when "bloomberg businessweek" on television continues. ♪
carol: welcome back to "bloomberg businessweek" on television. i am carol massar. david: and i am david gura. carol: bob mercer. we have more about the mysterious mr. mercer. zachary miner joins us. zach, who is bob mercer? zach: he gave money to ted cruz, $11 million to a superpac supporting sen. cruz. and that makes him the biggest donor on each side, and he only got in politics a few years ago.
before that, he had very little or no public profile whatsoever. he is a hedge fund manager who lives on long island. carol: successful hedge fund manager. david: we hear more about ted cruz and values, and he talked about there are not a lot of conservatives in new york, and one of the big supporters of his, not a direct donor, lives in new york. zach: in a way, that makes sense, because mercer is different from your typical wall street donor. a lot of people on wall street who are republicans, they are kind of hawkish in terms of policy, but they are totally indifferent to social issues, or they are even supportive of things like gay marriage. mercer seems to be across-the-board conservative, which is very different. he has given money to antiabortion groups. he has given money to support the death penalty, these kinds of social issues that most on wall street do not want to get involved with. carol: and he backs some interesting candidates. you started off talking about art robinson.
tell us about that. zach: art has a phd in chemistry, but for the past few years, he has been unaffiliated with any university, working out of oregon and doing research projects that are funded by kind of random donations, and bob mercer has been a donor to robinson for more than a decade now, and these involve things like -- he bought this machine called a mass spectrometer, and his plan is to collect thousands and thousands of specimens of human urine, and eventually, he is going to crack the code and solve all of our problems. carol: and mercer's money is helping him. zach: yes, mercer's money helped him to buy these freezers to store the urine. a few years ago robinson decided to run for office.
he is not a rich guy. one day, these ads show up on tv that he did not even know about, portraying him as a good guy and the other guy as a bad guy, and he does not even know where they come from. it turns out that mercer, who is kind of a fan of this guy, had unbeknownst to them given him thousands of dollars of support in the congressional race. david: talk about the history of this guy, bob mercer. he is nouveau riche. he was a computer engineer and made a lot of money when he moved over to the hedge fund space. a real turning point when he began to give a lot of money. to citizens united. zach: sure. a lot of things happened recently to turn mercer into a political force. he made all of this money late in life, and he did not even get into the hedge fund industry until his late 40's. he was a very successful, groundbreaking computer programmer at ibm but not a billionaire by any stretch of the imagination.
when renaissance technology -- a very unique and very mathematically oriented hedge fund recruited him and basically his entire team at ibm, these guys who had a background in speech recognition. they knew how to translate human language, and for some reason, whatever allowed them to spot patterns, teach computers to spot patterns in language, it has allowed them to spot patterns in the market, and became very, very successful. recently, he only joined the funds in 1993, and much more recently, citizens united -- this was 2010, a decision by the supreme court, that kind of opened the door for independent spending on elections. in other words, if you are not coordinating with the campaign, you can pretty much spend as much as you want to support a particular individual's election. david: you mentioned that he seems to support a lot of conservative causes. he did not grant you an interview and does not talk to many. someone who prefers to keep the stuff under wraps, keep it secret.
zach: that is right. he has never discussed his political beliefs publicly. what i did is talk to as many allies and recipients of his largesse as i could, from political operatives to people involved in his political work. carol: thank you very much. zach miner. we look at a butler service. it is called hello alfred. really wanted to be an actor, leaving your door unlocked. it is true. when we return. ♪
♪ david: this is "bloomberg businessweek" on bloomberg tv. i am david gura. carol: and i am carol massar. forever.wine changed aboutyis the same thing to happen with olive oil? peter robison joins us on the phone to remind us what happened with wine. some people in california thought that they could play ball, and they did. peter: back in the 1970's, wine here in the u.s. did not have a good reputation, and the thought was that they were selling americans junk wine, and europeans did not value the american wine, but there was a wine tasting in paris, and the judges selected the californian chardonnay as the best, and there was another california wine that was voted the best, everyone.cked
and there was an article written about it. carol: we are seeing this happen all over again with olive oil. peter: yes, california is a great environment for olive oil and already produces almonds. it just has not planted many olive trees. and there is the olive ranch, and it is still unusual to see american made olive oil. just about the rest is imports from italy and spain. david: peter, how are they doing this? they are doing this on a different scale with technology. peter: they have gone heavy with technology. oil.oduce the olive
the traditional way of producing it is very, very labor intensive, because you have trees that are hard to machine, and california olive ranch, instead of fixing the machine, they have fixed the tree. they have planted a type of tree that can grow more like a bush, and because of that, they can get this two-story mechanical harvester to drive right over the tree. it is pretty amazing to watch. you might think it would crush the tree, but it drives right over it and has the sort of tubes that mimic hands, and the olives are picked off of the tree and onto a conveyor belt, and then off they go in a couple of an hours to the mill. carol: talk to us about this battle we're seeing between california olive ranch and those doing it in europe for many, many years. peter: it is sort of a new world and old world oil. it has been controlled out of
italy and spain. the international olive council is in majority, and they are very focused on the idea that you cannot produce really great olive oil the way california olive ranch is doing, because there are many kinds, and they just focus on three, and so to the traditionalists, this may be more akin to factory farming. david: ok, peter robison, thank you.
carol: now it is time to bring in back of the book stories. and we bring in brett begun, who edited a story. david: it is an on-demand butler service. brett: that is exactly what it is. you have an app, and you can hire a butler to come to your apartment and take care of all of your errands and clean your house and basically be there to take care of anything you need. david: carol, you are excited by this. carol: it kind of makes sense. i have a dress that has been sitting in dry cleaning for months. how does it work? bret: there are two tiers of service at different price amounts, and if you pay the higher fee, they will make sure all of your essentials are stocked, so you do not get home at night and you do not have any toothpaste, so that is the difference. they will clean your apartment. they will basically get your groceries for you. our reporter found that there were some add-ons involved. carol: and they forgot to lock the door, twice. bret: two times, they forgot to lock the door, but we do not
know who forgot to lock the door. things aobutthe subcontract, they actually subcontract, so they use instacart and myclean, and if you like to use things like task rabbit and myclean, and you do not want to deal with the services independently, they do. on-demandre is the now.force >> everyone works long hours, especially if you are living in the city, and god help you if you need to go to the post office. it is impossible. so you get home from work, and
you have got a huge to-do list, and if you want to go to the gym, you have to decide if you want to do that or mail that letter to grandma, whatever, so this eliminates you having to do that. carol: talk about who actually fills these positions. bret: so our first alfred, lauren, was a graduate i believe, and they have other careers, and they pay $18 to $30 an hour, and there are also a lot of stay at home moms doing this, because they want to get out of the house. david: there is a competitiveness, not just people trying to get the job but to use it also. bret: you're trying to figure out how to maximize your time, so you can spend a month with it or two months with it, and the longer you do it, the better you get with it, and we pretty much figured out how to make sure her instacart bill was no higher. there is a lot of interest. it is an extremely hot space. it is going to make your life easier. carol: i totally, totally dread it, but you go into a sitting room in some stores, retail
stores, and they are just terrible. bret: 30 years ago. the lighting is terrible. the mirrors are terrible, and the crazy thing about it is it is the one competitive advantage that a brick and mortar store would have, that you can go in and actually leave with something. this is a way to get you to leave with more stuff. and, so why today? everything that you have said
rings true to me, other than you have a chance to contemplate anything you want to contemplate in front of these terrible mirrors with bad lighting. why has this not changed? bret: i do not have a good answer for that. if you are on the sales floor and do not wind up going into the fitting room, the store actually makes a lot less money off of you. it is hard to explain to executives that there is a return on investment on lighting. it seems so subjective, but it turns out if there is good lighting, and there is someone there to help you, and the curtain closes, and you do not get stuck by a stray safety pin, you will spend more money. carol: thank you. and that does it for this week's edition of "bloomberg businessweek" on bloomberg television. david: available online and on newsstands. carol: we will see you next week
♪ francine: welcome to "leaders" with me, francine lacqua. pearson is an international publishing company with its biggest businesses in education and books. earlier this year, it sold two of its most well known brands, the "ft" and "the economist." in an exclusive interview, i speak with the group's ceo, john fallon, about his vision for the company and the impact of selling those established brands. john fallon, thank you so much for speaking to bloomberg. we have been talking about an "ft" sale for as long as i can remember. when did you decide it was for