Welcome to this weekly roundup of stories from Matt Turner, Insider’s co-Editor in Chief of business. Subscribe here to get this newsletter in your inbox every Sunday. Plus, download Insider’s app for news on the go – click here for iOS and here for Android.
Here’s what we’re going over today:
- Brandy Melville staffers describe racism and Hitler memes as part of a company culture built on exploitation.
- Former employees of elite real-estate broker Darcy Stacom say the skyscraper queen made workers’ lives miserable.
- Michael Saylor went from losing $US6 ($AU8) billion in one day to becoming an investing mogul and bitcoin guru.
- Elizabeth Holmes’ defense team wins the opening round in the high-profile trial.
What’s trending this morning:
- Amazon is working on a new point-of-sale system to lure merchants from Shopify, Square, and PayPal.
- Steve Cohen’s Point72 is betting big on the cloud. The hedge fund’s CTO took us inside its five-year project.
- Salaries are becoming public knowledge. Employers are terrified.
- Here’s the email Pete Buttigieg sent his staff about the Afghanistan withdrawal – plus an update on his babies.
- Billionaire investor John Paulson reveals what he would do with $US100 ($AU136),000 ($AU135,944) – and it’s something he thinks everyone should be doing with their money.
More than 30 current and former staffers of cult teen fast-fashion brand Brandy Melville described a business built on the exploitation of young women. Execs fired hundreds of girls based on height, weight, race, and attractiveness, per the staffers, and higher-ups would cross professional boundaries:
“If I could say anything to the owners, I would say: ‘You had such an amazing opportunity to be a safe, inclusive space for young women, and instead you took advantage of them,'” Mina Marlena, a former employee, said.
“People don’t realize how corrupt this company is,” a current employee at a Massachusetts store said. “It’s a disgusting company, and the company needs to be shut down.”
The CEO broadcasts his prejudices to executives, calling Black people primitive and claiming that women only create problems, Sorgi said. But to secure their spot in the world of Brandy Melville, employees at all levels said they had to endure – and often enforce – Marsan’s beliefs.
Get the inside scoop on Brandy Melville:
- Brandy Melville employees describe racism, Hitler memes, and sexual exploitation at the ‘evil’ cult teen brand
- Brandy Melville executives exchanged pornography, memes featuring the N-word, and photos of Hitler in a private group chat
- After a month of clashing with stylists, Stitch Fix released finalized policies and few concessions, leaked memo shows
The country’s top real-estate broker buys and sells NYC’s priciest buildings – but working for her meant exposure to beratement and tirades, according to former staffers:
“I have never worked with someone on a professional level where they didn’t even know me and the only thing they had to tell me was that my business and I were a joke,” a florist said of Stacom.
Unleashing rage has worked for Stacom. Today, she runs the team that handles the sales of New York City’s priciest and most prestigious properties, including the Chrysler Building, for the world’s largest real-estate-services firm, CBRE.
Behind the accolades is a pattern of troubling behavior, said some of the people who have worked for her. They described an executive with a hair-trigger temper who was not only demanding but also habitually volatile and abusive.
Read how the real-estate mogul runs her empire with an iron fist:
- Skyscraper queen Darcy Stacom is the country’s top real-estate broker. But staffers say she threw things at them, berated underlings, and made employees’ lives miserable.
- The billionaire who is still rebuilding the World Trade Center might not live to see it finished
- Moving to a big city this fall? Get ready to pay.
Michael Saylor once lost $US6 ($AU8) billion in one day, but he’s shed that reputation. The new bitcoin guru has been betting big on digital currencies – and it has paid off handsomely:
Before his bitcoin bet, Saylor was perhaps best known as the man who lost more than $US6 ($AU8) billion in what’s been described as the “greatest single-day hit to personal wealth in capital markets history.” So notable was the loss that it was even featured as a question in the board game Trivial Pursuit.
After MicroStrategy’s stock crashed in 2000, Saylor kept the business alive through the sheer force of his personality and his “tenaciousness,” according to one former MicroStrategy executive who worked closely with Saylor. “The company should not have survived. It should have died,” the former employee said.
“Michael has a brilliant mind and a seemingly infinite capacity for detail and precision. Working with him over the long term takes a special person,” Marge Breya, a former chief marketing officer who briefly served on MicroStrategy’s board, told Insider.
Read the complete profile of the bitcoin guru:
- He once lost $US6 ($AU8) billion in 1 day. Now he’s a bitcoin guru. Meet Michael Saylor, king of ‘electric money.’
- The golden age of Silicon Valley’s iconic perks is over – that may not be a bad thing for tech workers
- A crypto social club that costs $US8,000 ($AU10,875) to join just got a $US100 ($AU136) million valuation from Andreessen Horowitz and other top VCs. Here’s why.
Ex-Theranos leader Elizabeth Holmes’ defense team made compelling arguments in the opening round of the high-profile Silicon Valley trial on Wednesday. The prosecution portrayed Holmes as a liar with bad intentions. As Adam Lashinsky reports, the defense argued that Holmes was guilty of nothing more than naivete:
Robert Leach, an assistant US attorney who did a stint at the Securities and Exchange Commission, told the jury why Holmes should be convicted.
“This case is about fraud, about lying, and about cheating to get money,” he said. He walked through the lowlights of Theranos: how the pharma bigs Pfizer and Schering-Plough declined to work with it. How the company was repeatedly “out of time and out of money.”
In contrast, Lance Wade, a defense attorney at the DC law firm Williams & Connolly, is a graceful, plain-spoken storyteller who couldn’t have been clearer about his message for the jury.
“Elizabeth Holmes did not go to work every day intending to lie, cheat, and steal,” he began. “Elizabeth Holmes worked herself to the bone for 15 years trying to make lab testing cheaper and more accessible. She poured her heart and her soul into that effort. Now, in the end, Theranos failed, and Miss Holmes walked away with nothing. But failure is not a crime.”
Go inside the courtroom with our report::
- Sequoia’s first female partner, Jess Lee, broke all the stereotypes. Now she’s searching for ‘underdog’ founders.
- 42 startups became unicorns in August, one of the lowest monthly totals in 2021. Here’s the full list.
Finally, here are some headlines you might have missed last week.
- New York Times salaries revealed: How much the newspaper pays for jobs in editorial, advertising, engineering, and more
- An ex-HSBC trader turned finance YouTuber shares her journey from being over $US100 ($AU136),000 ($AU135,944) in debt to making about $US2 ($AU3) million so far this year
- Exclusive: After two years of acrimony, SoftBank-backed Fair has reached a settlement with founder Scott Painter to remove him as chairman
- Uber insiders reveal how DoorDash stole its delivery crown and left Eats in the dust
- How 2 best friends bought and sold about 445 homes without putting any money down or meeting credit checks through a process called wholesaling
- Google just radically changed how it pays employees in stock, a move that may help lure talent from rivals like Apple and Facebook
- Jim Momtazee walked away from private equity giant KKR to strike out on his own. Now the legendary healthcare dealmaker is poised to break records with his new firm.
Compiled with help from Phil Rosen.