By Francesca Fontana
Washington is turning up the heat on Silicon Valley. In a combative House hearing Thursday, the leaders of Facebook, Twitter Inc., Alphabet Inc. and its Google unit were accused of running platforms that sow political discord and spread Covid-19 misinformation and lacking accountability. The hearing built momentum for revisions of Section 230, the law shielding platforms from liability for users’ content. Facebook shares fell 1.2% Thursday, Twitter shares lost 1.4% and Alphabet shares ended flat.
Apollo Global Management Inc.
The Leon Black era at Apollo is officially over. The billionaire is stepping down as its chairman amid a governance overhaul kicked off by revelations of his ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. The firm previously said Mr. Black would stay in the chairman’s seat while relinquishing his role as chief executive. Mr. Black cited his and his wife’s health issues in announcing his decision Monday. An independent review previously revealed that Mr. Black paid Epstein a total of $158 million for tax- and estate-planning services, far more than was previously known. Apollo also said Monday that co-founder Marc Rowan has formally assumed the title of CEO, a transition the firm said in January would take place before July 31. Apollo shares rose 4.5% Monday.
Microsoft is close to a deal that could boost its videogame business and social-network presence. As of Thursday, Microsoft is in advanced talks to acquire messaging platform Discord Inc. for $10 billion or more as the software giant seeks to deepen its consumer offerings. Originally favored by gamers, Discord offers voice, text and video chatting. The platform’s popularity has surged since the pandemic took hold as people stay home and connect online. Microsoft has been looking to reach more consumers; it held talks last summer to buy the popular video-sharing app TikTok amid a high-profile geopolitical standoff prompted by the Trump administration before abandoning the effort. Microsoft shares gained 1.8% Friday.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Warren Buffett wants to build emergency power plants in Texas after February’s devastating blackouts. His conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway is pitching Texas lawmakers on a $8.3 billion plan to build 10 large natural-gas plants that would operate only during times of extreme need, and not otherwise compete in the state’s power market. The Texas Legislature would need to approve changes to its laws to allow for a new regulated utility to provide emergency backup power. Meanwhile, some rival power generators such as NRG Energy Inc. expressed opposition and anger to the proposed idea. Berkshire Hathaway shares added 2.4% Friday.
Darden Restaurants Inc.
Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse are serving up higher pay. Starting Monday, hourly restaurant workers at both dining chains will earn at least $10 an hour in wages and tips combined, with further increases to $12 an hour to be phased in through 2023. The raise makes Darden Restaurants, the brands’ parent company, the latest business to institute a wage floor higher than the federally mandated minimum. The company said that, on average, its hourly restaurant workers already earned more than $17 an hour in combined wages and tips. Darden also said it would give those workers a bonus to reward their work during the pandemic, setting aside $17 million for the one-time payments. Darden shares gained 8.2% Thursday.
Intel’s new chief executive wants to reboot the semiconductor giant. The broad plan mixes increased outsourcing with a commitment to spend $20 billion on new factories that could help address a chip shortage. CEO Pat Gelsinger said Tuesday that Intel would rely more heavily on third-party chip-making partners, including for some of its most cutting-edge processors, starting in 2023. But Mr. Gelsinger said Intel wasn’t abandoning its historic roots of being both a designer and manufacturer of chips and would retain most production in-house. The company is also renewing efforts to make chips for others and targeting customers such as Apple Inc. and chip rival Qualcomm Inc., he said. Intel shares fell 2.3% Wednesday.
The fallout from the Suez Canal blockage is spreading through the oil and gas industry. The cost of renting tankers is rising and shippers are starting to plot…