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Virgin Orbit, Richard Branson’s satellite launch venture, quickly collapsed



Two months ago Virgin Orbit VORB by Richard Branson -9.14%

Holdings Inc. was poised to make history by delivering the first satellites into orbit from the billionaire’s home country, Great Britain.

This high-profile launch from Cornwall, England, went horribly wrong, ending in the destruction of its satellite’s payload and initiating an investigation into what went wrong.

Now Virgin Orbit is in talks with two financial institutions for bailouts and has laid off employees, according to a person familiar with the matter. Late Thursday night, following the announcement of the suspension, shares of Virgin Orbit, which was listed less than two years ago at a valuation of more than $3 billion, fell more than 30%.

Shares in Virgin Orbit fell 9.1% on Friday to 65 cents a share from over $10 at their January 2022 peak.

It was a precipitous downfall for a once-popular company that was trying to build a business by launching smaller satellites into space. The challenges Virgin Orbit is facing are also the latest up and down trajectory for Mr. Branson’s company. Throughout his career, he has built a global brand around a portfolio of companies controlled by his private Virgin group.

These businesses have included music, airlines, cruise ships and a bank over the years, all of which have been particularly hard hit during the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown and travel restrictions.

Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson and five crew members have successfully traveled to the edge of space, experiencing weightlessness aboard a Virgin Galactic spacecraft. The flight is part of a push to develop a new space tourism industry. Photo: Virgin Galactic

At the time, Mr. Branson was quick to support his tourism and travel ventures, vowing to borrow money at some point against the security of his private island. Some, including Virgin Atlantic Airways, have proven resilient.

Among these adversities, Mr. Branson’s space ventures were a bright spot. In 2021, he ushered in the era of commercial space tourism by defeating Jeff Bezos by flying back to near space aboard a space plane operated by his Virgin Galactic Holdings. incl.

The 72-year-old celebrated with a livestream in a gravity-free cabin.

In the same year, he launched Virgin Orbit, which developed a new way to launch satellites inside a booster propelled partially into space under the wings of a Boeing 747. He registered the company using the so-called Special Purpose Acquisition Company, popular at the time, among other things, to ease barriers for companies seeking to go public.

Virgin Orbit gained a lot of industry credibility when Boeing Co. agreed to invest. Mubadala Investment Co., the sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates, is also a major investor.

While the satellite industry has historically been dominated by large vehicles launching large satellites, Virgin Orbit and a few other competitors around the world have specialized in smaller satellites in lower orbits, targeting civil, military and commercial customers in the lower end of the market. Prior to the launch failure in the UK, Virgin Orbit had four successful launches, launching 33 satellites into space.

However, this market has faced pressure from Space Exploration Technologies Corp. Elon Musk or SpaceX. SpaceX offers relatively inexpensive missions that deploy several small satellites from different operators. Some rocket industry executives have said they think there is only room for a couple of small rocket suppliers.

Virgin Orbit’s share price has been steadily declining for much of the past year. The company reported a loss of around $140 million in the first nine months of 2022.

CNBC previously reported that Virgin Orbit will lay off employees and suspend operations as it seeks funding.

Then, on January 9, instead of launching the first satellite from British soil, the Virgin Orbit rocket failed to enter orbit, destroying the payload: nine small satellites, including those for the US, UK and Oman governments.

This launch was the first international mission for Virgin Orbit to successfully fly missions to the US. He had to prove that her unconventional Boeing 747 launch strategy could be carried out from anywhere in the world.

On Thursday, the company said it had nearly completed its investigation into what went wrong in January.

Mika Maidenberg contributed to this article.

Email Alistair Macdonald at

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Trump-DeSantis Cold War Turns Hot Over Possible Blame



WASHINGTON. Over the weekend, the political world was waiting for Ron DeSantis to give his opinion on the possible indictment of Donald Trump. And then he waited. And waited some more.

Meanwhile, global influencers and Trump aides on social media raked DeSantis over virtual embers, pointing to his silence as complicity—or at least indifference—to the prosecution of New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg Trump, the top leader of the Republican Party.

Behind the scenes, Trump aides fanned the fire, targeted the Florida governor on newscasts, and cheered when Trump’s global influencers criticized him on Twitter and Truth Social.

When DeSantis finally spoke at a press conference in Tallahassee, Florida on Monday, he shot Bragg — and Trump.

Circus and Soros, DeSantis said of the grand jury investigation and George Soros, the billionaire liberal donor. “Silence money” and “porn star,” he added, repeating the accusation against Trump.

“I don’t know what will happen, but I do know one thing: the Manhattan district attorney is a Soros-funded prosecutor,” he said, accusing Bragg of using his office as a weapon to prosecute Trump while ignoring other crimes. (Soros, via Color Change PACsupported Bragg’s re-election campaign.)

But DeSantis added, “I don’t know why paying a porn star to keep silent about some alleged affair. I just can’t talk about it.”

That’s when all hell broke loose in the fight for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, signaling the start of the political arms race that Trump has been trying to stoke since DeSantis became his archrival last year.

Trump turned to Truth Social to say that it would be unfair if DeSantis were attacked for courting young girls or for being gay. Trump’s post left little to the imagination: it showed a man, believed to be a young DeSantis, standing with a group of young women, one of whom is holding a bottle.

“Ron DeSanktimonius will probably find out about FALSE ACCUSATIONS AND FAKE STORIES sometime in the future, when he is older, wiser and more famous, when he is unfairly and illegally attacked by a woman, even “underage” classmates (or possibly a man) . !),” Trump wrote. “I’m sure he’ll want to fight these losers just as much as I do!”

The photo is from a 2021 blog post on a site called The Hill Reporter that allegedly showed a photo of DeSantis with several young women during his short time as a high school teacher over 20 years ago. NBC News has not confirmed the authenticity of the image.

The outbreak of open political warfare between the two men will have far-reaching consequences for Trump, who leads most national polls, and DeSantis, who distinguished himself from the rest of the Republican Party by not announcing his bid. But both sides disagree on exactly how the race was derailed.

Trump’s allies believe DeSantis’ early silence — and his decision to attack Trump directly over allegations of an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels — show he’s not ready for prime time.

“He just doesn’t have it right now, and this weekend showed it,” said Steve Bannon, host of the Bannon War Room podcast and a former top Trump adviser. The remark about Daniels, who Trump denies sleeping with him, was “a cheap shot from cheap places,” he said.

DeSantis’ press conference was “a disaster” and 10% of Trump’s MAGA voters would never vote for DeSantis now, Bannon said.

“You can’t win without 100% MAGA – ask [Virginia Gov. Glenn] Youngkin,” he added.

Rep. Eliza Stefanik of New York, a House Republican in third place, predicted that DeSantis would see “slippage” in her poll results following the remarks.

“He’s already noticed a downturn in the last couple of weeks,” said Stefanik, one of Trump’s early supporters. “And I think you’ll see President Trump continue to solidify his position” in the Republican contest.

But DeSantis supporters saw the value of moving back and forth in a different light.

“It’s already a two-horse race,” said Dan Eberhart, DeSantis’ longtime donor who backs him in the primaries. “Apart from the substance of the attacks, the fact that Trump is after DeSantis – and no one else – betrays who he cares about the most.”

While Eberhart said other Republicans waiting on the sidelines may have “missed their window” to become contenders for the nomination, he also said the lesson of 2012 GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s swallowing attacks by President Barack Obama that summer shouldn’t be lost to DeSantis. , who largely avoided direct confrontation with Trump until Monday.

“DeSantis shouldn’t ignore him for too long,” Eberhart said.

Some DeSantis supporters fear he could be weighed down by Trump’s attacks before he announces he’s running, which he’s not expected to do for at least another couple of months.

Former Rep. Keith Rothfuss, a Pennsylvania Republican who has encouraged DeSantis to run for president, said the legal implications that Trump is facing not only in New York, but also in Georgia and other ongoing investigations, ” are still unknown.” He didn’t see a problem with the way DeSantis talked about it on Monday.

“You can simultaneously criticize what this political persecution is doing and how it undermines the rule of law, how we are pushing double standards of justice… and still looking for new leadership that can do what we need to do. really drain the swamp and really get this government back on the side of the American people,” he said. “It’s not on either/or.”

“We need to move forward and move into the future,” he added.

On Monday, representatives for Trump and DeSantis did not return calls seeking comment.

Trump, who first referred to DeSantis as “Ron DeSanktimonius” days before the midterm elections, has repeatedly attacked him in recent months in an effort to stir up a fight. Last month, Trump drew attention to a photograph showing DeSantis with young women. This month, the main Trump-supporting supercomputer PAC filed a complaint with the Florida Ethics Commission accusing DeSantis of violating the law through his “shadow presidential campaign.”

On both occasions, DeSantis responded with more restraint. After Trump shared the photo, DeSantis told reporters he doesn’t waste time “trying to vilify other Republicans.” In response to the complaint, Taryn Fenske, its director of communications, called it an “unfounded and politically motivated” attack.

Many elected Republican leaders have rallied to Trump’s defense since he announced on Saturday, with no evidence that he expects to be indicted on Tuesday. Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has clashed with Trump over the Jan. 6 uprising and is considering a presidential nomination, joined the group over the weekend.

A fight between the twin titans could open up a lane for an alternate option – at least that’s what the rest of the pack is counting on.

But a fight that gets so ugly so early can drag others down the drain.

“For 11 months no one has voted,” said an adviser to another potential challenger. “If they’re going to ramp up the rhetoric to this point now, GOP voters won’t like how it ends up in February 2024.”

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Need a consultant? This Book Claims Employment Can Hurt Your Institution: Planet Money: NPR



lionel bonaventura/AFP via Getty Images

lionel bonaventura/AFP via Getty Images

Caution, say the authors of the new book. Suited jetsetters armed with prestigious degrees and PowerPoint slides have infiltrated governments and corporations around the world. They claim to offer valuable experience and fresh ideas. But don’t be fooled! The authors argue that the consulting industry sells snake oil that poisons governments and distorts economies.

The book was written by economists Mariana Mazzucato and Rosie Collington, and it has one of those titles that really supports the authors’ argument. It is called The Big Scam: How the consulting industry is weakening our businesses, infantilizing our governments, and warping our economies. He offers several provocative arguments against what you might call a Big Consultant.

Big Consultant Gets Bigger

The consulting industry, dominated by firms such as McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Deloitte, has seen astounding growth in recent decades. Mazzucato and Collington cite estimates that the global consulting market is currently valued at a trillion dollars a year.

[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money‘s newsletter. You can sign up here.]

Although the modern consulting industry has more than a century of history, Mazzucato and Collington write that the use of consultants increased dramatically after the 1980s. It was then that free market advocates like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher began to dismantle government bureaucracy and rules. More left-wing Third Way leaders such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair continued to follow in their footsteps. “Public sectors were reshaped in line with the credo of the New Public Administration, a political program that sought to make governments more like businesses and diminished faith in the ability of civil servants,” write Mazzucato and Collington.

As governments lost faith and the ability to do things on their own, they increasingly turned to consultants to help them get things done. Governments have begun using consultants for seemingly everything from development of new tax rules To army consultancy To supervision of the privatization of state-owned enterprises for IT administration developing strategies to reduce carbon emissions.

At the same time, private corporations have also increasingly turned to consultants to help them become more profitable. And here Mazzucato and Collington portray consulting companies as opportunistically sliding wave after wave of destructive capitalism. McKinsey & Company, for example, was involved in scandal with Enron another benefited from the opioid crisishelping Purdue Pharma increase sales of its OxyContin pain reliever.

“The big scam is certainly not responsible for all the ills of modern capitalism, but it thrives on its flaws, from speculative finance to the short-term business sector and the risk-averse public sector,” write Mazzucato and Collington.

Problems with over-reliance on consultants

Mazzucato and Collington argue that beyond their occasional scandals and disreputable reputations, consultants—and over-reliance on them—create systemic problems for business and government alike.

One big issue is whether consulting services actually provide real value for the large amounts they charge. The authors suggest that in many cases, consultants lack the knowledge and experience that organizations turn to them for. Instead, they write, consultants often simply create an “impression of value” strong enough to secure lucrative contracts, but in the end, their work is not reduced to anything more. Mazzucato and Collington argue that, without sufficient hard data to back it up, these “contracts enable the consulting industry to earn revenues that far exceed the real value it generates.” The authors suggest that the work that consultants do can often be done cheaper and more efficiently at home.

But, the authors write, leaders often turn to consultants not because they need special knowledge or exciting new ideas that they can’t get at home. Instead, the authors argue, leaders often turn to consultants to simply approve controversial decisions they wanted to make anyway. The authors argue, for example, that consultants are quick to green-light such practices as laying off workers and cutting R&D budgets. These decisions may improve short-term profits, but they can also be unpopular and detrimental to the health of the organization in the long run. And these decisions can be given additional legitimacy when they are supported by reputable consultants.

Another major problem associated with the consulting industry is conflicts of interest. In some cases, the same consulting firm advises both the regulators and the regulated. “For example, in climate consulting, large consulting firms work simultaneously for governments whose populations would like to see lower emissions and the fossil fuel companies that contribute most to the climate crisis,” write Mazzucato and Collington. Lack of transparency contributes to these conflicts of interest.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Mazzucato and Collington argue that the practice of outsourcing responsibilities to consultants weakens the ability of staff members to improve their performance. “The more governments and businesses outsource, the less they know how to do it, leaving organizations empty, stuck in time, and unable to evolve,” the authors write. The authors argue that governments and businesses are often better off doing tasks on their own, and sometimes even fail. This allows their institutions to learn by doing.

The authors suggest that institutional capacity is a cumulative process of trial and error that helps an organization get smarter and better. However, when organizations outsource critical work to others, they shorten the process. Worse, Mazzucato and Collington argue, what is learned from consultants doing real work is often not communicated to the organization properly, meaning that the organization does not actually receive valuable information that it can use in the future. Instead, he remains dependent on consultants.

“The cumulative use of large consulting firms that work with extractive business models stifles innovation, capacity development and learning, undermines democratic accountability, and obscures the impact of political and corporate actions,” write Mazzucato and Collington. “At the end of the day, we are all paying the price of a lack of domestic investment and training: public funds and other resources are wasted, decisions in government and business are made with impunity and lack of transparency, and our democratic societies are deprived of their dynamism. The big scam threatens all of us.”

Mazzucato and Collington come up with various ideas to ensure the Big Scam doesn’t threaten us all. These include greater faith in government employees, the recognition that important technological breakthroughs such as the Internet and GPS were the result of the government’s work at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). They argue that government employees can be just as capable as private consultants. The authors recommend limiting the use of consultants and empowering staff.

If you are absolutely sure that you absolutely must use a consultant

Where governments or businesses are forced to use consultants, Mazzucato and Collington recommend that organizations enter into contracts with clauses to ensure that any knowledge gained from a task is properly transferred to full-time employees.

Finally, Mazzucato and Collington recommend reforms to ensure greater transparency and accountability in consulting contracts, a necessary step to combat conflicts of interest. “In democratic societies, it is important for both business and government organizations — and their employees — to be aware of the conflicting interests of another organization when it enters into a contract with them,” the authors write.

A big scam appears on the cover of another recent book, When McKinsey comes to town, which sheds light on the numerous scandals associated with the consulting company McKinsey & Company. At the end of February, McKinsey announced an approximate reduction in staff. 2000 workers one of the largest cuts in history. With such a deluge of bad publicity, it seems like consultants might need their own consultations these days.

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Capitol ink | Rental return



Mail Capitol Ink | The rent return came first on the roll call.

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