Activists pressure Atlanta-based companies like Coca-Cola and Delta to take action against Georgia voting law

Georgia polling place
A voter walks to the entrance during early voting for the Senate runoff election, at Ron Anderson Recreation Center, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, in Powder Springs, Ga.

  • Georgia just passed a new law that changes voting and elections in the state.
  • Coca-Cola, Delta, and Home Depot all gave statements in support of voting rights.
  • Activists are pressuring the companies to try to force them to do more.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Georgia just passed a law with new voting restrictions, and activists opposing the new measures are not satisfied by the broad statements made by companies based in the state.

The SB 202 bill makes changes to nearly all aspects of voting and elections in the state, Grace Panetta reported for Insider. The most controversial aspects of the new law include a ban on volunteers giving water and snacks to voters waiting in line, more stringent voter ID laws for absentee ballots, and “ballot selfies” are banned.

Read more: Some investors cut corners on due diligence to make deals go faster as competition to win deals grows fierce, VCs say

Civil rights groups and Democratic elected officials, including President Joe Biden, have condemned the law as voter suppression. Civil rights groups including the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter, and the Georgia NAACP have filed federal lawsuits against the law as a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Activists have criticized the companies for not doing enough to speak out against the bill. “#BoycottDelta” and “#BoycottCocaCola” were each used in tens of thousands of tweets since March 23, The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution reported. “Do not fly Delta. Do not spend money with Delta. Boycott Delta. Ruin Delta,” commentator Keith Olbermann tweeted.

Religious leaders of the AME Sixth Episcopal District of Georgia are among those calling for a boycott of Coca-Cola. If “Coca-Cola wants Black and brown people to drink their product, then they must speak up when our rights, our lives, and our very democracy as we know it is under attack,” Bishop Reginald Jackson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Voting rights groups have expressed anger and disappointment, too.

“We are all frustrated with these companies that claim that they are standing with the Black community around racial justice and racial equality. This shows that they lack a real commitment to racial equity. They are complicit in their silence,” co-founder of Black Voters Matter LaTosha Brown told The New York Times.

Many companies expressed support for racial justice last year, and activists see their actions now as missing follow through on earlier statements.

“It seems to me perfectly legitimate for Black voters in Georgia to expect them [corporations] to speak just as powerfully and directly about what is an unwarranted attack on the ability of Black voters to participate in the political process” NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc Sherrilyn Ifill said.

On March 15, protestors held a die-in at the World of Coca-Cola against the bill. Coca-Cola addressed calls for boycotts in an online statement: “You may see comments and calls for protests and boycotts of our state and our company. We have never wavered on our point of view and we have and will continue to meet with a wide array of stakeholders inside and outside of Georgia to hear their views, work together, and advocate for greater voting access.”

Georgia-based corporations have so far only offered broad support of voting rights without addressing many specifics of the bill.

“We believe voting is a foundational right in America and access should be broad-based and inclusive. Throughout the legislative session, we have been active with the Metro Atlanta Chamber in expressing our concerns and advocating for positive change in voting legislation. We, along with our business coalition partners, sought improvements that would enhance accessibility, maximize voter participation, maintain election integrity and serve all Georgians,” Coca-Cola said in a statement to Insider before the bill was signed.

“Last week controversial Georgia voting legislation was signed into law. While we are disappointed in the outcome, we don’t see this as the final chapter,” the Atlanta-based company added after it was passed.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian gave a similar statement.

“Delta believes that full and equal access to voting is a fundamental right for all citizens. Over the past several weeks Delta engaged extensively with state elected officials in both parties to express our strong view that Georgia must have a fair and secure election process, with broad voter participation and equal access to the polls. The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process … Nonetheless, we understand concerns remain over other provisions in the legislation and there continues to be work ahead in this important effort. We are committed to continuing to listen to our people and our communities, and engage with leaders from both parties to ensure every eligible employee and Georgia voter can exercise their right to vote.”

Home Depot did not comment on the bill directly at all.

“We believe that all elections should be accessible, fair, and secure and support broad voter participation. We’ll continue to work to ensure our associates, both in Georgia and across the country, have the information and resources to vote,” the company said in a statement to Insider, listing examples of how it carried out a Get Out the Vote campaign.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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TikTok owner ByteDance may be worth more than Twitter and Coca-Cola as a public company

TikTok
An iPhone user looks at the TikTok app on the Apple App Store in January 2021. Lorenzo Di Cola/NurPhoto via Getty Images

  • TikTok owner ByteDance is trading on the secondary market for $250 billion, Bloomberg reports.
  • Investor confidence in the company has increased as it weighs an initial public offering.
  • ByteDance was valued at $200 billion just a month ago and $140 billion in 2017.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

ByteDance, the Chinese owner of video app TikTok, may be worth $250 billion – a valuation that beats Coca-Cola and far outranks Twitter, Bloomberg reports.

Coca-Cola is valued at $228 billion, and Twitter is $48.8 billion, according to Markets Insider data. Just last month, ByteDance was trading at a valuation of $200 billion on the secondary market, according to Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter.

In April 2017, the Beijing-based startup was valued at $140 billion, according to CB Insights. Shares have risen as the company considers an initial public offering and investor confidence increases, Bloomberg said, citing the sources.

ByteDance did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read more: China’s tech giants are exploring a way around Apple’s privacy changes, and the move could have major implications for Apple’s relationship with a crucial market

ByteDance’s app TikTok has come under scrutiny in Western countries for potentially sharing user data with the Chinese government, but the company has denied the claims.

TikTok, which has more than 100 million active users in the US and about the same in Europe, previously had a spat with the US government, which was planning to ban the app under former President Donald Trump.

The company is now reportedly creating a Clubhouse-like app for China, as the exclusive audio platform sees success in the US and was blocked in China in February.

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Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway scores $17 billion gain across 5 stocks as value stages a comeback

warren buffett
Warren Buffett.

  • Warren Buffett has racked up $17 billion in gains across just five stocks this year.
  • Berkshire Hathaway’s Bank of America stake has soared in value by $9 billion.
  • Buffett is up more than $1 billion on Kraft Heinz, GM, and US Bancorp in 2021.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Warren Buffett is winning big from the flight to value stocks ahead of the global economy reopening this summer. The famed investor’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate has notched an astounding $17 billion in gains across only five stocks this year.

Buffett’s company is up $9 billion on Bank of America alone. The banking group’s stock price has surged 30% since the start of January, boosting the value of Berkshire’s enlarged stake from $30 billion to $39 billion.

Moreover, Berkshire has scored a $3.7 billion gain on American Express, as the financial-services group’s stock has jumped 30% this year. It has also made $1.5 billion on Kraft Heinz, $1.4 billion on General Motors, and $1.3 billion on US Bancorp in under three months.

Buffett’s bets on five Japanese trading houses last fall are delivering too. Itochu, Mitsui, Marubeni, Mitsubishi, and Sumitomo shares have gained an average of 26% this year, lifting the combined value of Berkshire’s holdings by $1.6 billion.

Other Berkshire investments are outperforming as well. Chevron, Suncor Energy, and Synchrony Financial have all climbed more than 20% this year, while Wells Fargo – previously one of Berkshire’s biggest holdings – has rallied 37%. Meanwhile, the benchmark S&P 500 index is up 5.8% this year.

However, Berkshire’s gains have been partly offset by the recent exodus from tech stocks. Apple – which makes up more than 40% of Buffett’s US stock portfolio – has slumped 7% this year. The decline has wiped close to $8 billion off the value of Berkshire’s stake.

Berkshire has also taken a hit from Coca-Cola, leaving its shares worth about $900 million less today than at the start of January. The company’s also down about $400 million on both Snowflake and Verizon.

Buffett’s signature approach of sniffing out high-quality, undervalued businesses and investing for the long term is finally paying off. Yet if growth stocks do take off again, his Apple wager will likely flourish. It appears Buffett’s found a way to have his cake and eat it too.

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Warren Buffett drinks 5 cans of Coke a day – here’s why he switched from Pepsi after nearly 50 years

warren buffett cherry coke
Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett

  • Warren Buffett famously consumes five cans of Coke a day.
  • However, Berkshire Hathaway’s billionaire boss drank Pepsi for nearly 50 years, and only switched sodas because an old neighbor intervened.
  • Don Keough, a coffee salesman who lived across the street from Buffett in Omaha and turned down a chance to invest with him, eventually became Coca-Cola’s president and operating chief.
  • After learning that Buffett drank Pepsi-Cola Cherry, Keough sent him samples of the upcoming Cherry Coke, spurring Buffett to switch brands and pronounce Cherry Coke as the official drink of Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting.
  • View Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Warren Buffett famously consumes five cans of Coke a day. However, he drank Pepsi for nearly 50 years, and only switched sodas because an old neighbor intervened, Glen Arnold wrote in “The Deals of Warren Buffett Volume 2: The Making of a Billionaire.”

“I’m one quarter Coca-Cola,” the 90-year-old investor told Fortune in 2015, explaining the drink accounts for 25% of his daily calorie intake.

Buffett’s money has followed his mouth. His Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate owns about 10% of Coca-Cola, a stake worth around $22 billion.

The so-called Oracle of Omaha especially likes Cherry Coke. He agreed to have a cartoon of himself slapped on cans of the drink when it launched in China in 2017, and declined to charge a fee, he told Yahoo Finance.

However, Buffett isn’t a lifetime loyalist. His son Howard used to call him “Pepsi Warren” because of his affinity for the rival soda, one of Howard’s childhood friends told CNBC.

Buffett switched to Coke because of Don Keough, a coffee salesman who lived across the street from him in Omaha, Arnold wrote. In 1960, Buffett dropped by Keough’s house to inform him that he was starting a partnership, adding, “If you give me $10,000 I might be able to do something with it.”

Keough was skeptical of Buffett, given his neighbor lacked a conventional job and found time to entertain his kids during the day. 

“I didn’t have it, but I could’ve borrowed it from my father. But can you imagine giving $10,000 to a guy who doesn’t get up and go to work in the morning?” Keough said in a TV interview with former Disney CEO Michael Eisner.

Keough missed a trick. A $10,000 investment with Buffett could have been worth $93 million by 2018, Arnold estimated.

Keough’s company was ultimately bought by Coca-Cola in 1964, and he rose through the ranks to become the group’s president and chief operating officer in 1981. Four years later, he read in a magazine that Buffett was a fan of Pepsi-Cola Cherry. He swiftly wrote to his former neighbor, offering to send him some samples of the still-in-development Cherry Coke, which he described as “nectar of the gods.” 

The samples hit the mark. In 1986, Buffett warned his shareholders to expect a change at Berkshire Hathaway’s yearly gathering.

“After 48 years of allegiance to another soft drink, your Chairman, in an unprecedented display of behavioral flexibility, has converted to the new Cherry Coke. Henceforth, it will be the Official Drink of the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting.”

Keough isn’t only responsible for Buffett’s favorite soda. His leadership of Coca-Cola – combined with the stock-market crash in October 1987, and the company’s resilient growth and strong fundamentals – led to Buffett buying $1.3 billion worth of its stock between 1988 and 1994, Arnold wrote.

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Warren Buffett gave $10,000 in cash to each of his relatives at Christmas

Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett

  • Warren Buffett’s favorite Christmas presents over the years have included dresses, chocolates, and stacks of cash.
  • “He would always give each of us $10,000 in hundred-dollar bills,” Mary Buffett, the famed investor’s former daughter-in-law, told ThinkAdvisor. “As soon as we got home, we’d spend it – whooo!”
  • Berkshire Hathaway’s billionaire boss has also bought dresses in bulk from a local store, and he sends boxes of See’s Candies with funny Christmas cards to friends and relatives every year.
  • View Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Warren Buffett’s favorite Christmas presents include dresses, chocolates, and envelopes of cash.

The famed investor and billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway certainly makes an effort when the holidays come around. Here are the details of his signature gifts.

Cash and stock

“He would always give each of us $10,000 in hundred-dollar bills,” Mary Buffett, who was married to Warren’s son Peter from 1980 to 1993, recently told ThinkAdvisor. “As soon as we got home, we’d spend it – whooo!”

Warren switched things up after realizing his family were blowing through the lump sum – worth more than $30,000 in today’s dollars.

“One Christmas there was an envelope with a letter from him,” Mary told ThinkAdvisor. “Instead of cash, he’d given us $10,000 worth of shares in a company he’d recently bought, a trust Coca-Cola had. He said to either cash them in or keep them.”

Mary decided the stock was worth more than $10,000, so she held onto the shares. After they rose in value, she repeated the strategy with Warren’s future gifts.

“Every year when he’d give us stock – Wells Fargo being one of them – I would just buy more of it because I knew it was going to go up,” she said.

‘Wheel out the dresses’

Buffett is famously prudent in allocating resources across Berkshire’s companies. He also prizes efficiency in his Christmas shopping.

The billionaire’s strategy in the 1960s was to visit Topps, a dress shop in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and hand an employee a list of the dress sizes of all the women in his life, Alice Schroeder wrote in “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life.”

“I would go over and they’d wheel out the dresses,” Buffett said. “I’d make a variety of decisions and buy presents for my sisters, Susie, Gladys, and so forth. I kind of enjoyed it.”

Christmas cards and chocolates

Buffett sends boxes of See’s Candies – one of Berkshire’s best investments ever – to dozens of relatives and friends each year, his longtime friend Carol Loomis wrote in Fortune. Each box comes with his annual Christmas card attached.

In 2013, the card showed Buffett dressed as Walter White from “Breaking Bad” with the message “Have yourself a Meth-y Little Christmas.”

In 2016, it featured Buffett and his Berkshire partner, Charlie Munger, dressed in black tie for their induction into the Texas Business Hall of Fame with the caption “Butch & Sundance.” 

In 2018, the card showed Buffett wearing a T-shirt reading “The Next Charlie Munger” with the caption “Aiming High in 2019.”

Buffett’s Christmas card for 2020 shows him with his arm around a metal bust of Munger, who was unable to join him at Berkshire’s annual meeting due to the pandemic. His sweater reads,”You can never have too much love or too much gravy.”  The caption below reads, “…. or too much Charlie.”

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Coca-Cola is cutting 2,200 jobs, including more than 10% of its US workforce, as it scraps half its drinks brands

FILE PHOTO: Boxes of Coca-Cola are seen at a grocery store in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Boxes of Coca-Cola are seen at a grocery store in Los Angeles

Coca-Cola is laying off 2,200 workers as part of a larger restructuring aimed at paring down its business units and brands, the drinks giant announced Thursday.

Around 1,200 of the layoffs will occur in the US, it said, including roughly 500 in Atlanta, where the company is based.

Coke employed 86,200 people worldwide at the end of 2019, including 10,400 in the US.

The coronavirus pandemic has hammered Coke’s business, as sales at places like stadiums and movie theaters dried up due to lockdowns. Its revenue fell 9% year-on-year to $8.7 billion between July and September.

The downturn forced the company to accelerate a restructuring that was already underway.

“We’ve been challenging legacy ways of doing business and the pandemic helped us realize we could be bolder in our efforts,” Coke Chairman and CEO James Quincey said during an earnings call in October.

Coke is reducing its brands by half to 200. It shed multiple slow-selling brands this year, including TabZico, Odwalla, and Diet Coke Feisty Cherry.

The company said it will use the savings to invest in growing brands like Minute Maid and Simply juices and fund the launch of new products like Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, Coca-Cola Energy, and Aha sparkling water.

Coke is also reducing its business segments from 17 to nine.

The severance programs will cost between $350 million to $550 million, the company said.

The company began offering voluntary buyouts to employees in August. Coke wouldn’t disclose how many employees took those offers.

The layoffs won’t impact Coke’s bottlers, which are largely independent. Including bottlers, the company employs more than 700,000 people worldwide.

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