Briefs: Aubrey McClendon’s crash; Abercrombie looks natty
●● Aubrey McClendon, f ormer CEO of Chesapeake Energy, died in a car accident a day after being indicted on charges of rigging the price rice of oil and gas wells in Oklahoma. He was considered a shale gas savant, building Chesapeake from a wildcat operation to a drilling empire with rights to 16 million acres in his home state. Before the accident, McClendon, 56, called the allegations “wrong and unprecedented.”
●● Sports Authority filed for bankruptcy and said it would close almost one-third of its 450 stores as it struggles to compete with Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart Stores, Target, and online retailers. Its biggest creditors include Nike and Under Armour. The company obtained $595 million in bankruptcy financing to get back in shape.
●● Monsanto cut its profit forecast for the year, citing several macroeconomic challenges, including a strong doll ar and r el at i vel y l ow commodity prices. The seed and fertilizer giant is also facing a glut of generic glyphosate, a weed killer that long cultivated big profits for it.
●● Apple attorneys won a small battle in their war over privacy rights. A Brooklyn judge ruled that the company doesn’t have to help unlock a drug dealer’s i Phone, validating months of court arguments from the tech giant. The ruling gives Apple a valuable win as it faces a similar legal fight with federal authorities.
●● After putting more clothes on its models, Abercrombie & Fitch posted its first same-store sales gain in more than three years for the quarter ended Jan. 30. Profit increased 33 percent in the period, to $58.9 million. investment priority,” Moseley says. Hans Bishop, Juno’s chief executive officer, says the biotech’s interaction with the Alaska fund is similar to th that of its other big investors— exce except that Alaska inspired the company pany’s name, which is that of a Roman goddess but also alludes to the state’s capital. “The company was originally incorporated as FC Therapeutics, ‘f ’ being a fourletter Anglo-Saxon word and ‘c’ being cancer,” Bishop says. “It’s a really, really motivating guiding call for all of us. But we realized we thought it was a superb name, but it probably wasn’t without its limitations.”
Juno is working to genetically reprogram immune cells to fight cancer, removing T cells and then changing them to recognize and kill tumors. High cure rates in small trials have impressed doctors and attracted a $1 billion investment from Celgene.
The Alaska fund’s administrators say they were confident about making such big bets in a notoriously boomand-bust industry because they worked closely with biotech-investment specialist Arch Venture Partners and had the deals vetted by outside experts. And they say it’s all about making money for Alaska. “It’s not our job or expectation that we’ll create some Kendall Square in Juneau, Alaska,” Moseley says, referring to the biotech hub in Cambridge, Mass.
Nonetheless, Juno’s value has fallen about 9 percent since the beginning of the year, part of the roller-coaster ride for biotech stock valuations this year. “If you took all the dollars we’ve invested in life sciences companies and all those that are contemplated over the next couple years,” Moseley says, “it’s still less than half the current capital gain on that one deal, Juno.” That performance hasn’t gone unnoticed by politicians, who rely on oil for as much as 90 percent of state revenue. Since the recent cratering in crude prices, Governor Bill Walker wants to tap the fund for billions to offset budget shortfalls. −Doni Bloomfield
The bottom line
The state fund that manages Alaska’s oil wealth invested $129 million in Juno Therapeutics. The stake is now worth $1 billion.
Star Wars mania contributed to a 25 percent increase in sales for Lego last year. It sold 72 billion bricks in 2015 and released 350 products, including a video game.
CEO Wisdom “For people under 35, their definition of health is looking good in their underwear.” ——Mark Bertolini, CEO, Aetna