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Exclusive: WeWork owner creates committee to decide on financing lifeline

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – WeWork owner, The We Company, has formed a special board committee to consider proposals for a $5 billion financing lifeline from its largest shareholder SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) and its main lender JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), four people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: The WeWork logo is displayed outside of a co-working space in New York City, New York U.S., January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

The office-space sharing company is establishing the committee in an effort to ring-fence its financing deliberations from SoftBank’s influence, the sources said. The Japanese technology conglomerate owns about a third of WeWork, and any new equity investment could potentially give it control.

WeWork is rushing to raise new capital after scrapping plans last month for an initial public offering (IPO). Sources have said it could run out of cash as early as November unless it secures new financing.

A WeWork spokeswoman declined to comment. We Company directors did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The committee will only have two members – both We Company board directors with the task of representing the interests of all investors in the company, the sources said.

One is Bruce Dunlevie, who is a general partner at WeWork shareholder Benchmark Capital, according to the sources. The other is Lew Frankfort, who is the former CEO of luxury handbag maker Coach, they added.

SoftBank will not have a representative, the sources said. It is represented on We Company’s seven-member board by its President Ron Fisher. Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) investment banker Mark Schwartz, who served as a SoftBank director until earlier this year, also sits on the board.

WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann, who resigned as CEO last month but retained his role as chairman of the board, does not have a seat on the committee either, according to the sources, who requested anonymity in discussing the confidential arrangements.

WeWork canceled its IPO following investor concerns about mounting losses, its business model and the way the company was being run. Its estimated valuation dropped from $47 billion in January to as low as $10 billion last month.

In response, WeWork is seeking to slow down its expansion, reducing the number of new property leases it is taking on and considering layoffs.

SoftBank has proposed up to a $5 billion investment in WeWork two of the sources said. It also wants to renegotiate a previous commitment for a $1.5 billion investment in the form of warrants that are due in April at the $47 billion valuation, the sources added. It has already invested some $10 billion in WeWork.

For its part, JPMorgan is scouring the market to raise financing commitments from banks and bond investors for as much as $5 billion, one of the sources said. It has not agreed to underwrite the debt, and WeWork wants to see how much debt can be raised without leading to a dilution for existing shareholders before making a decision, the source added.

WeWork may seek to combine the SoftBank and JPMorgan proposals in some form, according to the sources.

SoftBank declined to comment for this story. JPMorgan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

Publicly listed companies form special board committees to safeguard the interests of minority shareholders when considering transactions, usually when some board representatives face conflicts of interest. It is less common for a private company such as WeWork to form a special committee.

However, WeWork has been vulnerable to criticism of its corporate governance arrangements because of Neumann’s prior grip on the company.

Neumann’s shares used to have the same voting power as 20 We Company common shares, before he agreed to partially reduce his grip last month – reducing the ratio to 3-1 – in an unsuccessful attempt to make an IPO more attractive to investors.

Neumann had also entered into several transactions with WeWork, making the company a tenant in some of his personal properties and charging it rent. He has also secured a $500 million credit line from banks using company stock as collateral.

When Neumann gave up the CEO role last month under pressure from SoftBank, Benchmark Capital and other investors, he said he did so because the scrutiny directed towards him became a “significant distraction”.

Artie Minson, previously WeWork’s chief financial officer, and Sebastian Gunningham, who was a vice chairman at the company, are now serving as its co-chief executives.

Reporting by Joshua Franklin and Greg Roumeliotis in New York and Anirban Sen in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Koh Gui Qing, Mike Spector and Sheila Dang in New York; Editing by Martin Howell and Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Best Buy Black Friday 2019: Get a 13-inch MacBook Air for $900 and other deals

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This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2019, your source for the season’s best gifts and deals, hand-picked by the experts at CNET.

Best Buy’s early Black Friday sale is heading into the weekend with momentum. Today’s “doorbuster” is a 2019 13-inch MacBook Air with Retina True Tone display. And Best Buy’s 65-inch Vizio Quantum TV costs about $100 less than anywhere else. 

Also noteworthy: The 40mm Apple Watch Nike Plus Series 4 GPS model is now at $299 — its all-time low. And Best Buy is sticking with its $100 discount on Apple’s brand-new 16-inch MacBook Pro, which was announced earlier this week, and its great deal on Lenovo’s loaded Yoga convertible laptop. 

To take advantage of some of Best Buy’s best sale prices, you need to be a member of the retailer’s My Best Buy rewards program, the basic tier of which is free. Discounts are available online and in-store. And Best Buy has also revealed its Black Friday ad, offering many specific products it’s selling for the real Black Friday timeframe later this month. 

We’ll keep this list up to date with the best deals in real time, but the current highlights are below.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The M-Series Quantum delivers excellent picture quality, with deep black levels, accurate color and very good 4K HDR performance. And its smart system is phone-friendly, with Google Cast and Apple AirPlay control.

Walmart is selling this exact set for $100 more and the the 50-inch model for $467 — but that’s the M7 series, which doesn’t deliver quite the same level of picture quality as that M8. It’s still a great price, however. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Yesterday, Apple unveiled a new version of the MacBook Pro with a 16-inch display, a revamped keyboard, improved AMD graphics, a bigger battery and boomy speakers. Today, Best Buy is knocking $100 off its list price.

Read our 16-inch MacBook Pro review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Dyson’s lightweight, compact, cord-free floor cleaner was down to $350 when it was Best Buy’s featured doorbuster. Now still a good deal at $150 off list price.

Read our Dyson V10 Cyclone preview.

Lori Grunin/CNET

We’ve long been fans of Lenovo’s flagship Yoga laptops — and the C940, which debuted in January, is one of a handful of Intel’s Project Athena devices designed to make it perform more like a phone. The C940 wakes instantly from sleep and has a fingerprint reader that works in a second and Wi-Fi that connects just as fast. This model features a 400-nit FHD-resolution and up to 17.5 hours of battery life.

Read our Lenovo Yoga C940 preview.

Sarah Tew/CNET

We love the UE Boom 2 — a compact, durable wireless Bluetooth speaker that plays loud and sounds good. It’s stain-resistant, shock-resistant and fully waterproof. Battery life is a strong 15 hours, and it can be paired with a second UE speaker for stereo sound.

Read our UE Boom 2 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Sure, this entry-level configuration has lower-end components (Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD). But you’re still getting the best Windows two-in-one tablet, with the Type Cover thrown in, for $700. This package was down to $600 last week — but it’s still a fantastic deal at this price.

Read our Surface Pro 7 preview.

Best Buy deals that have expired (but are likely to return)

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Gram 17 weighs less than most other smaller laptops. It also has an amazing battery life. In fact, its 12 hours of run time made it one of the the top 10 laptops with the longest battery lives we’ve ever tested. Normally, it’s too pricey for us to recommend without qualification. Best Buy’s discount makes the case much more straightforward.

Read our LG Gram 17 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Best Buy comes within $1 of the all-time lowest price we’ve seen for the 11-inch 64GB iPad Pro, $650. And the 256GB model is also on sale for $800. Note that you need to be a member of the retailer’s My Best Buy program to get this sale price.

Read our 11-inch iPad Pro review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Allergy vacuum does its job without a filter — and maintains suction over the long haul because of it. It’s great with fine particles and bested the competition at deep cleaning. Our only beef is that it’s too pricey — and Best Buy has taken care of that. This is a steal.

Read our Dyson Cinetic review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Best Buy has Bose’s SoundLink Revolve on sale for $120, which is the lowest price we’ve seen for it. This model is smaller than the SoundLink Revolve Plus, but it’s a good compact Bluetooth speaker.

Read our Bose SoundLink Revolve review.

David Carnoy/CNET

Best Buy has the JLabs JBuds Air on sale for $30 through Sunday, Nov. 10. They normally retail for $50. JLabs makes a lot of true wireless earphones and this is its most affordable — and frankly, the only one I’d buy. It’s a decent set of true wireless earbuds that’s a relative bargain at $30.

David Carnoy/CNET

We saw this deal last year but it’s still a good one: Sony’s micro Bluetooth speaker, the SRS-XB01, is on sale for $15 at Best Buy.

Read our Sony SRS-XB01 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re less inclined to buy from Apple, Garmin’s rugged fitness watches are great. The Fenix 5X cost $700 when it came out in 2017 — now, Best Buy has it for $300. I’ve been using Garmin’s lower-end Forerunner 245 and I like it a lot. The model on sale here includes all of its fitness tracking functions and adds an altimeter and barometer. Plus, you get topographic US maps, routable cycling maps for turn-by-turn navigation and a scratch-resistant sapphire lens.

Read our Garmin Fenix 5X preview.

Ariel Nunez/CNET

Walmart has been selling these headphones for about $120 — a massive $80 discount off the $200 list price. Now, Best Buy takes it a step further by cutting the price to $90.

Read our Powerbeats3 review.

More sales will kick off on Thanksgiving Day

Best Buy stores are opening at 5 p.m. local time on Thanksgiving, with the company highlighting the deals listed below (again, straight from its press release). These will presumably be available online as well.

  • Save $350 on 70-inch Samsung 4K UHD Smart TV with HDR (sale price: $549.99)
  • Save $280 on 58-inch Insignia 4K UHD Smart TV with HDR Fire TV Edition with free Amazon Echo Dot (sale price: $199.99)
  • Save up to $250 on iPad Pro 
  • Save up to $100 on iPad 10.2-inch
  • Save $400-$500 on the Note 10 Series (with qualified activation) 
  • 20% off haircare for My Best Buy members 
  • Save $80 on Google Nest Hello Video Doorbell (sale price: $149.99)
  • Save $1,000 on Hydrow Connected Rower (sale price: $1199)

Free next-day delivery on some items, free shipping on everything else

Feeling the heat from Amazon Prime, Best Buy is now adding free next-day delivery on “thousands of items” purchased on its website. And it’s also offering free standard shipping on everything else through Christmas Day, with no membership or minimum purchase required.

Same-day delivery is also available for some online orders in dozens of US cities, too. 

The full list of Black Friday sales are online, too

Check it out here.


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Originally published earlier this month. Updated with our favorite deals now highlighted at the top.



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40 Big Tech Predictions for 2019

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Digital transformation has arrived.

Not a single industry is safe from the unstoppable wave of digitization that is sweeping through finance, retail, transportation, and more.

And in 2019, there will be even more transformative developments that will change our businesses, careers, and lives.

Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has put together a list of 40 Big Tech Predictions for 2019 across Apps and Platforms, Digital Media, Payments, The Internet of Things, E-Commerce, Fintech, Transportation & Logistics, and Digital Health.

This exclusive report can be yours for FREE today.



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Army photogrammetry technique makes 3D aerial maps in minutes – TechCrunch

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Aerial imagery is a common asset in military matters, but 3D maps can be difficult to collect on short notice without specialized equipment. This new photogrammetry technique from the Army Corps of Engineers, however, can make accurate 3D maps from ordinary aerial footage in just minutes.

Photogrammetry is the process of comparing multiple photos of the same location or item to produce a 3D map of it. It’s a well-known method but in some cases is still reliable on human intelligence to determine, for instance, which frames of a video should be used to produce the best results.

Ricky Massaro from the Army’s Geospatial Research Laboratory in Virginia has mitigated that problem and produced a highly efficient photogrammetric method that can turn aerial imagery into accurate 3D surface maps in near real-time without any human oversight.

This image shows the depth map as color – red being higher. It was created from combining multiple 2D images.

The system was tested by the 101st Airborne, which flew a drone over Fort Campbell in Kentucky and mapped a mock city used for training exercises. It was also deployed in Iraq for non-combat purposes. So this isn’t stuck in a lab somewhere — it’s been put to work, and is now being publicized because the patent filing is in and the Army is now negotiating to commercialize the system.

“Whether it’s for soldiers or farmers, this tech delivers usable terrain and intelligence products fast,” said Quinton King, a manager at TechLink, the Defense Department’s commercial tech transfer organization. “And I’m happy to help companies learn how they can leverage Dr. Massaro’s work for their own products or applications.”

The real-time photogrammetry wouldn’t replace lidar or ground-based mapping systems, but act in concert with them. Being able to produce accurate depth from ordinary aerial imagery, and without having to send tons of data to a central location or involve human experts, makes it adaptable to a variety of situations. If you’re curious about the specifics, you can check out the patent application here.



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