The Limits of Black Economic Self-Sufficiency

For generations, many black activists have looked at America’s financial system and said, thanks, but no thanks. As an alternative, they’ve promoted self-sufficiency—the creation of black wealth through black-owned banking and entrepreneurship, and patronage of black businesses. This idea resurfaces again and again, as it did recently in the #BankBlack movement and in Jay-Z’s “The Story of O.J.”: Black Americans ought to use their economic power to shore up their own community, instead of participating in a broader and more discriminatory system.

In her new book, The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap, Mehrsa Baradaran, a professor of law at the University of Georgia specializing in banking law, provides a deep accounting of how America got to a point where a median white family has 13 times more wealth than the median black family. Baradaran’s book covers the period of time spanning from Reconstruction—with the promise and subsequent revocation of land, jobs, and economic independence for freed slaves—to the present. Over this expanse of history, Baradaran finds that much of the economic turmoil black Americans have faced has been the direct result of negligence, discrimination, or broken bonds on the part of both government and private entities run mostly by white Americans.

With that history in mind, she interrogates the question of whether or not black Americans can fix the problem on their own, for instance by turning to black-owned banks to spur lending and wealth creation. She determines that, while theoretically promising, the movement in support of black economic self-sufficiency will falter without the type of powerful assistance that helped create white wealth, including government policies promoting jobs, homeownership, education, and access to loans. “The theory behind developing a separate black economy had been that economic power would lead to political power, but …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Business

Not a Regular Cease-and-Desist, A Cool Cease-and-Desist

Phrases that are not often used to describe a cease-and-desist letter: “the best,” “hilarious,” “cool,” “perfect,” “super classy.”

And yet that is exactly the praise that Netflix’s lawyers received this week, from a variety of media outlets, for going about that most lawyerly of tasks: telling people they aren’t allowed to do a thing. In this case, the people were the Chicago residents Danny and Doug Marks, and the thing was operating a bar whose theme was Stranger Things, a hit Netflix show set in the 1980s.

Netflix was applauded because its legal team, or perhaps its marketing department, peppered its cease-and-desist letter with several knowing references to the program (“Look, I don’t want you to think I’m a total wastoid…”) and—even more strangely for the form—what seemed like actual politeness. “You’re obviously creative types, so I’m sure you can appreciate that it’s important to us to have a say in how our fans encounter the worlds we build,” a Netflix senior counsel wrote. (The company did not respond to an interview request.)

This is where the emphasis on authenticity in corporate branding has led to in 2017: Even cease-and-desist letters, traditionally one of the sternest, most threatening forms of interpersonal communication, are being suffused with warmth and, as branding experts like to call it, “voice.” Brand-building can happen anywhere: “That’s the way companies should be thinking about literally everything they do, and legal is no different than customer service,” says Kevin Lane Keller, a professor of marketing at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

It has typically been the responses to cease-and-desist letters—not the letters themselves—that have inspired the most creativity, as when a Philadelphia-based chain recently got a letter about its “Chick Philly” sandwich from Chick-fil-A’s lawyers and responded by serving “Cease and Desist” …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Business

How the Hotel Industry Views Its Future (and Airbnb)

When Jeff Weinstein stays at a hotel, he is no average guest. Every little detail gets his attention. He notices the finishes on the furniture and scrutinizes the room’s layout. “If I’m having a meal, I might turn over the plate to see what manufacturer they’re using for porcelain,” he says.

Weinstein is cued into such minutiae because it is his job to be. He is the editor of Hotels, a trade publication covering full-service and luxury hotels—think Hilton, not Motel 6.

That industry is a mix of large, big-name companies (like Hyatt and the Four Seasons) and smaller boutique brands. The former are dominant, but, Weinstein says, there is room for upstarts; for instance, the gym operator Equinox is preparing to launch a fitness-themed hotel brand.

About Hotels

Founded: 1966 (originally as Service World International)

Based in: Chicago

Print circulation: 64,000

Business model: Supported by ads, but has a small number of paid subscribers

Primary competitors: Hotel Management, Hotel News Now, Skift

In the past decade, the industry has thrived, as both leisure and business travel have ascended alongside GDP. Upscale hotels, being as they are at the high end of the market, are one of several industries that do quite well as the number of very rich people (and the size of their collective wealth) grows. At the same time, a little lower down the market, hotels’ revenues have also been buoyed by the expansion of a global middle class that draws especially from China, India, and Brazil.

Despite several years of steady post-recession growth in the industry, many within it are nevertheless wary of rental platforms like Airbnb (which might steal away customers) and online-booking sites like Expedia and Priceline (which take commissions that eat into hotels’ revenues). Because I was curious about these trends and others, I spoke to …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Business